Natalie Tomlin, special to wtop.com
WASHINGTON - When Robb Duncan left his home of Portland, Ore., to travel through Argentina, he had no idea he would return to the U.S. in 2001 with a plan to open his very own gelateria in the nation's capital.
He and his wife took a one-week course on how to make gelato in Argentina, and that was it.
Once they arrived in D.C., they saw a need for homemade, artisanal gelato, like they had in Buenos Aires. So with limited experience, the couple opened Dolcezza in Georgetown in 2004.
"It was an immediate success when we opened on day one," Duncan says. "We had lots of customers and it just grew and grew and grew. How to make ice cream at home is one thing but how to make it for a business every day was a challenge."
With the support of lots of family members, Duncan and his wife expanded the business. They now have three more locations in Dupont Circle, Bethesda, Md., and Fairfax, Va., and are constructing a 4,000-square-foot factory in Northeast D.C.
And this Sunday, July 21, Dolcezza will compete with 16 other local frozen food vendors at the third annual DC Scoop at Union Market.
It's time to cool off this weekend after the summer's most sweltering week, and from 1-4 p.m., Union Market visitors can do just that by testing some of the District's best cold desserts for free.
Director of culinary strategy for East Coast developer EDENS Richie Brandenburg is largely responsible for the success of DC Scoop. He says it helps expose the local artisans to the D.C. community, something he hopes to continue doing each year on National Ice Cream Day.
"We want to celebrate D.C. as a food city because it has become a food city," he says. "It's something that we want to give to the community that they can look forward to."
Brandenburg will be one of five all-star judges who will determine the DC Scoop Judge's Choice winner.
"We're making it as legit as possible," Brandenburg says. "We have some incredible judges."
The line-up includes Iron Chef winner Katsuya Fukashima, author of "The Kitchen as Laboratory" Cesar Vega, Metropolitan Police Department Commander Andrew Solberg and D.C. councilmember Kenyan McDuffie.
Inviting McDuffie and Solberg to judge the desserts is the perfect way to thank them for their services, Brandenburg says.
"The Metropolitan Police … have been a great support here in Union Market," he says. "We've had absolutely no crime here. There's always a police presence … They're super supportive."
The first DC Scoop event brought about 900 people together outside the market in 2011, but this year the vendors are expected to prepare enough samples for the potential 3,500 hot and hungry guests.
The event will also have ice cream cooking demonstrations, a book signing with ice cream expert Cesar Vega and live music. DC Scoop offers plenty of kid-friendly entertainment, including face painting, music and dancing with the Boogie Babes, who perform weekly at Union Market.
Here are some details on a few other contestants in the DC Scoops event:
Famous for being D.C.'s best corporate caterer in the market, Sinplicity also makes home-style ice cream, which can be purchased through its catering or at its food truck at the monthly Truckeroo Festival near Nationals Park.
Sinplicity won the People's Choice Award and the Judge's Choice Award at last year's DC Scoop and they won the People's Choice in 2011.
Chef Leland Atkinson of Sinplicity says the brand will provide the judges with the popular salted caramel ice cream while offering four or five other samples for the public. One of the most popular Sinplicity flavors is Madagascar Vanilla, made with fresh vanilla beans imported from Madagascar. Another favorite is Strawberry Shortcake, filled with bittersweet chocolate chunks and Grand Marnier.
So, what makes Sinplicity's ice cream stand out from the rest?
"Two things," Atkinson says. "We use a gelato machine to make it, but it has the fat that Americans love, but it also has the density and chewiness that people who like gelato want."
Sinplicity also pasteurizes its own mix and never uses pre-made extracts. And for that home-style texture, the mix is composed of 7 percent egg yolk.
"I think [DC Scoop] is a great marketing opportunity," Atkinson says. "I don't get the chance that often to come out a lot and see the consumers and see the people who enjoy my products, so DC Scoop is a lot of fun for us."
If you're looking for a lighter dessert at the DC Scoop, go for Dolci Gelati's new fresh juice sorbets. Pastry Chef Gianluigi Dellaccio and his wife and partner Anastasia Dellaccio use a juicer to make fresh juices for a healthier sorbet. They will be giving out samples of their carrot lemon orange sorbet at the event.
They are also utilizing social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find out which flavors fans want to try at the DC Scoop. Expect to see their popular caramel gelato, made from Gianluigi Dellaccio's authentic Italian recipe that has been in his family for generations.
Anastasia handles the business and public relations side of their business, while her husband is responsible for the day-to-day productions and recipes.
"He's the culinary genius," she says. "I'm a professional tester."
Dolci Gelati began in 2006 when the couple went from restaurant-to-restaurant with a cooler to drop off samples across the District. Seven years later, they have four carts at Nationals Stadium, a store in Takoma Park and a second opening soon in Shaw.
"The best thing about what we do is it bring universal happiness," Anastasia says.
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