Monday, October 3, 2011

Food and Memories: Ice Cream Edition

Since childhood I have associated ice cream with glee. As a toddler I ate so much ice cream that my parents told me it was not sold during the winter to reduce my consumption of this frozen elixir. Sadly I believed them, and I will always mourn the lost season of eating ice cream. My neighborhood has a variety of ice cream options from a homemade ice cream parlor that perennially ranks among the cities’ best (Eddie’s Sweet Shop in Forest Hills, NY) to chains like Haagen Dazs and several frozen yogurt purveyors. I ate ice cream and I was happy. For sixteen years that was enough.

In the summer of 2010 my family and I went to Paris. I fell in love, not with croissants, café au lait or history (those were long established romances) but with ice cream, more specifically the gelato shop Amorino. We arrived in Paris with one recommendation: Berthillon, a gelato shop that we sampled on our first day. It was good to be sure, but nothing to write home about. The next day as we meandered around the city, an ice cream craving set in, aggravated no doubt by constant sightings of people with ice cream cones. Where were these people coming from? Why were their cones so colorful? Where could I get one?

A few blocks later, I stood in front of Amorino Gelato for the first time. The shop features gelato made from the finest ingredients (each flavor specifies its sources) and arranged on cones in a floral design, making it easy to combine flavors. As a newbie, I ordered just one flavor: espresso. It was heavenly: creamy and cold with a strong espresso flavor unlike the diluted coffee taste of typical ice creams. My father was the only one to order colorful flavors on the first visit and we vowed to return and sample the other options.

Luckily a second trip was not difficult. Amorino is an international chain with stores in Spain and France. Their first US location opened this summer in the East Village of New York City. The next day in Paris, we returned. That time I ordered three flavors, one creamy one for the center of the “flower” and two fruity flavors for the petals. I highly recommend the raspberry and strawberry. The colors are vibrant and the fruit flavor pure and sweet rather than overpowered by sugar. During my week in Paris I ate at Amorino every day. One day we even went twice. I left Paris and thought Amorino and I would never be reunited.

This summer, everything changed (again). While walking through Place Capitole in Toulouse I saw an Amorino sign next to an Italian restaurant. The night before we were scheduled to leave Europe, my cousin and I went to Amorino. I was anxious to see if the quality was comparable, to see if it really was as good as I remembered it. I was silly to have worried. I ordered stracciatella, the Italian version of chocolate chip, with petals of strawberry and raspberry and took a lick of memory. As I ate my cone in the plaza under the sunset I realized that ice cream would always mean glee. But I am now savvy enough to realize that it is available not just in the winter, but all around the world.

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