The Resort at Pelican Hill makes more than a dozen fresh flavors daily in its Laboratorio del Gelato.
To create the signature creamy consistency that is the hallmark of true Italian-style ice cream, Jeff Lehuede, Pastry Chef at The Resort at Pelican Hill (Newport Coast, Calif.), uses rich whole milk, organic eggs and fresh,
“Gelato is a signature offering at Pelican Hill,” says Lehuede, who has been with the resort for five years, but has been making gelato for well over three decades, starting with an apprenticeship in a French pastry shop. “We create it in a very authentic way, so the quality is the best and similar to what you would find in Italy.”
As an Italian-inspired resort, Pelican Hill offers many of Italy’s most celebrated cuisines, but gelato stands out among them. In fact, all of the resort’s restaurant menus, plus in-room dining and special-event menus, include gelato. The Caffè serves the widest variety available on property—12 flavors—daily.
Lehuede crafts the sweet treats in Pelican Hill’s Laboratorio del Gelato—gelato laboratory—that is located within the resort’s pastry kitchen. Flavors range from traditional (pistachio, vanilla and chocolate) to exotic
(autumn fig and gingerbread, for the holiday season).
“I’m inspired by ingredients, such as fresh, seasonal produce,” says Lehuede. “I’ll also often put a twist on gelato for a specific restaurant dessert dish, such as Thai basil, to complement strawberry rhubarb cake.”
For private groups and events, Lehuede creates whimsical and personalized gelato flavors. Some past favorites have included rosemary Marcona almond, star anise, olive oil lemon mascarpone, and sea salt caramel straciatella.
Pelican Hill’s event staff has also helped groups staying at the resort incorporate gelato into their programs in many creative ways, such as these:
• A food company holding meetings at the resort enjoyed chocolate and peanut butter-flavored gelato, representing one of the company’s popular candy products.
• Corporate groups have incorporated the themes and styles of their events, and even their brand colors or company logos, for gelato-inspired desserts.
• Gelato bars have become a popular, interactive dessert station for a reception-style event, where guests can select their favorite flavors and toppings for personalized creations.
“The gelato bar usually features four flavors, including three gelato and one sorbet,” says Lehuede. “We offer a variety of toppings, such as nuts, candy, warm sauces, whipped cream and berries. An attendant serves the gelato, so it’s interactive and customized to the guest’s preference.”
All told, Pelican Hill now produces approximately 2,600 gallons each year in its gelato laboratory.
“Gelato is one of many epicurean experiences around the resort,” says Lehuede. “But it is a simple pleasure that everyone appreciates.”