Nancy Silverton's line of gelati and sorbetti goes on sale today at Gelson's markets. The frozen treats are meant to evoke Silverton's famous sweets at Mozza, and at $10.99 cost around the same as a dessert at one of her restaurants. So, are they worth the price? We ate ice cream for breakfast this morning in order to find out.
At the local Gelson's at 8 a.m., the ice cream wasn't yet on the shelf, but the helpful grocery guy was able to grab four pints for me from the back: butterscotch budino with salted caramel swirl, roasted banana with bourbon and pecan praline, coconut stracciatella with bittersweet chocolate strands, and frutti di bosco made from Greek yogurt and mixed berries. The other three flavors, chunky peanut butter, chocolate rum, and Stumptown coffee, weren't in stock yet.
By the time I got home, most of the flavors had softened just enough to be at peak texture and scoopablity. Texture is undoubtedly the main triumph of these ice creams. The coconut stracciatella is like eating frozen but supple coconut cream, so much so that it's a little disconcerting. Coconut has a very particular texture, based on oil not dairy, and this hews extremely close to that. But the bitter chocolate strands ground it a bit, and make it clear to your synapses that this is ice cream. Both the roasted banana and the butterscotch budino are gorgeously creamy and almost fluffy. The budino gelato itself is intensely sweet, but the swirls of caramel are genuinely salty, enough so they balance it out. Likewise, the pecans in the banana ice cream are toasty and salty. In some ways, this is the most balanced of the lot — I kind of hate banana, but I kind of love this ice cream.
The berry stracciatella, made with Greek yogurt, was the only one that remained hard even 20 minutes out of the freezer, and as such had a bit of a stiff texture. The flavor though was great, bursting with berries and the slight funk of good yogurt.
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At around $4 more than even the high end ice creams in the case, Nancy's Fancy is going to be a tough sell to your regular supermarket shopper, even if it is from "America's most acclaimed chef." But I can see myself buying it when a friend says "bring dessert!" to a dinner party, or as a surprise for my family when I really want to treat them. It exists in that nice middle ground between run-of-the-mill dessert and going out and spending $30 on a specialty bakery item.
For now Nancy's Fancy is only available at Gelson's, meaning only in Southern California. But the plan is to take the brand national in late 2015/early 2016.