In some places, summer weekends mean it's time to fire up the grill for a barbecue. But in New Orleans sometimes it's just too darn hot for all that. Instead, I propose some sweet, frosty salvation with a trip to the ice cream parlor. They're perfect family destinations for a quick, inexpensive splurge, and something about these places brings out the kid in all of us. Here are four distinctively local shops to try.
Sucre: 3025 Magazine St., New Orleans, 504-520-8311; 3301 Veterans Blvd., Metairie, 504-834-2277
This pair of pretty, design-savvy shops are best known as dessert boutiques, with dazzling confections, cakes and fine chocolates. The gelato case is also a major attraction, and its contents are twirled into elaborate gelato sundaes. In particular, try the 'gelato po-boy,' in which a pastry shell stands in for the loaf and is filled with scoops of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry gelato, lined with whipped cream and drizzled with sauce.
Angelo Brocato Ice Cream & Confections: 214 North Carrollton Ave., New Orleans, 504-486-1465
Angelo Brocato's is a true American classic, an ice cream parlor that might belong in the Smithsonian if it weren't kept so busy by adoring New Orleanians. Its roots stretch back to the Old Country and the Sicilian gelato parlors where its founder and namesake first learned his craft. It's been in business since 1905, first in the French Quarter and for the past few generations in Mid-City. Though it says 'ice cream' over the door, it turns out that Brocato's has been making gelato before most people had even heard that term. Look for the seasonal flavors and try a granita for an especially refreshing summer treat.
Creole Creamery: 4924 Prytania St., New Orleans, 504-894-8680; 6260 Vicksburg St., New Orleans, 504-482-2924
Between its two locations in Uptown and in Lakeview, Creole Creamy stocks an astronomical list of ice cream flavors, from the classics to some pretty far-out concoctions (lemon poppy seed, anyone?). Chocoholics will find an entire case of flavors devoted strictly to renditions of their favorite flavor. What I love about this place is the way they make sundaes. They understand the inherent fun in their presentation and flair and make true icy feasts out of them. For the ultimate, the entire family can tackle the Tchoupitoulas sundae, an eight-scoop mountain festooned with toppings.
La Divina Gelateria: 3005 Magazine St., New Orleans, 504-342-2634; 621 St. Peter St., New Orleans, 504-302-2692
La Divina takes a culinary approach to gelato, treating the craft with the same devotion as an ambitious chef and even using the same seasonal, farm-to-table approach employed at the leading restaurants today. It turns out this is also the traditional approach of the Italian gelato masters and it produces extraordinary product. Check the chalkboard for the list of local suppliers for everything from milk to honey to fruit (and plenty of vegetables for the savory side of the menu) and then check the gelato case for flavors like Turbo Dog chocolate sorbetto, made with the local beer, and another with the memorable, mellow blend of honey, sesame and goat's milk. Fresh flavors are the focus here, not sugary sweetness, so these treats end up tasting brighter and lighter than your standard ice cream indulgence.