Summer cooler: Blotto Gelato, alcohol and ice cream blend
Not surprisingly, a great many culinary innovations have been the result of necessity, convenience or circumstance.
That was certainly true when Teressa Bellissimo headed to the kitchen of the Buffalo, New York, Anchor Bar in 1964 to concoct a late night snack for hungry patrons.
As the tale goes, the bar co-owner ended up creating a spicy chicken wing dish that has become legendary – and widely copied – ever since Teressa Bellissimo's discovery, which used some magical combination of cayenne pepper sauce, vinegar and butter to marinate the wings before deep frying.
Though they have not yet achieved the status of Buffalo chicken wings, the same ingenuity led Millsboro's Ron and Kathleen Belfont on a search for something that combined their two favorite after dinner passions: ice cream and a glass of wine.
"He said, 'It would be nice if we could do something together,' " Kathleen Belfont said. "We decided, wouldn't it be awesome to have an ice cream that tasted great and also had a punch to it?"
He works in information technology. She was a stay-home mom. Neither had a background in culinary arts. Their main form of creating frozen treats had been pulling out their blender and making adult smoothies and frozen drinks. That night they ordered an ice cream maker online.
The experimentation in their home kitchen led to an interesting blend of ice cream and alcohol - and the birth of a new Delaware product called Blotto Gelato. Their recipe blends milk, cream, sugar, flavorings – and booze.
As the name implies, the Belfonts decided to combine gelato – Italian for ice cream – with an array of alcoholic beverages and other flavorings.
The outcome: a decadent and distinctive desert.
The name, they said, was derived from blotto, "a slang term for being drunk."
"Since Blotto Gelato is made with alcohol, the name seemed fitting for the product," the Belfonts said on their website.
Buoyed by the success of their discovery – and the reaction from friends – the Belfonts began to think about marketing their innovative new concoction.
But, shortly after acquiring an ice cream machine and creating a few samples of the gelato-booze desert to sell, they discovered a major regulatory obstacle. After some success and a little publicity, they found out they needed to use a commercial kitchen. They cut a deal with Po'Boys Creole and Fresh Catch restaurant in Milton to use their kitchen on Mondays and Tuesdays when the restaurant.
About then, Kathleen assumed she probably needed a liquor license since her product contained alcohol, so she investigated the idea and found out she didn't fit into any of the categories for one. She wasn't a wholesaler, a manufacturer or a retailer of liquor.
Simply put, it's not legal in Delaware for them to produce and sell a product containing alcohol. Instead, Blotto Gelato would have to be sold to a liquor wholesaler who could then distribute the spiked gelato for them.
Kathleen started talking to a lawyer and found a New York that made it possible for people to produce items with alcohol in it. Enter Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, who sponsored legislation to exempt a product like booze-infused gelato if it contained no more than two percent alcohol.
When Gov. Jack Markel signed the bill in 2014, he did so at Po' Boys and was one of the first customers of the new Blotto Gelato desert.
“It is just another indication of those in government to listening to people (who are) looking to start a business,” he said at the time.
As the Belfonts continued to experiment, they blended gelato with an assortment of boozy partners, including rum, liqueur, vodka, wine, beer, bourbon and scotch.
They also developed some very adult names for their tasty treats: Joe Buzz, On the Couch, Coconut Cream Chaos, Irish Fog Nog, Lavender Love and Shimmy Shakin' Bacon, which combines brown sugar, maple whiskey and bacon.
"I think the ice cream they invented and the way they have named it is really unique," said Josie Cicerale of Georgetown.
Her favorite: Coconut Cream Chaos, a blend of shredded coconut, vanilla bean, coconut rum and vodka.
"There is nothing like it anywhere," she said.
Cicerale first tasted Blotto Gelato while visiting the Lavender Fields farm in Milton.
"I tried it, liked it and took some home," she said.
"I was so impressed because it is very unique," Cicerale said. "And it is a wonderful concept."
Kendall Lupari was introduced to Blotto Gelato by a neighbor and they now are regular customers, often stopping at the Belfont home for refills.
"My husband absolutely loves Shimmy Shakin' Bacon," said Lupari of Millsboro. "But my favorite is definitely the Chocolate Raspberry Kiss."
Lupari said they also like Pucker Up sorbet, which is one of several with R-rated names, including Screw It – orange, cream and vodka – and College Haze, which contains watermelon and vodka.
"You really can't go wrong with chocolate or lemon," Lupari said.
"On the other hand, I don't think they have anything that isn't good," she said.
Though the Belfonts only sell their gelatos, sherbets and sorbets to adults, the presence of two pre-teen daughters in the household influenced a decision to add non-alcoholic "Gelato Junior" options. Among the youthful choices: Va-Va-Vanilla, Peachy Keen and Maaaango.
Now that Blotto Gelato has achieved some critical success, the Belfonts are hoping to expand their distribution. They now have a grab-and-go freezer where you can get individuals cups and pints at Delmarva Repair at 125 Rehoboth Ave. in Rehoboth Beach.
It would be "awesome," she says, to some day own a full size shop such as Baskin-Robbins.
Blotto Gelato will be available in single serve cups ($4 for Blotto; $3 for Junior), pints ($10 for Blotto and $3 for junior) or quarts ($20 for Blotto and $15 for Junior). "We are still very much a mom and pop operation," Kathleen Belfont said.
Blotto Gelato is available Fridays at the Milton Farmers Market (Dogfish Head Brewery; 6 Village Center Blvd).; Po'Boys Creole and Fresh Catch restaurant (900 Palmer St., Milton); Lingo's Market (149 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach); Delmarva Repair, 125 Rehoboth Ave.Rehoboth Beach). Contact them at (302) 947-9497 orwww.blottogelato.com