December 2020, during France's second Covid-19 lockdown, might not seem like the best time to start a new business, let alone an ice cream parlor and wine bar. Yet this was exactly what Jessica Yang and Robert Compagnon did when they opened the doors to Folderol in Paris. The space, which has just enough room for 30 people to eat scoops of ice cream from vintage metal coupes and sip natural wine, is just across a courtyard from Le Rigmarole, the couple's first restaurant. ‘We'd never have opened Folderol if it wasn't next door,’ says Robert. ‘It was now or never, so we took the space, but we always knew we wanted it to be ice cream and wine,’ adds Jessica.
‘We were takeaway-only when we opened, which was ideal. It let us start at a slower pace,’ says Robert. The couple first met more than 10 years ago in Paris and moved between France and New York before settling back in the French capital in 2016. They opened Le Rigmarole the following year, focusing on a chef's menu that changes night by night. ‘Since we met and since we started [this career], the goal has always been to be our own bosses and own our own place,’ says Robert.
The first question they're often asked when they say they run an ice cream and wine bar is: what's the connection between the two things? Their answer is purely based on the pleasure derived from both well-made ice cream and thoughtfully produced wine. ‘They're both things that bring pleasure to people, but they're also each an expression of natural products as seen through the eyes of the creator. You can see the process of the winemaker or ice cream maker in the results – it's a personal expression,’ says Robert. All of the wine stocked here is produced by low-intervention winemakers, which is also how they like to view the process of making ice cream. ‘I taste the fruit from the market and then decide what we'll make from there,’ says Jessica.
Flavors include cold-brew coffee, green melon, and orange blossom – but it's the more nostalgic, American-inspired flavors that are the most popular. ‘Peanut butter and chocolate or cookies and cream are the more decadent flavors we make, and those sell out the fastest,’ says Jessica. ‘We revert to children when we eat ice cream. This is a place where it's OK to revert to your childlike tastes,’ adds Robert.
‘We really thought about what we'd want out of an ice cream parlor. It needed to be delicious, simple and well done. We're not trying to go for creative leaps and bounds, making crazy flavors like oyster ice cream. Everything is simple and seasonal,’ says Robert. ‘We don't do originality for originality's sake.’ Each flavor is made fresh every day in small batches from milk, cream, eggs and fresh fruit. ‘It's an American-style ice cream. After it's churned, we deep-freeze each batch at -30°C. It's a hard-packed style of ice cream, which gives it a great texture and scoop,’ says Robert.
Locals in the neighborhood and from further afield have flocked to Folderol since it opened, with lines forming down the street no matter the weather. ‘A lot of French people don't really have a relationship with ice cream like we do. They have gelato on vacation, but they don't have a tradition of eating ice cream at home. Now we have a lot of regulars who make it part of their dinner-and-dessert ritual,’ says Jessica. This loyalty stays through the seasons, when in Paris' cold winters, a scoop of ice cream wouldn't be the usual first choice. ‘When ice cream doesn't work in the winter, it's somewhere people want to hang out for wine, so the two things support each other through the seasons,’ says Jessica.
The balance between the two sides is evident, but it was achieved only because they ‘stuck to their guns’. ‘It's so easy to get swayed by what's cool or what numbers are saying. We had a lot of discouragement early on, but we wanted to show our personality and we're really happy we did, because that's why people come back and what sets us apart,’ says Jessica.
Regular Folderol customers will have noticed some changes over the past few months, as Jessica is expecting the couple's second child this autumn. ‘These restaurants reflect our personal lives, our personal experiences and also our needs,’ says Robert, who's planning on turning the neighboring Le Rigmarole into a pizza restaurant for a few months after the baby is born. ‘What's great about what we do is that we have the flexibility as parents, so we can constantly reinvent ourselves.’
A version of this article was first published in Courier issue 49, September/October 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.