Sunday, 28 September 2008

Bienvenue a Grom!

It seems strange, on a day where I left the house wearing three layers, and when soup was just the perfect thing for dinner, to be telling you about ice cream. But while summer has departed without ever having truly arrived, it brought with it a truly spectacular addition to the Paris scene.

Here in Paris, we're not lacking much when it comes to food (except, perhaps, an authentic taco joint and proper bagels), and there are at least
half a dozen local purveyors routinely mentioned in any discussion of the best glaciers. But if the public is willing to expand its definitions a bit, there is surely a new contender in the ranks.

Grom is an interloper in more ways than one. Italian-owned and operated, it is, quel horreur, a chain, and makes denser, lower-butterfat gelato rather than ice cream.* And despite a location in the midst of chic and tourist-friendly St Germain, it doesn't seem to be generating a buzz comparable to its NYC opening. Yet if Parisians are understandably slow to admit that they don't already have the best of everything, they've got Carlo Petrini to contend with.

Petrini is the white-haired saint of the Slow Food movement, founded nearly 20 years ago in the curiously-named Bra, just down the road from Turin and the eventual location of Grom's first shop. Slow Food champions local food traditions and products and educates the public about the need for food biodiversity. Petrini and Slow Food are also pleasure prophets, arguing that enjoyment of excellent food and drink is core to the human experience.

According to Federico Grom, with whom I got a chance to chat on the unfortunately cold and rainy day of their Paris opening, he and his partner, Guido Martinetti, took Slow Food's ideals, and Petrini's lament on the decline of traditional gelato, to heart with the 2002 founding of their business. Grom uses superb-quality raw ingredients: the pistachio gelato is made with nuts grown in the volcanic soil of a town near Sicily's Mount Aetna, the lemon granita relies on thick-skinned Amalfi lemons, and Lurisia's pH-balanced mountain water provides a clean base for the seasonally-changing fruit sorbettos.

Petrini's blessing of the enterprise is an endorsement of Grom's traditional production methods and its reliance on small-scale farmers and food artisans. But right-minded as this all may sound, this is a man who also appreciates that good gelato is fundamentally about taste. Here, Grom, is joyously triumphant.

If you go: nociola, or hazelnut, seems like a perfect autumnal flavour for gelato, and it happens to be one of Grom's best. Pair it with the
crema coma una volta, simple but far from austere, or with deeply bittersweet chocolate. Or taste the last of the raspberry sorbetto, tangy, intense, and about to disappear until summer eventually returns.

*One of the best descriptions I've found of the differences between gelato and ice cream, here.


ParisBreakfasts said...

Interesting that Frenchies are perfectly happy to line up for horrid but well-marketed Amorino's so-called gelato.
I think they will come round.
It is odd that New Yorkers got Grom so fast...Hmm
Fun story!

Ann said...

Mm! This sounds scrumptious -- where are they located in St Germain-des-Près? And are they kicking off their opening by staying open at night? The area could really use another late-night ice cream shop (besides Ben & Jerry's).

Really like your blog, especially the title. Petit pois is one of my nicknames!

Shira said...

Hi, sorry for the delay in response. Grom is located at 81 rue de Seine (across from da Rosa). Their site doesn't list hours, and I haven't been in the evening, but I recall someone else writing that they are open late.

Paris Breakfasts, I haven't actually tried Amorino, as I was warned off it when I first arrived.

Glad you're enjoying the blog!