Mademoiselle Gabrielle: Parlour talk

Parlour talk

Mademoiselle Gabrielle: Heaven-sent gelato
Photo: Marianne McEwen

Ice cream season is here - sort of

As I write these words, I expect clouds to form overhead and release forth torrents of rain, bolts of lightning and bangs of thunder. Waiting… Waiting… Phewf. You neither? Maybe spring really is here and we can finally get down to the business of enjoying all things cool and creamy, from ice creams to gelatos to sorbets.

MADEMOISELLE GABRIELLE

Tucked under the awnings of St-Hubert, and just up from the Bellechasse bike path, Mademoiselle Gabrielle is a genteel spot that invites you to slow down to melt-speed. A few tables, some toys on a low shelf, the green-hued space is inviting to solo lickers and families alike. With the soothing set-up comes mostly subtly flavoured gelato. There are rum-raisin, mango-passion fruit, litchi-guava and a very bracing raspberry. I liked the speculoos – Dutch spice cookies – that miraculously convey biscuits in gelato form.

The pear-cardamom is gentle with a whisper of cardamom. The sesame-milk chocolate is surprisingly fine, the dark chocolate silky smooth. A peach-apricot was so true I thought I felt fruit fuzz on my tongue. And upon tasting the hazelnut gelato, I swear clouds parted and angels faintly sang.

6220 St-Hubert; 514-759-7878

$3-$4.26; 650 ml: $11, $10 if reusing their container (up to four flavours)

www.mademoisellegabrielle.com

MEU MEU

I have a love/pinch o’ hate relationship with Meu Meu. It’s close to my home, the flavours are assertive and often novel (lavender, balsamic vinegar, crème anglaise and honey) and there’s a wide range of soy ice cream (banana, green tea) for my lactose intolerant kid. There are even days when I cannot rest until I have their ginger ice cream, preferably with Holland chocolate. The downside? Sometimes I’m completely sweeted out after a scoop, and a few of the soy flavours taste a little cardboardy.

Nonetheless, even regular old vanilla is a serious lure, flecked with the Madagascar bean. Where Mademoiselle Gabrielle’s cardamom murmurs breathily, Meu Meu’s cardamom dances on the table and bellows to the sky. They also have good soft-serve ice creams and extravagant blizzards.

4458 St-Denis

514-288-5889

$3.25-$6.20, 500 ml $8.75

HAVRE AUX GLACES

I sometimes suggest an outing to Jean-Talon Market for fresh veggies, or perhaps organic meat, but then I realize my subconscious has been fiendishly plotting to casually steer me towards what is possibly Montreal’s best gelato. “Oh look, Havre aux Glaces, let’s just pop in.” Then an eye-rolling-back reunion with crème brûlée d’érable and masala chai, or perhaps dulce de leche.

If feeling less creamy, neige d’érable somehow recreates snow-crusted maple taffy. Blood orange or grapefruit make for perfect palate cleansers; matcha beckons the East-leaning tastebuds.

On a recent visit with three-year-olds, I tried a quiet pistachio along with my spicy masala chai. One boy had his tried-and-true vanilla, the other a vivacious mango sorbet. Usually reluctant to try new flavours, Master Vanilla dipped his spoon in my masala chai. “Hey, that tastes better than mine!” Even a babe expands his worldview when confronted with quality.

7070 Henri-Julien (in the “new” extension of the market, east side);

514-278-8696

$2.75-$4.50, $6.75 for 500 ml container, one flavour only

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CHOCOLATE

Rain, shine, blizzard, locusts. No matter what the weather, there’s always chocolate to soothe the soul and lift the spirits.

Mademoiselle Gabrielle is also a chocolate house, offering cornets of chocolate-covered cocoa nibs, jars of chestnut paste (also with speculoos) and myriad chocolate bars. Pebbly galets de la Durance, a.k.a. spiced chocolate-covered almonds, are perfect to slip in a pocket for hiking.

Last month, my forever-mine surprised me with a random box of chocolates and a guessing game, keeping each flavour a secret until after I’d popped one in my mouth. Mademoiselle Gabrielle’s chocolates aren’t particularly outré, but fun for a blind tasting. (If your memory’s flaccid like mine, just wait a couple of days to forget what you bought.)

First off, the chocolates look so attractive, dusted with gold or printed with hearts, and many boast delicate floral designs. On to the guesswork. He called the maple sugar first, while I was still thinking honey. A salt caramel was straight up, the salt registering as metallic before saline. A vanilla cream was very sweet, but had a nice vanilla soda quality.

The fruity pear-cardamom first showed a mint-like pungency, which he then narrowed down to Indian spice. Chai, he asked? Three-chocolate (milk, dark, white) is popular, and certainly the prettiest with little decals of green flowers on top. The regular hazelnut was okay, but next time I’ll try the teddy-shaped praline-hazelnut, reportedly a top seller.

Pistachio was tricky to figure out blind. Egg nog? he hazarded, going on the unctuousness. Impressively nutty, it turned out to be my surprise fave.

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