Have you heard of the gelato shop in Toronto that serves an eggplant and tahini flavor? We did, and coincidentally they're located practically in my backyard. They also accommodate dietary restrictions such as food allergies, vegetarian or veganism. So we invited Kaya, owner of Death in Venice, into our kitchen to mix up an allergen-free sorbet. Thankfully I was able to snag my mom's ice cream maker for the occasion.
There are a lot of cool things you need to know about Death in Venice. First off, they serve a rotating selection of unusual flavors that you really can't get anywhere else. Bugs are no stranger to the menu. But more importantly Kaya sources his produce from local farmers and proprietors, often picking up bruised or ugly fruit and veggies to use in his culinary creations. When it's blended into gelato, who cares if it wasn't the best looking piece of fruit? The flavor is what matters. Death in Venice is also home to a number of other chefs and small businesses, acting as a local marketplace and shared kitchen work space. Also, Kaya has ultimate cool vibez (~˘▾˘)~
Kaya came equipped with his ingredients and a chart with specific recipe measurements. He asked if I had a scale. I did not have a scale. Nor did I have a blender, in his opinion. My Magic Bullet wept silently on the counter. This is about the millionth time I haven't had a basic piece of kitchen equipment available for a photo shoot. I'm sure Jessey could list off numerous occasions and no, I still don't have a wok or a microplane.
I wondered why he was being so precise with the proportions (I usually just blend shit up, throw it into the ice cream maker, and hope for the best) at which point he told me he had studied chemical engineering and worked as a food scientist previously. Then he went off to Stratford Chefs School, worked in various international restaurants, taught cooking school, all before starting Death in Venice.
After quartering an enormous amount of strawberries, plucking a full plant worth of Thai basil, and making many sarcastic remarks about the aforementioned Magic Bullet, the recipe started to take shape. Strawberries, basil, and juniper berries were added in batches to the blender along with dextrose which acts as a sweetener.
I had frozen the barrel for the ice cream maker about 3 days ahead of time, paranoid that I would forget to do it the night before. Kaya poured the pureed berry mixture into the ice cream maker and flipped it on for a half hour. I love that this recipe is free from the top 8 allergens, as well as gluten. And it's regularly available at Death so you can pick up a cup any time. You can also order a pint on Uber! How awesome is that?
I half expected the shoot to end with Jo and I messily digging into a massive bowl of gelato. And it did, once we were alone. But instead of the predictable pastel bowl presentation I had prepared, Kaya served it in this nice little cat dish. After artfully adorning it with some small basil leaves, he casually mentioned that he won Food Network's Chopped Canada. So perhaps you recognize him! Hopefully we see more of him on the Food Network this year.
The gelato was sweet but also kind of spicy and woodsy from the juniper berry and Thai basil. I don't have a big sweet tooth so I was pleasantly surprised at how light it tasted, not at all saccharine. The remaining batch went pretty quickly over the following 24 hours; downed by myself and Brandon like it was stolen goods.
Next time you're craving gelato be sure to stop by Death in Venice at 536 Queen Street West, Toronto.