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Tour de Gelato

May 28, 2013

Saturday we are going to finally complete the cycle. This has been the three year plan to sample the region’s best ice cream. We started with soft serve, graduated to homemade hard ice cream, and now we’re going Italian with gelato.

As it just so happens, there are more places serving gelato than we can visit in a day. Think about that for a moment. Here we are, a small market in upstate New York, and we’re awash in gelato.

Anyway, hard decisions had to be made. And while every tour I struggle with similar decisions, it never gets any easier.

Still, I’m quite happy with the itinerary for the day. There’s a fair bit of driving, but it’s not completely ridiculous. And at the end of the road, not only will we have a better understanding of the region’s gelato options, but there will be a party as well. Now before you volunteer to participate in this experiment, it’s probably best to familiarize yourself with the plan for the day.

For those who have never gone on tour with me before, or are new to the FLB, perhaps I should explain a few things.

A long long time ago, Stanford Steph suggested that we go to all the apple orchards and try their apple cider donuts back to back to back to back to back so it could finally be settled, once and for all, who makes the best ones. Well, I picked up the gauntlet, and that inaugural event was so much fun that I continued a quarterly tradition of dragging people around the region sampling some of the treats that have some deeper meaning to the area.

These events are open to anyone who wants to participate. There is no charge to attend. You are just responsible for the cost of your own food. And you are responsible for your own transportation (although carpooling is encouraged – the comments section can be helpful for that). Oh, you will also need a pen. Please don’t forget a pen.

I supply the itinerary, the criteria, and the scoresheets. Sometimes I’ll bring a digital scale. But it’s a great opportunity to get a broad exposure to one specific foodstuff over the course of a day. And it’s a rare chance to meet other FLB readers while pushing the limits of your own eating capacity for the sake of science. All I ask is that you let me know if you are coming so I can make sure to bring enough scoresheets with me.

This tour, which will probably be my last before heading down to New Jersey this summer, will commence this Saturday (June 1) at 10:30 am. And we will begin with the hometown favorite of Crisan.

Given that they have one of the smaller gelato cases, it makes sense to start here. Plus the bakery itself is smaller. And it would probably be easier to find parking down on Lark Street early in the day before things really get going.

From there it’s north to Eugenio’s in Saratoga Springs. No, we can’t rule them out just because it’s a little bit of a haul up the northway. You all made that clear in the nomination phase of this event. I heard you. We are going.

Then it’s down route 50 to Schenectady where we are going to hit two places that are walking distance from each other. This is where I expect the judging to get difficult. There is plenty of separation in between stops one, two and three. Maybe you can think of our stop in the Electric City as a gelato lunch.

Stop number three is Villa Italia. Parking there is convenient since the big garage behind the bakery on Broadway is free on Saturdays.

From there we walk up Jay Street to Ambition Coffee, where they have a cold case that’s filled with homemade gelato. Should this look truly unappealing, I reserve the right to make a game day change to Civatello’s, which is just a bit further up Jay Street. Ultimately, I feel good about the decision to include Ambition over Civatello’s. When you Yelp “Gelato” in the region, Ambition comes up towards the top of the rankings. Plus, they directly compete with Villa Italia for the post Proctors crowd. Civatello’s may make incredible gelato in addition to their other delicious offerings, but it’s a little deeper into Schenectady’s very Little Italy.

But three gelaterias in Schenectady is one too many. We’re needed over in Guilderland. Sage Bistro was a write-in favorite. It doesn’t open until noon, but that shouldn’t be a problem. And it’s where we’re going to finish the gelato portion of the day.

It’s a nice tidy footprint. The map kind of resembles an inverted ice cream cone.

Afterwards, those who want to stick around are welcome to join me at fin – your fishmonger’s kick ass grand opening party.*

When all the score sheets are complete, I’ll bring them back and run the numbers. But usually by the end of the day, the participants have a clear consensus about which place was the best of the bunch.

Although much like the hard ice cream tour, the results here may be flavor specific.

Since part of the enjoyment of gelato is all about interesting and unusual flavors, instead of narrowing the field by specific flavors, I’m going to ask that participants choose specific flavor categories for the day and try to stick as closely to them as possible.

So if your category is “Nutty” and you start off with “Hazelnut” but one spot only has “Gianduja” or “Nutella” or even “Pistachio” those would be adequate substitutions. Other categories will be “Chocolatey” “Fruity” “Milky” “Floral” “Coffee” “Caramelized” and “Candy”. But I’ll be building and refining this list as we get closer to the event.

I hope you are excited. It should be a great day. I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends and meeting some new readers. Don’t be shy. So…who’s coming?

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* Note: The full press release for the event is below:

fin – your fishmonger is holding a Grand Opening / Open House on Saturday, June 1, 2013 at their location in Star Plaza, 2050 Western Avenue, Guilderland. The event begins at 11am and ends at 5 pm. An official ribbon-cutting will take place at noon.

The Grand Opening / Open House will feature a number of seafood tastings throughout the day from local chefs, who are each giving an hour to highlight the small business’ seafood. In the fin kitchen or on the outdoor grill will be: Chef Dimitrios Menagias from City Beer Hall – Albany, Chef Brian Griffin from Mio Vino – Altamont, Chef Giovanni Morina from Gio Culinary Studio – Voorheesville and winner of the 2013 Food and Wine Festival 4th Annual Chef Invitational, and Chef Joe Soliman from Sage Bistro – Guilderland.

FM radio station 97.7 WEXT’s own Katie G will be hosting local music at the event. Slated to appear are: Local 518 singer-songwriters Zan Strumfeld and Tor Loney of Tor & the Fjords, from 1 – 5pm.

fin – your fishmonger began operations at the Delmar Farmers’ Market in August, 2011. Within weeks, the business had developed a customer base requesting that the owners, Peter Kenyon and Dora Swan, continue selling their fresh seafood through the winter months. Thanks to the generosity of Jon Phillips, the Phillips Hardware parking lot in Delmar became the winter home for the refrigerated fish truck, where the couple sold their seafood each Saturday morning to people that often waited 20 minutes in line for their fresh fish. Within weeks, another parking lot location was secured, this time at Con-Rel on Carman Road in Guilderland, after property owner Kevin Relyea, who also owns Carman Wine, invited the couple onto the space.

Kenyon and Swan bring in fresh seafood from Fish Pier in Boston and work with their team of quality assurance staff to maintain the Grade A quality of the product. The fish is not flash-frozen at sea or at the Pier and arrives to the Guilderland shop fresh. Alaskan Copper River salmon is flown to fin via Albany Airport from Cordova, Alaska where it arrives fresh, just 16 hours out of the frigid waters.

fin is the only all-sustainable source for seafood in the Capital Region. Sustainable seafood is either caught or farmed in ways that consider the long-term vitality of harvested species and the well-being of the oceans and avoids overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing methods. Kenyon and Swan use a number of science-based sources to determine which seafood is sustainable and can be sold in their shop. From the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and others, the couple keeps updated on the changes in sustainability ratings. For example: much-loved monkfish, “poor man’s lobster”, recently came off the avoid listing and sells out quickly at fin.

The couple is also committed to supporting other small businesses that are from the surrounding communities by offering these products, such as hummus, honey, bread, eggs and beef, at their shop. fin – your fishmonger is located in Star Plaza, 2050 Western Avenue, Guilderland and is open Tuesday – Friday, 11a – 7p and Saturday 11a – 5p. Sunday hours will begin Memorial Day weekend. The business can be found on FaceBook, Twitter, and Pinterest and at http://www.finshops.com.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Megan permalink
    May 28, 2013 9:17 am

    I’ll be there and bringing two more! We are very excited!

  2. May 28, 2013 10:17 am

    I’m in! I’m always interested in carpooling, especially since my old car’s AC has died. I’m willing to chip in for gas money.

  3. Maria permalink
    May 28, 2013 11:27 am

    Wish I could be there but my son has a sporting event I cannot miss. Looking forward to reading your reviews and hopefully meeting some of you at fin. Enjoy!

  4. May 28, 2013 12:28 pm

    I hope we can get some sort of flavor list together — I’d hate to pick by category and discover that the third or fifth stop doesn’t have anything in my category.

    I’m pretty sure my husband and I will be there. :)

  5. eric scheirer stott permalink
    May 28, 2013 1:09 pm

    I will be there, at least until 5pm – it sounds like a fine day.

  6. May 28, 2013 1:25 pm

    I AM SO BUMMED I AM MISSING THIS. Sounds like you have another awesome tour lined up!

  7. DEN permalink
    May 28, 2013 1:46 pm

    I like the gelato at Sage, but do they make it in-house? The TU review last year said they got it from an outside vendor. http://web.timesunion.com/entertainment/restaurants/onereview.asp?RestaurantID=1815
    Which raises the question of whether that vendor is already on your list of tour spots.

  8. May 28, 2013 3:18 pm

    I’ll be with you in spirit from Northern California; maybe I’ll have some gelato there so I don’t feel fully left out.

    Godspeed on your gelato adventures. I’ll certainly be looking forward to the results.

  9. Megan B permalink
    May 28, 2013 9:39 pm

    One tiny little detail though: the Freihofers Run for Women is in Downtown Albany at 9 AM. This may make logistics difficult for Crisan.

  10. Chantelle permalink
    May 28, 2013 9:56 pm

    I’m there, plus one!

  11. Lilly permalink
    May 29, 2013 11:41 am

    Yes, Meagan, I was wondering that as well, the Freihofer Run would be in the area of Lark Street wouldn’t it.

    Sorry I am unable to go (Special Olympics regionals at Shenendehowa), but I am happy to see that you will be going to my write in fave, Sage Bistro Have fun at Fin too!

  12. May 30, 2013 9:11 am

    Are you going to tweet as you reach the milestones? We have a baseball game that day but if timing works out we could rubberneck at Eugenio’s.

    • May 30, 2013 9:17 am

      I’ll do my best. There are others who have expressed an interest in meeting up along the way. I’ll encourage all attendees to use the hashtag #TourDeGelato over the course of the day. Hopefully that makes it easier to find us.

      • June 1, 2013 8:36 am

        Same for us, only we have a soccer game. I was thinking of catching up with everyone at Eugenio’s so hopefully you’ll tweet if you have an idea of when you’ll be there.

  13. May 30, 2013 11:14 am

    Count us in for two! See you Saturday.

  14. Jessica R permalink
    May 30, 2013 4:21 pm

    I really want to come, but it looks like Saturday morning/afternoon may be the only time for the gardening I need to do this weekend. Put me down as a probably, but if it looks like the weather will be arriving Saturday afternoon I may bow out.

    If I come, I would like to join a carpool, as it will probably be just me!

    • Jessica R permalink
      May 31, 2013 12:02 pm

      I got half my gardening done last night! I’ll be there!

  15. June 1, 2013 12:06 am

    In advance of the tour, I have the following reminders:

    1) Yes, the Run for Women will be underway. Approach Crisan from the north and there should be no problems. Approach from the south and you’re doomed.
    2) Yes, I called all the places on Friday and have a better sense of their flavors. I’ll share this information in person while reviewing the scoresheets on the day of the event.
    3) Please don’t forget to bring a pen (and a printout of the map if you’re old like me).

    We’re expecting a good number of people. There will be first timers and former tour veterans. And we’ve got a day full of eating gelato. I’m excited to get out there and find the region’s best spot for this Italian frozen treat.

  16. Megan b permalink
    June 1, 2013 12:07 am

    We won’t be able to make it! Some friends unexpectedly came into town.

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