When in New Orleans a few weeks ago for a seminar, a friend and I stopped by Hotel Monteleone’s Criollo Restaurant shortly after it opened for its evening dinner service. Were we ever happy we did.

It was the first time I’d been there as a customer since the restaurant and adjacent Carousel Bar & Lounge have been remodeled. We only wanted dessert so I wasn’t sure we would be seated, but the staff couldn’t have been more gracious.

Since the day had been a scorcher, the dessert menu’s ice cream offerings beckoned. I selected fig gelato, which was served in a “cup” made with slivered almonds and caramelized sugar and garnished with fresh blackberries. My friend had the banana split, which, if I remember correctly, included small scoops of Pontchatoula strawberry, stone-ground chocolate and fig gelato — plus slices of banana in a sauce — served in an almond “boat.”

My fig trees are loaded with fruit, so I was hoping Executive Chef Randy Buck would be willing to share the recipe for his terrific fig gelato. We’re in luck. He was. (See recipe.)

Hotel Monteleone, 214 Royal St., also is host hotel for the annual Tales of the Cocktail, which begins July 16. To add to the spirit of the festivities, Criollo Restaurant is offering a three-course prix fixe lunch pairings menu for $28, not inclusive of tax and tip, featuring Pisco Portón, a white spirit distilled from Peruvian grapes, from July 14 through July 21.

The hotel’s Carousel Bar also will be offering more than a dozen rarely mixed concoctions from its “Treasury” in conjunction with Tales of the Cocktail, including Old New Orleans Perfect Storm, which features spiced rum mixed ginger beer, and a Harvey Wallbanger, a mixture of Absolut Vodka, orange juice and Galliano first created in the 1950s.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com. Fig Gelato

Serves 6. Recipe is courtesy of Randy Buck, executive chef of Hotel Monteleone’s Criollo Restaurant, New Orleans.

311/2 cups heavy whipping cream

3 cups whole milk, divided

1 cup cane sugar or granulated sugar

2 tbls. cornstarch

½ tsp. sea or kosher salt

11/2 tsps. vanilla bean, split and scraped

4 brown Turkish figs, pur3é e3d

1 tbl. liquid pectin


1. In a medium saucepan, combine cream and 2 cups of the milk. Set over medium to medium-low heat and bring to a simmer (about 20 minutes). While cream-milk mixture is heating, put the remaining milk, sugar, cornstarch, salt, vanilla and fig puree into a small to medium mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.

2. Once milk-cream mixture comes to a simmer, add the milk-sugar mixture and stir until fully combined. While still set over medium to medium-low heat, continuously stir until mixture boils and thickens to where it can coat the back of a spoon. (This will take about 20 minutes.) Remove pan from heat, stir in pectin, strain and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate a minimum of at least 2 hours, or overnight. Whisk mixture together again before pouring into the ice cream maker.

3. Pour the mixture into the mixing bowl of a Cuisinart Ice Cream and Gelato Maker or comparable gelato machine. Let mix until thickened, about 40 minutes. The fig gelato will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer to an airtight plastic container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.