Gelato vs. Ice Cream, the Battle in Which There Are No Losers

20 Aug

As a quick side note concerning last month’s annual trek to San Francisco, it bears sharing that we engaged in a voracious debate concerning which icy treat was more favorable: ice cream or gelato.

St. James Whiskey gelato, topped with a scoop of apricot sorbetto, from Naia in North Beach

In reality, there are very few properties that separate gelato from ice cream.  Both are icy treats made from milk and cream, both are churned while freezing, and both can be served via cone or cup.  The main differences between gelato and ice cream lie in three areas: the ratio of milk to cream contained in each (gelato contains less cream, more milk, resulting in a marginally lower fat product with a less heavy taste), the amount of air contained within each (gelato is churned more slowly than ice cream, which allows less air to be incorporated into the mix and makes for a denser end product), and the temperature at which each item is served (gelato is served at a temperature slightly above freezing, ice cream is served frozen).

Chocolate ice cream from Bi-Rite Creamery in the Misson

Facts sorted and items sampled, we considered our tastings.  Bi-Rite Creamery, by making its ice cream in very small batches, maintains a virtue similar to that of most gelato makers (okay, so I recant my above statement about there being three main differences between gelato and ice cream–there are actually four main differences, that being that gelato is meant to be made in very small batches, and ice cream, unless made at home or at an artisanal ice cream shop like Bi-Rite Creamery, is generally not).  Both Naia and Bi-Rite Creamery offer a selection of sorbets, and both places excel at making delicious, unique flavors of their product (I would have taken a picture of the balsamic strawberry ice cream, salted caramel ice cream, and brown sugar ice cream with a ginger caramel swirl that were consumed during this sampling of icy treats,  but I was, delightfully, too busy tasting them to even think about my camera).

In the end, ice cream and gelato were declared dual winners in the unofficial competition.  Not only were we unable to choose a winner between the two frozen delights, but we were unwilling.  To declare one better over the other seemed an almost ridiculous task, especially when, as evidenced below, we found it virtually impossible to register a single complaint about either.

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