Last time I went to Paris (with Ashlee and Lauren), we were way too poor to even contemplate biting into ‘les macarons’….
…this time, I endeavoured to make up for that lack.
I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit where my first french macaron came from:
Andy had been prattling on for months about how he intended to eat Mc-arons and Mc-Donalds in France, and to tell you the truth we all thought he was talking bull. But lo! The mc-mass-produced mc-macaron:
And to be honest, they’re not too bad. Better than 80% of the stuff you could find in Perth a year ago when everyone thought they should try getting on this new trend and charging 3 bucks for stale/overbaked/flavourless biscuity things. Quite mild on the flavour with the pistachio, and perhaps not so melt-in-the-mouth as possible. But they have a range of the basics- chocolate, choc/orange, strawberry, pistachio, and they only cost 90c a pop.
Andy claims that they were his favourite out of all the ones we tried. But this is a boy who eats a Mc-double burger at least twice a week and who I’m pretty sure is being paid by the company to constantly sing their praise.
In keeping with the fairly unadventurous flavours, we shelled out for a strawberry-choc-lemon trio at the Lourve. I know that you can’t really expect the finest in pastries and baking at a mega tourist destination, and these settled fairly well into our expectations- mild flavours, ok, but nothing to write home about.
By the third day in Paris it became apparent that we just weren’t going to get enough Macarons into the trip by mere chance encounters. So, in order to up-the-odds and take a stab a the best of the best, we headed on a pilgrimage.
First up, Lauduree.
Which is all beauty and pastels and Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. Unfortunately also very dim so hard to get good photos from the inside:
The world is divided into two factions: Sharks and Jets, Pepsis and Cokes, people who spell colour with a ‘u’ and people who are confused.
In the world of Macarons the lovers of Lauduree are pitted against the Pierre Herme gang.
Slightly less fancy than the Lauduree setup.
We had to pass more hideous scenery to get to our final tour stop.
Our final stop was Sadaharu Aoki, famed for it’s adventurous use of flavours. Unsurprisingly, the set up here was more Japanese: beautiful in its order, everything in its place (the macarons were organised in a spectrum!), and slightly more sterile. I snuck this photo in before they banned me from any more:
We sat in the sun in a park, and settled into our Macarons.
First up, Sadaharu Aoki:
We bought Macha (green tea), Earl grey, Sesame, Japanese citrus (Yuzu) and Wasabi.
I really enjoyed the experimental quality of the different flavours. All of them tasted pretty good- even the wasabi, which was only mildly flavoured with the horseradish tang neatly cutting through the sweeter filling. Macha (green tea) and Earl grey were also pretty amazing- the sweetness counterbalanced by the bitterness of the teas. Generally the texture was great, although less delicate than other macarons. These were instead beautifully chewy, with the fillings very much a ganache or even fudge.
My favourite was the sesame- which had a dark, rather potent centre to counteract the sugary shell.
All in all: I would definitely return to try out some of the other flavours, they had a genmaicha and maybe one or two more ‘interesting’ ones as well as the traditional range. They’re also a bit cheaper than the other two brands (I think 1.65 each?).
(The black sesame- amazingly good!)
Next up, Pierre Herme.
I’m not entirely sure of the flavours, here, because it didn’t come with a wee booklet and it’s rather difficult to find a flavour list online. hmm.
Passionfruit and chocolate (‘Mogador’)
Pure Venezuelan dark chocolate
Rose and Lichi
Yogurt and Banana
and something else that I feel might have had some pistachio in it? but was clearly unmemorable as a flavour (Andy confirms on pistachio, and on the lack of impression the whole thing left).
We were both a bit underwhelmed by these. Generally the biscuit was a bit too crispy on the outside for my liking- almost dry, and with a small air gap underneath instead of melt-in-your-mouth macaron.
The flavours were definitely inventive, but not always in an amazingly synergistic way: the passionfruit/choc tasted a bit like the fruits were old so that this macaron first tasted offputting (before you realised that that weird flavour in the background was passionfruit), the chocolate ganache was rich, but too hard for my liking- it was really a solid mass and not a ganache, the litchi flavour was too faint to properly grasp, the yogurt/banana tasted like candy…
None of them really caught out tastebuds.
Not to mention that the white truffle was the most horrible thing I have ever put in my mouth. Which I guess is a matter of taste, but I feel also amounts to the fact that they overdid the flavouring. By the end of the day all our remaining PH macarons were completely contaminated with truffle flavour.
I should also note that the PH macarons top the price list at 2 euros each.
On to our final player: Lauduree. They had a fairly disappointing range of flavours- mostly the standards with only a few creative options. We went for the coffee, the blackcurrent and violet, the Pink peppercorn and the gingerbread.
I didn’t think I’d be that into the blackcurrent, but it came pretty closely behind the sesame as far as favourite flavours go- the filling was a fresh jam- not to sweet, and potent enough to be present against the almondy background of the shell. The gingerbread, which had a more buttery filling, was also exceedingly delicious- top 5 for sure.
And I was amazed at how well the peppercorn worked- even for someone who doesn’t like the flavour of pepper (I keep it away from my food), I was impressed by the delicate balances between the sweetness and spiciness of the filling. The creaminess also played a role- and I found myself much more impressed by the delicate smooth texture of this filling over the rock-hard ganache of the PH chocolate macaron.
So, I liked the Lauduree macarons (1.85 each) for texture and would like to explore their more classical range, but found their range of flavours limited enough that I would definitely stray more often to Sadaharu (for the Sesame and Macha- and because I really actually enjoy the chewier macarons with solid centres- even if this is not as ‘technically macarony’ as some people would prefer)… to be honest I would even return to PH if they introduced something new and thrilling, but with lower expectations and with intent to stay far, far away from anything flavoured by earth fungi.
Andy, of course, votes McDs number one, but I suspect he’s not cultured enough for his opinion to count in this matter.