Worldwide Wednesday: Gelato Messina

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My world would be dark and lonely without ice cream. I drink chocolate malts to celebrate, eat Cookies & Crème to make a bad day better, and even enjoy a scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip when I’m too full for dessert. While I don’t like to admit it, I eat ice cream almost every night. No, that’s a lie – the truth is I eat ice cream every night. It’s possible that I’m borderline addicted to this creamy, cold treat. If there were a hotline for ice cream addicts, I’d consider arranging evening sessions. Let’s just say my 2016 resolution, that I can only eat ice cream the number of times I work out each week, hasn’t started yet.

Ice cream’s favorite relative, Gelato, came into my life when my aunts and I traveled to Italy after my high school graduation. It was my first trip abroad so I naturally chose a destination based on my ability to eat. Having no other choice but to eat pasta and gelato for 10 days straight made my taste buds explode with excitement. I averaged 2.5 gelatos a day, a challenge for some but an effortless task for a gelato groupie like myself. Lalia’s having a coffee? Okay, I’ll have a gelato. We’re going to Florence today? I need a gelato for the train ride. We’re in Florence? I have to make sure Florentine gelato tastes as good as Roman gelato. It’s time to wake up? Gelato for breakfast is the best idea ever! Needless to say, I suffered from severe gelato withdrawals when we returned to the States…

Despite my committed efforts to find authentic gelato outside of Italy, nothing compared until I traveled to Australia in 2013. When I studied abroad in Sydney in 2010, I was infatuated with Darrel Lea’s Australian Licorice and Pancakes on the Rocks but in 2013, Gelato Messina was everyone’s everything. I approached Messina with low expectations because my previous searches for authentic gelato were met with false hope, disappointment and tears.

Gelato Messina was different.

Gelato Messina

The modern decor, ridiculously delicious gelato, and staff of gelato-enthusiasts set this Australian-Italian gelato café apart. The gelato is so smooth, so creamy (without using much cream), and so flavorful, I wanted to move next door so I could eat it every day. Even more, this gelateria is interesting and unique. Messina is passionately dedicated to working with raw ingredients and experimenting with new flavors and textures – the gelato makers work behind a giant glass wall so everyone can experience the process of creating happiness in a cup (or cone!). Thirty five permanent flavors and five weekly specials are churned remotely and you can tell. Apple pies are baked in-house (yes, there is apple pie gelato), pistachios are cracked by hand, and you could argue that they are hiding a garden of fruit on the roof because the fruit sorbet are that fresh. The hardest part about leaving Australia was (arguably) leaving Gelato Messina behind.

Gelato Messina

So, what’s better than traveling to Australia for some Messina? Finding out that the only Gelato Messina location outside of Australia happens to be in the city that I live in. That’s right – Gelato Messina is in Vegas, baby! Life as I know it has officially changed.

Pickin’ Your Brain:

  • What’s your food addiction?

Yuck or Yum: Sushi

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I’ve come across many opportunities to eat sushi. When I was young, my family had semi-annual meals with our close family friends at Ginza of Tokyo, what used to be a popular Hibachi restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin. We celebrated my mom’s 50th birthday with meal that was prepared privately by Chef Osama “Fuji” Fujita, one of the seven master sushi chefs in the nation and I have also eaten amongst the best sushi trains in Sydney.

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What’s a sushi train, you might ask? It’s literally a conveyer belt of sushi that winds throughout the restaurant. Sushi chefs place small plates of fresh sushi on the train that moves past every counter seat. The plates are typically color coded so you know how much it costs; a red plate is $5, yellow is $4, green is $3 and the bill is calculated based on the number and color of the plates that are stacked by your side. Don’t see what you’re looking for? No worries, mate! You always have the ability to place a special order if  your favorite plate hasn’t made it past the caboose for a while. Sushi trains are the best! They are seriously the coolest way to eat sushi.

My fascination with the sushi-go-round made me do something I’ve never done before: it was as if something took control of my body. I watched my friend take a yellow plate from the train and stick it in front of me. Thinking he might have misplaced it, I continued to look at the sushi moving round-and-round in the background. Mesmerized, I looked at the black seaweed wrapped around sticky white rice. Florescent green seaweed sprawled over the edges, making the piece of Japanese delicacy look more like a green-haired troll doll than something I’d put in my mouth. But before I knew it, I was dry-heaving from the overwhelming slime and ocean odor that consumed my senses. I couldn’t stop gagging but continued chew – I didn’t have a choice –  my friend was holding me down so I couldn’t move, knowing I would escape to the restroom as soon as I had the chance.

YUCKIt’s safe to say that I strongly dislike sushi. I knew this long before the seaweed sushi episode, though – sushi is just one of those foods that I don’t need to eat to know that I don’t like it.

To me, sushi is the salmonella of fish. I know this debilitating bacteria is commonly caused from poultry, not seafood, but the entire concept is all too similar. I stay away from raw meat in general, just in case. This combined with seaweed, wasabi and fish eggs (gag) are enough to make me avoid Japanese restaurants for the rest of my life.

Okay, that’s a lie – sushi for dinner, you might ask? I won’t decline. I like teriyaki sauce so much I could drink it and beef teriyaki is one of my favorite meals to eat. Tell me we are going to a Japanese Restaurant and I will cancel all my plans. Tell me we are going to a sushi train and I will buy a ticket to Australia so I can sit amongst the sushi touring the tables of the restaurant while I eat my beef teriyaki.

Pickin’ Your Brain:

  • Tell me about your first experience trying a new food!

Sunday Special: Picky Eater Approved Banana Bread

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Australia is one of my favorite countries. My first solo adventure abroad was spent in Sydney for five months where I studied in between playing basketball, meeting lifelong friends and traveling the country. I’ve been back twice since, spending a few months with my boyfriend in Melbourne during his baseball seasons.

Last winter, he spent his season with The Streets. Usually, my picky eating habits make it difficult for me to be an extended guest in someone’s home. This was not the case in the Street household.  Mitch’s host-mom, Jan, spends most of her time in the kitchen, a room specifically built in proportion to her 5’6″ frame. The counters are the perfect height for her to bake three batches of her famous apple crumble in one evening and the systemic cupboard space gives every pot and pan, spatula and spoon, whisk and wok a home. For most, her specialties include tomato chutney, yellow curry, and lasagna; but for me, her ability to please picky eaters and non-picky eaters alike is what makes her a phenomenal chef.

I was inspired by Jan’s cooking and was often caught reading her cookbooks in search of picky eater approved recipes. Among many, I found Donna Hay’s simple banana bread recipe. This banana bread tastes authentically Australian; each bite brings back memories of being in the Land Down Under and it’s relatively healthy, too. It definitely makes my list of picky eater approved recipes.

Picky Eater Approved Banana Bread:

4oz unsalted butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

4 mashed bananas

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/3 cup golden syrup (I use Lyle’s Golden Syrup which can be found at Whole Foods)

Preheat oven to 325F. Place butter, sugar and vanilla in a mixer and beat for 8-10 minutes or until pale and creamy. Add eggs; beat well to combine. Add banana, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and golden syrup. Pour mixture into a lightly greased loaf tin. Bake for 60-65 minutes or until cooked when tested with a toothpick. Cool in the tin for 20 minutes before placing onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve with extra butter spread on top, if you’d like!

(Picture coming soon…Banana Bread still baking in the oven!)

Pickin’ Your Brain:

  • What’s your favorite banana bread recipe?