Berthillon, 31 rue Saint Louis en l’ile, 75004
I recently asked Danny Meyer, the boundlessly innovative and successful New York-based restaurateur (Shake Shack, Union Square Café, The Modern, Gramercy Tavern, and twelve others) what’s his favorite ice cream shop in Paris. As a Francophile who has returned regularly to France ever since he interned at La Reserve in Bordeaux as a young man, his opinion was essential to kick off my quest for the best cones. Without hesitation he replied, “I’ve not found a scoop I like more than the caramel au beurre salé at Berthillon on the Île Saint-Louis. Strolling there is always a delight and that scoop is like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”
Ah the Berthillon! In 1954, Raymond Berthillon was working in his family’s café-hotel at 31 rue Saint Louis en l’ile when he thought it might be a good idea to make use of an ice cream machine he’d purchased a few years prior. Turns out it was a really good idea. Still located at its original address, Berthillon serves up over a thousand liters of ice cream a day, and is the purveyor to over one hundred forty restaurants and cafes. The list of flavors is too long to list here, but to give you a small taste, Berthillon’s best includes; caramel-ginger, spéculos, praline amaretto, pistachio, and (drum roll here…) eight varieties of chocolate! The Berthillon Salon de Thé also serves tea, pastries and tartines. Expect a line during July and August and, if the salon is full, you may want to get your Berthillon at one of the many cafes or scoop shops within a few blocks that serve it as well. 3€, 4.50€, 6€, 7.50€ for 1,2,3,4 scoops, respectively.
Le Bac à Glace, 109 rue du Bac, 75007, 01 45 48 87
It was a true pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming moment when I sat down with Julien Yoel, the third generation ice cream maker at Le Bac à Glace’s flagship ice cream shop and tea salon for a tasting of six (of their more than fifty) flavors. Nestled on the charming Rue du Bac in the tony 7eme arrondissement, this is a perfect pause if you’re in the neighborhood to visit Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin, the Eiffel Tower or shopping at La Grande Épicerie de Paris for edible goodies to bring home. Yoel explained to me that since being founded by his grandfather in 1955, their ice cream has always had less air, sugar or fat than many other ice creams, and they’ve never gone in for gimmicky or trendy flavors. You won’t find crushed cookies or candy bars. But you will find outstanding quality ice cream in satisfying flavors, from classics with a twist to the truly innovative.
While the intensely dark chocolate sorbet is their best seller, it’s easy to understand why the strawberry with rose extract, which couldn’t be more refreshing, is so popular. (There’s also a strawberry with fresh mint.) The tart lemon basil sorbet would make a great dinner palate cleanser, and the apricot with candied ginger would win over any stone fruit fan. For me, the “wow” factor of the halva ice cream, based on the sesame and pistachio confection popular throughout the middle east and beyond, was off-the-charts. There’s a lovely outdoor terrace, and crêpes and other treats are also served. € 3.50 for a single scoop, 5€ for two and 6.50€ for three. You can also enjoy it served from carts at Edwart Chocolat, rising star chocolatier Edwin Yansané’s shops in the Marais, Rue Rivoli (near the Louvre), a short walk from Arc de Triomphe and in the hip Batignolles neighborhood.
Hugo & Victor, 40 Bld. Raspail, 07, 06 28 91 00 23
The ice cream from pastry chef Hugue Pouget served from a cart outside his elegant chocolate shop on Boulevard Raspail is as exceptional as you might expect from a pastry chef who won the dessert championship for France and has worked with three star luminaries like Guy Savoy and at Le Bristol. The eight flavors, based on seasonal ingredients, are at once straightforward, yet reflect the inspired innovative touches I’ve seen from truly great chefs: caramel with beurre salé is what caramel should always taste like –pure and luscious. Chef Pouget’s soft-spot for citrus (also reflected in his line of pâtisseries) is evident in his signature sorbet au pamplemousse (grapefruit), the most true to its namesake ingredient that I’ve ever tasted.
Luc, the extremely knowledgeable and affable boutique manager explained the painstaking process of peeling the membranes from each grapefruit section, a process that explains why such pure grapefruit sorbet is hard to find, but also reflects the chef’s attention to detail. Another signature flavor, sorbet à la mangue (mango), with subtle hints of passion fruit, cinnamon and vanilla, is made with seventy percent fruit mango preserve from Stéphan Perrotte, named best confiseur of France and a jam-making world champion. Praline and verveine are stand outs, too. But the showstopper for me was the dark chocolate sorbet which has the creamy mouth-feel of ice cream and dark chocolate taste that an admitted chocolate-fiend like me requires. For this sublime sorbet chef Pouget worked with Valrhona, his chocolate manufacturer of choice, to come up with his personal blend of different cacao percentages and bean origins. With so much mastery and French savoir faire collaborating in a cone, how could it not be one of the best? Hugo & Victor ice cream cones are 4.50€, 6€ and 7.50€ for one, two and three scoops. [Note: Victor & Hugo ice cream is served at Café Flore, the see-and-be-seen “must” since the 1920s when “lost generation” made it famous.]
Le Triporteur à Glaces at Boulangerie Tour d’Argent, 2 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine, 75005
Under the entrepreneurial eye of third generation owner, André Terrail, the world famous Le Tour d’Argent restaurant has expanded its culinary empire overlooking the Seine at the Quai de la Tournelle with La Rôtisserie d’Argent and the Boulangerie Tour d’Argent, over the summer months, you can also enjoy sensational scoops from their Le Triporteur à Glaces (the ice cream tricycle cart) parked in front of this exceptional pastry shop-bakery.
The nougat au miel is a faithful yet creamy interpretation of the iconic chewy confection from Montélimar. For those who feel, like I do, that chocolate and nuts are among the world’s most perfect pairings, you’ll be delighted to discover the chocolat noisette (chocolate walnut). The salted caramel ice cream had just the right caramel notes and tastes très français! Perennial favorites mango, strawberry, raspberry, and vanilla are also available in cones or containers. You can cross the narrow street to enjoy your cone on the bridge facing Notre Dame (which houses the Rotisserie’s stunning terrace) for an inordinately instagrammable photo. Scoops are 4€, 7€ and 10€ (Euros) for one, two and three scoops.
La Glacerie, 13 rue du Temple 75004
If you’re shopping on this bustling street known for casual clothes you’ll find respite with the decidedly fine ice creams of La Glacerie. Founder David Wesmaël is a Maitre Ouvrier de France (Master Artisan of France) the country’s highest culinary honor. If Rue du Temple isn’t on your itinerary, not to worry, his sublime frozen desserts are served at select shops around Paris. They’re featured at La Tour d’Argent, Boulangerie Tour d’Argent, and the Rotisserie Tour d’Argent.
Philip Ruskin is an External Lecturer (ESSEC Bus. School), Consultant (food & travel marketing), writer, drummer and regular contributor to Frenchly. He loves to bike around his adopted hometown of Paris. Find him here, on Instagram.