Part of the Gelato World Tour, Carpigiani International organized a Gelato competition for the first time in Lebanon. The event aimed to choose one winner from Lebanon to represent our country in the world finals. I was honored to be one of the jury members and part of this amazing world organization promoting real Gelato.
After two days of training, 11 participants gathered to compete for the award of Best Gelato in Lebanon. The chosen winner will participate in the international award which will take place later this year in Italy and attended by 40 countries from around the world.
11 participants were competing for the trophy:
- 1- Carlos Frem: (The Vintage Vanilla) Carlos has surely won 'the presentation grade' in my opinion. Not only presenting it in the fridge but also serving his gelato in a choux à la creme. A yellowish light colored gelato is decorated with sugar tears created by Carlos himself. For our pleasure, jury members, Carlos has brought his homemade Choux filled with ice cream and pastry cream along a crumble of Mille feuille to support the scoop. Caramelized almonds and a sauce of caramel added a touch of color and a boost of flavors. I enjoyed seeing Carlos prepare his masterpiece from items and ingredients he personally cooked at home that same morning. All good, an enjoyable crunch, a beautifully textured choux but at the end, we are judging gelato. Excellent, it is indeed excellent, a balanced gelato with a light and enjoyable creaminess, a smooth sweetness, aromas of fresh vanilla and that taste that goes from fresh to intense while leaving a pleasant after-note in the mouth. A fine dining quality. Carlos is a rising gelato chef and I encourage him to start his own business. "TWO THUMBS UP"
- 2- Bassam Kobeissy: (Pomegranate). Bassam has used a concentrate of flavors, a white base ice cream that's not a sorbet. To start with, the gelato looks creamy and stale. Tasting it, I had a creamy feel which I believe is a bit too much and an excess of sugar I really didn't want to feel. That sugar, that sweetness stays around the mouth for long minutes after you had the last spoon.
- 3- Camille Chamoun: (My Joy, the Red Velvet Cream cheese). I like this guy, he seems to know what he's doing. He has created his own taste and flavor. A proper mix. Three colors, beautiful texture the eyes can enjoy before plunging into it. Smooth, cream, balanced, light and faded sweetness, red velvet clearly felt, cream cheese all the way... and at the end you can't but lick your lips... "TWO THUMBS UP".
- 4- Moustafa el Zein: (Lemon and Mint). Moustafa is shy but behind his shyness is a good gelato creator. To start with, it looks good, lightly yellowish with hints of green mint you can smell before even tasting it. Oh wow! That's a very good ice cream, a very very good ice cream... Just the right amount of sugar, the right flavors, the freshness... everything to make you want to say Wow! Moustafa is a promising gelato maker. I enjoyed tasting his creation. "TWO THUMBS UP"
- 5- Ali Kein: (California, Cookies ice cream) Honestly this was the only gelato, of all the ones I tasted, that actually took me on a journey... it started somewhere, then jumped to another dimension. I loved the crunch, the beautiful texture, the pleasant creamy fee and the real taste of cookies. It's not too sweet or too chocolaty. His creation may attract the younger generation more, but one can't deny how great it is.
- 6- Samir Sabbagh (Glasius black, The God of Ice) Samir explained, he is one of the few with a story and a name. Passionate with a high pitched voice, Samir explained about the base and details of his ice cream. I enjoyed Samir's story, how he has mixed the cookies, dark chocolate, milk and sweet vanilla together, to create this signature gelato. I honestly expected a texture that felt more airy and less sweet. I loved the ingredients and long lasting taste, but the mix could be more balanced. His good gelato can be a great one.
- 7- Samir Yazbeck (The pure avocado gelato). Not too confident about himself, I wish Samir could have explained what he has created better. Purely green, the gelato is made of avocado. It looked hard, it smelled good... let's taste. It's good, well done but it lacks the body. It's fresh and light with a missing creaminess. I'm not sure if I'm explaining myself well, but I don't need to eat a cold avocado, it needs to melt smoothly and activate my palatal buds. Avocado is a promising ice cream I'll look out for it next year.
- 8- Ali Ibrahim (Brezilian tonka almond, Valrhona chocolate orange and raspberry!) My favorite... Ali is my guy and as a professional chef did it right. Amazing flavors, an amazing texture and a different taste that appears every second of the tasting. That's not an ice cream, that's not any gelato, that's a masterpiece! The creaminess is majestic, the chocolate is phenomenal and the raspberry is superb. I hope this one wins. "TWO THUMBS UP"
- 9- Zahi Baba (Summer mix, Sorbet of mango, kiwi, banana, strawberry, pineapple). Zahi has chosen to do a milk free gelato using five kinds of fruits. It smells so good! As for the taste, I felt a strong acidity and the crunchiness of fruits was a bit unpleasant. I would have preferred it to be lighter, airier, fresher and less acidic. The fruits should be treated differently. They should have been softer and not break like ice cubes.
- 10- Nathalie Massaad (Cioccaranchio, Chocolate orange) The only woman participating, has meticulously prepared her ingredients infusing the orange all night and aromatizing the gelato with cognac. She does it well, creates, feels understanding the process and how every ingredient ads value. This ice cream has the best texture of all and superb flavor. It's about every ingredient which you can taste alone, the chocolate if you choose, the cognac as an after note, the orange to put a smile on your face. That's really really good. Two thumbs up for such an amazing masterpiece. "TWO THUMBS UP"
- 11- Antoine Kassouha (Biscottino Ice Cream). Water, milk, sugar and biscuit flavor. It tasted good... good structure and an enjoyable crunch. The creaminess could be lightly reduced, but the sweet after-note was enjoyable. It's a good ice cream but unfortunately it needs more power, more body, more oomph. I would look out for Antoine in next year's competition.
From all the 11 participants, I will remember Nathalie, Moustafa, Camille and Carlos; in hope to meet them soon again and try some of the their signature creations. I'm happy with the Gelato quality in Lebanon. It has rapidly been improving in the last couple years. Good Luck Nathalie, Lebanon is counting on you.