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Bottega Italiana: Chocolate

The Verdict The texture was uneven: at times it was light and perfectly smooth, other licks were chalky. Still, the intensely dark savor won over chocolate buffs.

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ViaVita Cafe and Wine Bar: Fennel Pollen

The Verdict Initially put off by the jaundiced tint, the crowd was nonetheless intrigued by the creative flavor combo, and quickly wowed by the natural, fresh tang: "This is nature’s Good & Plenty," enthused one panelist. "Like licorice without all the fake stuff," echoed another.

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THIRD PLACE WINNER!

Sirena Gelato: Chocolate

The Verdict The finish is just right, but it was the first-rate chocolate that excited taste buds with its vibrant undertones. A favorite in Bellingham, Sirena recently opened a Kirkland storefront.

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D’Ambrosio Gelato: Chocolate

The Verdict Lots of potential, with an indulgent chocolate silkiness. Several spoonfuls in, however, and tasters were comparing the mixture to mousse and pudding.

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SECOND PLACE WINNER! (TIE)

Fainting Goat: Pistachio

The Verdict Tasters heralded the purity of the pistachio ("dead on," "the perfect flavor," and "exactly how pistachio should taste"), made better by evenly distributed flecks of the nut.

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Gelatiamo: Hazelnut

The Verdict Gelatiamo nailed this one, the most traditional of gelato flavors. A tad sweet for some, but all relished the spot-on taste—like eating hazelnuts without the crunch, they said. A close runner-up.

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SECOND PLACE WINNER! (TIE)

Procopio: Pineapple Basil

The Verdict Though less traditional, tasters took to the icy, almost slushy texture, deeming this the most refreshing of the bunch. Points for the unique (and well-balanced) flavor combo; the lingering and delicate pineapple had us clamoring for rum.

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Fainting Goat: Chocolate

The Verdict More of a mild chocolate, it paled in comparison to the richer submissions. Would be a good balance to another, more pronounced scoop.

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Sirena Gelato: Sea Salt Caramel

The Verdict Commendable mouthfeel but quite buttery—a lot of caramel, not enough of the promised sea salt.

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FIRST PLACE WINNER!

Gelatiamo: Chocolate

The Verdict Owner Maria Coassin brought from the Boot several generations’ worth of culinary study, which she masterfully applies to gelato. (Said one eater: "This tastes European to me.") The texture—creamy yet dense—coupled with a strikingly complex chocolate (the hints of dark were a nice surprise) made this a top-notch submission. Tasters couldn’t help but go back in for seconds.

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D’Ambrosio Gelato: Pistachio

Considering D’Ambrosio’s rabid fan base, we were surprised when the Ballard Ave shop didn’t top our list. But the emphasis on ingredient wasn’t lost on the panel: tasters made note of the nutty zing of the pistachios (a Sicilian variety sourced directly from Italy), and their pleasing, lingering aftertaste. Points were docked for texture.

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Bottega Italiana: Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip

The Verdict Too sweet. The caramel overwhelmed and imparted more of a butterscotch or toffee taste. “The flavor is so powerful you don’t really get the refreshing part.”

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ViaVita Cafe and Wine Bar: Chocolate

The Verdict We couldn’t get past the consistency. Mudslides, French silk pies, and Jello snack packs all came to mind.

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Procopio: Chocolate

The Verdict A muted, barely there milky chocolate. The texture was airy. (Little known fact: Gelato is supposed to have less air content by volume than ice cream.)

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