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How to Get Rocky Mountain Gelato High

Sign on Fior di Latte window. Credit: Nathan Hoyt

Sign on Fior di Latte window. Credit: Nathan Hoyt

It wasn’t much more than 100 years ago that Boulder, on the storied Colorado foothills, was a lively frontier town at the gateway of the Rockies, a bustling supply base for miners venturing into the mountains prospecting for gold and silver. Today, the city of Boulder, still possessed of the pioneer spirit, is a mecca for a different kind of trailblazer, the American artisan.

If the early settlers had meager materials with which to found a cuisine, their descendants raise heritage wild Russian boar, East Friesian dairy sheep and Italian honey bees. They have learned about wine in Friuli and cheese in Tuscany, but they haven’t forgotten their heritage. They’re breeding bison, eating knotweed and foraging for mushrooms in the hills.

It’s not surprising that this is where Chefs Collaborative, a group of chefs, food producers, and movers and shakers in the food industry, would choose to meet for their annual summit, themed “Moving Mountains, Scaling Change.”

Flying over Boulder, the high plains conjured wild mustangs and Spaghetti Westernsa change of scenery from the sultry beaches of Rimini, where I had just been two weeks earlier for the Gelato World Tour finals. Still running on gelato fumes, I was now in for three heady days of meeting and eating, Colorado style. We talked hogs. We talked beef. We talked sheep. We talked chicken. We talked humane ranching; grass-fed, sustainable animal husbandry; natural curing; GMO and factory farming. We talked how to distribute small-scale harvests and handcrafted foods to a wider public. Generally, we celebrated food.

But the gelato gods weren’t done with me. Taking a breather from our think tank, we ventured onto Pearl Street in Boulder’s colorful historic district, where a shop window with this inscription caught my eye:

“We promise to never serve you gelato that wasn’t made today.”

The real stuff

I knew that could mean only one thing. Someone who had learned the art in Italy was making the real stuff — silky, small-batch, gelato from scratch — in this Colorado town.

We wandered into the shop, Fior di Latte, and sure enough, the gelatière, Bryce Licht, told us that he and his wife had learned the art in Italy. Five years ago, he left his native Boulder for the Veneto on a research grant. At first he studied marketing. Then, he said, he fell in love with Giulia De Meo, a Venetian. She taught him how to cook genuine Italian food. Gelato was their obsession. “We decided to start our own business and apprenticed with gelatièri who had shops in Treviso,” he said. “One of them was the Italian gelato champion in 2011. We got to see behind the scenes … and we fell in love with the business.”

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Bryce Licht, gelatière. Credit: Nathan Hoyt

The couple moved back to Boulder and immersed themselves in the local food scene, selling their gelato from a cart at the farmers market and supplying neighborhood restaurants. They lucked out again when they found a sliver of a space in which to set up shop in the hub of the hip main street.

As we talked, I scanned the pans overflowing with delicious-looking fruit, nut and chocolate gelatos when my eyes pounced on a mound studded with fresh pear. Could it be? Yes! With my first lick, I was transported back to the Lido in Venice, where an old man with a gelato cart had piled spun frozen pear ambrosia onto cones for my little girls and me one summer many years ago. I’ve been yearning for that elusive flavor ever since.

Seasonal fruit

While I scarfed down the gelato, Licht explained their obsession with using fresh seasonal fruit whenever they find it.

“I saw local pears at the farmers market, and so I’m making gelato with them now,” he said. “Soon it’ll be pumpkins and butternut.”

Fior di Latte's pear gelato. Credit: Nathan Hoyt

Fior di Latte’s pear gelato. Credit: Nathan Hoyt

Fior di Latte will offer two varieties. One is a pumpkin and Chinese five-spice with star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and fennel. The other is more traditional in Venice. “It really tastes just like a delicious pumpkin with no added spices other than [sugar] and a pinch of salt,” Licht said. “Of course, the pumpkin is fresh.”

The couple source all their supplies carefully. “We use only natural ingredients, no exceptions. Anything that doesn’t live up to these standards is just not gelato,” Licht said. He also said they use pistachios from Sicily, hazelnuts from Piemonte and almonds from California and toast them before blending them into a paste.

Eating the pear gelato, Italy and Colorado merged. It was both the essence of what I had eaten in Venice so many years ago, and the stuff of what those of us at the summit saw as the way forward. It embodied, I realized, two sides of the same cone.

 Main photo: Sign on Fior di Latte window. Credit: Nathan Hoyt



Zester Daily contributor Julia della Croce is the author of  "Italian Home Cooking: 125 Recipes to Comfort Your Soul" (Kyle Books), "Pasta Classica" (Chronicle) and 12 other cookbooks.

12 COMMENTS
  • Carole 10·26·14

    You can’t get away from this wonderful stuff. Lovely article as always.

  • Catherine 10·28·14

    It is truly heaven however it is sooooo hard to decide which flavor. It may be Italian but the scoops are Texan

  • Julia della Croce 10·28·14

    I couldn’t agree more, Catherine, that’s always the dilemma. Of course, every gelatière lets you have at least three flavors in one cup, or cone!

  • Sue Style 11·1·14

    Gorgeous, Julia! (Bryce is pretty delicious too 😉 Did they serve any in brioche?

  • Julia della Croce 11·3·14

    No brioche, just straight! All three of them are pretty sweet, no?

  • Peter Felker 11·4·14

    Julia, Gelato is always so wonderful and the people that make it are wonderful too. Thanks for sharing.

    Peter

  • Julia della Croce 11·4·14

    I think so, too, Peter. Soon I’m going to tackle mesquite gelato and I will let you know how it goes! We may be able to invent so etching new!

  • Phyllis@Oracibo 11·6·14

    We have a really good gelato master here…but somehow or other, I still crave the flavours from Italy…right now I am thinking castagne! I can’t help it…it’s one of the best flavours I have ever had….Perugua ’08! How can I forget! Mind you Julia….I would be hard pressed to refuse that pear flavour…sounds and looks fantastico!

  • Irene S Levine 11·7·14

    Lovely post! How lucky to find real Italian gelato in Colorado!

  • Julia della Croce 11·11·14

    Phyllis, I had a candied chestnut gelato in Lecce in April—delicious…well, I’m crazy about chestnuts so you can imagine how delicious it was to me!

  • Julia della Croce 11·11·14

    Irene the stars were aligned for me in Boulder; hope you get there for that gelato, too, one of these days!

  • AnnetteN23 12·10·14

    Very soon this web site will be famous among all blog visitors, due to it’s pleasant articles

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