It has been a while; a while since I actually dug into my purse and paid for a few macarons in Paris. About time? Well, when you’re hooked on making them at home and can indulge in your own favourite flavours, there comes a point when not many macarons come in to the house from outside.
There are some exceptions. Friends sometimes pop in with a few macarons from Pierre Hermé and Ladurée, often upsettingly crushed from transporting them around Paris on a sweltering summer afternoon. Once a whole mixed box of macs merged into one crispy, gooey, melted mosaic. On other occasions, we’ve disguised bashed ex-beauties by serving them as blind tastings. This has helped to choose my personal favourites.
It’s subjective, isn’t it? You will have your own preferences and like music, it can also depend on your mood and if you’re feeling fluffily fruity or in need of an intense chocolate pick-me-up. It’s what YOU prefer that matters.
I have a good enough excuse to do a macaron crawl: this Thursday will be my first walk as a Docent (don’t you love that name?) for Context Travel’s Parisian Culinary Tours. I’ll be taking chocolate and macaron-lovers around St Germain-des-Prés for the Chocolate Walk. As you can imagine, I won’t just be ‘covering’ chocolate…
Another reason is that people often ask, ‘So, what are your favourite macarons in Paris?’ Or, more often, ‘Are you more Ladurée or Pierre Hermé?’
For those of you like me who love light macarons, Ladurée’s macarons are slightly crispy with just enough soft, fondant centre. Some flavours are more up-front than others and I do prefer those that pack a wham-in-the-mouth tasting punch. Their classics such as orange blossom, cassis-voilet and vanilla are definitely worth a try. Their latest from Les Incroyables seasonal collection include chocolate pure Ghana and strawberry marshmallow candy (fraises guimauve.) My daughters thought they were good, but found the strawberry candy a bit on the sweet side and were not keen on the stretchy marshmallow. But who can really value their opinion when they don’t exactly have French manicured nails?
Pierre Hermé’s macarons are so different to Ladurée. For the fan of the softer-meringue macaron with a filling as big as the shells, most macaronivores go for his Isaphan, the rose-raspberry-litchi invention he made while at Ladurée, inspired by the Isaphan rose that grows in Iran.
The Ispahan macaron is now out of season (since 25 March) but in his seasonal theme, Les Jardins, try the predominantly Rose with Jasmine. My latest favourites, are Infiniment Jasmin (Jasmine flower and tea) and Infiniment Vanille (try the pastry version too.) Acquired taste, perhaps, but enjoy the chocolate-foie gras with Champagne, darlings.
If you’re visiting Versailles or checking out the latest fashions from Printemps in Boulevard Hausemann, then a sumptuous stop at the Café Pouchkine is a real taste of Russian luxury. Their macarons, either with shiny metallic tops or with their signature duo-coloured circles, could have you indecisive between the pistachio with a strawberry heart or the strawberry with a pistachio heart, and so on. Och, decisions – but as the price mounts up quickly as they’re placed in a bag, you can’t help wondering about your choice. One thing is for sure, our family favorite was the good old plain raspberry, which was packed with fruit and not as heavy as the other varieties. Meanwhile, it did put Hugo & Victor’s macarons in the background from the ones we tasted.
If you’re into chocolate, then Pierre Marcolini‘s chocolate macarons are a must – especially as the finest chocolate he uses is made by himself. Impressed? You soon will be with his variety of chocolate wonders (sorry, my photos were poor, taken at night and we attacked the whole box at an alarming rate.) Incidentally, le Figaro newspaper recently ran a chocolate macaron tasting and concluded that the best chocolate macarons in Paris were by Jean-Paul Hévin, Carette (Place des Vosges), Hermé, Aoki, Dalloyau, Lenôtre, Fauchon, Ladurée then Dominique Saibron in the 16th. As I said, it’s all a question of personal preference, time to get around them all – and ahem, budget.
Voilet lovers should try Marcolini’s powerful voilet macaron fully coated in dark chocolate. This is a technique also used by pastry chef, Sébastien Bouillet with his Maca’Lyon. Not far from Marcolini is Un Dimanche à Paris, where Pierre Cluizel’s macarons are so light and beautifully perfumed. I particularly love the vanilla and lime-ginger but I recommend tasting them all!
Well off the tourist track, hides yet more macarons treasures. In the 17th, off rue de Rome on rue Legendre, is Acide Macaron where the Parisians stock up on their macarons.
Pastry Chef Jonathan Blot works with 3 other associates, making all his macarons backstage. They are smaller than all the other ones I know but I love how they’re just big enough to taste. His Yuzu was just as good as Aoki’s one: incidentally he gives all of his macarons first names. Yuzu is Jonathan; Anonyme certainly didn’t taste anonymous with punchy pistachio and orange blossom floating through. My daughter, Julie, was chuffed that the bubblegum macaron had her name written all over this vibrantly flavored gem – perfect since she wears a brace and so had been in denial. Acide even do a weekly special: this week’s riz soufflé (puffed rice) certainly was as it promised.
There are far more macarons out there to be discussed in more detail; and chocolate; and pastries – all with a dusting of history and techniques. Next time you’re in Paris, join me on the Chocolate – Macaron Walk for much more.
Remember! Now that the temperatures have soared in Paris, do yourselves a favour: use a cute cooler handbag to cart around your macarons in style; I’m getting these for my macaron friends so there will be no more macaron mosaïc mush! I’ve scouted around and found some pretty chic yet practical ones – check out this new Macaron Accessories category. It’s cool!
My wallet has had a fright and so it’s back to making macarons at home. In any case, I can’t taste as many macarons as that in one week: I have to keep up with the slender French ladies, you know!
So – what are YOUR best macarons in Paris? Join in with your favorite macaron flavours on Facebook.