The other night, Akemi and a few of our closest friends were fortunate enough to attend a Gelato 101 class hosted by the award-winning James Coleridge (winner of the 1st “Maestro Gelatiere Award” at the Florence Gelato Festival, and considered one of the world’s top artisan gelato makers) at his Bella Gelateria in downtown Vancouver.

Rob and Steve
Jodi, Akemi (brought her own apron), and Hillary.
The Master of Ceremonies: James Coleridge.

James, a graduate of Carpigiani Gelato University, started off by giving us an overview of the world of gelato, pointing out the differences between gelato and the more readily available ice cream (gelato has roughly half the amount of fat and air, and is actually served at warmer temperatures).  He talked about his education in Italy and a reprimand he received for daring to question the prevalent use of chemicals in the gelato-making process.  To his credit, James doesn’t criticize those who make use of the chemical mix, instead lauding them for trailblazing the gelato movement in North America.  All the same, he eschews the mixes and chemicals in favor of premium, all-natural ingredients.  It’s something he feels he owes to not only his customers, but his family as well.

The Bella Gelateria selection.

Following the preliminary introduction, we were ushered into the laboratorio (Italian for “laboratory”, natch).  Apparently, most gelato shops maintain an air of secrecy surrounding their products and recipes, so no photography is ever permitted within their walls.  He, on the other hand, has a more open approach and invited us to snap as many pics and videos as we wished.  Which was great because it meant I didn’t have to rely on my hidden button cam.


Once we were in the kitchen, the real hands-on instruction (and tasting) began!

My fellow students

James talked about his education in Italy and winning first prize at last year’s Florence Gelato Festival for his toasted pecans, sea salt and maple syrup gelato.  He started us off by allowing us to sample an unbelievable caramel base.   We then moved onto a base for one of his chocolate ice creams…

Steve “The Cleaner” Boska polishes off the chocolate base.

We were then offered a taste of the various chocolates that go into the different gelatos – only the best of the best, Michel Cluizel, ranging from creamy 45% milk to darker than dark 99%.

Let the sampling begin!
The Cluizel collection

We melted some dark chocolate, heated it in a pot, then blasted it with this industrial mixer…

Rob takes her out for a spin.
Akemi at the wheel.

After which the whipped mixture was poured in here –

1– to complete the process.  The mixture gradually set and cooled, growing denser as it spun.  The process was downright hypnotic.

Rob checks out a piece of equipment for checking out sugar levels.  Oh, steering clear of sugar?  Well, you can go sugar-free – but you’ll need roughly 9-10 times more of whatever chemical sugar substitute you use to achieve the same melting point.

Then, it was paddling time!

Once around the lake, James – then home.

We each took turns using the ice cream paddle to scoop the finished gelato out without breaking the machine, paddle, or our jaws.

Jodi shows us how it’s done.

Further tasting ensued.  James demonstrated the correct way to spoon a sample, using a sideways swipe that yielded roughly 3-4 times more gelato than the the more traditional straightforward scoop.  We sampled one of his newest, a Limoncello Cheesecake gelato that was so good I ended up buying myself another scoop after the class ended.

We also sampled the greatest pistachio gelato I’ve ever had made from the world’s greatest pistachio’s (Bronte pistachios that are the most expensive of expensive Sicilian pistachio’s which are, in turn, the most expensive of Italian pistachio’s which are, in turn, the most expensive of the world’s pistachios).

Akemi is rewarded for her learning skills.  And cute apron.

Fun, informative and, above all, delicious!

Screw television.  I’m going to Gelato University!

Welcome to Bella Gelateria – Home of Old-World Handcrafted Gelato


19 thoughts on “March 16, 2013: Gelato 101!

  1. Mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmmmm!
    I bet Chef Rob was in culinary class heaven!
    Smart girl Akemi bringing her own apron!
    You do the coolest things!
    Thanks to master James Coleridge for letting you share with us!!

  2. That all looks so good, Joe! Sounds like it was a great time too. I just finished a DQ Blizzard, and while it was good, I’m sure nothing like that!

  3. Wowizer that looked fun! Akemi did look cute in her apron (smart idea to bring one). I didn’t know the difference between ice cream and gelato. Thank you for showing us the class.

  4. Looks delicious, but not all sugar-free stuff has to be made from chemical substances. One word: Stevia

    Tomorrow is my birthday! Woo-hoo. The last one of this particular age-decades thing.

  5. I really need to get back to making ice cream. I haven’t made any since Winter kicked in but I really should whip some up.

    I was at a restaurant last week that offered gelato for dessert and then had a vegetarian option of ice cream. I was trying to figure out why gelato wouldn’t be vegetarian. The only thing I could come up with was that they had used gelatin in the gelato. *shrug*

    I’m a big fan of gelato. I find most commercial ice creams are too fluffy and airy. The ice creams I make are not so perhaps they could be classified as gelati? Although I think I need to increase my sugar content as my ice creams tend to freeze pretty hard.

    I’m not sure there’s any gelato making classes here in the UK. I guess I’ll have to fly over to Italy for one! 🙂

  6. @PBMom,, Happy Happy Birthday to you(tomorrow)!!
    ~Joe, looks like everyone is having great fun and wow, gelato looks amazing, but I am dessert kinda person, so thanks.

  7. @ PBMom – Happy birthday young lady!!! (39?)

    @ Janet – Rob always looks smokin’ hot! 🙂

    Joe and Rob should start their own restaurant. Do it!

  8. That’s awesome! Looks like tons of fun and makes me jealous. I miss the streets of Italy with their 5 gelaterias every block.

    Also, Akemi bringing her own apron is just too adorable. 🙂

  9. @ensredshirt
    @Dark Chocolate.. The Darker the better. Milk chocolate just doesn’t taste very good to me anymore.

    I’m exactly the opposite personally. While I don’t like Dark Chocolate very much, I prefer Milk everytime.

    Not sure what it is about dark chocolate, the taste just doesn’t appeal to me at all. White and Milk Chocolate however, anytime 🙂

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