BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked

Hello, Beautiful

28 Comments

Glowing brightly like a cool, colorful homing beacon, the modest Ciao Bella kiosk in Grand Central Station would taunt me every time I arrived in New York City, straight off of a hot and sweaty ninety-minute train ride. Every flavor always appeared to be artfully arranged in its metal pan, carefully swirled and smoothed into undulating waves of frozen dessert. The heat must have always thoroughly fried my brain by that point though, as I never looked closely enough to see that there was in fact much more than the rich dairy-based gelato that the brand is so well known for. Sorbet, a mainstream godsend for the lactose intolerant, populates those immaculate cases in nearly equal numbers.

The best news of all, though, is twofold; that just recently, Ciao Bella has decided to go au naturel and dump the corn syrup and refined sugar, and that this very sorbet can be found in the freezer cases of most mainstream grocery stores, instead of just behind ice cream shop counters.

Boasting 12 different varieties of sorbet that any vegan would delight in, choosing a limited selection to sample was a tricky task. Noted as their best selling sorbet, their Blood Orange was the one clear pick. Peachy orange in color without much apparent aroma, this was clearly not your typical orange offering. Sweet and fruity, with subtle floral notes, the citrus flavor was still bright and clear, but not at all sharp or aggressive. Mellow, well-rounded, and highly refreshing, it strikes me as a summer snack that children and adults of all ages could enjoy alike. Super smooth, without the slightest hint of ice crystals, it scoops like a dream, too.

Wanting to try a more diverse lineup, but unable to fight off my rampant cravings for tangy citrus treats, I found myself drawn back, time and again, to the beckoning pint of Lemon sorbet on the frost-encrusted supermarket shelves. Hitting all the zesty high notes I could hope for, this was one intense, vibrant lemon experience! Like the Italian ice of my childhood all grown up, the ultra-smooth texture was practically creamy, but completely weightless without the cloying richness of premium ice cream. Also perfect as a palate cleanser between a multi-course meal, this sorbet didn’t stick around long after it made it into my home.

Most alluring of all, however, is Ciao Bella’s latest sorbet creation; Their sorbet bars, available in both their flagship Blood Orange flavor and brand new to the line up, Blueberry Passion. Swirled throughout with contrasting colors of deep violet and pale orange, each bite unexpectedly consistent in flavor. A tropical, unidentifiable flavor hits me immediately, and I recognize that this must be the passion fruit element. Not as well acquainted with this primarily South American, it provided an unexpected exotic element, reminiscent of a vacation on the beach. The sweet and simple blueberry flavor kept things comforting, making for a well balanced combination of both exciting and familiar tastes.

For the avid home cook or DIY-er, fret not; Ciao Bella has even come out with a cookbook, The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto, divulging their secret formulas for every flavor in the lineup, including exotics not available in hard-pack pints. Although most intriguingly, this provides otherwise impossible opportunities to veganize Ciao Bella’s gelatos, I was still drawn to the simplicity of the sorbet section. Besides, with a chocolate sorbet with such an intense, and complex depth of flavor, I don’t think I need the gelato version at all! Scooping soft and easily straight out of the freezer, just like the store-bought options, it seemed completely consistent with the quality of their factory-made frozen desserts.

I’m grateful that the folks at Ciao Bella were kind enough to provide me with a taste of their vegan offerings.  Next time, whether purchasing a single scoop from a Ciao Bella kiosk, grabbing a pint at the store for an impromptu indulgence, or crafting my own version at home, I know I’ll be in for a treat.

Chocolate Sorbetto
Reprinted with permission from The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto

3 Cups Water
1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
4 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate (About 60% Cacao), Finely Chopped
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Dark Rum
1/4 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, whisking often to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 4 minutes, continuing to whisk until all the sugar is dissolved.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate; whisk until the chocolate is completely melted. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Add the rum and vanilla, then pour though a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Let cool, stirring often. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

Printable Recipe

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Author: Hannah (BitterSweet)

Author of My Sweet Vegan, Vegan Desserts, Vegan a la Mode, and Easy as Vegan Pie.

28 thoughts on “Hello, Beautiful

  1. Everything looks good and you know how much I love ice cream. I wish I could eat it every single day of my life.

  2. I love sorbet. It’s so light and refreshing. You make it look extra alluring!

  3. Gods your photography makes it look even better than it tastes (I’m guessing). Even though I’m an ice cream fan through and through, for some reason, sorbet is just better when it’s hot outside.

  4. Hello beautiful, indeed! Delicious.

  5. I am happy to hear that they have ditched the corn syrup. I am going to have to get some for the upcoming holiday weekend to have on hand. I like it because there is a non-dairy option.

  6. Wow, I am now so excited to try their vegan flavors AND to whip some up myself. I think their sample fairy should drop off some pints and a cookbook for me, too. ;)

  7. You make the sorbet sound like the most indulgent treat imaginable. I hope I get to taste it some day! I’m particularly intrigued by the bars.

  8. OMG Hannah..
    I can’t even decide which one I like best!
    That chocolate sorbet looks like a taste of heaven..and it is so easy!
    Thank you for the recipe

  9. Oooh, those sorbet bars look amazing, I could use one right now!

  10. Omg, that Chocolate Sorbetto looks divine!

  11. Wow these look so tasty — I bet it’s so much more refreshing without egg or dairy, too!

  12. It’s the most wonderful timeeee of theee yearrrr ! (Ice cream time :))

  13. Really beautiful photos. Such clarity and good use of light! Each and every one of them is wonderful. Came over from FG

  14. So good to hear they are dropping the corn syrup! Those bars look so good!

  15. Hannah,

    Your photos are amazing. I think one day we should plan a vegan food photography retreat.

    I love the idea of swirled sorbet bars. I need to invest in some popsicle molds.

    • A vegan food photography retreat sounds like the most wonderful event one could dream up! I’m far too disorganized to put together something like that, but if someone else wanted to work out all the details, I could sure as heck show up and yammer on about food and photos until the sun goes down. ;)

  16. I stare at those Ciao Bella containers in the freezer section of food emporium ALL THE TIME. They are just so colorful and inviting! It’s good to know they’re also worth the splurge! Or worth a spin in my ice cream maker!

  17. Some awesome pictures here. It is strange how certain eateries can taunt you. When I started working there was a little take out place on the corner where I worked called The Shoppe on the Corner, I use to live there due to all the fantastic treats that were sold there.

  18. It looks very want to eat.Thanks for sharing with us.

  19. I could always go for a good chocolate sorbet — thanks for the recipe! I’ll have to look for their products at my local grocery…those sorbet bars sound great!

  20. This looks delish! I love that the sorbetto is so easy to make….really frustrating that vegan “ice creams” at the grocery stores are about $5/pint. Ridiculous. I need an ice cream maker….

  21. I am grateful for sorbet!

  22. Oh wow, that chocolate sorbetto looks divine…love the rum addition :)

  23. I remember being in New York, having treated myself to a room at the Pod Hotel instead of an icky hostel (the good ones were booked out), and walking around the block to the fancy food store nearby. I bought a pint of the Ciao Bella’s Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet, skipped back (I’m not kidding) to my room, turned on the food network (which we don’t get in Australia) and ate the entire pint in one sitting.

    It still fills me with joy to remember that perfect evening.

  24. I have a pint of Ciao Bella in my freezer right now! Mine never looks as nice as yours though, it’s usually right out of the container with a spoon :)

  25. They really are beautiful and they all sound pretty tasty too. :)

  26. wonderful photos….everything sounds so good… ;o)

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