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Author Archives: Brenda Hiatt

About Brenda Hiatt

NYT bestselling novelist, chocoholic & avid seeker of life!

LA Gelato for Real!

As promised, I did use my next visit to Los Angeles to form my own opinion of the Gelato Bar on Hillhurst, in Hollywood/Los Feliz. Less than an hour ago, in fact, so I’m posting while all of my impressions are fresh (for a change).

Dawn did not exaggerate.

This is easily the best gelato I’ve tasted outside of Italy and rivals most of the gelato I tasted INSIDE Italy. This gelateria is owned by a third generation Italian gelato maker, and it shows. Okay, it’s a little pricey, but compared to a plane ticket to Florence, it’s one heck of a bargain!

They take pride in both the freshness of their ingredients and the proportion of fresh fruit or other natural flavorings in each variety they offer. They make about 70 different flavors and rotate them, offering a couple dozen at a time–though a few favorites are always available. Next time I’m in LA (this is a fairly short visit, alas) I plan to make a point of going back and trying some different selections.

For this visit, I went with the Cioccolato Sorbetto and the Menta, while Dawn chose the Olio d’Olivia and the Blueberry-Pomegranate Sorbetto. Before ordering, we tasted both the Cioccolato and the O d’O–partly because I was skeptical about both. Chocolate Sorbet? Really? Oh, yes. Really. I was expecting ice crystals, but no. Very smooth and creamy and INTENSELY chocolate. I asked and was told it’s made with water instead of milk (hence, sorbetto–and which means someone lactose intolerant would be fine with it) and with 70% cocoa. This chocolate may just beat out Il Grand Duca in Florence for richness. The Olio d’Olivia was described as “sweet cream and olive oil,” which sounded…unlikely. But it was delicious, with just a hint of rich olive oil taste. Since we were told it paired well with the fruit flavors, that’s what we did.

Blueberry-Pomegranate sounded like such a winner we ordered it without tasting first and were not disappointed in the least–and it did indeed pair excellently with the O d’O. Mint is always a fave of mine and went divinely with the rich, dark chocolate. (Ooh, and they also put in lovely cookie sticks with fudge drizzled inside. I recommend using it as a spoon until it’s gone.)

If I ever said (as I might have) that you just can’t get authentic Italian gelato in the States, I take it back. The Gelato Bar is superb and well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Los Angeles. Kudos!

 

 

Blogging by proxy?

I haven’t been anywhere blog-worth lately, but my daughter Dawn discovered a wonderful gelateria today in Los Angeles. I can’t wait to visit and try it for myself! But in the meantime, she wrote a very nice review:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/gelato-bar-los-angeles-2

(In case anyone else posts one later, hers is the one by Dawn B.)

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2010 in chocolate, gelato, ice cream, los angeles

 

Gelato on the high seas

Bethany and I just got back from a lovely seven night cruise aboard the Celebrity Solstice. Among other delights (like fabulous food All Day Long and dancing into the wee hours) we discovered a real, honest-to-goodness gelateria aboard the ship! Of course, we couldn’t ignore such a  wonderful research opportunity, so we sampled the chocolate and the raspberry and discovered (cue angelic choir) that it was every bit as good as most Italian gelato we’ve tried! Okay, maybe not QUITE up to Florentine standards, but really, really excellent.

So, if the prospect of relaxing aboard a gorgeous ship in the balmy Caribbean and being served sumptuous meals every day, combined with way cool shore excursions like ziplining through the Puerto Rican rain forest and snorkeling off a sailboat in St. Thomas doesn’t tempt you, this exquisite gelato definitely should! The worst thing about a cruise?

It ends.

Can’t wait to do it again sometime!

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2010 in caribbean, chocolate, food, gelato, ice cream, travel

 

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Excellent Indiana Ice Cream

Okay, so I didn’t get to go to Europe with Beth for research this time around, but after she got back we did take a trip to northern Indiana (partly for some other book research for me) and on the way home we made a stop at Fair Oaks Farm for their famous ice cream and cheeses. It’s right along I-65, maybe an hour from Chicago. Coming from Chicago, you can’t miss the billboards! “Our Whine Cooler” (with a picture of ice cream) and “We Dairy You to Stop” among others.

The cheesiness of their billboards aside, I can unequivocally say that their reputation is well deserved. The mint chocolate chip ice cream may have been the creamiest I have EVER tasted, and that’s saying quite a lot. The chocolate was also very, very good. Bethany got the butter pecan and the peach and those were exceptional as well.

Then there’s the cheese. We bought some to take home and the Butterkase in particular is divine. We also had grilled cheese sandwiches while there–I had the Havarti with pepper and Beth had the cheddar. Both were lovely and exactly what we wanted for a light-enough lunch to leave room for ice cream.

If you have kids along, there’s even Mooville, their outdoor playground… and even without kids, I confess we couldn’t resist jumping on the enormous “Dairy Air jumping pillow.” So if you find yourself a bit peckish while driving I-65 between Lafayette, IN and Chicago, this place is well worth a stop.

fairoaks

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2009 in food, ice cream, Indiana

 

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A new challenge!

I know I’ve been terribly remiss in posting here. Bethany is away for the summer, performing at Festival 56 in Princeton, IL, and traveling around sampling ice cream just isn’t as much fun alone. But today’s Indianapolis Star had an article (Cool Scoops) that has lit a new fire under me! I’m determined to try as many of these places/flavors as possible and report back. Since most of them are practically in my back yard, I can’t make excuses. And who wants to make excuses to NOT eat ice cream, anyway?

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2008 in food, ice cream, indianapolis

 

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Ice cream in Japan

After a week in Japan, touring Tokyo and Kyoto, I think we can definitively say that Japan has many wonderful things–kai ten sushi, karaoke, Buddhist temples that are over 1000 years old–but ice cream isn’t its strongest suit.

We started tasting in Kyoto with some Sakura (cherry blossom) and matcha (green tea) hand-dipped ice cream near the Kiyomizu-dera temple. Nice, but nothing to write home about. A day later we tried another place nearby (we were staying at a bed & breakfast near that temple) and it was better. The black beans and mochi are an interesting addition. I liked it better than Bethany did. (I’m not naming these places because the names were in kanji and even Dawn couldn’t tell me what it meant–sorry!)

After seeing lots and lots of soft-serve places, we finally decided we’d better try that, since that seemed to be more of a specialty. And yes, that was quite good! If you go, do try the soft-serve.  The place we tried in Uji (a short train ride from Kyoto) was particularly good. Uji is famous for its green tea, and the matcha-flavored soft-serve was excellent.

We only ran across one place that advertised gelato, the coffee shop at the top of the government building in Shinjuku (in Tokyo). Fabulous 360 degree views, but the gelato? Um, let’s just say the strawberry cake was much better. Ice crystals and not a lot of chocolate flavor.

In summary, if you visit Japan, make sure to visit a kai-ten sushi place. That’s where little plates of sushi travel all around the restaurant on a long conveyor belt. You sit on a stool and snag whatever strikes your fancy, then pay at the end according to the plates you’ve accumulated. Fun, inexpensive and very tasty!  And do try Japanese karaoke if you’re with a group. Unlike American karaoke, you and your friends get a private little room and only embarrass yourselves in front of each other, instead of a room full of strangers. Tip: Nomi Houdai means “all you can drink.”

And if you get to Uji, try the matcha soft-serve ice cream!

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2008 in food, gelato, ice cream, japan, travel

 

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A Midwestern Treasure!

I’d been hearing good things about FARMbloomington, a locally-owned restaurant in downtown Bloomington that boasts a diverse menu of organic and locally grown foods. But not until last week did I finally have the chance to check it out for myself.  Five of us stopped by after a show (Beth’s show, which was fabulous–but that’s a different topic) for drinks and dessert.  Beth had been there once before and said the ice cream was wonderful. (Yes, she should have blogged about it then!)  With five of us, of course we ordered five different desserts and everyone tasted everything.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I’ll start by saying that ice cream does not have to be gelato to be outstanding! Okay, we already knew that from Berthillon’s in Paris, but FARMbloomington’s chocolate ice cream is every bit as good and a whole lot more accessible from the midwest!  For vanilla lovers, the vanilla was just as exceptional. Smooth, creamy, very, very flavorful.

Moving beyond ice cream, the apple pie (okay, with ice cream) was fresh, warm and excellent. The carrot cake was one of the best I’ve tasted. The coffee ice with vanilla ice cream was something different, but also very good. And the red velvet cake was as velvety as the name suggests and very chocolatey.

This place isn’t cheap, mind you–desserts ranged from $6 – $9 and the drinks from $5 – $9– but taken in the light of an experience instead of just “drinks and dessert,” well worth the price and the drive.  Highly recommended!

 
 

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