I’ll never forget on one of my first visits to New York touring NBC Studios and then walking through a strange underground mall. I remember high-end shops, fast moving foot traffic, and food courts. It was an exciting hybrid of New York urban life and my shopping mall rich South Florida adolescent.
When I first moved to New York, that subterranean consumer world remained a mysterious memory. Until one day, I discovered it. It’s called Rockefeller Center. And instead of reliving my childhood excitement, now I try to stay as far away as possible.
But my ice cream journey brings me back. I descended one of the cavernous stairwells and even had to consult the wall map to determine just where I could find La Maison du Chocolat. I had heard talk of this wondrous place before. It’s a chocolatier from Paris and supposedly makes some of the best chocolate in this city.
Once I was inside, I discovered I didn’t have to enter the underground Rockefeller Center at all. There is also an entrance on 49th Street and I realized I had walked by this shop (quite obliviously) numerous times before. I don’t usually window shop or even turn my head toward all the touristy boutique shops in this area. I feel like just browsing would cost me an arm and a leg.
La Maison Du Chocolat is very ritzy with golden walls and fancy display cases. I did feel a little out of place since I don’t have a Black American Express card, but the staff immediately welcomed me and I was quickly offered a free sample of their chocolate. Not one to say no to free chocolate, I enjoyed it, but kept my eye on the ice cream case in the front.
The lady was more than happy to let me sample, but she warned me the flavors were going to be more intense since they don’t use any preservatives and the ice cream is all made fresh in their Upper West Side location (it’s their only product not made and shipped from France). I went for the caramel, which was delicious. It took a second for the flavor to explode on my tongue, but when it did, it tasted like real burnt sugar. It was not to sweet and I have not had caramel ice cream this good since I first tried Otto’s gelato many years ago. I also tried the chocolate (how could I not?) ice cream and it was intense. They use a blend of dark chocolates and the complexity was overwhelming. So good!
I settled on a waffle cone of coffee, my perfect flavor. I was impressed that the waffle cone was the same price as a cup – $4. Now somehow with milk prices being what they are and gelaterias charging insane prices, this is actually a steal. Especially for this neighborhood. And especially for ice cream this good.
The coffee was made with real espresso and I felt like I was somewhere in Paris enjoying a cold, creamy macchiato. A nice thought for a moment or two because I was immediately rushed back into the hot, crowded streets of midtown. La Maison du Chocolat only serves their ice cream in the summer months (May – September). So for most of the year, I won’t have to come down into the hectic Rockefeller Center. But from now until September, I may have to move in.
Is La Maison du Chocolat the best ice cream in NY? Even though it’s a Paris recipe, the creamy stuff is made in Manhattan and it is so intensely flavored and satisfyingly creamy that it receives a 9 out of 10. If it was available all year round, it just might get that extra point.