Sunday, 27 April 2008

Le Premier Glacé du Saison (The First Ice Cream of the Season)

With the perverse logic that seems to guide so many French institutions, Berthillon, Paris' grand-dame of ice cream retailers, chose to close its eponymous shop on the very first warm weekend of the year. But despite the knowledge that the glacé is ever so slightly better at the mother-ship, I, along with thousands of others, lined up this past Saturday afternoon at one of the many stands on the Ile St Louis that also sell Berthillon. Bypassing the caramel and chocolate flavours this time, I chose a duo of sorbets: apricot and raspberry.

The sheer intensity of the fruit and the measured sweetness were just as I had remembered them. But as I ambled towards the Marais and the bus home, I began to wonder how the Berthillon folks managed to produce such a consistently excellent product across the seasons. Fresh apricots are still some weeks away, even in the south, while neither France nor any of its neighbours will harvest raspberries until mid-summer. Do they use frozen fruit, highly-travelled fruit, some kind of secret flavour-enhancers?

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