Liquid Diet: The Blue Room’s Amaro Root Beer Float
While traveling in Italy between the Alto Adige and Piedmont, Liz Vilardi and her husband, Nick Zappia, decided to take a slight detour into Trentino to visit an old friend. The co-owners of The Blue Room and Belly Wine Bar dropped in for (what they thought would be) a quick visit with winemaker Marco Zani at Castel Noarna. The ancient hillside property was built in 1177 and has a particularly colorful history.
“They burned witches there,” says Vilardi. “There had been some serious death going on in that castle.”
Despite the extensive historical tour, the mind-blowing scenery, and an incredible, leisurely lunch, what really struck Vilardi and Zappia was the “fantastically silky” raspberry sorbet.
When they asked Zani for his secret, he introduced them to a micro-puree machine called the Pacojet. “It’s not a very big machine, it looks like a coffee maker,” says Vilardi. “Basically, you can place anything frozen or solid into the jet and it comes out with the smoothest, most wonderful texture. Of course, when we got back to Boston, we realized we weren’t the first people to have discovered it. We just had to go to Italy to find out about the Pacojet.”
After the couple invested in the pricey, Swiss machine, they encouraged their Blue Room staff to experiment and come up with possible menu items utilizing the device. Manager Mary Vaughan [a former baker] challenged sous chef Tony Pastor, and the amaro sorbet float was born.
Borrowing from The Blue Room’s extensive amaro collection, Vaughan combines Nonino amaro and fresh oranges to create a velvety sherbet that she piles into an old-fashioned soda fountain glass. The boozy dessert is then topped with Boylan’s natural root beer, in a result not unlike Fernet Branca with a twist of orange peel. The dessert cocktail debuted on the bar menu less than month ago and has already accumulated a number of fans.
“We talk a lot in the restaurant about amaro, so that’s where the float idea came about,” says Vilardi. “But the combination really works. Amaro was the precursor to cola, so it makes sense with all the root and bark and citrus, to cure whatever ails you. But I think people just love something whimsical. They like that we have a sense of humor about our menu.”