The Turtle Gelateria will put its locally conceived Hill Country Lemon Lavender Sorbetto against the works of chefs from around the world as part of the Gelato Festival America.
Friday and Saturday chefs with Brownwood’s Turtle Gelateria will compete at the Gelato Festival America at the Dallas Farmers Market and hopefully move on to showcase their recipe at an international competition in Italy.
As part of the competition, Turtle Gelateria will compete in a competition with judging from professional food critics as well as awards based on people’s choice and children’s choice. Owner Mary Stanley said she has experimented with the flavor decided to see how it would fair in competition after watching how customers reacted to it while taking samples. Having competed in a similar competition in Chicago, and facing many of the same chefs who competed in the Windy City, Stanley said she wanted a unique flavor and did not limit herself with what she thought the judges preferred.
“I watch what my customers like and how they react to stuff,” Stanley said. “I had been playing with that flavor … I didn’t get in the Chicago one and my flavor for that was Crackerjack, because Crackerjack was invented in Chicago. I didn’t make the cut for that one. It was a more global stage, who knows why.”
Although bringing back a championship for the pride of Brownwood is a motivating factor, Stanley said the greater victory is the exposure the restaurant will receive. As a restaurant that prides itself in made-from-scratch, high quality entrées, it’s business model may not fit that of a chain restaurant. It’s higher quality ingredients often command a high price at the counter, which may dissuade some visitors. Stanley said those who visit taste where those extra dollars go and the various accommodations adorning her walls and the slew of out-of-town regulars go to show her efforts are paying off.
“We want this to become a destination. We can’t rely on the local people to keep us going. We’re considered expensive, but if you compare what you’re getting – especially lunch – it’s really not that far from a Sunday brunch you may get elsewhere, but the quality is higher,” Stanley said. “People who come here from the city act like it’s a deal. We’re close enough to Austin and Dallas and we have a lot of regulars from Houston on their way to Lubbock or Santa Fe that stop in a couple times a year. That is the traffic we really need to build and the traffic that benefits Brownwood the most because you’re bringing in out of town dollars and that is when you’re really building your economy. Of course, it’s nice to keep your hometown dollars too instead of sending them out to some chain.”
Stanley said what attracts so many people to becoming gelato aficionados is the difficulty in crafting the dessert and its limited shelf life. The gelato production dates back to 1600s Tuscany and with that a steeped tradition upheld today. In keeping with Italian tradition, competitors at Friday and Saturday’s Gelato Festival American will craft their products in a portable ‘gelato factory’ which is a tractor trailer converted into a mixing and refrigeration unit capable of allowing 10 competitors to craft their own recipes. While ice cream parlors remain popular, Stanley said she sees the day when gelato because America’s preferred cold treat.
“[Friday] is half judged by the public, half judged by the technical judges, then they have a separate judging team of kids,” Stanley said. “[Technical judges] are not just looking for taste. They’re looking for structure. They’re looking to see what your melting point is, your structure, mouth feel – things the general public is not going to be thinking about. They actually have more judges than contestants at this particular one and about half of the judges that are not the technical people are wine writers. They will probably have very sophisticated pallets.”