Monday, July 26, 2010

FoodTrek: Vovito Answers the Call of the Caffeinated Wild

I only spoke with Ariff and Shairose Gulamani for a short time, but I'm pretty sure they dream in gelato with a little kick of espresso. They have been living and breathing the art of coffee and frozen desserts in preparation for their new specialty coffee and gelato shop opening this week in Bellevue. This husband and wife dynamic duo combined their backgrounds of business and marketing, along with a passion for fine coffees and handcrafted treats, to create Vovito Caffè and Gelato, a dream come true for this culinary-savvy couple.

Buffy the Espresso Slayer Machine - Photo by Wasabi Prime

The concept is simple and elegant -- quality hand-crafted espresso drinks using premium coffee beans, along with a variety of gourmet teas, as well as fresh-made paninis and baked goods. To sweeten the deal, they offer over twenty different gelato and sorbetto flavors, all made using natural ingredients. They have two Slayer espresso machines, gigantic hand-built uber-professional espresso makers that cause coffee nerds to tremble with joy and baristas able to quickly go between high and low pressures, giving them incredible flavor control and power, literally at the flip of a switch. Seeing the two Slayer machines sitting side by side is a rarity, as there's only a handful that are in use in the country. The summer warmth is giving the Slayers a slow ease-in, but the morning weekday rush and incoming cooler months will be giving those machines the workout of their mechanized lives. Move over Buffy, there's a new Slayer in Sunnydale... I mean, Bellevue.

This will be their first week for Vovito to start working its java mojo on the first level of the luxe Bravern shopping complex-slash-Microsoft hive, slinging espresso beverages to the coffee zombie masses craving that kick-start to get them into their offices on time. They're in soft-opening mode with their official grand opening on Friday, July 30th, but as far as our caffeine-addled brains are concerned, there's finally a coffee place in The Bravern, and thank God. I knew enough people risking life and limb to scamper across the multiple lanes of NE 8th Street to hit the Starbucks every morning, like an officeworker version of Frogger. One could say Vovito is performing a public service, keeping the streets safe from cubicle jockeys darting out into morning rush hour with visions of quadruple-shot-venti-Americanos-with-room-and-a-splash-of-half-and-half, dancing in their glazed-over eyes.

Freshly made gelato and signature sweets from Vovito - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Public safety concerns aside, I had the pleasure of visiting Vovito on the first day of their soft-opening. For an unofficial status, the place was officially full. The incredible sunny weather helped drive people into the cool interiors to gaze longingly at the rows of gelato and sorbetto sitting in glossy mounds like an edible rainbow under glass. Rotating in a vertical display case were Vovito's chilled signature desserts, like their Coconut Surprise, a richly flavored tropical treat. I hovered over their signature offerings, but stuck with a classic, their pistachio gelato -- a personal favorite of Shairose. I was not disappointed, as it was sweetly refreshing with a pleasant balance of flavor. It wasn't just a big bite of sugar; you could pick out the natural sweetness of pistachio along with a little savory earthy saltiness. Belissimo!

Many people were getting their gelato and sorbettos to-go, but I recommend penciling-in an official Gelato/Sorbetto Break in the busy schedule, and enjoying it on-site. In a style befitting the cool modern Italiano touch, the creamy scoop is served in a brushed metal martini glass. It's literally a cool way to enjoy the treat as the metal also helps keep the chill on the creamy scoop as you take your time to savor it. I'm sure it's the summer talking, but the gelato and sorbetto offerings were sweet Italian music to my ears. Vovito's use of natural ingredients guarantee a more subtle feast for the eyes -- no weirdly bright colors or food dyes that don't exist in Mother Nature's bag of tricks. Some of the interesting flavors that I've made a mental note to revisit are their spicy chili chocolate, green apple, and even their bubble gum. I've had the mass-produced Smurf-blue bubble gum ice cream before to mixed results, however for Vovito, seeing how they've been respectful and creative with their ingredients, I'd be willing to give their playful take on a childhood flavor a try.
Coffee break just got a little fancier - Photos by Wasabi Prime
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