3 Mar 2015

Paris Files: The Best Macarons

I spent the last week with my parents in Paris. It was an early 21st birthday present from them and the best present I have ever been given. Paris was everything I had hoped it be and more; it was absolutely magical. The city won my heart over and over again as the days went past. I was given the opportunity to visit historical sites, indulge in French treats (read: pastries, pastries, pastries!), and shop as the Parisians do. I will be doing a few 'Paris Files' blog posts where I will share with you my thoughts on the best places to go, eat, and shop. First up, the hunt for the city's best macarons. 

I love my macarons, I really do. I think they are amazing and special treats. Whenever my best friend and I go on our 'girl dates' in the city, we always have to get a little box from the Ladurée shop at Westfield. When dad mentioned Paris, I could see the image of a wonderful Ladurée tea room flashing in my mind (amongst other things…) and of course I wouldn't leave the city without trekking it to the world famous shop on the Champs-Élysées. When we got there, it was rather busy but we were lucky enough to have beaten the extremely long queue that appeared when we left the store. The 'house' (as they call it) was dimly lit, except for the spotlight that shone on the amazing pastries they offered. 

When researching the best places for macarons, the name Pierre Hermé came up. From what I understand, he is the king of macarons. His shops are a little hidden (we went to the one near Musée de l'Orangerie) and definitely not as grand as a Ladurée one is, but rather chic and understated. Mum also discovered Fauchon which is a gourmet food company that offers a variety of treats such as chocolates, jams, teas, and of course madeleines. We went to the one in Madeleine Square/ Place de la Madeleine. After a long day of walking, mum and I sat down and tried a lot of macarons and I thought I couldn't eat another macaron in my life… but we all know that's a lie!

I find that the Ladurée macarons are small and dainty. Their shells are light and they melt in your mouth. Some shells are lighter than others and some are 'cakier'; it depends on the flavour. I enjoy the texture of these macarons as they are smooth and almost creamy once they melt in your mouth, but I do find that their flavours are a little uninteresting. They're your basic raspberry, vanilla, pistachio, salted caramel, chocolate, etc. and they bring out one or two seasonal ones like the Marie Antoinette (which I absolutely love) and the Strawberry Candy "Guimauve". They've recently released a Chocolate Banana  flavour which tastes like chocolate banana bread in a macaron… yum! 

My favourite flavours from Ladurée would have to be Pistachio and the Strawberry Candy "Guimauve". Their pistachio tastes like marzipan, the shell is in between light and dense, and the filling is very creamy. The Strawberry Candy "Guimauve" has a marshmallow filling and has the classic strawberry candy taste (as the name suggests). The shell is a bit crispier than others but it definitely works for the flavour. 

Pierre Hermé
If you want to really indulge in macarons, go with Pierre Hermé. I have never truly understood what a great macaron was until I tried Pierre Hermé. Their macarons offer a thicker shell, more filling, great mouthfeel, and the most interesting flavours. These are good hearty macarons. I was pleased with their flavours as they are unlike anything I've tried before: Infiniment Caramel is a salted-butter caramel; Envie is a vanilla, violet, & blackcurrant; Mosaïc is a pistachio, Ceylon cinnamon, & Morello cherry; Imagine is a matcha green tea and sesame crisp; and Yasamine was a jasmine, mango, & candied grapefruit. 

Their Infiniment Vanille (which is a vanilla from Tahiti, Mexico, and Madagascar) is the best vanilla macaron I have ever had. The best. I cannot explain how full the flavour was and how creamy it was. I have always found something a little off with Ladurée's vanilla but I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but Infiniment Vanille was everything I had ever hoped for in a vanilla macaron and more. Another flavour I enjoyed was Envie; I was pleasantly surprised as I'm not one to go for floral flavours and blackcurrant but I really did enjoy this. The flavours weren't overpowering and they complemented each other very well. Finally, I have found that Infiniment Caramel is the best salted caramel macaron I've ever had. Instead of the filling being somewhat of a glaze, Infiniment Caramel had a creamy filling that was very buttery and the saltiness really came through. 

For a high-end and popular name, I was really disappointed with the Fauchon macarons. Both mum and I found that their shells were crunchy and they didn't melt in your youth. They almost had a biscuit-y feel to them. The texture was rough and because of this, I didn't really enjoy it all that much. They did offer some interesting flavours like almond chocolate and raspberry chocolate, but they weren't all too great. The flavours were a bit dull in taste, and I felt that everything was just a bit too heavy. One thing to note though is that their pistachio macaron is the first I've had that actually tastes like pistachio nuts and not marzipan. 

One flavour I do recommend is their lemon, which tastes like a lemon meringue pie. I don't usually go for the citron/lemon macarons because I find that they can get a bit artificial, but this was one I really enjoyed. 

Overall, the best macaron goes to Pierre Hermé for overall performance and flavour, the lightest macarons go to Ladurée, and unfortunately Fauchon just didn't do it for me. So if you were to just go to one place for macarons the next time you visit Paris, hunt down your nearest Pierre Hermé boutique and indulge! 

Yes, the Ladurée box in the photo is closed because there aren't any macarons in it. I ate it all the previous day. Oops!

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