“Mr Willy Wonka can make marshmallows that taste of violets, and rich caramels that change colour every ten seconds as you suck them, and little feathery sweets that melt away deliciously the moment you put them between your lips. He can make chewing-gum that never loses its taste, and sugar balloons that you can blow up to enormous sizes before you pop them with a pin and gobble them up. And, by a most secret method, he can make lovely blue birds’ eggs with black spots on them, and when you put one of these in your mouth, it gradually gets smaller and smaller until suddenly there is nothing left except a tiny little sugary baby bird sitting on the tip of your tongue.”
-Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
As a child, Roald Dahl was my life. In fact I am fairly certain, or dare I say, completely certain, that I have read every single book he’s ever written. But then again I wasn’t allowed to watch all that much television, so if I wasn’t out swimming or riding my bike or catching tadpoles or building cubbyhouses or all the other fun things children never seem to do nowadays, I was usually buried nose-deep in a book. Of all his books, (I really couldn’t even attempt to pick a favourite) one of my favourite chapters of all takes place in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, with the heralding of a new gum (though still needing a tweak or two) that served as a three course meal. (‘By gum, it’s gum!’) I cannot even begin to explain my little imagination twitching over the fact that a gum – a little grey stick of gum – could taste like tomato soup, roast beef and blueberry pie, respectively. And now, standing in the somewhat sterile laboratory that is il laboratorio del gelatorio, all my wildest childhood fantasies had come true. Because here was ice-cream that tasted like cream cheese (exactly, like cream cheese) and basil that tasted of basil, and butternut squash that tasted of butternut squash and toasted sesame and earl grey and wasabi and grapefruit campari and fresh mint and peppercorn and rice and cheddar cheese and ricotta cheese and every other cheese or taste you could think of – compressed – into the silkiest and smoothest ice-cream that you ever did taste. Here, the skill isn’t in thinking of the most outrageous, most mouthwatering flavour combination, but in creating a flavour so pure, and so true to its namesake that your brain stops every moment or so to try and work out how this is even possible.
il laboratorio del gelatorio
188 Ludlow Street
(At East Houston, Next to Katz’s Delicatessan)