In 2006, I spent a month after college graduation in a foreign immersion program in Paris. I didn’t know anyone going over, but I had high hopes that I’d learn some French, eat a lot of bread and cheese, and meet some new people. The day I arrived, I, and six other students in the program, were picked up by the program director via shuttle bus and taken into the city. I remember the bus driver pulling into a gas station to get fuel and coming out with a cheap bottle of champagne for us to share. A sort of welcome to Paris, if you will. On that bus ride, I met my friend, Joy. She hadn’t met anyone from the program yet, either, and after talking for maybe 15 minutes, we decided to be friends and go exploring the next day. Our classes didn’t start for a few days, so we had some free time to explore the city. We wandered up to Montmartre and saw the Sacre Cour. We took lots of pictures, and basically got lost in the city. It was fabulous.
Once classes started, I met some other friends: Val, Erik, Heather, and our instructor, Terri. Val and I quickly bonded over the excruciating heat (it was so hot that summer in Paris) and 3-4 boules (scoops) of glace (ice cream) a day. I remember one afternoon walking over to the Orangerie. We waned to check it out, but for some reason it was closed. It wasn’t Sunday, so what was up? I think it took us 10 minutes of standing and trying to decipher the sign before we realized that “fermée le Mardi” meant “closed on Tuesdays”. Duh. We decided to go get some peach sorbet in the Tuilerries instead. No bigs. We went back to check out the paintings another day.
Midway through our stay, our class took a trip up to the north coast of France to a little port town called Saint-Malo. There was a tall ships festival going on and sailors everywhere. This is when I remember meeting my friend Lauren. Perhaps we had hung out before, but I distinctly remember walking on top of the wall surrounding the city one evening, looking at the tall ships all lit up with twinkle lights, and watching the fireworks explode overhead.
It was in this tiny port town that I first had melon with port. Apparently, this is one of the ways the French eat it and let me tell you, they are genius. We were served half a small musk melon with the seeds scooped out so it resembled a small bowl. The servers then came around and poured a tablespoon or two of port into the melon bowl. You ate it with a spoon. A little melon. A little port.
On our last night in Paris, my friends and I took a picnic down to the Seine and feasted. There were cherries, figs stuffed with blue cheese and drizzled with balsamic vinegar, saucisson-sec and sliced meats. Olives and bread. Cheese. And wine. Always wine. That summer was one of the best summers I’ve ever had. Perhaps it was just being in Paris, but I think it had more to do with the company that I was so fortunate to keep, the fact that we were all exploring the city together, and that we met under these extraordinary circumstances, which we knew would never be present in the same way again. And so we celebrated.
This recipe is a riff on those musk melons with port that I ate in Saint-Malo and the “glace” all seven of us were obsessed with that summer. I urge you to try it with the wine, but the sorbet on its own is delicious as well.
1/2 medium-sized cantaloupe or musk melon, seeds and rind removed, cubed.
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp. vodka (this keeps the sorbet from getting too icy in the freezer and gives it a nice soft and scoopable texture)
Puree cantaloupe in a blender of food processor until very smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Stir in honey and vodka. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours.
Process in an ice cream maker. Scoop soft sorbet into a container and freeze until more solid, 3 hours or preferably overnight. Let sit at room temperature at least 10 minutes before serving.
To serve, pour a Tablespoon of port in the bottom of a small bowl. Place a scoop or two of the sorbet on top. Tear mint leaves and sprinkle them over the sorbet. Try and get a little bit of each flavor in each bite. Enjoy on a hot day.