Friday, May 13, 2016

Berthillon: Home of the best ice cream in Paris

Once you sample the all natural ice cream at Berthillon in Paris, you will know why there is always a line  (wikipedia)
PARIS Years ago, when a fellow traveler learned of my immoral habit of taking an ice cream break in the afternoon when I am away from home, she told me about a place to check out in Paris. I did and I’ve never looked back. Never again do I need to search for the best ice cream in Paris.

Some say Berthillon is the “best ice cream in the world.” Others claim it to be merely the “best ice cream in Paris.” I truly don’t know. Nor do I care, because no other ice cream will ever have a chance to find out.

Berthillon is the Orient Express of ice cream. Not just because it tastes so good, but also because of the story behind it, which makes it all the better.

Though Berthillon ice cream has been around since 1954, it wasn’t until the famous, and influential, French restaurant guide known as Gault Millau recommended “this astonishing ice cream shop hidden in a bistro on the Ile Saint-Louis” that it gained worldwide recognition in the 1960s.
Berthillon is just behind Notre Dame  (wikipedia)

If “healthy” ice cream is your cup of tea, then Berthillon is the place. Situated at 20-31 rue saint Louis on the island of Saint Louis, Berthillon’s original tea room is the place to go. There are other locations on the island and throughout Paris where Berthillon ice cream is available, but part of the fun is getting it from the source where it was first created.

Ile Saint-Louis is one of two small islands in the River Seine. It is tucked away and connected by a small footbridge behind the Cathedral of Notre Dame which means that, logistically, it is not difficult to figure out where to begin.

After crossing the bridge, take the main street in the center of the island and walk down the narrow road until you see a line of people on your right eagerly awaiting a chance to sample their favorite cool creamy confection.
Stroll across the small bridge to Ile St Louis and walk down the main street a few blocks...a treasure awaits  (wikipedia)
Don’t be put off by the line. Patience is a virtue. It is well worth the wait. The tea room inside is small, so most people purchase their ice cream out on the street and move on to the great adventure in their itinerary.

There are some 70 all-natural, chemical-free flavors. Each is created from the freshest dairy products available which are usually purchased just before an individual flavor is created. Hence the term “healthy” ice cream, or, at least, as “healthy” as ice cream can get.
Berthillon may not be as well known as the Eiffel Tower, but it gets high marks just the same  (Taylor)
If you have a personal favorite, do not be surprised if it is not available. Berthillon does not produce each of its 70 choices every day. That said, you will discover fruit sorbets like blackcurrant and pink grapefruit, or the more traditional, and richer offerings made from fresh milk and eggs, such as salted caramel, candied chestnut and, even, gingerbread.

Of course, there are also those traditional “vanilla” flavors that used to define ice cream which are far less adventurous. (They are certainly no less tasty, however.) For example, how about a chocolate “affogato” which is a ball of vanilla ice cream served in a white porcelain mug and topped off with hot chocolate before being covered with praline cream.

Now you’re getting the idea.
Ile St Louis is filled with sidewalk cafes  (wikipedia)

Raymond Berthillon, who began creating his delightful desserts in the 1950s, died in August of 2014, but his legendary gift to the world of confectionary delights lives on.

For those wishing to read more, the Berthillon website is available, but it requires fluency in reading and/or speaking French.

There are a couple of other quirks as well, which are important so that you are not disappointed. Berthillon is closed on Christmas and New Years and it also shuts down in mid-April until the first part of May. Also, forget about satisfying your taste buds during the heat of summer. Berthillon is very French, so it closes toward the end of July until early September.
For the best Berthillon experience, go to the original shop (wikipedia)
They are also closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. If all of that sounds like too much work to satisfy your ice cream addiction, just remember Berthillon is well worth the effort and the wait.

Berthillon is accessible by Metro at Point Marie (line 7), Saint Paul (line 1) and Cardinal Lemoine (lines 9 and 10). You can also get there on bus lines 24, 63, 67, 86 and 87.

While it does take a little effort, Berthillon is not really hard to find if you persevere. And besides, when you actually do discover it, you are guaranteed to get your “just desserts.”

And that’s this week’s travel “scoop.”.