Of all the UK’s food award schemes, the GREAT TASTE AWARDS is considered by far the most important. Completely independent and uncompromisingly rigorous, it is trusted by retailers, buyers and consumers alike. GREAT TASTE is to speciality food and drink what MICHELIN is to fine dining.
So when the moment that all gourmet food producers eagerly await in mid-July each year – the announcement of the winners in what are commonly known as “the Oscars of the Food Industry” – it’s an anxious & exciting time.
Thus when the jangling phone heralded the voice of Sally from the Guild of Fine Food the other day, I was fervently crossing my fingers that we might be rewarded with some wonderful news….
Following on our success in the 2009 Awards when we achieved the successful pinnacle of not only our year, but indeed our fledgeling careers as professional Gelatières Artigianales - a Gold with our Honeycomb Gelato - we are immensely proud & delighted to announce that this year we have excelled ourselves: not only has Lovespoon‘s sumptuous new Turkish Delight Gelato won a Gold Award; so has our beautiful Lemon Grove, which also took a coveted First Prize at the Royal Welsh Show last year. And that’s not all….!
Each year, the Awards’ organiser - the Guild of Fine Food - seeks to improve the judging mechanics. Before Gold is awarded, a minimum of eight experts - & generally as many as sixteen - taste, discuss and agree. This year, the Guild recruited even more experts who, working with key buyers, retailers, chefs and food writers, blind tasted the many thousands of entries to ensure they were skilfully and independently assessed: a tough task, considering that entries were up by 25% on 2009′s already fierce competition.
But before I go on, let me tell you a little more about these two gorgeous gelati. Ironically both these varieties were made in response to challenges. Whilst I do enjoy a chomp on a good quality cube of Turkish Delight I’ve never been a personal fan of ice cream purported to be of that flavour; as I find the premixed pastes & gels from which it is generally made, tend not only to be an off-putting lurid pink colour, but taste of something akin to washing up liquid.
Indeed having been offered a particular pot from another producer to try I was so utterly horrified at the gobsmakingly dreadful slurp of the first-&-only spoonful of the vile, claggy concoction to pass my lips; I felt I absolutely had to try & make something better - no matter my own misgivings regarding overall flavour.
So I sent fellow afficiando Tony away to the sultry spice souks of Damascus, to scour said emporia for the ultimate ingredients; & he returned triumphantly clutching bottles of beautiful Lebanese rosewater. From this, we made a subtle infusion to create that wonderfully authentic flavour.
The result? Not only does it taste like genuine Turkish Delight in frozen form, the delicate perfume which wafts forth from every scoop is reminiscent of a rose garden…& sports its’ own lovely, simple, natural creamy colour…with not a hint of luminescent pink!
Mind you whilst I am delighted it won an award I have to admit that this particular entry was from a batch which was “thrown together” in a bit of a hurry at the end of a very long & intense day…so I know it could have been even better. And I still have further experimentation to do before I have satisfied myself that it’s as good as can be; perhaps we’ll add a further subtle hint of exotic cardamom into the infusion; maybe a few flecks of dark, delicate, brittle São Tomé chocolate to enhance those floral notes….exciting stuff.
Meanwhile our beautiful Lemon Grove – a favourite of local celebrity chefs - was created in response to a bland assertion that “you can’t possibly make a ‘proper’ ice cream, from real lemons. Their acidic juice would only curdle the mixture; all you can do with lemons is make a nice sharp sorbet.”
So: I ensured I became thoroughly acquainted with these luscious little fruity friends…! I ultimately selected the juice & peel of organic Verna lemons from some lovely little groves in Spain; as the Verna has an unctuous thick, oily peel which infuses our unique crème anglaise recipe, to perfection – without any curdling! Hah.
I also love to use (when I can get my greedy wee mitts on them) the plump & vivacious organic Italian Primofiore fruit as they sport such a beautiful fresh, floral aroma: put one to your nose; close your eyes, & inhale…with the subtle caress of a warm summer breeze you’ll be transported to the beautiful grove where that cheeky little lemon was born & bred.
Imagine the brightly effervescent sunshine blush of the ripe fruit, peeping coyly amidst the lush green leaves of the mother tree. Imagine warm, dark, umber earth against the vibrant backdrop of a cerulean sky; plunging down to merge with the stunning, sapphire sea…
These are nuggets from our treasured images of the Italy in which we were both personally so very lucky, to live; eat; & explore. Now our new journey relives & indeed revitalises the original delight of direct experience through the more subtle experience of sheer taste. What we wanted to achieve with Lemon Grove, transports our imaginations back to the Italy we knew & loved….indeed; that which sparked our passion for beautiful, artisanal Gelato.
But let’s cut to the taste….quite simply, a balanced amount of freshly-squeezed lemon juice and fragrant shards of peel cut through the richness of this gelato to create a delicate & refreshing dessert; which for a real “wow” factor to conclude an elegant dinner party looks stunning when served in hollowed-out lemon shells & dressed with a little zest.
P.S. We always use organic lemons; because when using the peel you want to ensure there have been no poisonous chemicals sprayed on them.
But the icing on the cake, is this proud announcement: Lovespoon has achieved an awesome Double Gold with our new Cappriccino flavour; which we created in response to the wishes of you - our valued customers. Comments that you just couldn’t find “a really good coffee ice cream” spurred us to satisfy your desire.
So (as ever) we did some thorough research; & eventually hit upon a lovely blend of Fairtrade Colombian & Costa Rican coffees – both made with Arabica beans: balancing the subtle, fruity flavour of the first with the deep, full-bodied intensity of the second. This creates a superbly robust & well-rounded palate without being overpowering or bitter; the smooth taste lingering pleasurably rather than (as so often tends to happen in a coffee ice cream) disappearing into watery nothingness.
Anyway: it was evidently a significant hit with the Great Taste judges; of whom twenty must unanimously agree that an entry has achieved absolute perfection for it to be awarded those coveted two stars. And as out of all the many thousands of entries submitted this year only 456 were awarded a Double Gold…we’re feeling somewhat chuffed.
To have the accolade of FOUR Great Taste awards within the space of a year….well; it doesn’t get much better than that!
And as for our wonderful Milkforce ladies whose life of luxury produces such delicious milk – the heart of our gelato…? Rest assured they thoroughly enjoyed their celebratory slap-up supper banquet including a wide variety of fresh caprine hedgerow delicacies followed by a hearty “toast” of their favourite warm molasses tipple.
But it is all thanks to YOU – our wonderful Customers – who have made this dream a reality with your imagination, originality & insightfulness when selecting or requesting special & unique flavours which have led us to explore & to push adventurous boundaries on your behalf.
Thus it is we offer our sincere & grateful thanks, to all those who have helped & supported us throughout what has been another challenging but immensely rewarding year: we couldn’t have done it without you. :0)
Best wishes -
Jo, Tony + all our Cheeky Caprine Chums.