Rich, creamy gelato practically defines the term “guilty pleasure.” The Italian dessert dish contains at least 30 to 50 percent less fat than its ice cream brethren, which means its flavors, free from those extra fatty coatings, hit your taste buds with that much more punch. Concoct a gelato that contains no dairy products, gluten, or fine sugars, however, and you risk the “guilty”… and the “pleasure.”
Saugerties-based Organic Nectars eschews those ingredients and still manages to churn out award-winning gelato. The owners, husband-wife duo Steve Trecasse and Lisa Protter, have created an organic, kosher, and vegan dessert that is nearly indistinguishable in taste from its neighbors in the frozen-food aisle. Last year, the company’s pistachio gelato won the award for “outstanding diet or lifestyle product” from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade; this spring, its strawberry flavor placed in the same category. “My husband and I grew up eating Hostess cupcakes and Drake’s pies,” Protter says. “Quite frankly, we love junk food. We thought, there’s got to be a way we can recreate these delicious, decadent foods out of ingredients and processes that are good for you.”
At 150 calories or less per serving, Organic Nectars gelato does exactly that. Instead of dairy milk, the recipe utilizes handmade cashew milk, allowing the lactose-intolerant to savor a scoop or two. (“A lot of people don’t realize that original Italian gelato was made from almond’s milk,” Protter explains.) Instead of artificial sweeteners, the owners use low-glucose agave syrup, importing the succulent fruit directly from Mexico. Trecasse and Protter even forgo the pasteurization process typically mandated by the Food and Drug Administration. “When you pasteurize, you boil the nutritional value right out of the product,” Protter says. To keep the gelato pathogen-free, Trecasse developed a special process (protected by trade secret) that the FDA approved and rigorously checks up on.
Surprisingly, Trecasse, a professional musician, has never received formal culinary training. After the couple bought a weekend house in the Valley following 9/11, he began experimenting with making “raw,” organic foods. Four years ago, Protter, the marketer in the family, began pitching their first product, an agave syrup. “I drove in my car to some of the local health food stores and said, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’ They started to reorder, so we thought, ‘Oh, I guess we should start a company.’ ” About a year ago, Organic Nectars moved from the couple’s home into a larger space in a warehouse; last month, the gelato went on sale in Whole Foods stores in Los Angeles. The couple is looking for investors to help them expand even further.
Organic Nectars’ gelato can be purchased from stores in the Hudson Valley (especially in the Kingston area) and Manhattan. “We just want to make the world a little bit of a healthier place,” Protter says, “without taking away the taste.”