This week's radio show spent a good bit of time on Italian gelato,
but I hate to break it to fans of Italy, but the best city in the whole world
for gelato is not there, because the best gelato city is Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Italian influences in Buenos Aires are every bit as pervasive as French and Spanish,
and those influences show up especially in their accents and in their favorite foods.
There are gourmet gelato shops on almost every corner in the nicer neighborhoods
and they are wedged into the real estate in the working class areas as well.
Competition for customers is heavy, but prices stay comparatively high, so only the
high quality and creative shops stay in business. People line up for hand-packed kilos
of freshly made flavors, just like they flock to pizza and BBQ/rotisserie establishments.
Also in this week's radio show, the legend is repeated about ice cream cones at the St. Louis world's fair
being born from necessity when the ice cream vendor ran out of cups and turned to the waffle stand instead.
Versions of that story have been told about many different fairs all over the world--it's part of the lore of fairs and exhibitions of the industrial age. A little research shows that the St. Louis event was in 1904, but ice cream cones specifically for ice cream -- not repurposed folded waffles -- were being mass manufactured already in the 1890s.
It was at the US centennial exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, 28 years earlier, where Breyers' had an exhibit in the industrial machinery hall of ice cream mass manufacturing, and many saloons and pop-up shops around the exhibition site were serving their own ice cream, that a crepe vendor and an ice cream stand teamed up to use rolled/folded crepes as cones to hold ice cream.
And that doesn't take into account what was going on in Europe -- so the notion that ice cream cones come from St. Louis in 1904 is pretty silly. They are documented much earlier and much farther east.
To balance out that tall tale, though, I was happy to hear from the Sicilian guide on Rick's show that as kids they would have gelato inside a brioche, like an ice cream sandwich, because one of the brothers behind the top-reviewed restaurant located in Girona, Catalunya, called El Cellar de Can Roca, has an ice cream shop over by the tourist main drag, and the shop serves a custom-made ice cream novelty where they put gelato in a type of panini bun and then warm it up in a sandwich press so the outside is toasty but the inside stays cold -- and they claim it is an original invention. This anecdote on the radio show, though, indicates that there is a precedent for pairing gelato with pastry.