Chicagoans looking for a unique way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year should scratch November 26 off their calendar and replace it with November 19. This coming Thursday, Café Spiaggia will host possibly the creamiest Thanksgiving dinner on record – a five-course meal created entirely out of gelato.
Spiaggia, Chicago’s Michelin-starred institution from James Beard Award winning chef Tony Mantuano, is known for producing brilliant twists on Italian classics. And since joining the team this past June, pastry chef Melanie Diamond-Manlusoc has brought her own touch to the Italian eatery and its café next door. That includes her latest creation, a gelato Thanksgiving featuring flavors covering five courses: Turkey with Sage Pizzelle, Sweet Potatoes and Marshmallow, Brussels Sprouts, Green Bean Casserole, and Spiced Cranberry Sauce.
What am I thankful for this year? That I was invited in for a sneak preview. We started with the sweet potato and marshmallow course, a scoop of sweet potato gelato, subtle yet still distinctly tuberous, served with a dollop of marshmallow gelato on top that chef Diamond-Manlusoc said uses goat’s milk to help coax out a sense of toasted goodness. Next was the cranberry sauce, technically a velvety sorbet built off her wife’s Aunt Cheryl’s old family recipe that features a festive mix of cinnamon, cranberry and apple flavors and a delightful lingering tartness. However, the savory star of the show was our final tasting, the Green Bean Casserole, constructed from three disc-shaped gelato servings – mushroom soup gelato, topped with salt and pepper gelato, topped with green bean gelato – finished off with a few actual French’s French Fried Onions. Every bite brought back tiny frozen memories of being stuck eating one of my least favorite Thanksgiving staples, but somehow, this time around I was actually enjoying myself.
Thanksgiving dinner, of course, must come with a few drinks. So each course got its own wine pairing. How do you pair wine with Thanksgiving-themed gelatos? Even acclaimed sommelier Rachael Lowe wasn’t quite sure at first. “I said ‘Rachel, I’m doing this dinner, would you pair it?’ And I sent it to her and she’s like, ‘But it’s gelato,’” Diamond-Manlusoc explained with a laugh. “I said, just pair it like you would the normal dish. It tastes exactly the same except it’s frozen and sweet.”
If you happen to be in Chicago, the intimate 24 person ticketed event seems like a steal at just $50 per person, especially when you take into account that it starts with an opening reception of charcuterie and beer. As of publishing, tickets are still available, so grab them while you can.