Food and Drink

This Sydney Gelato Maestro is Making Degustations Cool Again

Think mushroom gelato with truffles.

gelato degustation

Degustation is a French word for ‘tasting,’ and until recently, degustations were reserved for the wealthy. That’s all changing now. Degustations are becoming more accessible and reworded to tasting menus. You can find them in restaurants all over Australia that range from around $65 per person to as much as $300 per person. Although, one place I didn’t expect to find a degustation menu is at a gelateria.

Zini Contemporary Gelateria is helmed by Matteo Zini, who brings his Bologna heritage and machinery to the shop. After years of studying and mastering gelato, Zini opened his first gelateria, La Macelleria Gelateria, in Brisbane and opened his Sydney concept late last year in the new Quay Quarter Lanes.

Inside, a modern interior with light pastel colours adds a touch of playfulness to the serious gelato inside. This year, Zini has pushed the boundaries by offering gelato degustations.

“We hosted a vegan gelato degustation which wasn’t as popular, but our Asian-inspired degustation was a hit,” he says.

Inspired by Asia’s diverse continent, Zini offered attendees four gelatos, including Genmaicha gelato, a rare and delicious tea from Osaka, Japan, Dragonfruit and Lime sorbet, Early Grey and Yuzu Sorbet, and a Coconut Pandan Gelato.

Each gelato was created from a specific memory or experience of Zini’s travels. “The Early Grey and Yuzu Sorbet idea came from a cocktail I tried in a hidden bar inside a library in Shanghai, China,” says Zini.

According to Zini, this isn’t his first gelato degustation. In Brisbane, at La Macelleria Gelateria, he offered gelato degustations which people loved. “I noticed no one was doing it in Sydney, and I wanted to offer something different,” he says.

The next degustation Zini is working on is none other than a truffle gelato—it’s truffle season, after all. The Truffle Degustation sold out within minutes, but there’s still room in the second seating here.

According to Zini, the truffle experience is the most exciting yet. “truffles aren’t cheap, but I wanted to give people a taste of truffles without forcing them to remortgage a property,” he says.

The truffle degustation will feature a custard yolky gelato with truffle shavings. This recipe was inspired by how people eat truffles in Piedmont, the Italian land of truffles: simply shaving fresh truffles on top of egg yolk. So, this is an egg yolk-based gelato with abundant fresh truffles, salt and pepper.

Next is a mushroom gelato with truffles and salt folded into it. Then he will be scooping up pecorino gelato, inspired by his famous Parmigiano Reggiano Gelato.

For dessert, white chocolate gelato balances the musky and intense aromas of fresh truffles, and the roasted Iranian pistachios give a satisfying crunch.

Tickets are only $52.78 for the degustation experience, which includes a coffee on arrival, tasting, and a take-home 500ml gelato tub of the four flavours you just tried.

According to Zini he will continue creating gelato degustations.

“Every time we announce a degustation, it sells out in minutes. We want to continue offering our customers and gelato lovers a unique experience that won’t break the bank.”

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Food and Drink

Why Makrut Lime Makes a Star Ingredient in Cocktails

The Southeast Asian citrus is intensely aromatic and pairs with rum, gin, tequila, and more.

Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks

I grew up with a makrut lime tree in my backyard, admiring the double leaves and dimpled citrus fruit that frequently made their way into our family dinners. Makrut limes, which are sometimes referred to kaffir limes (although the term is controversial and has been widely retired), are native to Southeast Asia, but somehow my mom willed a tree to grow in our Southern California home with great success.

To me, makrut meant savoury Thai food: steamed fish curry wrapped in banana leaves and sprinkled with chiffonade makrut, simmering tom kha gai with floating bits of the hand-torn citrus leaves, and glistening green curry accentuated by the plant’s aroma.

But to others, makrut is an ideal ingredient in cocktails and other drinks. Such is the case for Fish Cheeks, a Thai restaurant in Manhattan known for its seafood dishes and eclectic, complementary cocktail menu. Beverage director Beau Fontano knew he had to include makrut in his creations, especially because the ingredient is so prominent on the food menu. Makrut lime finds its way in several drinks, most notably as a garnish atop the Thank You Kha, a riff on the acidic coconut stew tom kha gai, and the Manao Mao, a rum-based drink that uses makrut lime bitters.

“I don’t love using the word tiki, but if you think of those tiki rum cocktails, makrut definitely works well in those,” Fontano says. “But I also love it in martinis-there’s something really clean about it. And with makrut lime, if you’re just using the leaves, you can do a lot of rapid infusions.”

Fontano only uses the leaves, because the rinds and juice of makrut limes are famously bitter. “Regular lime has a little bit more sugar content, so that’s why it’s much more approachable in cocktails. Makrut limes tend to be more dry,” he explains. “But when you use the leaves in cocktails, you just smack it to wake it up a little bit and it gets that nice citrusy, refreshing aroma which is really fun.”

The leaves are cut fresh, so each drink has the scent of makrut lime leaves wafting off of them. “I’m sure at one point I will get around to it and try to figure out how to use the juice,” he laughs.

Further north at Paper Tiger in Portland, Maine, makrut lime leaves are also prevalent in a cocktail called Something Scandalous, a tequila-based drink intended to be, in the words of bartender Nick Reevy, “crushed easily.”

Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger

“I went with tequila, specifically, because in Maine it’s 80 degrees and humid pretty much all summer,” Reevy explains. “So I made something you kick back easily. Agave has a really nice softness that elevates the makrut lime, and the main flavour in that drink is the Thai basil.”

The drink is an alluring shade of green and is rounded out by cinnamon syrup and falernum. “Makrut lime is really herbal and bright in a way no other citrus is,” Reevy adds. “It’s interchangeable with other limes, but it just adds this whole other depth of flavour.”Makrut lime has even made its way into hard seltzer, albeit a limited edition drop from Lunar. Founder Kevin Wong knew he wanted to add another citrus drink to his rotation as he witnessed the successes of hard lemonades, but already had a yuzu iteration. Makrut lime seemed like a natural follow-up.

Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar

“It has a very intense citrus fragrance, almost perfumey or soapy,” Wong ponders. “Like I could see Le Labo putting out a makrut lime fragrance. It has such a commanding presence and body.”

To tamper down some of the boldness of the makrut lime, the hard seltzer uses makrut lime leaf extract, lime juice, and cane sugar. The aromatics of the lime are present without too much bitterness; instead, the seltzer is grassy, acidic, and dry. Wong recommends pairing the can with spicy foods, especially Szechuan dry pot.

The makrut lime seltzer is currently sold out, and Wong is unsure whether or not another batch is in the works. “I feel like makrut lime is the greatest secret unknown to the Western world,” he says. “It’s in medicine, candy, herbal drinks, cosmetics and aromatherapy. I think we did the seltzer too early, and I don’t know if the world is ready for us to bring it back yet. Maybe in a couple of years.”

But judging by the growing popularity of makrut lime in beverage menus, the comeback might be sooner than he expects.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.

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