Warning: this article may not be unbiased, but will cause an immediate, voluntary or involuntary need to book a trip to Paris, France.
If France is the country of delicious cuisine, then Paris is the capital of those bright, delicate macarons with their crisp shells and chewy, flavor-bursting centers. For those people crazed by the never-ending macaron madness, Paris is heaven.
There is one question that comes up repeatedly in many different forms for anyone studying abroad in Paris (and in France) – which pâtisserie makes the best macarons?
Almost every big name and small name boulangerie-pâtisserie has a case for them near the front of their boutique. It is no wonder their ranking is quite a contested topic between Parisians and visitors.
While it is a personal choice (and everyone has their favorites), I’ve listed some of my pros and cons for the most well known, and most disputed and controversial, macaron rivalry in the city.
Ladurée: the childhood classic
Ladurée is where a very dignified Marie-Antoinette would tastefully be nibbling on a macaron. There are very good, very delectable reasons why Ladurée has a worldwide following.
1. These macarons are the ones you grow up eating. Their flavors are traditional, typically not blended with others. However, these conventional flavors do not mean that those fragrant macarons are tasteless or bland – far from it.
2. Ladurée is an institution just like the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre as the long line outside the door lets you know. Those pastel, mint bags are everywhere (and practically match their scrumptious pistachio macaron).
3. Their flavors are robust and their quality is consistant even if their pastry shell is a little to dry and crumbly for my tastes. Ladurée’s macaron centers are typically filled with a sweet jam, a light buttercream, a sticky salted caramel or a smooth ganache making them a good snack on-the-go.
Ladurée also has a store in New York, so that is another point in their favor.
Pierre Hermé: artistry and discovery
I switched teams after my first bite of his summer lime and yogurt macaron. It was zesty, and incorporated all of the elements that make up a lime: slightly bitter like the peel and yet fresh and sweet like the fruit itself. The yogurt pairing added a tangy tartness along with a creaminess. Pierre Hermé was able to convey the juicy, mouth-puckering qualities of the lime while staying refreshing – love at first bite without a doubt.
1. Hermé is the other macaron world’s darling. Nicknamed “The Picasso of Pastry” by Vogue, Pierre Hermé focuses on awakening all of the senses with brightly colored macarons charged with exotic pairings and mouth-watering flavors. The rose-litchi-raspberry or Ispahan macaron is internationally renown and vigorously sought out.
2. The sleek boutique is not afraid to take risks, even making a couple foie gras macarons for the holidays. That does not mean that Pierre Hermé neglects the traditional flavors; there are usually at least three different chocolate flavors to chose from, each with cacao from different regions of the world and with different percentages.
3. The fillings are richer. The flavors have more depth to my tastebuds. The pastry portion is more moist than Ladurée making these macarons a little heavier.
Although there are no stores in the States at the moment, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be soon.
Although these are the two largest names in the macaron business in this city, don’t forget that Paris is filled with delicious macaron (and pastry) options: Le Nôtre, Dalloyau, Café Pouchkine, Jean-Paul Hévin, Fauchon, Un Dimanche à Paris, Jacques Genin, Carl Marletti, Pain de Sucre, Hugo & Victor, Art Macaron, Carette, Angelina’s, Sadaharu Aoki and many, many, many more. It is also possible to try your hand at making some one afternoon or taste testing the ones available near you.
There is no doubt that Paris or any city is even more magical with a box of macarons in your hand.