We weren’t sure what to expect from a degustation hosted by gelato moguls Messina. Just tasty scoops of ice cream after another, right? Each in a different bowl. Maybe some with peanut butter chunks, some without. A flake jutting out, perhaps. Artistically smashed waffle cone powdered on top. Something like that.
But it’s nothing like that. Our first mistake was preconceiving these notions. Our second was eating a full dinner beforehand. The Messina Creative Department’s Dessert Degustation is a seven-course menu of high-end desserts, with their famous gelato taking on the role of supporting character. Our night was hosted in the small space that used to house Messina’s Create Your Own Soft Serve sundae bar. The setting was intimate and artfully presented; aside from their iconic cakes displayed on the wall, we were hard pressed to find an echo of Messina’s typical kitsch. In fact, the large jars of oils and elixirs made it feel more like a Defence Against The Dark Arts classroom than a gelato degustation.
It was obvious that the aim of the night was to please and impress; the staff were almost giddy with it. They asked us not to view our menus ahead of each course and jokingly threw us off when we asked what they were preparing. There was a strong emphasis on the origin of each ingredient, and how important it was for them to include it. The excitement was palpable and we couldn’t help but get caught up in it.[related_articles]30765[/related_articles]
As a result of this attention to detail, the dishes were all delightfully unexpected with every flavour carefully considered. Goats milk yogurt gelato came with a side of green peas and lardo, and was drizzled all over with pine oil white soy sauce. There was also a delicately constructed sugar egg that oozed out port jelly, burnt vanilla gelato and umeboshi plum when you cracked it on top. Each dish was tied together by an accompanying non-alcoholic drink ranging anywhere from an Ahinsa Estate tea to a honey syrup.
Although many of the ingredients were uncommon (umeboshi plum, what now?), there was no sense of food snobbery or pretension. On the contrary, we were invited into the kitchen to observe the chefs constructing the dishes and had the opportunity to ask them any questions we wanted. This helped to lift the ‘fine dining’ veil and gave the whole experience a laid-back and almost playful feel.
If you’d like to check out the hype, the Messina degustation will set you back a cool $130AUD and possibly a bit of a wait. But it’s well worth it to experience such an ingrained institution in a new light. (Also to get to eat seven desserts in a row.)
(The writer went as a guest of Gelato Messina, all images supplied.)[qantas_widget code=SYD]Check out Qantas flights to Sydney here.[/qantas_widget]
Josephine is a staff writer at Junkee Media. You can find her words on AWOL, The Cusp, food she bagsed in the fridge.