Acclaimed pastry chef, cookbook author, and blogger David Lebovitz is a long-time insider of Paris’ food scene and of the Ville Lumière herself—although, to him, the two are inseparable. We caught up with David prior to lockdown, but please do bookmark his favorite spots for when travel is possible again and your next Paris visit!
David moved to Paris in 2004, and after years of cooking, baking, and tasting both the sweet and unsavory parts of life in France (the sweet being the pastries, the unsavory the experiences with bank tellers), he’s cultivated la vie du quartier, an intimate knowledge of one’s arrondissement that few attain. His Paris is multicultural, tight-knit, and deliciously creative—a more down-to-earth side of the city that often goes unnoticed.
On the eve of the launch of Drinking French, his new book that takes a delectable dive into the iconic drinks of France, David brought HiP Paris on a tour of his perfect day in Paris, which includes a walk around Belleville, naturally fermented pastries, pork dumplings, and the best coffee and spirits the city has to offer.
Café au lait and a walk through Belleville
“In the morning, I usually get up around 7am, stay in my pajamas, and have coffee at home. In America, people like to drink a pot of coffee, but to me coffee is like a punctuation mark—one shot and I’m good.
Afterward, I’d walk over to Belleville; it’s around 20 minutes on foot from where I live in the 11th arrondissement. It’s a multicultural neighborhood that feels authentic. If you want to see the real Paris, this is where you go. One thing people, especially foreigners, often forget about Paris is that it’s a melting pot. Belleville is also an inexpensive neighborhood, which means that young people can afford to open up businesses there.
First, I’d stop at La Fontaine de Belleville and have a café noisette. It’s a French coffee shop for the new generation with a great vibe, quality coffee, homemade desserts, and really good sandwiches. They’re famous for their classic jambon-beurre sandwich, made with Prince de Paris ham—it’s the last boiled ham actually made in Paris.
Produce, pork dumplings, and pastries
Next, I’d go shopping for some ingredients. Terroirs d’Avenir sells beautiful French produce as well as a variety of cheeses and butters. There are also a lot of stores over on Boulevard de Belleville. I like to stop by Djudjura Blida, a North African butcher, for meat—a lamb shoulder to braise or a roast chicken for dinner. It’s not particularly scenic, but it’s a real slice of this part of Paris. There are also a lot of Middle Eastern épiceries (small grocery stores) in Belleville, like Produits du Monde. As a baker, I need to buy ingredients in big quantities, and this spot is perfect for that. I also just enjoy wandering around the neighborhood—it’s how I discover things.
For lunch, I’d head to Raviolis Chinois Nord-Est—their pork dumplings are the way to go! I also love the spicy dumplings over at Trois Fois Plus de Piment, although that’s in a different arrondissement. As a former Californian, I adore Asian food and eat it a lot… it’s very fulfilling for me.
Afterwards, I’d walk over to Le Petit Grain and pick up a pastry and some bread. The pastries there are what I call “bakers’ pastries”—financiers and peanut tarts—rather than fancy French pastries. Everything is naturally fermented and they don’t use yeast in their croissants. They don’t use plastic either. It’s a zero-waste bakery!
An apéro hour sans prétention
Then I’d stop at La Cave de Belleville for a bottle of wine. It’s a natural wine bar without the dogma. Natural wine has become a big deal in Paris, but there can be a certain snobbism associated with it, even though natural wine is, in fact, a very earthy ingredient! I’m not a wine expert, so I’d just ask them for a recommendation. It’s also a great place for dinner—you can order a charcuterie platter and a bottle of wine from the shelves.
For apéro hour, I’d head over to Combat, a cocktail bar in the neighborhood. I met the owner, Margot Lecarpentier, at a food presentation and fell in love with her work. I’m always in awe of bartenders, and she has this beautiful way of presenting cocktails like they’re food, on a low counter rather than a high bar.
You really feel like you’re being taken care of when you’re there. The cocktails change all the time, but one of my favorites is the Quatresse, a drink named after four ingredients that all start with an “s”: sage, Suze, syrup, and Scotch whisky, which I included in Drinking French. Margot explained to me that the neighborhood is actually called Combat because it hosted animal fights from the late 1700s until the middle of the following century, when city authorities banned the practice.
Everything in France has a story, including the drinking culture. The French have their café in the morning, their apéro in the afternoon…they’re a part of their social life and traditions. In the book, I wanted to take a deeper look at France through the lens of their drinks. For instance, take pastis, an anise-flavored alcohol. When it was introduced, it killed many regional apéritifs because everyone wanted to pretend like they were in Marseille, pastis’ hometown. Hence, regional apéritifs ended up falling out of favor. So it’s not just a drink—there’s an entire history behind it.
Dinner and a soirée au calme
For dinner, I might head over to a friend’s house around 9pm—the French eat late! No drinks for me afterward. I’d just head home to bed. I banned screens in my bedroom, so I’ll usually spend some time reading. Right now, I’m working my way through “The Seine: The River That Made Paris” by Elaine Sciolino.
David Lebovitz’s Perfect Paris Itinerary
La Fontaine de Belleville – 31-33 rue Juliette Dodu, 75010 Paris
Terroirs d’Avenir – 84 rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 75011 Paris
Djudjura Blida – 91 rue du Faubourg du Temple, 75010 Paris (no website)
Produits du Monde – 71 Boulevard de Belleville, 75011 Paris (no website)
Raviolis Chinois Nord-Est – 11 rue Civiale, 75010 Paris
Trois Fois Plus de Piment – 184 rue Saint-Martin, 75003 Paris
Le Petit Grain – 7 rue Denoyez, 75020 Paris
La Cave de Belleville – 51 rue de Belleville, 75019 Paris
Combat – 63 rue de Belleville, 75019 Paris
David Lebovitz is a professional chef and author of nine books, including The Sweet Life in Paris and the award-winning My Paris Kitchen. His book, Drinking French serves up more than 160 recipes for trendy cocktails, quintessential apéritifs, café favorites, and more. You can follow his culinary adventures on his Instagram and on his blog, www.davidlebovitz.com.
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