Just Desserts: North End restaurant hits Haymarket Square for new gelato ingredients

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Posted August 12, 2013 by Scott Kearnan in Eat & Drink
La Galleria uses fresh fruits from Haymarket Square

What’s on the menu at La Galleria 33? The answer sometimes depends on what’s at the market.

Lisa Cerundolo, co-owner of the North End restaurant, has a secret ingredient for the gelato that La Galleria just started making this summer: fresh herbs and fruits from Haymarket Square, the downtown Boston open-air market that offers up fresh produce at famously low prices. Shopping there is not only convenient, it also allows Cerundolo to eschew anonymous wholesalers and support local farmers and food vendors. Plus, since her rotating gelato flavors are made in small batches to maximize flavor and quality control, she can buy just what she needs for the week’s recipes. No waste, no worries.

And besides, fresh ingredients are the key to great gelato.

Flavors of La Galleria 33

Sambuca, chocolate-raspberry, and blackberry-lavender are just some of the fresh flavors of gelato offered by La Galleria 33. Photo courtesy of La Galleria 33.

“I always start with a good product because, no matter what you do to it, if it’s not fresh you’ll never achieve the sweet, clean fruit flavor,” says Cerundolo, who has a longtime love for dessert-making (In fact, before she and her sister Rita Moran bought the restaurant, Lisa considered becoming a pastry chef). Among the flavors she’s introduced recently are blackberry-lavender, anise, espresso, Nutella, honey-chamomile, salted caramel, chocolate-orange and rosemary-vanilla.

When she can, Cerundolo derives these flavors from the wares at Haymarket Square. Of course, not all food vendors are created equal, and she admits that some unscrupulous sorts try to sneak by with subpar products. Which brings us to Step One: Know your seller. “Shiny, clean fruits on display are just that, a display,” says Cerundolo. “So I make sure to visit stands where I’ve built relationships and am confident that I’ll get quality produce.” Lately that produce has included berries, apricots, peaches, and assorted herbs, especially fresh basil and mint.

Cerundolo takes her farm-fresh finds back to her kitchen, where she preps them for the gelato. Strawberries are macerated or roasted to bring out their flavor. Blackberries and blueberries are blended and passed through a chinois, a cone-shaped metal strainer, to remove the tiny seeds. Some fruits are poached or even steeped in liquor. And some are simply chopped up and added toward the end of the gelato-making process. The basil, mint, and other herbs are usually steeped in simple syrups or milk to infuse them with even more flavor.

The result? Gorgeous gelato that has helped La Galleria 33 bounce back from tougher times last winter, when it was featured on the reality show Kitchen Nightmares. In fact, chef Gordon Ramsay stopped by just last week to see how the other tweaks featured on the show, including a menu overhaul and interior renovations, have helped breathe new life into the restaurant. No word on whether he tried the new gelato, but one thing’s for sure: He’d appreciate the focus on freshness.

Cerundolo now is now looking forward to new options like the Boston Public Market, a year-round farmer’s market that’s slated to open by the Rose Kennedy Greenway next year.

“I’m thrilled to hear that it’s coming,” Cerundolo says of the long-discussed project now moving full steam ahead. She says you can never have too many options to shop fresh and local downtown. “I’d love the convenience and the opportunity to support our local farms,” she says. “Even if that means paying a little more.”

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