As far back as I can remember, every Christmas and Valentine's Day, my mother would buy Brach's Villa Cherries as a gift for me. Villa Cherries were different from the other (inferior) chocolate covered cherries--they had a sugar cream coating around the cherry as well as a super sweet liquid center. Other brands only had liquid filling and the whole experience was overall disappointing in comparison. See, eating a Villa Cherry was a process. I'd bite off part of one end and suck out the liquid. Then I'd lick the chocolate bottom until the inside was exposed. Next I'd scoop out the cherry and slurp off the cream coating. Then I'd eat the cherry. And finally eat the chocolate shell. I had to savor every bit of it because I had to make that box of cherries last as long as possible. Once they were gone, that was it until the next holiday season.
But they were gone for good in 2003. This website not only tells the short and sad story of their end, but includes a large number of comments supporting my assertion that the Brach's Villa Cherry was the best chocolate covered cherry available. No other cherry cordial can compare.
As a tribute, I have created this gelato. The vanilla is really important in the recreation of the Villa Cherry taste. This is a VERY sweet gelato. And, of course, it's not a true gelato because it's made in an ice cream maker (real gelato has less air). It's also not quite as creamy because the crushed cherries contribute quite a bit of liquid. But it's still very good.
First things first: you have to create (unflavored) base. I really like this gelato base from Allrecipes.com. The only variations I have are that I used half and half (because that's what I had on hand, though heavy cream will yield a richer gelato) and that instead of straining the base, I hit it with the stick blender to ensure a smooth consistency. Once you have the base, you can add the ingredients and freeze!
Villa Cherries Gelato
2T vanilla extract
1 1/2c chopped maraschino cherries
1/3 cup chopped chocolate chips (milk chocolate) or shaved chocolate
Once you have created the base, let it cool in the refrigerator for several hours (until cold). When you're ready to make the gelato, stir in the vanilla, cherries and grenadine. Pour the mix into your ice cream maker and follow the directions for making ice cream. Stir in the chocolate before it completely freezes (depending on your ice cream maker, add the chocolate halfway through mixing or after mixing and before you put it in the freezer for the final freeze).