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La Divina Gelateria: The Pleasure of Eating

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© 2010 Helana Brigman
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One of my favorite aspects about running a food, cooking, and recipe blog is that I get to EAT the food I make.  Eating clearly delicious treats remains the best part of my blog, but there is, of course, a close second.

When pulled away from my own cooking, I review foodie establishments.  I love visiting restaurants, farmer’s markets, and coffee shops.  I love talking to the people there about the food they make, their history, and their best sellers.  There’s something about the people who work with food; they are unlike anyone else in the world, they are special people, people familiar with the joys associated with cuisines.  I love that my blog introduces me to such people.

Thus, in an insanely busy week prepping for John’s party and spending time with Christina, I have been taken out of my cherished kitchen, away from my kitchen aid, knife sharpener, and other gadgets, and into restaurants and local eateries around Louisiana.

On a day trip to New Orleans Thursday, Christina and I had the greatest time: we visited old cemeteries, walked around Jackson Square (and plugged our noses on the rather stinky Bourbon Street), and then ended the trip with nothing else but GELATO at La Divina Gelateria.

One would not think that New Orleans would be a hot bed of some of the country’s best gelato, but oh, it is.  Within several doors from each other sits two competing gelaterias: La Divina and its competition, Sucre on Magazine Street.  Although Michael much prefers the un-grainy smooth texture of La Divina’s gelato to Sucre’s, I prefer La Divina because they serve more than just gelato. La Divina sells an experience, a lifestyle, a gateway to pure unadulterated pleasure.  I like to believe that customers who frequent their shop know a little something about the good parts of life, its rewards, and savoring it.

Well, La Divina is just that: pure pleasure.  It has pleasure for the fruit fanatic with its Blueberry Basil, Raspberry Balsamico, Watermelon, and Banana; Scotch Whiskey, Guinness, “Te Irlandese” (Earl Grey & English Tea Biscuits) for the thirsty customer; but perhaps most impressively it is where chocolate fanatics meet nirvana: Chocolate Azteca (Chocolate and Cayenne), Turbo Dog Chocolate Sorbetto, Chocolate Port Raspberry, and White Chocolate Satsuma.

These are just some of the flavors I know of, but a complete list of their insanely tasty concoctions may be found here.  According to one of their employees, what makes La Divina’s gelato so accurate to real life, so flavorful, so densely specific (as if you’re eating tea biscuits and drinking earl grey that decided to prank you in the form of ice cream) is all because of the brew and liquid base they mix into the gelato.  Unlike other gelato stores that hand churn their ingredients, a much more considerate method (a brew method) enhances the ice cream’s flavor.  This technique may seem minor to one unfamiliar with the way ice cream is supposed to taste, but it makes all the difference.  The ice cream is packed with punchy flavor and savoring isn’t very hard to do.

The service at La Divina is pretty great too.  I tried practically every single flavor (what I imagine is about 20) and the girl behind the counter just kept smiling and saying “sure!”  Then, she was kind enough to wrap my gelato in tin foil for the one hour drive back to Baton Rouge so it wouldn’t melt.   Not only is La Divina pleasureful, but the people are just so…pleasant.

The next time you find yourself in New Orleans, take a trip off the beaten path of touristy road-maps and wander into La Divina.  You’ll be able to taste some of the city’s finest ice cream, gelato, and sorbetto and with easy access to great restaurants and shops on Magazine Street.

If you are not convinced by my words, perhaps take a moment to meditate on those of Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love: in Italian, “bel far niente,” or “the pleasure of doing nothing” remains, to this day, the highest achievable happiness for any Italian.  As Gilbert explains, Americans struggle with experiencing, or even finding relaxation, nothingness, and pleasure in our over-worked, over-stressed society.  It’s impossible for us to relax, to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, and “we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma” (61).

Sadly, Gilbert is right: weekend snapshots picture the most carefree of us enjoying cartoons and sugary breakfast foods as “pleasure.”  We forget the other ways to spend our mornings when we’re not at work.  And it is hard to seek pleasure in a society that rewards over-work instead of happiness, or guilts the full-figured over the extraordinarily skinny.  One can only be happy when skinny and over-worked, yes? Because then they have achieved some insane American ideal.

I suggest going to La Divina and becoming an exception to American notions of happiness.  Actually sit and savor your ice cream (after you’ve made sure to sample many of their flavors), have some fantastic Italian gelato in the middle of New Orleans, and enjoy bel far neinte.

Green Bowl:  “Amarena” (Sour Cherry), Scotch Whiskey, “Te Irlandese” (Earl Grey & English Tea Biscuits), & Creme Brulee

Pink Bowl: Chocolate Azteca, Scotch Whiskey, Guiness, & Hibiscus Lime Sorbetto

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