It’s nice to meet a writer in person whose work you admire and read. So late this afternoon I was thrilled to meet David Lebovitz, downtown at Hotel Allegro, the writer behind his wildly popular blog davidlebovitz.com about “the sweet life” in Paris and author of several books on dessert. He is also author of The Sweet Life in Paris that recounts his move from pastry chef at Chez Panisse to living in Paris, which I brought from home to have him sign. In an ironic twist of fate, here I’m having a brief chat with David about what he likes about Chicago (loves the Apple store, Garrett’s popcorn, and the friendliness of Chicagoans), while in a short amount of time I will be in Paris trying out many of David’s bonnes addresses at the back of the book and from his blog. It is a small world.
In a not very organized fashion, I then wandered off to look at David’s other books for sale, including Ready for Dessert, My Best Recipes. With his two earlier books (Room for Dessert and Ripe for Dessert) now out of print, Ready for Dessert presents updated versions of many of those recipes with some new ones added in.
The book is gorgeous, includes recipes that are a step above the typical, yet doable. David is not fond of oversweet desserts, so many of the recipes make use of fruit—the everyday and the unusual (but increasingly available)—from Plum-Blueberry Upside-Down Cake to Kumquat Sticky Toffee Puddings. In addition to cakes, pies, tarts, and fruit desserts, there are sections devoted to custards, soufflés, and puddings; frozen desserts; cookies and candies; and basic sauces and preserves. Lovers of dark chocolate and caramel will be happy with this book, too. That includes me, and so home I went with another book for my cookbook collection.
As I stepped outside the hotel, the cold, biting wind made me crave a warm bowl of soup. It’s crazy cold for this time of year in Chicago! So I hopped on a bus, and headed to XOCO, for one of its caldos, soups as a meal that are served starting at 3:00 pm. More than once I have had the Shortrib Red Chile soup, tender, braised Tallgrass shortrib in red chile broth with roasted vegetables, epazote, small potatoes, and wild arugula. But today I decided to try the Vegetable caldo.
Arriving steaming hot and fragrant, this soup totally satisfies with its contrasts of flavors and textures. Spoonfuls reveal earthy woodland mushrooms and black beans, roasted zucchini, spinach, and soft potato-masa dumplings and perfectly ripe chunks of avocado. (An update: The crowds for XOCO have died down and you can order to go all day long now.)
Warmed with some awesome soup and inspired with new dessert ideas, I was ready to brave the chill again and head back home.