Tortoni's Chilling Legacy

According to his diaries, when 23-year-old Neapolitan ice cream-maker Giuseppe Tortoni came to Paris to make his fortune in 1798, he brought with him "an ancient and ailing mother, an ugly and bothersome wife, three ill-mannered children and a swaybacked horse, the only member of my family who has any sympathies for my ambitions."

According to his diaries, when 23-year-old Neapolitan ice cream-maker Giuseppe Tortoni came to Paris to make his fortune in 1798, he brought with him "an ancient and ailing mother, an ugly and bothersome wife, three ill-mannered children and a swaybacked horse, the only member of my family who has any sympathies for my ambitions." Tortoni also brought with him 200 livres, the equivalent today of about NIS 1,600, and with this, bought the nearly bankrupt Velloni's ice-cream shop on Rue de Rivoli. After renaming the shop Cafe Tortoni, he proceeded to make it into Paris' most fashionable place for a rendezvous. American author Washington Irving wrote that, "Never, in any single place, have I seen so many famous people simultaneously gathered for the purpose of satisfying their pleasures." It is no wonder that Irving was impressed, for Tortoni's regular clients included diplomats Talleyrand and Metternich, Russian-born banker Sir Basil Zaharoff, author Francois August Chateaubriand, the Duke of Mornay, the Baron de Rothschild and Charles XIV, the king of Sweden and Norway. So popular did the cafe become that when King Louis XVIII wanted to reward a friend for his services, he tried to buy the cafe for him. Tortoni, wishing neither to sell nor to offend the king, set a price so outrageously high that even Louis had to refuse the offer. In addition to being a superb inventor of ice-cream dishes, Tortoni also proved himself a talented restaurateur and a shrewd psychologist. In addition to dining, snacking or meeting at Tortoni's, one of the acceptable pastimes of the day was to sit by the window and use the lorgnettes supplied by the management to appraise and comment on the various attributes of the women that walked by. Tortoni outlived his mother, his wife and his horse, and when he was 89 years old, wrote that "my children, although now adults, remain ill-mannered and I fear for the fate of my little establishment once I am gone and it falls into their hands." Whether they were brats in the eyes of anyone other than their father is not known, but Tortoni's daughters - and, later, their children - maintained the popularity of the ice-cream parlor until 1900 when, during a particularly bad lightning storm, the building caught on fire and burned to the ground. The popular meeting place never reopened, but several of Tortoni's inventions have lived on. The two that follow are world famous. Biscuit Tortoni

1/2 cup milk 2 cups sweet cream 1 cup macaroon cookies, crushed 5 tbsp. confectioners' sugar, sifted small pinch salt 1 tsp. vanilla extract maraschino cherries for garnish crushed toasted almonds (unsalted), for garnish In a mixing bowl, combine the milk and 1/2 cup of the sweet cream. Add the macaroons, sugar and salt, and let stand, covered, for 1-2 hours. Whip the remaining sweet cream until it is just stiff, taking care not to overbeat. Into this, fold the macaroon mixture with the vanilla extract, and then pour into 8 individual dessert glasses. Sprinkle each portion lightly with crushed nuts, and top each with a maraschino cherry. Cover the glasses with plastic wrap and place in the freezer until frozen through. Transfer to the regular refrigeration compartment and discard the plastic wrap about 5 minutes prior to serving. (Serves 8). Peach ice cream Tortoni

3/4 liter sweet cream 1/4 liter milk 1 vanilla bean, about 5 cm. long 8 egg yolks 3/4 cup sugar 1 tsp. almond extract 1/4 tsp. salt 2 cups peaches, peeled, stoned and crushed Combine the cream, milk, and vanilla bean in a saucepan. Bring just to the point of boiling, immediately lower the flame and, stirring constantly, let simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove the bean and set aside. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a mixing bowl until light in color. Gradually strain the hot cream and milk into the yolks, stirring briskly. Into this mixture, squeeze the seeds of the vanilla bean. Transfer to the top of a double boiler and cook over, but not in, about 2 1/2 cm. of simmering water until the mixture has the consistency of a thick syrup. Remove from the heat, add the almond extract and then let cool, stirring occasionally. Pour the mixture into chilled ice trays and cover with aluminum foil. Place in the freezer for an hour and then stir thoroughly. Return to the freezer for 1/2 hour more and then stir again. Pour the mixture into a large ring mold or bowl and mix in the crushed peaches. Return to the freezer, stir again after 30 more minutes and then let freeze solid. (Yields about 2 liters).