CARRINGTON, N.D. - Maartje Murphy says she has a royal cure for the common craving for something cool: gelato.
The owner of Duchessa Gelato has been serving up her take on the creamy Italian confection for the last year at weddings, birthdays, fairs, farmers’ markets and business events from Carrington to Fargo.
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"We kind of are all over,” Murphy said Friday, June 7. “I’m very surprised at how much it’s grown. I think I’m answering up to four or five emails a day of people wanting it for their wedding, or a graduation or a bridal shower.”
The next gig for the go-go gelato cart is 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, at the Eat United Food Truck Feed in the east parking lot of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, 4510 13th Ave. S. A portion of the proceeds from that event, which also includes at least five other food trucks and Thunder Coffee, go toward the United Way of Cass-Clay.
Murphy’s family were dairy farmers in the Netherlands. They immigrated to Canada in 2001, when she was seven. They then moved to the U.S. in 2008, starting Van Bedaf Dairy just outside of Carrington, just over two hours northwest of Fargo by car.
Murphy said her family regularly visits relatives back in the Netherlands. A favorite part of those visits over the years has been daily trips to gelato shops.
“Some of my fondest memories involve going to the gelato shop with my grandparents and savoring tasty treats and good company. I realized I wanted to share this feeling back home,” Murphy said.
Murphy and her mother attended a week of classes in Chicago offered by Carpigiani Gelato University. That was in 2017.
“We learned the basics, and after that, it was trial and error,” Murphy said. Fortunately, “it’s pretty hard to make gelato taste bad.”
She then applied for and got a grant from North Dakota’s Agricultural Products Utilization Commission to start her business.
Murphy is an emergency room nurse at Sanford Hospital in Fargo, “so I travel back and forth a lot,” she said. She makes the gelato in Carrington, and enlists the aid of any family members with free time for gelato mix-athons.
“And they all work for free! They get gelato as a payment,” she said.
The dairy farmer’s daughter says her not-so-secret ingredient is the fresh milk she gets from her family’s farm near Carrington and its hardy herd of Holsteins.
Gelato is made with more milk than cream, so it has about half the butterfat of ice cream, Murphy said. Gelato is also churned at a slower and warmer temperature. That gives it a creamier texture than ice cream, with half of the air.
It takes about four hours - not including overnight aging time for the base - to churn out a lot o' gelato - enough to put six flavors into her big cart, which serves up to 1,000.
Salted butter caramel is a crowd-pleasing flavor, though Murphy likes traditional Italian flavors such as hazelnut and pistachio. Altogether, Murphy figures she and her family have made 60 to 70 flavors, with experimentation continuing.
Now, Murphy is trying to determine her next step as a gelatiere. She’s trying to determine whether to sell gelato pints in area stores, or arrange for pick-ups in towns throughout the region. She also plans to make gelato cakes for weddings and other events. And down the road, she’d like to open a store in Carrington or Fargo, to give North Dakotans some tasty European memories.