Lo­cal Fla­vor

Dolce Gelato

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - In This Issue - By David Show­ers, pho­tog­ra­phy by Richard Ras­mussen

Unadul­ter­ated by ex­cesses of fat and air, gelato alights on the palate of those unini­ti­ated to its con­fec­tionery splen­dor as a rev­e­la­tion of fla­vor and tex­ture. El­iz­a­beth Gil­bert's de­scrip­tion of this sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence brought the tooth­some treat into vogue with Amer­i­can sweet tooths. “Eat, Pray, Love,” her tome of self dis­cov­ery and over in­dul­gence, gave tan­gi­ble form to the fris­son of de­light that each morsel de­posited by the tiny, pad­dle-shaped spoon sent flick­er­ing across her plea­sure cen­ter. It wasn't long be­fore food­ies the world over were throng­ing the Rome ge­la­te­ria the world of let­ters, and later film, had given in­ter­na­tional renown.

With gelato firmly em­bed­ded in the pop cul­ture con­scious­ness, the tim­ing was aus­pi­cious when Larisa and Daniel Micu un­veiled Dolce Gelato in the sum­mer of 2007 in the Cor­ner­stone Mar­ket Place. Hav­ing a frac­tion of the fat and half the sugar of its Amer­i­can cousin, gelato of­fers “the best of both worlds,” Daniel said.

“It's health­ier and bet­ter tast­ing,” said Daniel, who, along with his wife, Larisa, are Ro­ma­nian ex­pats who ar­rived in Hot Springs by way of south­west Wash­ing­ton. “When we came here, we re­al­ized there was noth­ing sim­i­lar to this in all of Arkansas, which is re­ally sur­pris­ing.”

USA To­day's “Great Amer­i­can Bites” sec­tion rec­og­nized Dolce Gelato as the state's pre-em­i­nent ice cream pur­veyor in Au­gust 2010. Though ice cream is a mis­nomer for the Ital­ian im­port. Per Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion rules, frozen desserts must be made from no less than 10 per­cent fat for the ice cream ap­pel­la­tion to at­tach.

Many pre­mium ice creams have more than 20 per­cent fat com­pared to the 4-to-7-per­cent ra­tio of

Dolce Gelato's wares, which the Mi­cus make from scratch with a pro­pri­etary fam­ily recipe used in gela­te­rias their rel­a­tives own in Italy. The lower fat con­tent owes to gelato be­ing made from whole milk in­stead of cream or egg yolks, leav­ing the taste buds un­en­cum­bered by a creamy film that can dull their re­cep­tors.

“Be­cause there's no egg, but­ter or heavy cream, it re­ally lets the fla­vor pop,” Larisa said of the 27 va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing six dairy-free sor­bet­tos, fea­tured at Dolce Gelato.

Slower churn­ing leads to the thicker con­sis­tency, mak­ing gelato's com­po­si­tion 20-to-25-per­cent air com­pared to the faster churn­ing that makes ice cream more than 50 per­cent air by vol­ume.

“It's re­ally rich, and the con­sis­tency is re­ally creamy,” Larisa said. “That's one of the big at­trac­tions.”

The greater den­sity re­quires a serv­ing tem­per­a­ture about 15 de­grees warmer than ice cream, giv­ing gelato the ap­pear­ance of frozen yo­gurt. Un­like yo­gurt's low­fat it­er­a­tion, gelato isn't laden with the sugar con­tent that al­lows fat to be ex­cised with­out com­pro­mis­ing taste.

The Mi­cus said this sup­ports their be­lief that gelato isn't a pass­ing fancy, un­like the glut of low-fat yo­gurt shoppes that once clut­tered strip malls and store fronts.

“The rea­son yo­gurt went away is the fat­free part,” Daniel said. “It had less fat than ice cream but so much more sugar, and the calo­rie count is a lot higher. Peo­ple caught on to that, re­al­iz­ing it was lower in fat but had much higher sugar. The fat con­tent and sugar count for gelato are much lower than Amer­i­can ice cream. That's the rea­son gelato will stick around.”

Dolce Gelato of­fers nu­mer­ous fla­vors of their sig­na­ture del­i­cacy, all made from scratch.

Along with their crowd-pleas­ing gelato, the Mi­cus also serve sand­wiches, hot soups and sal­ads.

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