13th August 2015
Interview: Killian Fox
Photographs: Yousef Eldin
If you’re spending time in Paris and you like food, you are more than likely to come across – and benefit from – the experiences of David Lebovitz. An American cookbook author and pastry chef who worked at the legendary Chez Panisse in California, David has lived in Paris and been writing extensively about the city’s food scene since 2004. The most recent of his seven books is My Paris Kitchen, a finalist for a James Beard Award. He has also created a Paris Pastry App, highlighting the best bakeries, chocolate shops and boulangeries in Paris, and writes a hugely popular blog sharing Paris travel tips, stories and recipes with readers from around the world.
Over the past six months, David has travelled to New York City, to Cork for the Ballymaloe Litfest, and to Lausanne in search of gruyère, but mostly he’s been hanging out in Paris eating amazing food. For our ongoing 6×6 series, exploring what people are eating in different parts of the world, he’s picked out his six most memorable dishes from that time.
(Psst! For a comprehensive list of Paris restaurants and food shops, check out our Paris address book.)
Le Bon George, Paris, France
“Many of the restaurants that have opened over the past few years in Paris could be dubbed the ‘new bistros’, and while the food is often very good, it’s contemporary and isn’t a modern take on any of the French classics, but a whole new genre. That’s fine, because I’m not necessarily a traditionalist and like to taste what the young generation of chefs of Paris are up to. Le Bon Georges is more traditional than the other newcomers on the Paris restaurant scene and the cuisine is closer to traditional French cooking, with an accent on well-sourced ingredients. On a recent visit, I was wowed when the chef remastered the classic oeufs mimosa, chopping the egg white then setting a barely poached egg yolk on top. It was served with some bonito (tuna) flakes and a generous dollop (and stripe) of Dijon mustard sauce, which gave it a lively kick. ”
Le Bon Georges, 45 rue Saint-Georges (9th), Paris;+33 1 48 78 40 30, www.lebongeorges.com
Brooklyn NY, USA
“It’s rare to get purple plums in Paris. We get delicious, green Reine Claude plums, and Italian prune plums (called “quetches”), which are excellent for cooking but don’t have the tartness of the purple plums we get in America. I found a quart basket of these tiny plums at the Grand Army Plaza farmers’ market in Brooklyn and, in the little kitchen where I was staying, made a micro-batch of plum jam with just a little sugar. Plums make my favorite jam since they have a natural tang and spiciness; it’s the best jam for spreading on toast in the morning, or alongside yogurt in a bowl as an afternoon goûter (snack).”
Mazeh, Paris, France
“People who don’t live in Paris tend not to think of it as an international city, and focus on French cooking and restaurants. But there are neighborhoods that specialize on everything from North African couscous and Indian tandoori, to Vietnamese rice bowls and Iranian grilled meats. Mazeh has the fluffiest rice I’ve ever had, accented with saffron. And they give you so much that you don’t think you can eat it all. But somehow, you do. The grilled coquelet (poussin) alongside is stuffed with tarragon and spicy red pepper, and the generous time on the grill gives it a good char. For dessert, just try resisting their housemade Persian rose and saffron ice creams.”
Mazeh, 65, rue des Enterpreneurs (15th), Paris; +33 1 45 75 33 89, www.mazeh.com
Fouquet, Paris, France
“It’s not located in the tourist-friendly Saint-Germain area, but Fouquet chocolates are worth a little trip to the 9th. (They have a branch near the Champs-Elysées, too.) The original shop is not far from the big Paris department stores, and is where all the housemade candies and chocolates are created by a small team in the kitchen behind the shop. Most chocolatiers make their chocolates outside of Paris and bring them in; at Fouquet, they’re poured, dipped, and then whisked right in front of you.
The chocolate are à l’ancienne, which means instead of being sugary, the flavors are strong and bittersweet, which was how traditional Parisian chocolates were made before cream (and refrigeration) become more widely used. I love the chocolates here, from the spiced wafers enrobed in the thinnest layer of dark chocolate imaginable, to the chocolate-covered marshmallows, which I find myself polishing off all too easily.
The shop also makes excellent pâte de fruits, disks of jellied fruit juices that come in flavors ranging from blackcurrant to raspberry. When people ask me where they can get the best pâte de fruits in Paris, I send them to Fouquet.”
Fouquet, 36, rue Laffitte (9th), Paris; +33 1 47 70 85 00, www.fouquet.fr
Poilâne, Paris, France
“If there is anything more iconic in Paris than the giant loaves of pain Poilâne, I can’t think of what it is. When people ask, ‘Why did you move to Paris?’ I’ll answer, ‘So I could be closer to Poilâne’. I’ve been going here for decades and indeed, moving to Paris means I can stop by whenever I want. I love their brusque sourdough bread made in a wood-fired oven, just downstairs, whose earthy, wheaty flavor improves the longer it sits. (The bread will keep for over a week. I always tell visitors to get a loaf on their last day in Paris and bring it home, to prolong the deliciousness of their trip.)
I get a little emotional every time I go into the shop because much of the staff has been there for decades and recognise me, offering little buttery cookies as a treat as soon as I walk in the door. Although I go for the bread, I usually can’t help myself and get an apple tart, too. It looks deceptively simple, but one bite through the buttery, flaky pastry and you’ll find yourself rewarded with a mouthful of juicy apple slices, sweetened with cassonade (natural) brown sugar. The rye-currant bread is another favorite, and the rolls make a virtuous snack. I advise visitors to go and stick their heads in the back room, just behind the shop: it’s filled with paintings that artists over the years have painted of loaves of pain Poilâne with the beautiful cursive ‘P’ inscribed in the top. If they ever have an art sale back there, I’ll be first in line. ”
Poilâne, 8 rue du Cherche-Midi (6th), Paris; +33 1 45 48 42 59, www.poilane.com
Jean-Charles Rochoux, Paris, France
“Tucked away off a major boulevard in Paris is the tiny shop of Jean-Charles Rochoux. I discovered this gem shortly after he opened, and I’ve been a regular customer ever since. Chef Rochoux is the master of sculpting chocolate, but it’s his exceptional ganache-filled bonbons that keep me going back – and the tablets with caramelised nuts in them, too. When he introduced a line of ‘spreading pastes’, I was intrigued and tried them all. And although the one with fraises des bois (tiny wild strawberries) and chocolate is a runner-up, my absolute favorite is the one made with caramelised hazelnuts, ground to a fine, smooth, silky paste and intended to be spread on bread. One bite and it’s hard not to buy all the jars lined up on the shelves.”
Jean-Charles Rochoux, 16, rue d’Assas (6th), Paris; +33 1 42 84 29 45, www.jcrochoux.com
(And for a comprehensive list of Paris restaurants and food shops, check out our Paris address book.)
6×6: Carlos Yescas – The Mexican cheese champion picks his most memorable dishes of the past six months, including camembert in Paris, Tibetan dumplings in Brooklyn and a unique double IPA in Vermont
6×6: Simon Majumdar – The food writer and broadcaster picks his most memorable dishes of the past six months, including tonkatsu in Tokyo, lechon in Puerto Rico and a legendary rib-eye in Florida
6×6: Katherine Bont – The front of house at Noma in Copenhagen picks her most memorable dishes of the past six months, including ramen in Tokyo, fish and chips in Queensland and highlights from the Noma staff meal
6×6: Katie Parla – The Rome-based food writer picks her most memorable dishes of the past six months, including Italian stone fruit, Turkish mezze and a legendary New Jersey pizza