Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tasting Extravaganza at Glacier Ice Cream & Gelato

When Cecilia, one of the organizers of my dining group went into Glacier Ice Cream & Gelato to see if she could set up an ice cream tasting for Pleasure Palate, little did she know at the time that it was going to snowball into a tasting extravaganza. Apparently, Cecilia came in at the perfect time. Executive Chef Roxanne Gin, of Glacier, had been contemplating adding salads, sandwiches and soups to the menu and what better way to get feedback on her recipes than from a bunch of passionate foodies. So on one of Saturday afternoon, 16 of us walked in and by the time it was all said and done, 16 of us had to be rolled out.

Our afternoon started off simply enough with bread dipped in balsamic vinegar and a couple of basic salads: Caesar and Cobb. While we were sampling these items, Chef Gin gave us a little info about Glacier Ice Cream and Gelato, which by the way, was selected as one of America's Best Ice Cream Stores by Forbes Traveler Magazine. Glacier actually started in Colorado and just opened another location in Manhattan Beach. Lucky us! We also learned a little more about Chef Gin, who has been a chef for over 20 years. Along with ice cream, Chef Gin creates desserts (petit-fours) for cruise lines, the Fresh & Easy stores as well as various high end hotels.

The salads, while fresh, didn't really have any wow factor, but the two soups that followed were quite tasty. One was a roasted veggie and meatball soup, with a vegetable broth that was so surprisingly rich that we all thought it was chicken broth. The second was a refreshing crab gazpacho soup. I enjoyed the chunky vegetables. but would have liked more broth.

Two more salads appeared and gave the wow that the Caesar and Cobb lacked. One was a Pasta Salad and the other was an Potato-Egg Salad. Generally, these are basically picnic salads that are more of an afterthought than anything else, but let me tell you, other than the gelatos, these two salads were the talk of the group. The pasta salad ingredients included basil, tarragon, tomatoes and mini mozzarella balls. What was great about it was that it wasn't over-dressed plus I really enjoyed how the basil added a little pungent hit of flavor. The Potato-Egg Salad was also quite delicious and the addition of tarragon gave it a nice herb-y freshness.

So far, we've sampled bread, 4 salads and 2 soups. Next up were samplings of 6 different panini sandwiches. I'm just glad I hadn't had breakfast. Of the six, two really did it for me. One was the Roasted Turkey Sandwich with ingredients that included housemade cranberry sauce, red leaf, cream cheese and housemade herb mayo (mint, oregano and Italian parsley). I'm not much of a sandwich person, but this turkey one was just scrumptious. The cranberry sauce added a wonderful sweet tartness and being a cheesehead, the thick slab of cream cheese really made my day. I also really liked the housemade herb mayo, which I thought added a wonderful flavor that went well with the rest of the ingredients.

The other sandwich that also appealed to me was the Proscuitto and Salami Sandwich, which also included arugula, pesto and a thick cut sun-dried tomato. I honestly think that arugula should be the new lettuce. The combination of the peppery arugula, the meat's saltiness and the sun dried tomato that had been packed in oil and herbs was the perfect Italian sandwich.

With all this food, I bet you thought we wouldn't have room for dessert, huh? But you were wrong. After a brief demonstration of their gelato-making process, a gelato and ice cream sampling frenzy started with Chef Gin basically letting us sample as much gelato and ice cream that we wanted before choosing what we wanted for our dessert.

She even set up a little sundae bar, but honestly, the gelato and ice cream, for me, really stood out just on its own and didn't need any additional ingredients. After sampling everything from Manhattan Beach Plum to Cantaloupe to Peanut Butter to Cinnamon, etc. and that doesn't even include the ice creams I tried, I finally settled on the Coconut Stracciatella and the Cantaloupe Gelatos. I actually preferred the gelatos finding them lighter and more creamy than the ice creams, which seemed a bit heavy to me.

The Coconut Stracciatella had a wonderful richness and creaminess to it while the Cantaloupe was just so refreshing. I also ended up taking home a Papaya Sorbet, a Vermont Maple and Honey Ice Cream and one other one that I'm totally blanking on. I thought the Papaya Sorbet was a little icy, but the Vermont Maple and Honey Ice Cream, like the Coconut Stracciatella, was richly creamy.

Overall, it was a fun event and Chef Gin was extremely gracious and generous throughout our visit there. She was also open to all comments, positive or negative and that's definitely a sign of someone who really wants to put out excellent product, which for the most part, she did.

To see pics, go to:

Glacier Ice Cream & Gelato
1605 N Sepulveda Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 545-9730

Glacier Ice Cream & Gelato on Urbanspoon


teenage glutster said...

looks like I missed out! I was looking forward to this, but then had to go to that esotouric bus tour of "the new chinatowns".

how was saffron spot?

amandalouden said...