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When my best friend Helen and I asked people the ”must-sees” and ”must-dos” for our first trip to Paris over a Thanksgiving holiday weekend, of course we were told the Musée d’Orsay, La Tour Eiffel and Le Musée Rodin. But, we were also told that we absolutely, positively had to visit Berthillon on Île St. Louis, regardless of the fact that we were going to be there in the depths of November—that its ice cream was simply not to be missed.
After dinner on the Île, we tried to go to Berthillon—the best ice cream in Paris sounded like the perfect dessert. Alas, we got there too late and were met with dark windows and a locked front door. Then it became a quest: we would return and partake of this legendary crème glacée.
Our last day in Paris it poured rain all day and chilled us to the bone–what a perfect time for ice cream! We knew this stuff must be good because even on that freezing, soggy November afternoon we had to wait to get a table. Once seated, we both looked at the menu and were completely overwhelmed by the options. Not only were the choices expansive, they were in French and we didn’t have a clue. Sure, we could figure out what le chocolat noir must be, but what the heck was a plombières or nougat au miel?!
We took a glance at the pastries and were rather surprised to see the most un-French of pastries, the walnut brownie. Being huge fans of brownies, I think we both had the same idea at the same time. Our server came to take our order and through a combination of pantomime and what can only be described as Franglish, we thought we explained what we wanted. She gave us a funny look and asked if we were sure. With our assurances, she shrugged a Gallic shrug the way that only the French can do and went to place our order.
When the server returned and set our plates down in front of us, we knew we’d created masterpieces. On the bottom, the chocolatey, nutty brownie and on top of it two scoops of ice cream: cappuccino for Helen and the mysterious nougat au miel for me. The entire thing was covered with luscious chocolate sauce and topped with an extremely generous dollop of chantilly. Voilà! The brownie sundae à la Paris!
It was heaven on a spoon. Far more decadent and delicious than the numerous brownie sundaes, brownie mountains and brownie volcanoes that I’d sampled over the years back home.
As we were enjoying our treat, two French men squeezed into the table next to us. They kept looking over at what we were eating and when the same server arrived to take their order, we saw them pointing to our sundaes and then we listened as she explained something to them in French.
Imagine our surprise and delight a few minutes later when the server returned with their orders: brownie sundaes! Apparently, we’d successfully introduced Paris to this oh-so-yummy American dessert, and it was catching on!
So, the next time you are at Berthillon or some other Parisian café, pâtisserie, glacerie or whatnot, don’t be afraid to invent your own concoction. There is certainly no harm in asking and you never know you just might start the newest taste trend in Paris!
La Maison Berthillon (French only)
Tél: 01 4354 3161
31, rue St Louis en l’Île, Paris 4th
Métro: 7, Pont Marie; 1, Saint-Paul; 9 & 10 Cardinal Lemoine
Open: Wednesdays-Sundays 10am-8pm. Closed Mondays & Tuesdays
Shannon George is a writer and producer in the entertainment industry. Click on her name to read her profile or to read more stories by her published by BonjourParis.
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