I have never met David Lebovitz, but I think he might be my Parisian spirit animal. He’s a pastry chef and cookbook author from the United States (he also lived in SF, worked at Chez Panisse) who has been living in Paris for a number of years now. I already own two books from him – My Paris Kitchen & The Sweet Life in Paris and I received L’Appart as a Christmas gift this year. I devoured this book, finishing in in the wee hours of the morning as I battled jet lag, belly laughing as I turned each page.
My Paris Kitchen is a cookbook (with some really great recipes) while The Sweet Life in Paris is a memoir plus recipes, which follow his comical/endearing anecdotes. I read The Sweet Life in Paris after we’d been living in Toulouse for a few months and felt like I was having a conversation with my new best friend, detailing the peculiarities of being an ex-pat living in France (it also serves as my go-to for my chocolate mousse recipe). In that one he talks about playing “people pinball” while walking Parisian sidewalks, of being so hot in stores tin the winter hat he tries to go without a coat (I’m self-referencing you, Midica), and even the art of getting gussied up to take out the trash (how he knew he’d become Parisian).
L’Appart takes a page from that book and is another delightful memoir detailing the “delights and disasters of making [his] Paris home” with recipes inspired by the humorous (and sometimes painfully honest) anecdotes along the way. Apparently long-time readers/followers of his blog will remember postings of the process (it apparently took place a number of years ago) as well as recipes here and there. Not to spoil the book, but he does get his apartment almost exactly as he planned. What kept me reading was the way I felt like I was talking to my best friend about living in France and joking about the differences between American and French culture in a loving way. I bet with every story I said, “Oh my gosh, yes!!” at least once. In some cases, I couldn’t wait until Jim woke up to retell a funny story, as I knew it’d tickle him just as much. My favorites are probably his trips to IKEA (4 hours in line, got a little hangry and took off almost all his clothes he was so hot), every story involving Claude, the contractor (“pas de probleme, Daveed”), the difficulty searching for a place to live (they don’t have a Craigslist or Zillow or other equivalent to make your search easy), his endless searches for a farmhouse sink, oven handle, 9mm parquet floors, but most of all I enjoyed how he took the punches/set backs and was able to laugh at them. As an ex-pat it’s easy to get caught up in missing how things are done in your, familiar culture, and it’s incredibly refreshing to relive his adventures and chuckle at the similarities.
And none of that even hits on all the great recipes. So far I have only made the Chocolate Soufflé, but I am hoping to tackle the following: Swedish Chocolate-Oatmeal Cookies (a la IKEA), Marshmallow Creme Fudge (finally, a reason to use all that American fluff from the supermarket), and Kouign Amann (sort of like a muffin meets a croissant…I’m dying to try this one out).
I’d never made a chocolate soufflé before (I have made a roquefort cheese soufflé, though). In fact, I think I’ve only eaten chocolate soufflé once, and it was at a restaurant in the South Bay near San Francisco (a farewell dinner with my Uncle Tim, Dan, and Phil and Aunt Mary and Leslie). I remember that one being tasty, but being more of a cross between a molten lava cake and what I made below. I don’t want to give away the recipe (it’s not posted on his blog, and I’d love to encourage purchasing the book for yourself). So, just know it was actually pretty easy. We made ours in small ramekins, but I’m thinking about purchasing some additional ramekins so we can try making one big one or a couple larger ones or even some shallow dishes (as David says are his favorite).
Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough with my photo taking to capture them at full height, as they deflate relatively quickly.
I should also mention Jim has declared this is favorite chocolate dessert, ever. The top reminds me a bit of a macaron (it is a lot of egg whites, after all), but once you dig your spoon in it’s like an incredibly airy mousse. Meaning, it’s all the chocolate flavor but nowhere near as heavy. If I’m being honest, I think I might prefer it to mousse, as well. We’ll definitely be making this again…maybe for our next dinner party!