Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Sacramento gelato artisan will go bananas at international competition

Cathie Anderson
Cathie Anderson

The co-founder of midtown Sacramento’s Devine Gelateria & Cafe wants nothing less than world domination, but hey, she’s willing to start with Austin, Texas.

Elizabeth McCleary is flying to the Lone Star State’s capital on Tuesday to compete in the first round of the Gelato World Tour, which will culminate in a showdown in Rimini, Italy, in September. McCleary will be one of 16 contestants in Austin seeking to be crowned the world’s best gelato artisan. Only three will advance to the grand final, joining other first-round qualifiers from Dubai, Shanghai and other world cities.

McCleary will prepare a flavor that she thinks could win over the taste buds of both judges and the audience members on the Austin whistle-stop.

“I do a lot of flavors that are baked-good items, and I turn them into a gelato, and bananas Foster was one of the first ones that I did here on my own at Devine, so it kind of was a soft spot for me,” McCleary told me. “And … it was made in New Orleans at Brennan’s by Chef Paul (Blange) for a customer that frequented his business all the time.”

McCleary is leaving early for the May 9-11 contest so that she can stock up on her secret ingredients. Her husband and business partner, Brian McCleary, will fly in later to assist her. If she advances, McCleary told me, she won’t be intimidated by the Italian artisans. She trained in Italy at the Carpigiani Gelato University, the school running the World Gelato Tour.

However, McCleary told me that she’s always nervous about how her business will fare. Nearly three years ago, amid a stubborn economic downturn, she opened her gelateria, even though she knew its sales depended on discretionary income. It was a huge risk, McCleary said, but she was prudent. She bought used equipment, operated with a lean staff and subleased part of her space at 1221 19th St.

“We grew 18 percent from our first to our second year,” McCleary said, “and I haven’t calculated our second- to third-year growth yet because our anniversary is in August, but I know month over month, we are still growing.”

Earlier this spring, McCleary expanded Devine’s patio and added a breakfast menu on weekends. It’s not world domination, but it’s definitely a solid start for Devine.

Glee from Grumpy Goats?

Over in Yolo’s Capay Valley, two grumpy goats are having a hard time not being cheerful these days since their robust Coratina olive oil is snapping up awards in competitions from New York to Los Angeles.

Pamela Marvel and Stuart Littell, the founders of Grumpy Goats Farm, won best of show in the Los Angeles Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition and a gold medal at the New York International Olive Oil Competition. Marvel picked up the phone Wednesday and accepted congratulations with what sounded like a chuckle.

“I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, so this is my chance to get back to the country after a career in IT down in the Silicon Valley,” she said. “There are no four-legged goats here, just the two grumpy old goats that run the place. That’s where the name came from.”

Marvel and Littell produced 40 gallons of oil in their first year, but that has risen to 300. Their trees haven’t reached peak maturity yet.

Grumpy Goats joins a number of other olive groves across the Sacramento region that are winning accolades. Larry and Sue Heitman and Jim and Kim Rix, owners of Road 79 Farms, sold their Picual olives to Napa’s Olive Press, and the company won a best of class for that varietal in the New York contest.

Oroville’s MoonShadow Grove won a best of show in Los Angeles, plus gold and silver medals in New York. Here are other results from New York: Apollo Olive Oil near Oregon House received two gold medals. Taking one gold each were Oroville’s Berkeley Olive Grove 1913, Winters’ Bondolio, Lodi’s Coldani Olive Ranch, Hillstone Olive Oil in Yolo, Jovia Groves Olive Oil in Dixon and Winter Creek Olive Oil in Valley Springs. Placerville’s Winterhill Farms won a silver medal.

Legal aid, for bad jokes

East Sacramento resident Malcolm Kushner has done a public service for lawyers in his new book, “The Ultimate Lawyer Quote Book: Words of Wisdom and Humor,” by giving the legal-minded some comebacks for lawyer jokes.

The 61-year-old Kushner, who practiced law for a while, is now a humor consultant. His book is published by the American Bar Association and sells at the group’s website. Most of the $30 book is dedicated to providing attorneys with words of wisdom from legal luminaries such as Melvin Belli and Hugo Black and such non-jurists as Woody Allen and Oprah Winfrey, but in one chapter, the author decided to throw a lifeline to lawyers under fire from a heckler at a cocktail party.

Suppose he throws out this old quip, for example: “What’s the difference between a lawyer and a mosquito?”

“The jerk who asked that question wants to answer, ‘One is a blood-sucking parasite, the other is an insect,’ Kushner told me. “But before he can, you can quote comedy writer and former lawyer Bob Mills: ‘A lawyer has never given anyone malaria.’ ”

People then laugh with the lawyer, Kushner said, not the amateur comedian.