Eating & Drinking

City Bites Insider: Canada Day — Desserts and cocktail ideas from Stella Luna Gelato Café

Fresh off her huge third-place win at the Gelato World Tour in Chicago three weeks ago, Stella Luna Gelato Café co-owner Tammy Giuliani is already setting her sights on summer in Ottawa. City Bites Insider caught up with the busy gelato expert to pick her brains for fun gelato-inspired dessert and cocktail ideas ahead of the July 1 long weekend. We can’t wait to try every single idea (and flavour) in the hot months ahead.

Stella Luna always has 24 flavours (many of them seasonal) at its Old Ottawa South shop (1103 Bank St., 613-523-1116). Grab a cone or get your gelato to go with ½-litre ($11.90) or 1-litre ($21.95) containers, while its vintage gelato push-cart is at Sparks and O’Connor from Monday to Friday from 11am to 2pm, the Carp Farmers’ Market Saturdays from 8am to 1pm, and pops up at festivals and community celebrations all summer (track the cart via the Facebook site or on Twitter @StellaLunaCafe).

SL Cone Promo 2014-4

First up, congrats on taking home third prize on the Americas East portion of the prestigious Gelato World Tour. Will you have any of your winning gelato on sale ahead of the long weekend?

It seems people can’t get enough of it [the official name for the flavour is “rich chocolate, KOVAL single-barrel organic bourbon, ganache swirl & maple-candied pecans”], so we’re doing our best to keep it stocked both in the shop and on the gelato cart. The challenge has been keeping enough bourbon on hand. We’ve emptied the shelves of every LCBO in Ontario of KOVAL Bourbon, the brand we selected for the Gelato World Tour. We chose it because it’s distilled in Chicago, where the competition was held, but also because it has lingering notes of vanilla, apricot, and caramel, adding a nuance of mystery to the flavour.

I am totally smitten with your Raspberry Mohito gelato. So fresh! What other summery flavours are hot this season?

We’re always coming up with innovative creations to tease the palate. A few of my favourites right now are Sangria Sorbet with merlot; Raspberry, Blackberry, and Green Apple; and Dark & Stormy Sorbet with lime, rum, and Harvey & Vern’s ginger beer. Of course, the ultimate summer flavour is one that incorporates fresh, local strawberries. We’ve got a Strawberry & Prosecco sorbet, a Strawberries & Cream gelato, and a Strawberry Shortcake gelato.

Okay, let’s say I’m planning a simple backyard barbecue with fruit for dessert. What gelato flavours would you suggest to liven things up?

After a summer barbecue, there is nothing like the fresh, clean taste of sorbet to complement a heavy meal. I would suggest taking a Martini glass and popping it in the freezer for 15 minutes before scooping beautiful round spheres of lemon and strawberry sorbet inside. Add a sprig of fresh mint, a twisted lemon rind, and a couple of fresh, local strawberries as a garnish for a pop of colour and contrast.

How about if I’m going with a red and white theme for the day? Do you have any gelato to match my décor?

A Rich Cream gelato with wild cherries gently folded inside would be the first flavour to come to mind. I’d complement it with a splash of bold colour made by blending Raspberry, Cranberry, and a Hibiscus infusion into a sorbet. The contrast between the cream-flavoured gelato and the vivid fuchsia sorbet would be exceptionally beautiful — and patriotic!

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Raspberry Mohito; Mango; Strawberries and Cream

I love putting a scoop of gelato between two homemade chocolate chip cookies for a decadent ice cream sandwich. Aside from vanilla, any gelato suggestions for this combo?

How about a scoop of Ginger gelato between two gingersnap cookies? Or a scoop of Salty Peanut Skor gelato between banana-oat cookies — take it to the wild side by rolling the outside in crumpled bacon! Mango Lime sorbet with ginger-lime cookies; Strawberry Cheesecake gelato between graham cracker cookies; Coconut gelato with decadent chocolate cookies, rolled in toasted coconut; Mint Chocolate Chip gelato between two Oreo cookies; Pina Colada sorbet between coconut cookies! You could create an entire party just by offering different flavours of gelato paired with a selection of homemade cookies!

I’ve heard of gelato cocktails, but have no idea how to make one. I’ll bet you do. Any tips?

Gelato cocktails are a simple and elegant dessert for any gathering. Begin by chilling Martini glasses in the freezer. Using a round scoop, add two or three spheres of gelato or sorbet to the glass and top it with a liqueur. For a summer selection, try Bartlett Pear sorbet with ice wine or maybe the Virgin Mojito sorbet with rum. Lemon sorbet goes well with either vodka or aperol and Strawberry sorbet pairs nicely with prosecco. Flavours for cooler weather include Madagascar Vanilla gelato with brandy, amaretto or Bailey’s; Chocolate gelato with cointreau or Sambuca; or Espresso gelato with Kahlua.

And a couple of insider questions about that 3rd place win on the World Gelato Tour. I hear you head to Rimini, Italy, in a few months to compete against the best in the world. How are you preparing?

The North American palate and the Italian palate are very different. Whilst we tend to blend flavours, the Italians savour simplicity. Chocolate Bourbon Pecan was a winner in Chicago, but might not fare as well in Italy where pecans and bourbon are not well known. Focusing on local ingredients is key when competing on different stages. Once the rush of the summer is over, we will begin to experiment with local Italian ingredients like chestnuts, grappa, and Cherry Eau-de-Vie.

Any plans to stay an extra few days to check out the Italian beaches (and gelato)?

Unfortunately the competition is in January, so while there’s no hope of beach-hopping in the melancholic and foggy Northern Italian winter, we do plan on spending a few extra days to savour some exquisite Italian fare. Rimini is one of the pearls of the Italian Adriatic Riviera, located in an area where the local cuisine is renowned. Not only is it one of the country’s most prolific wine regions, it’s also the birthplace of Ducati. Who would have imagined that in 1985, when I climbed onto the back of Alessandro’s [her husband] Ducati in downtown Rome, that we’d be back in Italy representing Canada in the Gelato World Tour Finals some 30 years later? It seems fitting we should pay homage to the motorcycle that started it all!