Editor's note: Over on Serious Eats: NY, we've heard from chefs and food personalities about their favorite neighborhood eats. Now it's time to answer that age-old question: What's for dessert? We're starting with possibly the greatest pastry city of all, Paris. So who else to lead us but Paris pastry extraordinaire, David Lebovitz?
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Since 2004, David Lebovitz has used his blog to chronicle the ups, downs, and culinary delights of living in Paris. And we couldn't help but notice that, as a former pastry chef, David tends to focus on all things sweet.
In fact he's become the go-to man for Paris pastry, which is a blessing in a city that overflows with sweets. Yes, somehow between blogging, writing cookbooks, and a personal memoir, he found time to sample over 300 pastries in the City of Light. Here are 9 of his top picks.
Paris-Brest at Jacques Genin: This is a wonderful interpretation of the classic recipe for pâte à choux. It's piled high with hazelnut praline cream filling and fresh, crunchy hazelnuts. They're made almost to order and, unlike other versions, Monsieur Genin's is not too sweet or too rich—it's the perfect dessert.
Waffles at Meert: This bakery from Lille has an outpost in the Marais, which sells their delicately thin, tender-not-crunchy waffles. They come filled with different kinds of cream, such as chicory, vanilla, or speculoos (spiced).
Kugelhopf at Boulangerie-Pâtisserie de Stéphane Vandermeersch: This bakery only makes Kugelhopf (a sweet, raisin-filled yeast bread typical of Alsace) on the weekends, but it's a must-try and worth trekking out to the Porte Dorée to pick one up. In my opinion, it's one of those life changing desserts. I can barely make it home without ripping off a sizable hunk.
Ice Cream at Martine Lambert: There are a lot of great ice cream places in Paris, and Martine Lambert has wonderful seasonal fruit flavors. But the test of a great glacier is their chocolate ice cream—and her 'glace au chocolat' is truly fantastic.
Hazelnut Spread at John-Charles Rochoux: Monsieur Rochoux takes caramelized hazelnuts then grinds them into an almost-smooth paste that's used as a spread. The first time I tried it, I almost passed out. One of my guests said it was an "orgasm in a jar."
L'Atlantique at Franck Kestener: This is a neat square of genius: Venezuelan chocolate enrobes salted caramel, which rests atop a thin brown sugar cookie. These chocolates make excellent gifts, though I can't resist buying a present for myself too.
Kouign Amann at Maison George Larnicol: Many people come to Paris and they want to try Kouign Amann, but it's actually a specialty of Brittany. (Imagine a French person coming to New York and wanting gumbo—you have to send them further south for that.) But Larnicol is a Breton bakery that has a few shops in Paris, and they make Kouignettes—the small version of the classic Breton butter cake. If you can, heat them up, as they're not one of those things that get any better the longer they sit.
Merveilleux at Aux Merveilleux de Fred: These crisp meringues are layered with cream then rolled in ground chocolate. They're almost too good to be true. In fact I recently bought a box to share with a friend I was meeting—but he was late so I ate them all before he got there. I felt bad. (Okay, not really.)
Rice Pudding at Fromagerie Pascal Beillevaire: This cheese shop at 140 Rue de Belleville is one of my favorites because it's in a regular neighborhood and the guys are selling cheese to normal people. That means that every day they have repeat customers who are loyal clients (which is always a good sign in France.) Aside from the cheese, their rice pudding is really outstanding. It has a thick layer of creamy, salted butter caramel pooled on the bottom.
Interested in hearing say, 290 more of David's Paris pastry picks? Planning on visiting Paris and don't want to lug around your laptop? Just download his handy app for your phone. You can also check out his new E-Book, which we've been known to browse for a little armchair travel.