Regina Varolli covers the 37th year of SIGEP from Rimini, Italy, as the world's largest gelato expo hosts nearly 200,000 visitors in 2015.
SIGEP played host to nearly 200,000 visitors this year, proving that the Rimini, Italy Expo is getting anything but stale in its 37th year. The world’s largest gelato expo, SIGEP also caters to coffee and barista, baking and pastry, as well as breads and pizza, with an emphasis on artisanal. If you want to know what’s coming to the States before it arrives on our shores and in our stores, then SIGEP is still the place for a pastry pilgrimage every January.
This year, what captured our attention the most here at Dessert Professional were two tasty new frozen dessert products and a cool new piece of gelato-making equipment called IdeaTre—think of combining the word ‘idea’ with the word ‘theatre’ and you get the idea—as well as the proper pronunciation.
Designed and built by Carpigiani, the IdeaTre makes it possible for chefs and gelato-makers to prepare and serve gelato and other products right in front of their customers, adding a completely new dimension to both the experience of making and enjoying gelato. Think of it in terms of a chef’s table at dinner, you can literally make your gelato, sorbet, mousse, pastry cream, poached fruits, sauces, etc. right before the eyes of your customers, all in one machine, and actually, all at the same time. The IdeaTre has a minimum of four prep-serve cylinders that can each be set to different temperatures (5°F—221°F) and mix speeds simultaneously, so you literally can make and serve a minimum of four elements à la minute.
Premiering the IdeaTre “Gelato Live” at SIGEP, Carpigiani set up a demo theatre and invited four of Europe’s most forward-thinking savory and pastry chefs to create uncommon dishes that would challenge the way we think of gelato, as well as the way we make and serve it. Chef Aurora Mazzucchelli of Bologna’s Michelin-starred restaurant Marconi created an Anise and Goat Curd Gelato paired with herring, raw pink shrimp and candied rose petals that stretched the boundaries of where you might think gelato should go. Chef Yoji Tokuyoshi, Massimo Bottura’s sous chef for more than ten years, now the chef-owner of Tokuyoshi in Milan, crafted a sake and rice gelato packing serious umami.
Chef Simon Press from Buenos Aires, now collaborator with Matias Perdomo at Michelin-starred Al Pont de Ferr in Milan, used the IdeaTre to bring the audience back to his childhood in Argentina with Popcorn Gelato and Humita, a spicy corn soup that’s made with chili pepper, paprika, garlic, and tomatoes. The Extra Virgin Olive Oil Gelato created on the spot by one of Italy’s best pastry chefs (if not the best), Luca Lacalamita of Michelin three-star Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, was as sublime as it was simple. Paired with an olive oil and almond baba and almond pralines, Lacalamita’s performance and his dessert were perfect examples of just how cool it is to watch a master create a frozen dessert right before your eyes and serve it up without any wait. Super-cool, in fact, and quite revolutionary as far as dining theatre goes.
Speaking of cool, the expression “cool as a cucumber” brings me to a new frozen yogurt flavor by PreGel…Yes, you guessed it, cucumber. Celebrating 30 years since entering the frozen yogurt market, and one could even say creating the frozen yogurt phenomenon in America, PreGel’s new Cucumber YogurSprint is a testament to the lasting success of its original signature yogurt flavor. As PreGel America’s Jillian Hillard put it, “After 30 years our signature yogurt flavor has proven to be very versatile, allowing for continuous product development.” Corporate Pastry Chef and Dessert Professional Top Ten Pastry Chef 2012 Frederic Monti added, “I’m continuously amazed by our R&D teams and what they create year after year. The new Cucumber YogurSprint is belissimo!”
At SIGEP, you spend days tasting a lot, a lot of gelato and yogurt, and the vast majority of it is sweet. On top of that, there’s all the chocolate and pastry to sample, it can be an excessive excess of sugar intake. The cucumber yogurt I found at PreGel was a welcome respite. Though mildly sweet, it doesn’t taste sugary, it only imparts the sweetness you find in a ripe cucumber. Slightly savory and sour, Cucumber YogurSprint has a refreshing flavor that cleanses the palate rather than drowning it. Though already launched in Europe at SIGEP, the flavor will officially hit the U.S. in Chicago at the National Restaurant Association Show. Remember that when you’re at NRA and desperately need a clean palate pick-me-up.
Another big buzz at SIGEP this year was a new gelato flavor that you might just think could give you a buzz, MEC3’s cannabis gelato mix One Love. Alas, this new “One Love” product is completely THC-free, made of only cannabis sativa seeds, which are naturally THC-free. The flavor of cannabis is complemented with undertones of vanilla and caramelized brown sugar. Also a part of the One Love product is a chocolate sauce developed especially for the cannabis gelato, with crushed hemp seeds and cacao nibs. The product was market-tested at MEC3’s Dolce Bio gelato shops and it was so popular that customers were lining up out the door.
After tasting the gelato and being quite surprised that the flavor was really rather delicious, I sat down with Director Gian Maria Emendatori on the floor of the giant two-story MEC3 spread at SIGEP. He was clearly having as much fun as success with the launch of this new flavor. Yet despite ample jokes about cannabis and THC while grooving to the tunes of Bob Marley—part of their very hippy One Love campaign—Emendatori and his new product are nevertheless serious, he considers it “the most interesting and most important product” they have today.
When he first tasted the seeds “out of curiosity,” he found the flavor to be “somewhere in between pine nuts and walnuts.” Gian Maria explained how MEC3 “really studied the flavor in order to create the One Love mix and accompanying chocolate sauce.” More than just a novelty or shock-factor flavor, MEC3’s mix will change your mind about what cannabis can taste like. It’s subtle and delicate, and as Emendatori exclaimed happily, “It’s perfectly legal! It’s for everybody, kids, youths, parents and grandparents!” At SIGEP this was certainly the case, as they scooped out around 3,000 samples every day, for all ages. “More samples than any other flavor MEC3 has ever handed out in 30 years at SIGEP!”
If you missed SIGEP this year, think ahead to 2016, when not only can you get a preview of what’s on the horizon for the industry, which is more than we can fit in this magazine, you can also get your fill of international pastry and coffee combat. Held just every other year, the competitions SIGEP will host in 2016 are the one and only World Cup of Gelato, the Pastry Queen (won by US pastry chef Cher Harris in 2014) as well as the World Barista Championships, and those are topped off with annual competitions for cake design, coffee, bread, chocolate, and more. At the forefront of flavor and creativity, when it comes to discovering the sweet side of Italian “gusto,” all roads lead to Rimini.