It seems that everyone who visits Paris in the warmer months makes a pilgrimage over to Île St.-Louis, tucked just behind the Cathédrale Notre Dame, in quest of the ice cream cone. It has in fact become such a tradition that nine out of every ten people you see walking down the tiny island's center street, rue St. Louis-en-L'Isle, are either eating an ice cream cone, have just eaten one or will be eating one in the next few moments. The remaining tenth person will be the one who chooses to enjoy their ice cream from a cup with a small spoon instead of from a cone.
Who gets credit for this cultural phenomenon? Well, certainly it is Berthillon. Founded in 1954 by Raymond Berthillon, they still use fresh eggs and, when possible, crème fraiche as their base of ice cream. They also have 90 fanciful flavorings such as candied chestnut ice cream or wild forest strawberries sorbet, with at least 40 - 50 different flavors on offer on any given day. The lines quickly became so long outside the small Berthillon shop just next to the Eglise St.- Louis, though, that soon nearly every café on the island started selling Berthillon ice cream along with their espressos and croque monsieurs. This is still true today. Though chalk it up to French logic, Berthillon closes annually from the last week of July to the end of August, i.e. during the height of ice cream season.
And now there are several other beloved ice cream shops on the island, too, such as Amorino, specializing in gelato, and Senoble, specializing in small batch-made ice creams with flavors like fromage blanc and even a sorbet shop on the island, all within steps of each other. So now the real challenge is not just which one to choose from to get your ice cream fix, but how many can you taste in a day?!
In a true scenario of the sweet life oozing its goodness out like positive vibes, the Marais, just next door to Île St.-Louis, has also become a haven for top-of-the-line ice cream shops. It kind of all began with Une Glace à Paris a mere several years ago. Their mission was to make a French ice cream - meaning less heavy, more flavorful, using exotic flavors but not gelato. And that's what they have accomplished. It's the other shop with constant lines out the door. And since they stay open to midnight and during August, you have a good chance of getting your foot in the door for some of that smoked vanilla or lavendar ice cream. And now there's also La Glacerie Paris just around the corner, too, which is a smart option, too, when you want to take your ice cream on a picnic with you since their packaging keeps your dessert cold and fresh for up to 2 hours.
Suffice it to say that if you have only a few days to enjoy Paris in the summer (or spring or fall or even winter) you really must sacrifice at least a day, but better yet two or three, to tasting these different ice creams. They each have their own special je ne sais quoi and the flavor choices are dazzling in their creativity and diversity.