For a year, Jeff and Juli Labhart traveled the world—to the street stalls of Thailand, the beaches of Zanzibar, and the mountains of India —ostensibly looking for spices; like latter-day Marco Polos. Like the moral of a children's book, though, they returned home to Bend to realize that many of the best ingredients for ice cream are right here in the Pacific Northwest.
But it wasn't exactly ice cream they wanted to produce. Instead, the Labharts trained under two different Italian gelato masters, and developed their own recipes. The result is a denser, flavorful ice cream with less fat than traditional American ice cream.
Since the launch in May 2011 of Bontà Gelato, Central Oregon is being treated to locally-born gelato flavors including Oregon Strawberry Rhubarb (the Source favorite), Strawberry Balsamic, Oregon Hazelnut and Tumalo Lavender & Honey. Whether you pick up a pint at Northwest Crossing on a summer Saturday or at the Bend Farmers' Market on a Wednesday, their gelato is a smooth summer treat.
The Labharts also suggest a couple different ways to enjoy gelato: For instance, there is what they call affogato, which is gelato with expresso poured over it (now served at Jackson's Corner). There is also semifreddo cake, which is gelato folded with whipped cream made into a cake, popular for summer parties and events. They also recommend gelato scooped into a dark chocolate shell, which tends to go well with Tumalo Lavendar & Honey or the Hazelnut gelato. And, if you can't wait until the end of the meal for your ice cream/gelato, they suggest sorbettos as a great intermezzo when you're having a multi-course or large meal. Citrus and herb flavors are great for this purpose. Finally, for a simpler combo, the Labharts suggest combining fresh or roasted fruit, strawberry shortcake, hazelnut brownie sundae to any of their gelato flavors.