feature image by Bennian via Getty Images
Sundays are a time for rituals. Maybe that sentiment is leftover from my religious upbringing, but if that’s the case, then I don’t feel the need to repress it but rather transform it. Make it the thing it needs to be for me now. Not a replacement of Sunday service but a reimagining. Before I worked a more conventional Monday to Friday work week, Sunday rituals were important to me even when I had to fit them around work. They don’t always stay the same forever; it’s more like I go through Sunday tradition phases, small rituals coming and going and coming back into my life depending on my needs and whims at the time. Sometimes these rituals feel like deep, devotional practices pertaining to my creative work: reading a book in bed or writing for a fixed amount of time. Sometimes these rituals are more indulgent and superficial. My latest, which falls into the latter category, is to make myself an affogato.
Is anyone else’s feed inundated with videos of hot, creamy espresso pulled or poured into cold, creamy vanilla gelato? Is it actually a cafe trend right now or is my algorithm targeting me, specifically, and my caffeine fixation and predilection for treats? In any case, I’ve been seeing a lot of affogatos steam my screen, and it was only a matter of time before I started to crave my own.
A few Sundays, I planned to drive to one of my favorite delis in town — Deli Desires, a perfectly named establishment as I do indeed desire it, often — because I saw they had a new special on their drinks board: an affogato. In case the word “affogato” is triggering flashbacks to what the fuck is a negroni sbagliato, an affogato is simply a scoop of gelato (typically vanilla) drowned in a shot of espresso. You eat it with a spoon and then drink the last bits (or at least, that’s my personal order of operations). Sometimes cafes do their own riffs on this very simple combination, as is the case for Deli Desires, which serves its affogato with a scoop of soy butterscotch ice cream (courtesy of another local Orlando treasure, the Filipino ice cream shop Sampaguita). I know this lovely alchemy would have satisfied my Sunday craving, but unfortunately, I never made it there.
You see, it started downpouring. That’s a regular part of life here in Central Florida, especially during this wet time of year. As a transplant, I’m still getting used to the specific seasonal shifts (yes, there are seasons — rainy and not rainy) and chaotic weather whims of this place. I’ve learned from both my partner and our friend group here that there are some times when you just plow forward with your plans, regardless of what the sky might have in store. There are other times when you give up and let nature win, staying inside to avoid whatever surprises it has in store for you. This time, I chose to give up my affogato in favor of remaining indoors. I could always wait and see if things cleared up in a few hours and then decide to venture out.
But it was during that waiting time that it occurred to me, wait a second, I can just make my own affogato. Right here in the comfort of my own home. After all, I own approximately 75 different appliances for making coffee — at least two, specifically, for making espresso, including a fancy espresso machine that pulls double shots as well as a stovetop espresso maker bought impulsively on a hurricane prep grocery run because I realized I could use it to make coffee on my camp stove should we ever lose power during a storm.
The only problem was that I didn’t have any gelato. I like ice cream, but I wouldn’t consider myself an Ice Cream Person. You know who Ice Cream People are! Perhaps you are one! I have a deep love for Ice Cream People, especially because they tend to introduce me to the best ice cream in whatever city I’m in. I’m always down for ice cream, but my preference really is soft serve, and that’s not really something I can have at home, so it always feels like a production to acquire it. All this to say: I didn’t have any vanilla gelato nor any vanilla ice cream period in my freezer. This meant, I’d have to head out into the storm after all, but at this point, I was so thrilled by the idea of an at-home affogato that my situation had shifted into one where braving the elements was indeed necessary. Plus, my Publix is closer than the deli.
First, I wanted to arm myself with information. I did some quick research on the best vanilla ice cream to buy at a grocery store. My research methodology was two-pronged: I Googled it, and I also texted a select sample of friends. Google brought me to a Bon Appetit evaluation of the best store-bought vanilla ice creams. I briefly thought I’d have to pivot to Trader Joe’s as a result. But then one of my friends in the group chat I’d hastily texted about grocery store vanilla offerings — Autostraddle writer and podcaster Christina Grace Tucker, in fact — pointed out I should go all the way in on an affogato and get actual gelato. Talenti is one of the few grocery store gelatos available in most markets. Plus, she added, the Talenti jars are easy to repurpose. I was sold. I wanted something that skewed way more creamy than icy in texture, so gelato it was!
I’d never had Talenti before, so I wasn’t sure how it held up to gelato from an actual specialty shop. I was pleasantly surprised! The texture was exactly what I wanted, and the vanilla flavor was solid, too — not too artificial, too rummy (though I like a bit of a rummy taste to my vanilla), or too sweet. It melded well with the espresso, which I made with Illy Classico beans, my preferred grocery store espresso bean, especially for something like an affogato, because it tends to yield creamy espresso that isn’t bitter. The result was a perfect little cup of partially melted vanilla gelato and toasty espresso.
Ever since, I’ve had an affogato every Sunday. It’s a luxurious treat with a very simple process — my favorite combination. I text a quick photo of it to my group chat or my sister, announcing it’s affogato o’clock, which doesn’t happen at the same hour every Sunday, because my schedule is always unpredictable. Sometimes, in fact, it doesn’t happen until after dinner. I grew up with parents who ended their meals with coffee or cappuccinos, so I’m used to that ritual, too, and am thankfully unaffected by caffeine in the evening.
I recommend you try a Sunday affogato, today or in the future. Or if espresso and ice cream aren’t really your thing, tell me about a Sunday ritual you have or wish to have. ☕️🍨