When I think of a carnival, I can’t help but remember the rich deep scent of freshly popped caramel corn, the subtle sweet aroma of cotton candy with its neon colours being spun into a cloud, or the crisp fresh fragrance of toffee apples; really who can forget the smell of sugar.
Every year, Messina has gotten bigger and better and this year is of course no exception. In its 3rd return, Messina has played on Sydney’s recent appreciation for doughnuts by introducing Duncan’s Doughnut Bar offering up a trio of gelato doughnut desserts. A few old favourites have also made a comeback… just like how Destiny’s Child should, but one can dream.
Being a clear crowd favourite off the original menu three years ago, Messina brought it back with a few added condiments. It consists of a milk chocolate gelato hot dog, served in a warm brioche bun with passionfruit ‘mustard’, raspberry ‘ketchup’, buttercream ‘mayo’ and coconut ‘onions’. It is suggested that this dessert is best eaten together with a little bit of each component in order to truly get a flavourful experience. The tartness of the raspberry and the sourness of the passionfruit worked well in cutting through the sweetness of the buttercream and the coconut ‘onions’ was an enjoyable textual element that added crispness, and ending on the light smooth milk chocolate flavour.
Messinawiener (aka The pluto pup)
I will always have a soft spot for this dessert, because truth be told; it was one of the first things that I ever Instagrammed. Created to resemble a Corn Dog, it is a baton of maple syrup gelato coated in a donut and panko crumb batter, deep fried and crispy and then dipped in a plum sauce. The gelato itself was amazing. I may be biased, but I love maple syrup and this dessert was able to heighten the subtle, lingering sweetness from the maple notes with the creaminess and smoothness of the gelato, which was followed by a sour hit from the plum sauce. The battered exterior brought texture to this dessert contrasting the fluffiness of the donut and the crunch of the panko crumb.
With its candy apple red so vibrant and shiny, the gelatoffee apple is one to remember visually. Consisting of a green apple sorbet with a red caramel milk chocolate glaze, the inside and outer shell looks exactly like a real toffee apple. This would also have to be the most surprising taste wise as it totally juxtaposed all my original thoughts. Once I heard ‘green apple’ I thought of an extremely sour sorbet with a rather icy texture. When I took the first bite, I was immediately taken back with how authentic the apple flavour came through. I could also noticed a fine, smooth apple texture and a fresh apple fragrance, which may be from the apple puree that is used during the making of the sorbet.
The Bearded Lady
Now, this will definitely make you feel like a kid again at the carnival, impatiently waiting for them to spin the bright red cotton candy right in front of you; you can almost taste the sugar melting in your mouth. Underneath the cloud of happiness, is a cream cheese gelato paddle pop with a thin red chocolate coating, and showered with a red velvet crunch and red velvet cake power. It was an interpretation of red velvet cake where the gelato had a strong cream cheese flavour without it being overly sour and the red velvet crumb were little pops of cake and sweetness.
DUNCAN’S DOUGHNUT BAR
Messina’s newest additions to the ‘Carnival’ are a trio of doughnut gelato burgers. What I noticed was that the doughnut itself was quite basic, which worked well as it let the other flavours and components shine through.
Five Million Dough-lars
Taking inspiration from Messina’s iconic ‘Dr. Evil’s Magic Mushroom’ Gelato cake, it consists of dark chocolate gelato with a peanut cookie in the middle, popping candy ‘grass’, red chocolate glaze and white chocolate dots. The gelato had a strong dark chocolate flavour while the peanut cookie added a touch of sweetness and cut through the slight bitterness of the gelato. The grass element added a layer of texture – the crushed biscuits and popping candy brought the crunch and a little bit of theatre as it instantly pops in your mouth.
Better Than Vanilla
I was definitely looking forward to trying this one out because I have always loved vanilla and just as the name suggests, I had high hopes. In between a doughnut, it was vanilla gelato and smeared with caramel, topped with a caramel glaze and chocolate covered short crust crumble. Amongst a menu so diverse and complex, I found this to be refreshing due to its simplicity. Showcasing how effective a vanilla and caramel combo can be, the gelato had one of the most purist vanilla tastes I have ever tried. It’s hard to describe the flavour of vanilla, rather it is very aromatic with warm and floral notes. With its delicate creamy flavour, it complements many others especially caramel; heightening the sweet yet rich under tones. The crumble once again brought texture making it that much more enjoyable. This was definitely my personal favourite on the night.
The Biggest Gainer
This was the most adventurous of them all and to some extent, it actually worked. It comprised of peanut butter gelato, sliced fresh banana and topped with a milk chocolate glaze with crushed roasted peanuts and bacon sprinkles. With an authentic peanut butter flavour, the banana added a layer of freshness and personally, the bacon sprinkles worked with the sweet yet savoury combination.
Overall, having visited Messina at the Sydney Festival for the last couple of years, I can say that this year’s Carnivale is definitely the best one yet, with its old favourites returning and adding a few potential icons to the menu. What I did enjoy with the entire menu was how Messina was able to heighten the experience of enjoying gelato by adding different elements and textures that remind us of the Carnival, whilst still making them visually stimulating. From the various crumbles to the different scents of fresh cotton candy being spun and ‘corn dogs’ frying, each creation is truly a treat for the senses.
Il Carnivale Di Gelato Messina can be found at the Sydney Festival Village (Hyde Park North Entry near Archibald Fountain), from the 7th – 26th January. From 12pm – late every day (Except Mondays). For more information on the food offering at Sydney Festival, go to blog.sydneyfestival.org.au/2015/12/16/food-glorious-food