Ominous grey clouds and a chilly breeze didn’t stop hordes of hungry Melbourne gelato lovers from flocking to the Gelato World Tour in Carlton last weekend. Over 70,000 people grabbed their gelato spoons and headed to the event, an international competition and festival dedicated to the production (and consumption) of artisan gelato. Together, we consumed 50,000 cups and 80,000 cones of gelato over three days. That is 130,000 serves of gelato! It was a weekend to be remembered, leaving thousands of sugar highs, cardboard cups and little multi coloured fluorescent gelato spoons in its wake.
But it wasn’t just about getting all giddy on the sweet stuff. The GWT is an international artisan gelato competition traveling to 8 cities around the world. Melbourne hosted the Oceania stage of the tour where 16 artisans from Australia and New Zealand competed for a spot in the world finals in Rimini, Italy in September 2014. Judging was determined 50% by a technical jury (headed by Guy Grossi in Melbourne) and 50% by public vote.
I attended the GWT on the Sunday in the afternoon. At least four marquees were set up serving the contestants’ creamy creations. Patrons were given voting cards and the lines for the tastings stretched far into Argyle Square. It was clear from the size of the queues snaking through the crowd and the persistent nudging and elbowing which flavours the public were most excited about. The line for Gelato Messina’s flavour ‘cremino’ – a salted caramel gelato with hazelnut fudge, crushed amaretti and fresh meringue was around 20 minutes long. I jumped straight in that line as soon as I arrived.
The ‘cremino’ was a contradiction, a creamy super sweet gelato with a strong salt finish. The hazelnut fudge was generously folded throughout and was dense, almost chewy in texture. I loved the salt which really intensified and lifted the flavours in the gelato. Overall though I found the ‘cremino’ a little too sweet for my taste, but it was the clear crowd favourite on the day.
Next up I went for the entry by New South Wales’ John Crowl (of Cow and the Moon). The flavour ‘Mandorla Affogato’ is a Madagascan vanilla bean gelato with roasted caramelised coffee almonds and a coffee caramel sauce. The vanilla gelato was smooth and creamy with lashings of delicious strong and sweet coffee syrup. The coffee almonds were a fantastic addition. Roasted and coated with a crunchy caramel toffee they were a wonderful punctuation to the creaminess of the vanilla gelato. This gelato was truly divine, by far my favourite gelato of the day.
My friend sampled the Deconstructed Kaya Toast flavour by Min Chai of N2 Extreme Gelato which has recently opened its first Melbourne store on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy. Kaya toast is a Malaysian spread made with eggs, sugar and coconut milk. I have to say I have never tried Kaya spread but I would love to. I heard murmurings in the crowd that this gelato was quite good. Unfortunately I was so enamoured with my mandorla affogato that I didn’t manage to score a mouthful.
The awards ceremony was held at 3pm and the competitors were all smiles and nerves as they sat in the crowd proudly donning their chef hats and waiting for the all important announcement. Gelato Messina’s Donato Toce and Simone Panetta took out first prize with their flavour ‘cremino’ which was voted best by both the technical jury and the discerning public. I was thrilled that my favourite flavour, ‘mandorla affogato’, came in second. Third place went to Diana Kontoprias of Frangipani Gelato (Cronulla, NSW) with her Aussie inspired ‘Pavlova’ flavour made with passionfruit and meringue.
The Gelato World Tour will now go on to visit Dubai, Sao Paolo, Shanghai, Austin and Berlin ahead of the grand final to be held in Rimini, Italy in September next year. All three winners from the Oceania stage will compete in Rimini where finalists from each country will go head to head for the seriously impressive title of ‘World’s Best Gelato’.
The Gelato World Tour was brought to us by Sigep and Carpigiani University.