I was first attracted to the Fior Di Latte booth at the Boulder Farmers' Market by the word "gelato." Then I noticed the elegant black-and-white design of the booth, and heard the lively sound of someone speaking to the vendor in Italian. And with the first taste, I was hooked.
On Saturday, the lineup from Giulia De Meo Licht and Bryce Licht included two kinds of chocolate: chocolate-lavender and chocolate with textured chunks of orange-liqueur-soaked spongecake -- spongecake that Giulia had, of course, made herself. There were also hazelnut and mango-tarragon. Past offerings have included melon-cucumber, meringue and tiramisu. All the ingredients are first-class, super-fresh and -- as much as humanly possible -- seasonal, with Bryce and Giulia making a point of using herbs and fruits from local farmers as well as pistachios from Italy and chocolate from single source beans. See also: - Best Farmers' Market 2012: Boulder Farmers' Market - Boulder Farmers' Market, week eight: More spinach...and walnuts! - With Plowshares Community Farm, Eva Teague is in hog heaven
Giulia grew up in Venice, the daughter of two doctors, and spent much of her childhood cooking for her parents and her brother, sometimes even making the famed Viennese cake, sachertorte, for breakfast -- which took about three hours. She made risotto, homemade pasta and bread using natural yeast that she kept in the fridge. She took cakes to school for her classmates' birthdays -- and sometimes to distract the teachers when everyone wanted to skip class.
Giulia eventually went to university in Bologna, studied logic, philosophy and semiotics, and graduated with two degrees. Then she went to work for Fabrica, an international communication center in Treviso set up by Benetton that attracts artists in photography, video-making, writing, photography and graphic design from all over the world. She became executive editor of the organization's magazine, Colors. Bryce, an American, was the art director. They began dating.
"I started cooking for him," Giulia remembers. "Every time we met, we cooked together and we spoke only Italian. He's fluent now." And every time they dated, they went to the local gelateria. When Giulia and Bryce got married in a romantic Venetian ceremony -- "I showed up in a gondola with my dad," she says -- the tables for the guests were named for gelato flavors.
The couple founded a web-design agency together, and they began thinking about bringing their business to the United States. "We're both runners," Giulia says, "and we knew Boulder was a great place for that." But after moving to town in February 2012, she recalls, she "got depressed because there was no such thing as gelato here." She also found herself shuddering at the inauthenticity of the Italian restaurants.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Italian cuisine, Giula says: "We don't use huge amounts of garlic, onions and olive oil, and we use few ingredients. Every region has its own recipes and ingredients. Pasta in Naples is different from pasta in Bologna. I walk by Italian restaurants and I am in pain, thinking, No, we don't eat that stuff."
Giulia and Bryce started saving money for equipment, testing gelatos, "doing a lot of research on things like different kinds of chocolate and vanilla beans," she remembers. They took lessons in gelato-making from a one-time Italian gelato-championship winner. The result is Fior Di Latte -- flower of milk. Eventually, they hope to open a shop in downtown Boulder serving Italian coffees and gelato. For now, sales at the farmers' market are increasing weekly and will certainly increase even further as the summer heat sets in.
The Lichts are generous with tastes, and it's hard to decide what to get. I'm loving the flavor of the hazelnut, intrigued by the unexpected crumby texture of the orange-liqueur-infused cake in the smooth chocolate, but in the end it comes down to a choice between chocolate-lavender (the lavender sort of creeps up on you at the end) and the bright mango-tarragon. All the gelatos are lusciously creamy, but they don't coat the inside of your mouth with fat like most ice creams and local gelatos, and this lets the flavors come through clean and pure.
Giulia and Bryce balance these flavors carefully, and also balance the amount of fat so that if, for instance, they're using nuts in a gelato, they compensate for the added fat by adjusting the amount of cream. With chocolate, Giulia says, you don't need cream at all: "Our recipes never have more than 7 percent fat." Which is nice to know as I stroll away from the booth, juggling a chocolate-lavender cone in one hand and a pint container of mango-tarragon in the other.
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For later. The Boulder Farmers' Market is open from 4 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.