N2 Extreme Gelato: Liquid Nitrogen Love

Here’s the thing. I love N2 Extreme Gelato. I lined up to have my first cup of gelato frozen before my very eyes when it opened in August last year (the middle of winter; I was rather keen) – and I’ve been a doting customer ever since. After visiting to sample the Valentine’s Day menu this weekend, I thought: what better time than to publically confess my feelings?

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I’ll admit it was the novelty that attracted me at first. Fresh off Heston Blumenthal’s week guesting on Australia’s Masterchef, I was mesmerised by the apparent magic of liquid nitrogen and its conjury in the kitchen. The promise of watching my ice-cream frozen to-order was new and exciting. Not to mention, the Brunswick Street location is an all-too tempting hop, skip and a jump from my house.

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What made me fall in love was more than just novelty, though. The nitrogen vapours that billow from the bowls of N2’s KitchenAid stand mixers are stunning to behold, yes. Even all these months later I still like to stand and watch as those clouds creep along the workbench, swallowing beakers of ingredients soon to join their freshly-churned counterparts. But there are brains behind the beauty, and a cheeky character that hints at N2’s genuine spirit for experimentation and fun with the science of gelato.

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The gelato itself seduces with a magnificently smooth, creamy texture. The rapid liquid nitrogen freezing process – taking just a couple of minutes – means that larger ice crystals don’t have time to develop, and so an incredible silky consistency is achieved. The method also means N2’s gelato can be served at a slightly warmer temperature (a balmy -6°C), which gives an outrageously perfect mouthfeel.

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N2 sure knows how to keep the spark alive, too. The menu changes weekly; an Instagram update of the gelateria’s blackboard-wall illustrations every Friday has often seen me make an instant beeline for Brunswick Street. Whilst devouring new spoils in the simple seating area out back – wooden pallets, astro turf and graffiti opens out to the alleyway beyond – it’s fun to reminisce over another blackboard-wall that lists flavours of N2 past. Notches on my belt include Crème Brûlée (complete with torched top), French Earl Grey Infused Dulce de Leche, Deconstructed Kaya Toast and Lavender and Almond Fed White Chocolate Fudge.

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From the Valentine’s Day inspired menu: ‘My Cherry’s Ripe’ – sour cream chocolate gelato with glacé cherries and coconut, cocoa dusting, dried cherry powder and a warm chocolate syringe | ‘Tira-Miss-You’ – mild coffee custard gelato with a tea and marsala soaked sponge centre topped with a  swirl of mascarpone cream and chocolate flakes.

From the truly experimental (Beer Gelato, or Spam and Mustard?) and the playful, tongue-in-cheek (2 Girls 1 Cup, Your Black Cherry Bush) – N2 is fun, adventurous and downright delicious. It’s an infatuation I’ve surrendered to and I’m ready to shout it from the rooftops. If you’re tempted yourself, just know I’m not the only one vying for N2’s affections! During busy evening periods and warm days, expect to wait 10-15 minutes as the N2 crew fresh-freeze every single customer’s order. It’s worth the wait, and the atmosphere is vibrant and fun. You can get lucky too – this past Sunday afternoon saw a stroll in off the street and straight to the counter. You’ll pay $6 for each gelato, or $8 for the one or two premium creations on offer each week (always a good place to start).

And so ends my ode to N2 Extreme Gelato: may you find love at first lick as well!

N2 Extreme Gelato | 329 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, VIC 3065
Open | Mon – Sun : 1.00pm – 11.00pm
Cash only.

N2 Extreme Gelato on Urbanspoon

Gelato World Tour, Melbourne 2013

A few weeks ago, I had no idea such a thing as a Gelato World Tour existed – much less that one of its eight whirlwind stops around the globe would be in my very own Melbourne! Luckily, things very quickly changed. That very stop was set to take place over the fast-approaching weekend of 25th-27th October, and the Melbourne foodie community was abuzz with anticipation. Sixteen Australian gelato artisans would converge upon Argyle Square, Carlton, to offer up their bid for a place at the tour’s grand finale in Italy late next year.

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It probably goes without saying that I love ice-cream. I’ve gelato’ed my way across Europe, look forward to my Ben & Jerry’s chocolate-sprinkle waffle cone as much as any movie at my cinema, and had a major life moment when David Lebovitz, famed homemade ice-cream connoisseur, responded to a tweet of mine. So obviously, the Gelato World Tour was an event I’d have been remiss not to attend. Mat and I trundled over to the festivities on the Sunday afternoon, met up with my friend Hannah, and bunkered in for the ‘Gelato Experience’.

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A $10 ticket earned two cups of gelato plus three mini cones to sample whichever of the sixteen flavours on offer took our fancy. The lines for each gelato artisan and their nominated flavour were, in most cases, extraordinarily long – which at least gave us time to strategise how we were going to use our precious five samples to best effect!

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‘Cremino’ – Salted caramel gelato with house made gianduia fudge, fresh meringue and crushed amaretti : Gelato Messina // Donato Toce (head chef) and Simone Panetta (manager and local partner of Messina Melbourne) : Gelato Messina

The one ice-cream that all three of us chose to line up for was Gelato Messina’s ‘Cremino’. Aside from wanting a taste of what is often famed as the best gelato in Australia, the Cremino creation simply sounded downright delightful. As we waited in line, we actually learnt that it had just been declared the winner of the Melbourne leg of the Gelato World Tour, which was a nice affirmation of our first choice! It did not disappoint, either. The ice-cream, meringue and crushed amaretti created a beautiful taste and texture – but it was the pockets of incredible gianduia fudge that really set it off! Donato Toce and Simone Panetta of Gelato Messina were also the loveliest gelato artisans we met all day. Whilst most of the other representatives seemed a bit worn by the weekend (understandable!), these two had plenty of time for every customer and did it all with a smile and a laugh. Very much looking forward to the first Melbourne store opening on Smith street, Collingwood, very soon!

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‘Deconstructed Kaya Toast’ – Pandan kaya gelato with swirls of kaya and a Malaysian cream cracker crunch : N2 Extreme Gelato

For my second gelato cup, I chose N2 Extreme Gelato’s ‘Deconstructed Kaya Toast’. I’m a huge fan of N2 Extreme Gelato on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, but hadn’t tried this creation which featured on the rotating menu back in August. Inspired by a popular Malaysian snack, kaya toast, I was very curious to give it a go! The kaya – caramelised coconut egg jam – was served in true N2 style via syringe, and was a wonderfully new flavour for me. The whole creation was really brought together by the Malaysian cream cracker, though – that element just worked wonders, and certainly makes me want to try the real deal!

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‘Pavlova Gelato’ – Meringue based gelato with a passionfruit swirl mixed with meringue pieces : Frangipani Gelato // ‘Pistachio Crunch’ – Smooth and creamy pistachio gelato made and layered with roasted pistachio nuts : Cones Ice Cream Hawthorn

I capped off my tastings with the ‘Pavlova Gelato’ from Frangipani Gelato in Sydney, and ‘Pistachio Crunch’ from Cones Ice Cream Hawthorn. The Pistachio Crunch was definitely the standout, with a sensational salty-sweet flavour. Mat and I had run out of time and had to sacrifice our final mini-cone – but honestly, we had been well and truly satisfied with our spoils! The tour was a fantastic chance to take a gastronomical glimpse into some of the country’s best gelato creations – here’s hoping we can hold our own at the grand finale next year!

The Custard Tart that Saved the Day

I approached Magic Johnston just after noon last Saturday, my heart singing for a world of delicious baked goods gathered from across the city. The first Flour Market – a congregation of some of Melbourne’s best and emerging bakers and their coveted creations – had been my sole weekend mission. As I arrived, however, I was met with the equivalent of tumbleweed drifting sadly across the bright and sunny event space. Brown paper lay strewn across benches, tantalising treats listed and crossed out in thick black marker: SOLD OUT.

It would seem that, as I lay in a blissful Saturday sleep-in, a whole lot of early birds swept in to catch the doughnut. And brownie. And cruffin.

Really – I should have known better! I’ve been spoilt in the realms of all-day breakfasts, and forgotten that a baker’s world is one of the morning hours. In a foodie city like Melbourne, the advertised 3pm finish time surely never stood a chance.

Nevertheless, it was with a heavy heart and empty hands that I walked back along Johnston Street. Mat, who I’d excitedly brought along with me, did well to respond kindly to my otherwise comical dejection. He did even better when, barely minutes into the drive home, he pulled a sudden right off Johnston Street and parked with a promise of consolation. And so was my first visit to Casa Iberica.

A family-run business for over forty years, Casa Iberica is a little deli on the corner of Johnston and Spring streets in Fitzroy crammed with food goods from Spain, Portugal and Central and South America. Mat had discovered and visited once before on a hunt for dried smoked chipotle chilli and black beans for this Jamie Oliver Vegie Chilli recipe. Until Mat’s expedition, neither of us had any idea that such a trove lay beyond the graffitied roller doors we passed whilst normally in the area outside of business hours! From paella pans to palm hearts, ancho chilli to acai ice-cream – each shelf, fridge and freezer is packed full of an incredible variety of authentic, specialty items.

However, Mat had brought me to Casa Iberica for one special thing: the custard tarts.

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Hailing from Portugal, where they are called Pasteis de Nata, the custard tart is a delicacy to die for. I tasted my first one at the Hopetoun Tea Rooms a few years ago, and it’s been a passionate love affair ever since. It would seem the custard tarts at Casa Iberica have somewhat of a cult following – and I can definitely see why! They are some of the best I’ve tasted. The pastry strikes a delightful balance of crispy and chewy, and the custard is perfectly textured and beautifully flavoursome without being super rich.

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The price tag, at three for $5, is certainly a winner as well! I would highly recommend popping in to try them if you’re in the area – though as with the Flour Market, the earlier the better is perhaps a good lesson to heed. Particularly on a Saturday, when the little store is jam-packed with customers,  it looked like we were lucky enough to scoop up some of the last few remaining tarts. Thank god – I don’t think I could have dealt with that kind of heartbreak again!

So, despite missing out at the Flour Market – a little, delicious custard tart (or three) saved the day. And fortunately the Flour Market is set to be a recurring event – so next time I’ll be armed and ready at opening time with the rest of Melbourne’s crazed foodies!

Casa Iberica | 25 Johnston St, Fitzroy, VIC 3065
http://casaibericadeli.com.au/
Open | Mon – Thu : 8.00am – 5.00pm, Fri : 8.00am – 6:00pm, Sat : 8.00am – 2.00pm

Casa Iberica on Urbanspoon

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