It's no secret that we're huge fans of macarons. We had a friend associate a few of us to desserts, and while some of them came out as "all-American apple pie" or "molten chocolate cake", we are unanimously "macaron" people. And for good reason!
I had my first macaron (not to be confused with flaky coconut macaroons) in Madrid, Spain at a little bakery called Moulin du Chocolat. We went inside to peek and take some photos, and the nice British ex-pat owner gave us each a free caramel-sea-salt macaron. I was hooked at the first bite, and we bought a box to have for a picnic in El Parque del Buen Retiro.
Most people are probably familiar with macarons now: the split cookie with a soft filling. A good macaron has a hard shell that cracks with the first bite and a cool gooey center of ganache or buttercream or fruit preserves, depending on the flavor of the macaron.
One of my hobbies here is macaron-hunting. The best day of adventures for us was Macaron Day NYC 2011. I found some really delicious ones that day, and in days since then. It's quite an expensive hobby, but a really delicious way to explore the city and experience some mindblowing sweets.
Lately, everyone's been buzzing about Laduree coming to New York City. Laduree, a patisserie in Paris, is said to have invented the macaron, and for most people, is the gold standard of macarons around the world. I've been waiting forever and a day to go to Laduree, since I hadn't gone when I was in Paris, and I heard rave reviews about it. Last week, we finally ventured to the Upper East Side for some legendary macarons!
We got to the storefront and there was a line outside. What. Good thing it was nice weather, and the hype was enough to tide me over, because otherwise a FORTY MINUTE WAIT for a few small cookies is unreasonable. We inched along and finally got inside the small shop. The macarons were the main feature in the glass cases, but they also sold stuff like... perfume... candles...candy...and tea. Those poor products will probably never get sold.
A little while later, and with much money leaving our wallets, we each had our collection of a half-dozen macarons!
The wait to eat them was painful. Later that night, I took out the box and staged a photoshoot. For a box of cookies. Yeah....
My grandmother was wondering what the heck I was doing, so I explained to her in broken Chinese what Laduree is and what macarons are...but I thought she deserved more, so I split my first Laduree macaron with Granny. I chose the citron (lemon) one from my box of 6 (which also contained rose, raspberry, vanilla, caramel fleur de sel, and orange blossom) and took the first bite. Mmmmmmmmm. The shell characteristically fragmented, giving way to a really gooey and flavorful, lemony center. I handed over the other half to Granny, a little begrudgingly.
Over the next few days, I delicately tasted my remaining macarons. I probably shouldn't have waited so long; the little paper that came with the box said to refrigerate or eat within 3 days (they're shipped from Paris apparently, so they're probably not even at their peak freshness), but I intentionally ate them nice and slowly to savor every crumb. Plus, I got sick so I wouldn't have been able to taste anything anyway. Nonetheless, they were all delicious. Caramel was very strong, so I tasted it even through my convalescent depressed sense of taste. I'm normally not a huge fan of caramel because it can be so cloyingly sweet and sticky, but the macaron was caramely without giving me an insta-cavity. Raspberry was nice and tangy. Vanilla was surprisingly delicious, flecked with vanilla beans and had a very soft center. Orange blossom was very refreshing, though it tasted more like a general citrus flavor instead of plainly orange. I saved rose for last because I heard it was one of Laduree's prize flavors, and it was the second flavor of macaron I ever ate (the first one I paid for, after that free one in Madrid; p.s. free macarons = very very very good, any day, anytime). The bright pink cookies sandwiched a white filling, which I found kind of odd. It smelled lightly of rose, and at first bite, it really hit my tastebuds with a rose flavor. Usually, I'm not a big fan of rose either, because it always reminds me of those cheap cans of air freshener we always had in my house in the '90s, and rose-flavored things sometimes leave a medicinal aftertaste. I'm still divided on this macaron. It tasted very good, but I wonder if it has made me a fan of rose-flavored things or not...hm.
I think I'll need some more macarons (of any/all flavors) to decide for sure.
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