My love affair with ice cream has been well-documented.
What you may not know is just how much it plays a role in my travel habits.
On a trip to Paris a few years back, we made a special trek down to Ile Saint-Louis, a small island in the middle of the Seine River near Notre Dame, to seek out what is universally considered the best ice cream in Paris and the best place to get it.
There are other Berthillon locations around the city, but this charming, out-of-the-way spot is the one people where people line up. If you're ever there, brave the line. Berthillon's mouthwatering flavors using all-natural ingredients are rich, creamy and worth the build-up.
Almost 11 years ago we wrapped up a week in California wine country with a treat that rivaled all those grapes we sampled throughout the Napa and Sonoma valleys.
After a great dinner one night, we were strolling Sonoma's town square and saw a small ice cream shop advertising a flavor featuring world-renowned Valrhona French chocolate. Never mind that we were stuffed to the gills. We popped in and marveled at the incredible depth of this deep, dark treasure.
And just last year in Cincinnati, we sought out the regionally famous Graeter's ice cream we had heard so much about. It is made just two gallons at a time and then packed by hand.
I couldn't fathom how they made it this irresistibly creamy. Now I know. It's through a traditional "French Pot" process (again with the French!) that involves gently swirling a fresh cream and egg custard along the chilled sides of a slowly spinning freezer. As the blend thickens, a blade softly scrapes the sides of the pot, folding the ice cream back into itself to prevent air from being whipped in.
That's also what makes it so dense. Where a typical pint of ice cream can weigh as little as 8 ounces, a Graeter's pint weighs nearly a full pound.
We recently sampled several of the company's "Signature Chip Flavors" - Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chocolate Chip - and were reminded just how great Graeter's is.
Many West Virginia Kroger stores and some Sheetz locations now carry Graeter's. You can also order it online. Ice cream is shipped in a cooler via UPS and is guaranteed to be frozen on arrival. Ours surely was.
Check it out at www.graeters.com.
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Another delicious frozen treat (but one with less guilt per bite) is frozen kefir. It's like frozen yogurt, but with a more pronounced tart-and-tangy taste and even more health benefits per bite.