Monday, May 15, 2017
Dolce Neve in Austin (and Houston), TX
Off the tourist-beaten path of Austin's South Congress Avenue and tucked amongst the foliage of South 1st is a cozy gelato shop called Dolce Neve. Translated as "sweet snow," Dolce Neve finds the happy medium of traditional gelato's simplicity (scoops that emphasize a single flavor) and contemporary gelato's complexity (which combines many flavors and/or mix-ins, eliminating any subtlety). They do this by exploring lighter flavor agents, finding ways to make them shine in a new context, rather than simply recreating members of the ice cream canon in gelato form. And they are good--so good--at what they do. For example:
Pear and Chocolate Chip Sorbet - This sorbet somehow has the mouthfeel of an actual pear. And the chocolate chips, which sounded out of place to my brain, are a nice kiss of sweet to make this flavor a little more dessert-y than it would otherwise be. Refreshing, both in flavor and concept.
Pecan Honey - Nuts (hazelnuts, chestnuts pine nuts) and edible seeds (almonds, pistachios, coconut) have made for winning gelato flavors. Still, others in this group (cashews, walnuts, macadamia, pecans) are regularly ignored by gelato, while commonly being used as mix-ins to ice cream, rarely being given their own flavor. Sit back and let this flavor make right this longstanding gaffe.
Chocolate and Candied Orange Peel - Mixing in other ingredients to an intense chocolate gelato usually results taking away some of the flavor's intensity. The orange peel here adds a new level. It isn't quite a chocolate orange, but has a burst of sweet that enhances the richness of the chocolate.
I had other notable flavors in addition to the above--Frommage Blanc with Apple Curd, Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt, and Ricotta, Pistachio & Honey--but no need to worry if the ever-rotating menu doesn't include any of these I've mentioned. Each visit to Dolce Neve will offer a new opportunity for exploration. Who knows what you'll find when you stop in?
Go and taste the "sweet snow."
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I would be remiss to not mention about the elephant in the room: When one hears about Austin ice cream, usually they hear about Amy's, a local made-to-order model a la Cold Stone which emphasizes mix-ins over its mediocre ice cream. All this praise for Amy's is like saying an entire salad is excellent because of the homemade croutons when its main ingredient is leftover iceberg lettuce that fell off McFish sandwiches. If you only eat ice cream once in Austin, do not be pulled into this moth-to-flame tractor beam. Dolce Neve is the much better bet.