Paris’s Artisanal Ice Cream Is a Treat To Be Savored Locally
When I moved to France and finally had my own freezer to fill, I was surprised to discover that French store-bought ice cream is terrible. The only brands that don’t consist of air, seaweed-based stabilizers, and artificial everything, are Haagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s—both of which cost considerably more here than they would back home.
The reason? “Artisanal ice cream” really means something here. The best producers are too small-batch to work in a national distribution system like France’s, and given the high price of everything, especially labor, the product ends up being too expensive to justify the space on supermarket shelves.
In Paris, if you want good ice cream, you have to track down a shop with the words “glacier artisanal” somewhere on its signage. There are many outstanding, old-school examples, like the justifiably famous Berthillon on the Ile Saint-Louis, where seasonal sorbets like sour cherry and apricot are genuine flavor bombs. There’s the classic: Raimo. Though it was recently sold and, in a distribution push, started using stabilizers to improve consistency and shelf life, its flavors—especially the almond and orgeat, or orange water—are fantastically rich.
Then there’s Glaces Glazed (pictured), dangerously close to my home on the rue des Martyrs, which has a completely different approach. “My ambition was to kick convention in the ass,” said Henri Guittet, its 30-something founder, one recent summer afternoon.
In front of us was a row of ice cream flavors that included pistachio and black sesame paste, which pushes the umami point almost into savory; bracing mango and red pepper sorbet; vanilla bean sprinkled with a few roasted hemp seeds for nuttiness and crunch, and a tangy goat’s milk-based salted caramel. “I don’t like the way too much sugar dries out my palate,” Guittet continued. “It’s more about a complexity and a long finish.”
Glaces Glazed eschews anything artificial, including the dreaded stabilizers. This makes certain denser flavors, or those with lower freezing points—like dark chocolate with wasabi and ginger—hell to scoop for staff during the dreaded school’s out, 4:30 p.m. snack-hour rush. The compensation? They get to sample the product all day long.
When Guittet isn’t cooking up new recipes, he’s sampling the competition. Two other Paris ice cream outlets he recommends are GROM, the Turin-based gelato chain with a heavily trafficked outpost on the rue de Seine in Saint-Germain-des-Près, and Une Glace à Paris, “for their smoked vanilla, and farmer’s cheese sorbet.”