Back in SF: Pastry Chef David Lebovitz Talks the Sweet Life in Paris


Celia Sack, owner of Omnivore Books on FoodSan Francisco's only food book store, specializing in both new and antiquarian cookbooks—knows what's cooking. Find the best of the latest food writing and cookbooks on Bits + Bites every other week.

David Lebovitz worked for over 12 years in the pastry department of Chez Panisse. He moved to Paris in 2002. He will be at Fog City News on September 25; and at Omnivore Books, September 28. The popular blogger will be reading from his fifth book, a food memoir: The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious—and Perplexing—City.

What was the hardest part about leaving San Francisco? And what was the easiest part to leave behind?
Burritos, carrot juice, good coffee made with care, and ethnic food, plus the Ferry Plaza farmer's market are things I miss. Happy to leave behind? My car and group hugs.

What's the most exciting neighborhood in Paris for food these days?
I'd say the 10th. It got trendy for a while, just enough for some interesting restaurants to move in. Now it's relaxed and settled back in nicely. Had a great snail pizza there the other night (which was surprisingly good) and my favorite wine bar and bread bakery in Paris is up there, too.

Which ice cream is better, Bi-Rite Creamery or Berthillon? Same with bread: Tartine or Eric Kayser? Place des Vosges or Dolores Park?
I'd never say what's better on the first two, because they're just too different. But I will say I like the fact there aren't any pit bulls in the place de Vosges, although some of those bourgeois types that hang around there aren't the friendliest of beasts, either.

Macarons: Here to stay or ridiculous fad?
Well, they've been around for at least 150 years, so I don't think they're going away. But they should stay in France, where they belong. If Americans want them, they should have to come to Paris and get them. Just like if I want Target, I have to come over here and get it.

What are three desserts you like in the fall?
Tarte Tatin, Buckwheat galettes with chestnut honey, and Kouign Aman, an insanely-delicious Breton pastry made of caramelized butter and suga, with just enough flour to barely hold it together and call it a cake.

Where else in France is the dessert worth the visit?
I'll always say Brittany, because of the butter. It's dripping from everything, from cookies to caramel-filled crêpes.

San Francisco has so many food fads: home butchery, vintage cocktails, canning classes. What are some of the food fads happening in Paris now?
Trendy doesn't quite work so well in Paris. I'm not much for verrines (silly little glasses with layers of food)  or oddities like foie gras macarons (ick!), but the green tea desserts I like a lot, as well as the proliferation of salted butter caramel, which seems to be dripping from everything nowadays.

What's your next project?
Go into hiding. I learned there are four things one should do if you want to get people in a tizzy: Write a non-fiction book.

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