Our Favorite American in Paris
A veteran pastry chef who spent more than a decade working at Chez Panisse before moving to Paris and launching a wildly successful blog, David Lebovitz is our go-to guru for Parisian food and cooking. He’s written several cookbooks, including The Perfect Scoop, his best-selling guide to homemade ice cream, and Ready for Dessert, a collection of his all-time favorite recipes. In Lebovitz’s brand new book, My Paris Kitchen, he shares stories about expat life in the culinary capital of the world, alongside revamped classic French recipes, from herbed goat cheese crostinis to duck confit and salted butter caramel chocolate mousse. Below, Lebovitz shares his top picks for Paris.
The next wave of French cuisine involves a mix of international ideas, healthier options, and vegetables getting a more prominent place at the table. Holybelly is one of the hotspots near the Canal Saint-Martin, where Parisians and others line up for breakfast and lunch, from a menu that changes daily. Early risers can find a full-on breakfast being served until noon (or all day or weekend), a rarity in Paris, with extra-strong coffee, brewed with water filtered underneath the café. The lines for lunch start around noon, and the monthly menu might be influenced by Scandinavia (the chef is from Sweden) with pickled fish on dark grained bread from the bakery down the street, sautéed paneer (Indian cheese, made in-house) with butternut squash, or cervelle de canut (garlic-herb cheese) with slices of locally produced pastrami.
Thomas, David and Anselme, are revolutionizing French coffee by roasting their own beans atop the hill, overlooking the multifaceted Belleville neighborhood. (If you get lost, follow your nose down the winding street, toward the roasting aroma.) You won’t find any jus de chausettes (sock juice, or what French people call bad coffee) at the roastery, which opens its doors only on Saturday to the public, offering guided tastings with various single-origin coffees, brewed with care in sparkling Chemix carafes. More casual coffee drinkers can pull up to the wooden bar and mingle with an international mix of coffee-lovers, sipping their way to coffee nirvana.
His popularity finally outgrowing the former popup restaurant (the aptly named Hidden Kitchen), Braden Perkins has turned his talents to a more public space, Verjus, which has become one of the best restaurants in Paris – and is no longer a secret. Especially with people in search of a spectacular meal. More casual diners nibble on extra-crisp French pork belly (and the now-famous fried chicken nuggets) in the wine cave on the lower level of the restaurant (which takes no reservations.) And those who have planned in advance treat themselves to a multicourse dinner prepared by Chef Perkins, who wows diners with carefully sourced produce, meats, and fish, used in creative – and uniquely inventive – ways.
This friendly neighborhood crêperie offers hot-off-the-griddle buckwheat crêpes, fresh-from-Brittany oysters, and a delicious sardine spread, all washed down with chilled sparkling cider served by the pitcher or bottle. The young staff works hard to make you feel at home in this cozy Right Bank crêperie. And it’s hard not to cozy up to them, and their earthy crêpes; my favorite is the galette complète, topped with a farm-fresh egg and disks of crisp, smoked Montbéliard sausage.
The first thing I make a beeline for at this classic Parisian confectioner are the housemade marshmallows dipped in the darkest chocolate imaginable. And I never leave without a little bag of the whisper-thin spice cookies dipped in dark chocolate, as well as a few squares of the soft, buttery caramels. Everything is made in-house including the colorful hard candies, as well as the bottles of fruit-spiked punch, and red wine vinegar, aged beneath their shop in the 9th.
In the basement of the iconic Galeries Lafayette department store, it’s fun to stroll through aisles of treats, offering the best of France, including terrific artisan tablets of chocolate, Dijon mustards, and salted butter cookies from Brittany. Many of the best chocolate, pastry, and food shops of Paris have set up kiosks there, too, so you can sample and shop at places like Dallayou (pastries and chocolates), Jean-Paul Hévin (chocolates and macarons), Eric Kayser (breads), Saduharu Aoki (Japanese-inspired pastries, and one of the best lemon tarts in Paris), and Bellota-Ballota (Spanish hams), all under one roof. Elsewhere in the store are branches of Pierre Hermé, offering macarons and chocolates, as well as Alain Ducasse bean-to-bar chocolates…the only chocolate made in Paris.
Monsieur Rochoux is a classicist when it comes to chocolate. You won’t find quirky flavors (thankfully), but you will find delicious, sublime chocolates filled with caramelized almond praline paste, smooth vanilla-scented ganache, and the delightful surprise of liquid liquor encased in the thinnest shell of chocolate imaginable, which explodes in your mouth. My favorite are the foil-wrapped ovals of chocolate filled with Chartreuse, an herbal liqueur made in the French alps by monks who have taken a vow of silence, not the reveal the recipe.
A pastry chef’s paradise, MORA is the most well-stocked baking store, not just in Paris, but in the world! Bakers converge from other countries to pick up French tart rings, chocolate molds, oversized whisks, and cake pans in every imaginable shape and size.
I can’t imagine anyone coming to Paris and missing a visit to what is undoubtably the most famous bakery in the world. Loaves of flour-dusted pain Poilâne line the ancient wood shelves, massive rounds with the signature “P” carved in the center, just before the rounds of dough are baked in the wood-fired oven, just beneath the shop. (The ovens heat the entire building in the winter.) Next to the shop is Cuisine de Bar, serving open-faced sandwiches on the famed bread, and is one of my favorite places for a casual lunch…along with a glass of wine, bien sûr!
For those on the go, individual apple tarts make an idea afternoon goûter – or snack – and the dense loaves of rye bread packed with tiny currants are wonderful with cheese. If you’re picking up a loaf of their hearty levain (sourdough) bread, you might want to include one of their excellent bread knives to slice it, with the signature of Poilâne gracing the blade.
About David Lebovitz
David Lebovitz has been a professional cook and baker for most of his life; he spent nearly thirteen years at Chez Panisse until he left the restaurant business to write books. He moved to Paris in 2004 and turned davidlebovitz.com into a phenomenally popular blog. He is the author of six books, including The Perfect Scoop, Ready for Dessert, and a New York Times best-selling memoir called The Sweet Life in Paris. He has been featured in Bon Appétit, Cook’s Illustrated, Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine, the New York Times, and more.