From now on, I’m seriously going to have to put blinders on when I stroll past the freezer case at Whole Foods.
That’s because the supermarket chain has just started selling fabulous gelato bars by the Bay Area’s Naia that if left to my own devices, I could eat daily.
Forget those lickable ice cream bars of childhood, which were enjoyed mostly because of their creamy coolness, not their flavor. These gelato bars are made with primo, local ingredients including Oakland’s Blue Bottle Coffee, San Francisco’s TCHO Chocolate, Oakland’s Numi jasmine tea and Alameda’s St. Georges Spirits single malt whiskey.
Yeah, I thought that would get your attention.
Gelateria Naia (pronounced “NIGH-ah”) was founded in Berkeley in 2002 by Chris Tan and Trevor Morris, world travelers who studied with artisan gelato makers in Italy. The two now have two retail scoop shops in Walnut Creek and San Francisco.
Unlike ice cream that is made mostly with cream, gelato is made mainly with milk. While ice cream has a legal minimum of 10 percent fat, gelato weighs in with 4 to 8 percent. Gelato is also churned at a lower speed, creating a denser texture.
Naia’s Bar Gelato offerings ($1.99 per 3-ounce bar) have some of the most intense flavors you’ll ever experience in a frozen confection. They’re all hand-made in small batches. Nine flavors are available: Pistachio, Blue Bottle Coffee, St. George Spirits Single Malt Whiskey, Nocciola (hazelnut), Madagascar Vanilla, TCHO Chocolate, Numi Jasmine, Kiwi Sorbetto, and Grapefruit Sorbetto.
The sorbettos are dairy-free, with about 90 calories per bar. They are made with whole fresh fruit, too, not purees or frozen fruit. The kiwi one, made with fruit grown in California and New Zealand, is lovely green with plenty of real seeds in it. It tastes like pure kiwi to the 10th power.
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite flavor, as the samples I tried recently were all incredible. The dairy-based bars run about 137 to 170 calories each. The whiskey one is downright wicked. Made with 10-year single malt whiskey, it’s got a sweet, malty, vanilla-y taste. With the milk added to it, it’s almost like a White Russian on a stick.
The Blue Bottle one has a very pronounced coffee flavor that’s super smooth. The TCHO one is like the best fudgesicle ever. The jasmine tea one is floral, almost like a milky Asian bubble tea without the bubbles. The pistachio bar is made with hand-roasted nuts from Fiddyment Farms in Lincoln, Calif., which have been in business for more than 40 years. Its texture is creamy, yet grainy from the massive amount of pulverized nuts in this bar, which is powerfully nutty and toasty tasting.
Look for the bars at stand-alone Bar Gelato freezer boxes in Whole Foods stores in Northern California. Then, just try to resist.