1. Name, occupation, and city
David Lebovitz, writer, Paris
2. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?
It was about 2 months ago. I made Mexican food for three French friends; carnitas, Rancho Gordo heirloom beans cooked in bacon, crumbly cheese (there's no queso fresco here, so I used Italian dried ricotta), corn sautéed with cilantro and chile powder, and tortillas were the menu. They loved it all. But were particularly interested in the dried beans; although they have dried beans in France, they'd never seen any like those. I like introducing French people to things that have been 'mis'-represented here, such as Mexican food. Since it's unfamiliar, the restaurants that serve it do a not-so-stellar job of presenting it, so they have a bad impression of the food. Similar to if Americans thought that Panda Express at the mall represented the food in China. Or the croissanwiches in America, which hopefully have disappeared, were indicative of the croissants in Paris.
3. What is the best menu you've ever made for company?
Le grand aïoli-a big platter with all sorts of raw and barely-cooked vegetables, potatoes roasted in lots of garlic and thyme and olive oil, toasted bread rubbed with more garlic, and roast chicken. Alongside was a bowl of garlic mayonnaise. And to wash it all down, lots of icy-cold rosé. It's a meal that everyone likes, including vegetarians, and is pleasing to Parisians (who don't eat enough vegetables) and Americans (who don't drink enough rosé.) [ed note: Cool, I made this too!]
4. What's your preference: wine, beer, cocktails?
Wine. I only drink beer if I'm at the beach in Mexico. I love cocktails, but since moving to France, I've become a lightweight and get smashed on 1/2 a martini. Most of the cocktails here are so loaded with ice, it's hard to get a buzz. But American-style cocktails I can't handle anymore.
5. What's your favorite dinner party soundtrack?
The soundtrack to the movie 9 1/2 Weeks.
6. Some friends are coming over for a last-minute dinner tomorrow night. What do you make?
Roast chicken. And I'd buy one from the woman with the rotisserie at the market. She does them better than anyone, including me. But if it's not market day, I get a pintade (guinea fowl), drape it in bacon strips (big, fat, smoky ones) and roast it off for an hour. On a separate sheet, I'd roast root vegetables with thyme branches and shallots cut in half, until they're all brown and crispy.
7. Do you usually cook everything yourself, or do you have help?
No one is allowed in my kitchen with me. Not because I'm territorial, but because there's no room. My kitchen is about the size of a Mini Cooper.
8. Do you ever buy store-bought food, or is everything on your table made from scratch?
I will sometimes buy frozen berries or things like corn kernels, which are impossible to find fresh in France. Being American, sometimes I just have to have corn. Berries are super-expensive in Paris; if you buy a 'barquette' of blackberries at the market, there might be 12 specimens in there, and would cost at least €3-€4 (around $5.) When you're cooking them, there's not much difference. And they do have frozen pitted sour cherries as well as fava beans in France, which are amazing.
9. What do you like to serve for dessert?
Always ice cream. It can be made in advance, and I love making ice cream. Plus everyone loves it, especially homemade.
10. If you could invite anyone over for dinner (living or dead), who would it be?
[Photo credit: Louisa Chu]