Just what the Doctor ordered…

I hope y’all had a relaxing and delicious Thanksgiving! I spent the holiday with my family in Massachusetts. Per tradition, Thanksgiving dinner was held at my cousins’ home near Springfield. Now, I’m big on traditions. My family takes caution when proposing new activitities or recipes around the holidays – for fear that I’ll enjoy it so much that it becomes yet another “tradition.” The family actually calls the special holiday mashed potatoes (i.e. full of cream cheese and butter) “Grace’s potatoes.” And this isn’t because I make them (my mom’s cousin does). But when someone brought the dish years ago, my twelve-year-old self loved them and decreed a new “tradition.” Many years later, I still relish the familiarity and comfort of our family’s holiday activities and dishes. But the most important tradition of all is having everyone at the dinner table. And this year, someone was missing…

My cousin Leah is completing her residency at the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. She had to work on Thanksgiving morning this year, and it was the first time one of us “kids” didn’t make it home for the holiday. But modern technology made Leah’s absence a little easier to bear… Once our dinner plates were cleared, I pulled out my iPad so the family could “FaceTime” with Leah. It wasn’t as good as having her there in-person, but it was especially nice for those who hadn’t seen Leah since she left for Baltimore. I’m the lucky one who lives just an hour away from Leah. And just a couple Saturdays ago, the boyfriend and I drove down to Baltimore for the afternoon. Leah’s boyfriend, Matt, was also in town – so the four of us explored the city and enjoyed a lovely brunch at Little Havana (which has the best Bloody Marys ever!).

At some point after brunch, the topic of local desserts came up. Leah and Matt raved (no, gushed) about the Baltimore Bomb at Dangerously Delicious Pies. As soon as my boyfriend heard that the pie is made from Berger Cookies (a local specialty), he was determined to try a slice. We followed the GPS to the popular Baltimore neighborhood of Canton, where Dangerously Delicious Pies is nestled in a cute strip of restaurants and shops. Sadly, the store clerk informed us that all of the Baltimore Bombs had been “already sold for the day.” This surprised me, as it was only two o’clock in the afternoon! We all felt deflated, so Leah suggested we find dessert elsewhere. She remembered that Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop was just down the road. Italian bakeries mean one thing to me: Gelato!

Walking into Vaccaro’s Canton shop reminded me of ducking into one of the more modern cafes in Rome. The warm light and golden accents make for an inviting atmosphere. I’d love to come here on a cold, snowy morning to warm up with a latte or mocha. But on this fall day, I made a beeline for the gelato case. Vaccaro’s boasts almost 20 flavors of gelato and sorbet – including many of the Italian favorites like Baci (i.e. Nutella), Tiramasu, Amaretto, and Pistacchio. But it was a different flavor, Almond Joy, that caught my eye. I’m a sucker for ice cream with different textures, and you can’t beat the coconut and chocolate combination. Leah also ended up ordering a cup of Almond Joy (we really are related!), while our gentlemen friends took a different route and enjoyed Vaccaro’s famous cannolis.

The verdict? This gelato definitely lives up to its name; it’s like biting into a cold and creamy Almond Joy candy bar. I’ve tried many coconutty desserts in my time – but none have been as chock-full of coconut flakes as Vaccaro’s gelato is. I wouldn’t be surprised if the gelato-to-coconut ratio is near one-to-one. The chocolate flakes were perfectly thin and flavorful – similar to the ones found in Stracciatella gelato. My only real complaint was that they almond chunks were big and few and far between; I would use almond slivers and be more generous. But compared to your average gelateria, the prices are lower and portions are bigger at Vaccaro’s. Leah was too full from brunch to finish her’s, but you better believe that I found room and polished this baby off 🙂 Yum!

The Stats:
Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop
2919 O’Donnell Street
Baltimore, MD 21224
(410) 276-4744
http://www.vaccarospastry.com
(other locations in Little Italy, Hunt Valley and Belair)