A cure for the common cold: The ice cream in Italy is unlike any other in the world--and certainly unlike any in Denver. Although the term "gelato" is used to advertise the products of several local companies, none really comes close to the super-rich, super-creamy Mediterranean stuff. I should know: I've tried them all, and was disappointed yet again when I visited Armando's Trattoria (see review, previous page). The best, by Josh and John's, isn't a bad imitation--but then, it doesn't claim to be the real thing. A big part of the problem is that the cows in Italy eat things found only in Italy, so they put out high-fat milk and cream we can't get here. But texture is also a big factor, which is why I was thrilled to discover the Donvier Premier, an ice-cream maker that comes pretty darn close to making up for American cows' failings.
I first read about this machine in Cook's Illustrated (which, by the way, has gotten better since it folded and started up again last year, this time offering information that might truly interest readers). The magazine's staff rated many ice-cream makers and ranked the Donvier in second place--behind a machine that cost about ten times more. Since they noted that the Donvier's results had a particularly gelatolike finish, we ran out and bought one for the low, low price of fifty bucks at Williams-Sonoma. The contraption is unbelievably simple. Invented by a Japanese businessman who recognized the freezing properties of the metal used in sushi plates, the Donvier process has you make the ice-cream base, chill it, pour it inside the well-chilled machine and then turn the handle once every three minutes for about twenty minutes (or a bit longer). That's it. The initial results are usually somewhat runny, which I actually prefer, but freezing for another hour or so firms the ice cream right up.
The best part is creating your own stuff from the basic recipes that come with the maker. My husband, Doug, has made cantaloupe ice cream (not good unless you're a real fan), banana chocolate chip (pretty good) and orange (fantastic). But nothing beats the chocolate, truly the most decadently chocolate ice cream I've ever tasted, made from the master recipe published by Cooks. The Donvier also whips up a superior sherbet; give the watermelon recipe a whirl.
Eat food death: A doctors' group has begun placing advertisements in daily newspapers with the words "Last year, over a million people left the same suicide note" above a picture of a grocery list of butter, eggs, mayo, potato chips, ham and bacon. Whoa, don't need to hit us over the head with this one. Still, the ad prompted me to ponder this delicious question: If indeed I were to commit culinary suicide, what would be my weapons of choice? Here's what I decided: My last meal would have to consist of the filet mignon from Morton's of Chicago, the hollandaise from Palmetto Grille, the rolls from Carmine's on Penn, the fresh foie gras from The Normandy, the lobster bisque from The Augusta, any dessert from Zolo and the flan made by Paella, Inc. for La Costa. And, of course, some chocolate ice cream made by Mr. Wagner.