6 Best Places To Eat Dessert In Paris
Monday, May 23, 2011
Paris may be known for its decadent, mutli-course meals, but nothing says delicacy like the grand finale: dessert. Actually, it’s not unusual in Paris to mosey into a patisserie or chocolaterie for a midday snack, but one so fantastic that you’d hardly believe it was just a quick bite.
The following list includes some of the more expensive places for desserts, but even at the high prices, the high-profile sweets cost less than a casual cafe lunch. For the cost-conscious, the price really is worthwhile for such mind-blowing treats. Besides, no one ever got too poor eating macarons — and if I sound like Marie Antoinette, then you know we’re headed in the right direction, aren’t we?
Each of the following is a stunning, touristy homage to all things beautiful about French design and cuisine. Of course, that also includes being rude to tourists and jacking up prices, but hey la vie est belle.
Angelina, a hop skip and a jump from the Jardin des Tuileries (and Le Musée du Louvre). Perhaps because of its prime location and longevity, Angelina is top of its class in decor, history and crowd management. Rumor has it Coco Chanel ate here, and if you look closely at the crowd around you, you’ll see it’s still an elegant blend of overzealous tourists and the French well-to-do. And while I rarely say this, the ambiance is so beautiful it trumps people-watching.
At Angelina, du chocolat chaud is a good place to start when you’re not sure what to order — scandalously called L’Africain for it’s dark color. First of all, call me traditional, but last time I checked, hot chocolate was supposed to be a drink. Around these parts though, the hot chocolate’s so heavy that it’s necessary to save room for it like a slice of cake. With a dab of chantilly (whipped cream), it’s hard not to be sold on the whole experience.
If you like chantilly then chances are you’ll love the Mont Blanc. This creamy dessert derives its name from the mountain in the French alps, and with its snow-colored insides and soft, cool taste, the name makes perfect sense. The Mont Blanc is predominately flavored with chestnut, complementing the sensory experience of cool cream with a warm, nutty flavor. This is a distinctly French treat worth trying.
I much preferred the people, and comparably delicious chocolate and cream, at Ladurée, which actually has mulitple locations. The original location is in the 6th arrondisement, and is characterized by an intimate, exotically decorated charm. I brought my French-speaking friends, my mother, and my discreet artist uncle here, and we were treated well in French time and time again, although I did see tourists with a language barrier struggling. Ladurée created all the desserts for the 2003 film Marie Antoinette, and seeing these beautiful creations before my eyes really brought the old world feel to life.
However, the more recently opened Champs Elysées location is more easily accessible to the on-the-go traveler (not to mention the handicapped), and of course friendlier and more accommodating to visitors. Upstairs, there is a seating area with red velvet chairs that also offers a dinner menu. There’s even a bar back on the first floor that stays open late, so you can drink cocktails, meet people, and eat high-quality pastries all at once. I had some good times at that bar, which was recommended to me by French students, since it was easy to get to and open late.
A macaron is like a mini, colorful version of an ice cream sandwich, except that the inside is buttercream, and typical flavors include pistachio, raspberry, and rose. Stack three on a saucer with a nice cup of coffee and you’re practically a bonafide Parisian.
Because of their widespread popularity, macarons now come in all shapes and flavors, depending on where you look. Not only are the bite-sized cookies delicious, but there are also full-size options you can sit down and eat as a full dessert.
Good macarons are easy to find all over Paris, but Pierre Hermé is famous for their macarons, and their boutique located in St-Germain lays out their choices as if you were going jewelry shopping. Due to their bright colors and the decorative packaging they are placed in, Macarons make great gifts for all occasions.
One of the best things about Paris is the mild weather. Yes, it can get quite chilly in the winter months, but I found myself eating Amarino ice cream cones well into the fall and fresh into the spring. This isn’t your average ice cream though — or even your average gelato for that matter — but rather the kind of rock-your-world full-flavored treat that turns everyday eaters into Julia Childs.
The only place I ever found American style ice cream in Paris was the chain movie theater’s tiny Ben & Jerry’s enclave. Instead, the best bet for the everyday fix is Amarino, a chain located throughout France with multiple locations in Paris. For about 3 euros, you can combine up to three flavors, scooped in the shape of a rose — enough said.
My favorite Amarino location is 4 Rue Vavin, however, if you’re between visiting destinations, there’s also one in the Latin Quarter, near Notre Dame and La Sorbonne.
But maybe rose-shaped gelato isn’t doing it for you. Maybe you’re tired of blasé sugars and chocolates. Maybe you’re looking for a different kind of eating experience. In which case, the only place left to go is the Ile Saint Louis, for Glacier Berthillon.
At Glacier Berthillion, the flavors vary by season, and include only the freshest ingredients in gelato and sorbet. Perhaps you’ll catch the caramel au gingembre (caramel ginger), but there’s really no wrong way to go. After you’ve finished eating and come back down from cloud nine, try to remember why you’d ever go to Baskin-Robbins.
I will always remember the first time I went to Berthillon. It was a sunny, not-too-hot spring day, and there wasn’t a whole lot to do (a pattern to my life in Paris), and my friends were all walking along together. We decided to wander over to l’Ile Saint Louis, and as we entered the dark, wooden enclave, I smiled at a stunning man on a motorcycle. I chose the pear sorbet, and the sensation was so amazing — actually, really amazing — that I made an involuntary noise. The man on the motorcycle heard me and laughed at us American girls, but I really think that it was the ultimate French experience.
A Good Mirabelle Pear and Brie
At the end of the day, the sugar experience in Paris is about freshness and careful consideration, which I learned from the French around me. My host family in Paris ate very healthfully and simply. At dinner, we’d start with one or two vegetables as a salad, then a little meat or fish, and finally we’d have cheese and fruit.
But this was just not any cheese and fruit. This was chevre (goat cheese) or brie (a soft, buttery cow cheese), accompanied by the ripest apples and mirabelle pears I have yet to taste. Biting into a pear instantly conjures up images and tastes of what I love about eating in Paris: the colors, the flavors, and most of all, the attention to detail.
Something so simple as a piece of fruit so carefully complements the right kind of cheese, and there’s not a growth horomone or artificial flavoring in sight.
So no matter what kind of tastes appeal to you, or how much or how little you want to spend, remember that in Paris — a city with a special knack for providing pleasure — wherever you decide on for dessert, chances are it’s going to be good.
226 Rue de Rivoli
75, avenue des Champs Elysées
72 Rue Bonaparte
4 Rue Vavin
31 Rue St Louis en l’ile
About the Author
Alexandra Bregman has written for The Expeditioner, Beyond Race, poetic and academic publications. She has a traveler’s spirit, big dreams post-Smith College graduation, and can be followed at @alixbregman.