Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cold Spoons Gelato

Happiness is a small spoon, and a small dish filled with gelato. There, I've said it.

Sure, you'd like to think you're immune to the stuff. But you're gonna have to face it, you're addicted to that smooth, creamy, sweeter-than-custard treat that is so hard to come by in this city.

I believe the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the custard stand. And I certainly can't fault them. In Milwaukee, custard is king, and I don't have a problem with that. I have my favorite, just as I'm sure everyone else does. But gelato is a different animal. Colder, lower butterfat, less air, and no eggs... it's sweet, rich, and comes in about every flavor in the rainbow. And there's very little room in Milwaukeean's stomachs for it.

Luckily, Cold Spoons Gelato opened up in my old neighborhood of Washington Heights. With this smallish, owner-operated stand comes some dessert bliss that so many other people already know about.

Cold Spoons offers a number of traditional gelato flavors (the flavors rotate, so you'll always be surprised), in addition to fruity "sorbetto" flavors, as well.

The interior is well-lit, open and airy, with a sort of fun-but-not-kindergarten feel to it that makes it both sophisticated and family friendly. Keeping with most custard and gelato stands, ordering is done at the counter with the freezers full of gelato in front of you, tempting you from the frozen depths. Customers are encouraged to try any flavor they're unfamiliar with, and trust me, you'll find yourself doing this at least twice, if not a few more times. You have the option of doing two, three, or four flavors in a single bowl, topped off with a crunchy half pizzelle.

I opted for the sampling of three flavors, including Pistachio, Caramel, and Panna Cotta.

The pistachio was a complete surprise. The flavor of the nuts was strong, cutting through the dairy like a knife. It immediately called to mind the potency of Amaretto -- maybe it was the nuttiness, maybe the clarity of flavor.

The caramel had clear notes of burnt sugar, and I was immediately relieved by this. No gooey dairy-caramel here, only strong, slightly bitter browned sugar, with just a little vanilla creaminess.

The panna cotta was the most delicate flavor, with a smooth, comforting note of cooked milk, with the smack of macerated strawberries mixed in.

Gelato isn't an every-day dessert, by any stretch of the imagination. The first time I had it, in Europe, I was surprised by the small portions and even smaller spoon, but I now understand: the richness, the strength of flavors, and the variety require tastes, not gobs. It's a dessert to be savored, not devoured. Cold Spoons brings a taste of Italy to Milwaukee (finally!), and does it with class and attention to details. We'll be going back.

Report Card:
Atmosphere: A-
Clean, bright, and family-friendly. There's plenty of space for lots of patrons, and you can always eat old-school out on the sidewalk!

Prices: B-
A three-flavor dish will run you $4.50. Not a cheap date, but not an everyday item, either. It's a premium product, I'll let the prices slide.

Service: A
The counter staff at Cold Spoons was smiling, quick and talkative.

The Food: B+
Lots of flavor options, and each one of them a victory in their own right. I would like to see a few more adventurous flavors, though...

The Details:

Cold Spoons Gelato
(414) 727-9457
5924 W. Vliet St.
Milwaukee, WI 53208

Cold Spoons Gelato on Urbanspoon