Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Summer favorites: From sandwiches to ice cream

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Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
Victoria Yetman, 11 of Brookeville, and Rose Walsh, 12, and Julianne Maxwell, 13, both of Olney, eat cool treats outside Penny Chocolates and Artisanal Gelato in Olney.
The lazy days of summer are the perfect time to grab a sandwich and eat outdoors, or savor the delights of two new artisanal gelaterias.

Whole Foods’ European sandwiches ($6.49) on fresh-baked ciabatta or focaccia are naturals for a quick pick-me-up. A rotating menu includes meat, fish and vegetarian alternatives. The case in Rockville one day held grilled salmon and asparagus, roasted eggplant, French ham and artichoke, turkey pesto with havarti (on a focaccia wedge) and balsamic chicken. After choosing the latter, I learn it is the best seller and as such, a menu constant. Dressed with tomato pesto, lettuce and avocado on a crisp ciabatta roll, it is a winner.

A later stop at Whole Foods in Gaithersburg reveals smoked chicken and Gouda among the sandwiches, all made on focaccia wedges.

Whole Foods, Congressional Plaza, 1649 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-984-4880; 833 Wayne Ave., Silver Spring, 301-608-9373; 316 Kentlands Blvd., Gaithersburg, 301-258-9500; 5269 River Road, Bethesda, 301-984-4860. Open Mon.-Sat. 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 8 a.m.-9 p.m. AE, D, MC, V accepted.


Your eyes want to devour Cornucopia’s plentiful goodies. Owner Ebo Selmy stacks ripe red tomatoes (his freshly-made bruschetta rests on the counter). An assistant touches up a tower of cookies. Imported Italian meats on fresh baguettes are the stars here. Prosciutto di Parma, with provolone, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, ranks no. 1. The prosciutto is sliced on a classy red machine they call Francesca. Hot capacolla di Sienna with provolone is also a hot item. My hot soppressata with provolone hits the mark.

Cornucopia Specialty Food Market, 8102 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda, 301-652-1625, fax 301-652-2724. Open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Most sandwiches $7.75-$8.99. All major credit cards accepted.


The new, pedestrian-friendly Bethesda Row, on Bethesda Lane between Bethesda Avenue and Elm Street at Arlington Road, holds much to explore. The 3-week-old Dolcezza (its sibling is in Georgetown) offers artisanal gelato with an Argentine twist (make that a fresh-baked churro).

Snazzy white marble counters hold a case with familiar and innovative flavors: chocolate, Valrhona, chocolate amargo (absolutely decadent), chocolate peanut butter, nocciola del Piemonte (hazelnut), banana, avocado honey orange, pistacchio di bronte, Tahitian vanilla, counterculture tiramisu, dulce de leche and dulce de leche granizado (with chocolate chip). Also sorbettos: black Mission fig, orange honey cardamon, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry tequila, Caribbean red papaya, pineapple honey lime, lime cilantro, cucumber Grey Goose vodka, lemon and champagne mango.

Sizes are chico ($4.50), mediano ($5.60), grande ($6.60), kid’s ($3.50) and pint ($10). Churros, plain or filled with dulce de leche, alfajores and coffee are offered.

Dolcezza, Bethesda Row, 7111 Bethesda Lane, 301-215-9226. Open Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri., 11 a.m.-midnight Sat. VISA, MC, AMEX.

Penny Chocolatesand Artisanal Gelato

Cheryl Schneider of Penny Chocolates and Artisanal Gelato is a model of patience and persistence. The Olney chocolatier and L’Academie de Cuisine grad studied how to make artisanal gelato in Calabria, Italy, from the people who perfected it. As restoration of the historic 1823 wooden structure and 1850 frame house that became her business progressed, she worked with the state of Maryland for six months to realize her dream. The doors opened three weeks ago. Now she makes gelato from scratch — well, from a natural stabilizer, fresh cream, milk, eggs, sugar and a touch of salt — on a special machine.

This day, she offers chocolate, coffee, stracciatella, hazelnut, vanilla, cookies ’n’ cream, butter pecan and pistachio gelato as well as lemon, pineapple, strawberry, sour cherry and mango sorbetto.

‘‘Everyone gets mad if I don’t have [pistachio]. On weekends, we have up to 18 flavors in the case,” Schneider says. Gelato and sorbetto are sold by weight (80 cents an ounce) in three sizes, regular (5 ounce) and large (6.7 ounce) and children’s (3 ounce). Gelato sandwiches on a choice of fresh cookies are $3.60. Coffee is available and, of course, her chocolates. In the next weeks, she plans to introduce gelato cakes.

Penny Chocolates and Artisanal Gelato (in historic Higgins Tavern in front of Roots Organic Market), 16834 Georgia Ave., Olney, 301-774-9022. Open Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Sun. noon-9 p.m., AE, MC, V.