Gelato Messina (Melbourne)
237 Smith Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
Disclaimer: Daisy and Libby attended this event as guests of Gelato Messina and Kate & Co.
It may not be gelati weather in Melbourne just yet (this is the bit where I start chucking tantrums and throwing stuff all over the place), but you can’t keep ice cream lovers away tonight when Gelato Messina’s first Melbourne store finally opens.
I, for one, am pretty excited about this. Not just because we’re stealing yet another one of Sydney’s culinary icons, but because I friggin’ love Gelato Messina’s offerings so much – and this is coming from someone who’d rather starve all day then eat a motherload of sugar. Thus, I was delighted to be one of the lucky few to attend Gelato Messina’s ‘Sweet Degustation Evening’ earlier this week. Fellow blogger Daisy was there too and because she loves her desserts you can just imagine how excited she was!
The Smith Street store is bright and spacious, thus providing a great backdrop for what was to be a night of fresh flavours, great company and lots and lots of sugar. Co-owner Nick Palumbo explained that the reason why they chose Fitzroy as the location for the Melbourne flagship store was because it reminded them of Darlinghurst in Sydney, ‘junkies and all.’ But in all seriousness, I think they got it down-pat – it’s close to the city and it’s gritty yet respectable (in most cases anyway).
In addition to being able to entice customers with WTF flavour combinations (white chocolate potato chip, anyone?), Gelato Messina is successful largely because they use good quality ingredients in their gelati – and local ones too, where possible. Their dairy is from Warrnambool while fruits are seasonal and organic. And although their pistachios come all the way from Italy, they have the D.O.C. stamp of approval.
There was free-flowing Prosecco all evening but I was good and stuck to one (don’t worry, I made up for it in ciders the following evening during our embarrassing ninth place performance at trivia).
Our first course was a spin on the ol’ classic Gin & Tonic drink. There were some mixed reactions all around, with a lot of people on the other side of the room saying that it was ‘a bit strange’ and ‘too bitter.’ However, I quite liked it – I almost felt like I was drinking an actual G & T, and I found the cucumber sorbet very refreshing.
When I saw the words ‘foie gras gelato’ on the menu, I was shocked – more shocked than yesterday’s Dutch parrot incident at work. However, that feeling turned into delight when I bit into the icy pole that was made up of a foie gras-infused vanilla body and sour cherry sorbet coating, tied together effortlessly with hints of beetroot. It was ah-mazing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same thing about Dutch parrot but that’s another story for another time (and not for this blog).
There were more vegies in the next course, this time the humble carrot. There were heaps of elements in this plate and the whole idea was to grab as much of it as possible into one spoon and savour all the flavour combinations, spicy, sweet and sour. Unfortunately, my spooning abilities leave a lot to be desired so I was nibbling each bit separately – I still enjoyed this dish though.
Pork and ice cream? What the hell? Gelato Messina is famous for its extreme flavours (JUST IN CASE YOU COULDN’T TELL!) and this was a pure example of a crazy idea that was executed very well. I love meat but I was glad that the pork only made up a small portion of the dish – in pork floss form – while the centrepiece was a beautiful ball of apple sorbet. The long strip on top was a malt pop rock feuilletine which, to me, tasted like a sweet rice bubble strip. And the coolest thing about it? The pop rocks represented pork crackling. Man, that’s clever…
We were told that the ‘chock’ thing was a nod to the gelato’s Italian origins. To be honest, I had never heard of the term ‘chock’ so I took it to mean that it was some sort of Sydney thing. Anyway, EMC was pretty much a palate cleanser course to prepare us for ‘dessert.’
I don’t like the smell of vinegar so I’d have to say that this was my least favourite course. It tasted beautiful and I was glad that the lychee flavour dominated the vinegar but the smell, as subtle as it was, just put me off a little bit.
The Banana Split was intricate in its presentation and taste. All the flavours – sweet, tangy and salty – contributed to this dish in equal parts, making it the highlight of the night so far. We also thought the peanut butter powder (which resembled pork floss in texture but definitely not taste) was a cute addition.
Donuts! Cooked in duck fat! Duck fat caramel! Oh my! Our last course sounded like something you’d see on the menu at Vue de Monde, yet I think it felt right at home here. I’ve had Gelato Messina’s blood orange sorbet on its own before, but it was nice to see fennel mixed in today as the sweet anise-like notes drew out the caramel flavours.
We all received the Gelato Messina cookbook to take home, which I thought was a love touch. Given that I don’t have half the ingredients required to make one batch of ice cream, you won’t see me replicating any of the recipes any time soon (one day though…). We were also lucky enough to be treated to a tub ice cream to take home and even though I haven’t touched my tub yet, I’m pretty sure my people at home would have enjoyed the apple pie, Bounty and mango & coconut sorbet with pandan jelly ice creams.
Given Melbourne’s recent winds and rain, it’s hard to imagine that summer is less than three weeks away. It’s definitely not gelati weather at the moment, but I’m fairly confident there’ll be a queue at Gelato Messina tonight when the doors open. No doubt I’ll go there several times this year myself but for now, doona, laptop and apple pie gelati sounds good to me.