It is the kind of marriage of virtue and vice that seems possible only in the imagination: a sweet dessert with a hint of silky creaminess and a bit of alcohol that is fat-free, gluten-free, low calorie and safe for the lactose-intolerant?
Yeah, right. Oh, and made with local ingredients? No way.
Yes way. Frosae: Wine by the Spoonful—frozen wine dessert—is no figment of the imagination. Dreamed up by noted educator and passionate boatsman Ben Amato as a new adventure to pursue in his so-called retirement, it was developed in conjunction with his team of dedicated tasters: Neil Koenig, John Pastore and Joseph Gagliano. Delicately sweet and creamy, this is a 21-and-over-only treat because it contains wine…more specifically, Long Island wine.
“I retired after being an educator for 33 years,” says the ever-ebullient Amato. “I spent a couple of years sailing, writing food reviews for different East End papers and sailing to different marinas. But one year it got to be November and I put the boat away. I was talking to a friend who had an ice cream store, saying I was kind of bored and I needed to find something to do.”
That friend, John Pastore, also turned out to be looking for something to do, especially since the New York State Liquor Authority loosened regulations in 2011, allowing wine in frozen dessert to fly under the radar, as long as it contains less than 5 percent alcohol. So they began experimenting at Pastore’s Ice Cream Cottage in Shirley. They soon got the right formula—and what fun they had tasting!—and in 2012 incorporated and began to find bigger facilities for production and to romance the local wineries with this boutique product.
Amato tells us that the Frosae formula can incorporate any wine, making it an ideal signature dessert for our wineries. The Royal Red, Elegant White and Chocolate Merlot debuted last year at Raphael Vineyards in Mattituck using Raphael wines, and at the Empire State Cellars Tasting Room using Peconic Bay Vineyards. The sorbet, which Amato says is—incredibly—fat-free, gluten-free, low calorie and OK for lactose-intolerant folks, is currently available for take-home pleasure at the Ice Cream Cottage in Shirley, Grace’s Marketplace in Woodbury and for dine-in at 30 restaurants around the island, including Hotel Indigo and the Bellport, says CFO Neil Koenig.
And in an exciting development, Frosae (with Peconic Bay wines) is available in quart-size containers at selected King Kullen supermarkets around the island. Frosae also has a distributor relationship with Sysco, which may very well result in distribution in sporting arenas around the area. The group is ambitious, with plans to “export” the product nationwide.
As for Ben Amato’s so-called retirement? He plans to get his groove back the Long Island way. “Everything we do I have rigged up to iPads,” he says cheerfully. “So I am going to be running this company from my boat.”