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Nominations for the Tour de Gelato

May 17, 2013

I love it when a plan comes together.

This FLB project really is about the long view. For better or for worse, I’m a fairly patient guy. If there is something I want, I can wait for it. Other things just take time.

There are so many places to eat ice cream in this region that awhile back I had come up with a three year plan. Year one was to check out the soft serve places that everyone went gaga over. Year two was to find actual good ice cream, the homemade hard stuff, that one would hope is filled with fewer stabilizers and synthetic emulsifying agents than the industrial mixes that get pumped out of machines.

Year three was always going to be about gelato.

And now here we are, right on schedule. Not a minute too soon either, because this could be the last tour until I return from the sabbatical in Jersey. However while there are some details that I’ve got nailed down for the Tour de Gelato, there are others that I’m opening up to the floor.

The date is fixed. I wish it weren’t, because there is a competing event on the same day that I really want to attend. But every other weekend in May and June I’m either traveling or have some previous commitment.

This tour will commence Saturday, June 1. We’ll just have to eat our gelato as fast as we can so we can hurry back to Fin for their grand opening celebration.

The big question is where should we go, and I’m taking votes in addition to write-ins. The killer part is that over the past few years we’ve seen the closing of local gelato shops in Albany, Troy, Colonie and Saratoga Springs. Although I suppose in some ways that makes the task a little easier because I’ve identified six promising stops, but we only have room for five.

Crisan in Albany is a lock. Really, I feel like going in this is their competition to lose. So they are in.

Villa Italia in Schenectady is also guaranteed a spot. This is a place that people love. You may even say they worship this local shrine to mediocre Italian pastry. I don’t get it. But I’ve never tried their gelato. I’ve been holding out. And I’m hoping against hope that it’s the one good thing at this really very beautiful bakery.

Who is left?

Well, there is the gelato specialist. That is Eugenio’s Cafe Gelato in Saratoga Springs. The only problem with this shop is that its a drive and would mean dealing with Saratoga during the summer tourist season.

There’s the old school Italian dessert shop, Civitello’s in Schenectady. It’s a good option, and some folks have had some glowing things to say about their gelato. But their claim to fame is Italian ices. It almost seems like heresy to walk through their doors in summer and get gelato.

Schenectady also has Ambition Coffee House which has an adjacent gelato parlor. But can we really hit three shops in Schenectady? And what about the fact that I’ve never seen their gelato case being particular well utilized? Gelato that’s been sitting around isn’t very good. However, I can imagine they have a greater throughput during the spring and summer.

And how about the new guy? AKA The Crisp Cannoli in East Greenbush. Sure it’s off your radar. But it’s not too far of a hike from Crisan and I hear that they make their own, too. Given the shop’s concern about the freshness of their signature product, I’ve got high hopes for their standards across the board.

Also, it’s very possible I’m leaving out somebody critical.

So the time to weigh in is now. By the end of next week I should have a map all worked out, and we can talk more at length about the mechanics of how this tour will be executed. Gelato poses a unique challenge given the sheer scope of flavors that are common to the form.

But I’ve got some ideas for how to tackle that and still be able to compare the gelato experience shop to shop over the course of the day.

Now mark your calendars. Pencil in the morning and early afternoon of Saturday, June 1. Then weigh in on the important issue of the day. Who should get the shaft? One of the Schenectady shops, the potentially great place that’s way out of the way, or the newbie that has no rep yet but could be amazing?

And no, we can’t go to all six. That’s simply far too much gelato. Trust me. I am expert.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. May 17, 2013 9:48 am

    Sure, Eugenio’s is out of the way but June 1st in Saratoga is not tourist season and if you leave Eugenio’s out then you are doing the same thing so many people do and acting like Saratoga is not a part of the capital region and you are doing the capital region a huge disservice as many of the regions best restaurants and shops can be found here in Saratoga.

    • May 17, 2013 9:53 am

      Right on jenh! yeah! Take that, Daniel B!

    • May 17, 2013 10:44 am

      Or am I doing Albany, Schenectady and Troy a greater service by allowing them to compete against each other and keeping the obviously superior Saratoga Springs out of the equation. ;^)

      Point well taken.

      When do the tourists arrive up there anyway. I thought horse racing season had already begun. I’ve seen lots of horse trailers on the Northway. That, I had imagined, was the sign of the season.

      • May 17, 2013 10:53 am

        Have you even heard the “Sar-a-to-ga!” song yet on the radio or the teevee yet? Racing season isn’t until August, silly. I don’t even LIKE horse racing band I know that.

      • May 17, 2013 11:58 am

        Track season starts at the end of July — still plenty of time left before then.

      • christine permalink
        May 17, 2013 4:57 pm

        To be fair, Saratoga in June is busier than it is in say, April. But, the “season” begins at the end of July and continues to drive the locals crazy until Labor Day. In June, be especially cautious of coming to our twon if there is a concert at SPAC. It makes getting in and out a bit of pain!

      • May 19, 2013 4:19 pm

        There are a few touristic events before the track season. Most important is the Jazz Festival in late June. But the jazz folks tend to stay at SPAC, eating and sleeping in place. And in general SPAC concert visitors contribute traffic but generally don’t dine in town. Only during track season are the restaurants so mobbed that only a lunatic would attempt to get a table.

    • May 17, 2013 11:57 am

      All of this, yes. You just can’t leave out Eugenio’s. (I almost want to say there might be another gelato place farther down Broadway, too, but I can’t recall for sure.)

      • May 17, 2013 12:00 pm

        You may be thinking of Johnny’s Gourmet Italian Ices which was on Broadway and recently closed. Is that the one?

  2. Randy Simon permalink
    May 17, 2013 10:28 am

    Sage Bistro in Guilderland still sells the gelato from Aromi d’Italia, which used to occupy that space. Worth checking out.

    • May 17, 2013 12:32 pm

      Great suggestion. You can make it the final stop and then head a few doors down to fin.

    • Lilly permalink
      May 17, 2013 2:32 pm

      I was going to suggest that as their last stop as it is next door to Fin….

    • May 17, 2013 3:41 pm

      Ooh, no kiddin’? That’s the first gelato I ever had. Yeah, I second this nomination.

    • albanylandlord permalink
      May 18, 2013 5:37 pm

      I was coming to the comments to suggest Sage Bistro as it is the one I know. I have no idea if it is better or worse than any of the others, but it seems very popular.

      Perhaps it would be possible to use a car powered freezer to collect samples from many places for a central testing? I would think gelato would travel very well if properly maintained. I realize that is not how the tours are traditionally done, and it certainly flies in the face of the very name of the event. But it would perhaps allow more places and better head to head comparisons without the time delays in between. Though maybe we need the time to digest and make room for more samples…

      Sadly I can not join you as it is my very busy season, but have fun and I look forward to the results!

  3. May 17, 2013 10:56 am

    I know what your first tour should be when you move to New Jersey: Water Ice!

    • May 21, 2013 1:55 pm

      Piiiiiizzaaaaaaaaaaaaa and suuuuuuuuuuuuuubs. Or hoagies when you get too far south.

  4. Phairhead permalink
    May 17, 2013 12:21 pm

    Emack & Bolio’s, can’t forget them

  5. May 17, 2013 12:54 pm

    Villa Italia’s gelato is ok but I don’t get the ‘mediocre Italian pastry’ label. Can you direct me to your review of their pastry? I’ve only found your review of their decor, cookies, cupcakes and espresso. That’s not pastry. Their sfogliatelle and cannoli are quite good. If you’re looking for superior Italian cookies, head to Civitello’s.

  6. Jessica R permalink
    May 17, 2013 1:25 pm

    There is the guy at the Troy Farmer’s Market that sells gelato next to the Greek Yogurt stand.

    I like Ambition, but I agree the don’t usually have a well-stocked display. If you are going to go with the “taste the same flavor at each place” rule from the previous two years, this may severely cut the number of flavors available as choices. Could it be a game-day decision to pick 2 of the 3 Schenectady shops? I’ve never been to Civitello’s, but looks like their definitely well know for their Italian Ice, not their Gelato.

  7. May 19, 2013 12:30 pm

    Are you taking flavor nominations? When I travelled to Italy, I would sample hazelnut gelato whenever visiting a new shop. I don’t know if you can get it everywhere on your tour. Maybe the availability of specific flavors could help you narrow down the list of shops to visit on the tour.

  8. May 19, 2013 4:19 pm

    I am so bummed! The one weekend I am scheduled out of town for the foreseeable future! :(

  9. Susan L. permalink
    May 21, 2013 8:43 pm

    I’m going to toot my horn again for Schenectady county. We get little love because we have so little variety (Italian, anyone?)Civitello’s gets my vote, but Home Style on Union street also has about 3-5 flavors on a daily basis.

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