While preparing to move to Paris, I spent much of my free time browsing through style blogs by women, both French and American, who were living or had lived in the City of Light. Each blogger was unique, covering all sorts of Parisian topics from cuisine to fashion to sites. However, each blogger seemed to share one particular characteristic: a passion for les macarons.
I’d never eaten one of these little French cookies, and I couldn’t help but wonder why everybody is so in love. They can’t be that special, I thought. But since the blogosphere seemed so infatuated with macaroons, I decided they deserved a trial.
So one warm, sunny morning my mother and I walked down the road and around the corner to Pierre Hermé on Rue Bonaparte, Paris 6, to discover why everyone is so in love with French macaroons. When we entered the boutique, we stood in awe gazing at the delicately, masterfully crafted cakes, tartes and chocolates. We wandered slowly to the end of the counter where the macaroons waited. They sat in rows, arranged by flavor, spread throughout the display case like a multicolored quilt. After much debate we bought 4 macaroons: jasmin, rose, chocolate passion fruit and peach apricot.
We took our neatly packages macaroons to Saint Sulpice, a beautiful old church across the street, and sat down on a bench to begin the tasting. It took only one bite to understand why so many are falling in love with these little treats. Eating each macaroon was a sensory experience unlike anything else. The entire cookie was infused with rich flavor that flooded the mouth and overtook the senses. When I bit into the chocolate passion fruit I could taste the two flavors colliding and splashing together in my mouth. When I tried the rose, I felt as if I’d dived into a pool of rose petals. No flavor was too overpowering, yet no aspect of the macaroon was ordinary.
When my mom and I finished our sampling session, we wondered at the intricacies of macaroon making. It is an art, a science, a craft, and not all chefs master this craft equally. (We tried macaroons at another bakery the following day and they could not compare.) When you eat a truly decadent macaroon, you experience the dessert with each of your senses. It is a culinary adventure you cannot miss.
There are several pâtisseries in Paris that are known for their macaroons, but the most highly regarded are Pierre Hermé and Ladurée. It’s up for debate which is superior, but I suppose you’ll just have to come decide for yourself.
Smiles and all the best,