I recently chuckled my way through David Lebovitz’ new book, The Sweet Life in Paris (2009, Broadway Books, an Imprint of Crown). And sweet it is, both literally and figuratively.
For those of you not familiar with David (there may be a few of you out there), he’s an ex-chef (worked at Chez Panisse for 13 years), ex-pat from San Francisco who lives in Paris, has written several excellent cookbooks (Room for Dessert, the Great Book of Chocolate and The Perfect Scoop, among others), and is an award-winning blogger who writes about life in Paris and fabulous food: www.davidlebovitz.com.
If you are one of the fortunate people who have reserved a space up to a year in advance and can coordinate a trip to Paris with your reserved space for one of David’s tours, you are in for a remarkable treat. For the rest of us, buying the Sweet Life in Paris will give us a taste (pun intended) of David’s enviable life as a Parisian.
Part memoir, part travelogue and part guide on how to maintain an air of decorum in Paris, David regales us with what it’s like to negotiate life in the “world’s most glorious – and perplexing – city.”
David left a beautiful home in San Francisco, with a professionally outfitted kitchen and a glorious view and moved to Paris with three suitcases filled with essentials (crunchy peanut butter being one). His new apartment, in the Bastille neighborhood, had the advantages of an elevator (a rare commodity in Paris), and an extraordinary view of the Eiffel Tower, but a miniscule kitchen with counters so high that even at nearly six feet, he could barely reach them, no storage, and calcified pipes.
David deftly weaves stories about learning the arcane social mores, curbing his frustration with the complexities of trying to do business or get repairs done or even buying shoes, with descriptions of meals enjoyed and a generous peppering of luscious recipes. His description of turning his small bedroom into a glaciere, with three ice cream machines running at night as he tested recipes for The Perfect Scoop, is just one of the hilarious glimpses of what it’s like to write a cookbook in an apartment the size of the kitchen he left behind.
The Sweet Life in Paris is an absolute must if you are planning to eat your way through the City of Light. David has provided an ample listing of bakeries, patisseries, cafes and specialty shops. He also has a US listing for hard-to-locate ingredients mentioned in his recipes.
Enough of the accolades: Let’s get down to the recipes! David begins with Kir, the essential afternoon beverage in Paris (works here too, by the way). How about Bacon and Blue Cheese Cake, Fromage Blanc Souffle, Braised Turkey in Beaujolais Nouveau with Prunes or Fig-Olive Tapenade? He also serves up Cinnamon Meringue with Espresso-Caramel Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce and Candied Almonds, and Caramelized Apple Tart. The list goes on. Given the time it takes to copy recipes, I’ve chosen a few that are relatively short; you’ll need to buy the book for the fancy ones. But believe me, it’s worth it! And, as a bonus, I have copied Café Francais, David’s guide to drinking coffee in Paris cafes.