Ernest Hemingway described the French capital as a “moveable feast”. What a wonderful way to describe this city which is constantly changing and adapting yet with a reliable and diverse range of culinary delights; from the countless vibrant markets each with their own unique charm, to restaurants serving only the best of haut cuisine, to the endless windows full of beautifully presented patisserie. Paris offers just about all you could wish for when it comes to beautiful food retailing, and the showstopper is undoubtably the innocent macaron. In a patisserie, macarons are like what patatas bravas are to a Tasca: the tell tale of the quality of whatever else is on offer… Humble they may appear, but their creation is a true art which requires years of dedicated experience to form perfection.
I decided to go on my own little trail through Paris in search of the perfect macaron. This adventure began a mere hour after arriving into the city, when we beelined straight towards the prestigious Ladurée (16 Rue Royale). This tearoom, established in 1862, was the official patissier for Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette. Her famous line of ‘let them eat cake’ is most welcome here in a cake-lovers heaven. The array of delights on offer was quite remarkable and overwhelming, I was really quite glad that I already had my chosen patisserie picked out. However, choosing flavours was another issue altogether! We eventually went for a Vanilla, a blood orange and ginger, and a pure chocolate from Santo Domingo. The perfect balance between light and delicate casing yet filling and smooth centre, we found it very difficult to decide which flavour to save for the last mouthful… all were so scrumptious! Enjoyed in the warmth of an extremely elegant room full of the whispers of clientele and the hallmark pastel and gold crockery, our first Parisian experience was superb.
Next was Un Dimanche à Paris (8 Cours du Commerce, Saint-André), a chocolate inspired patisserie-come-cafe-come-restaurant. We were privileged enough to be given a tour of the kitchens where we saw liquid chocolate being churned in a huge Willy Wonka style machine and bowls full of praline and chocolate truffle mixture waiting to be mixed. A feast for the senses, we were overwhelmed by the place and we got to try some real hot chocolate with nothing but chocolate and cream. Yum! We took away some macarons to eat in a nearby square which were delicious caramel beurre salé (salted caramel) flavour!
Our final macaron stop took us twenty minutes to get to (we got a bit lost!) , but it was certainly worth the trek! The renowned Pierre Hermé (72 Rue Bonaparte) was the destination, where we chose a Mogador macaron. This passion fruit and chocolate duo provided a perfect balance between a crisp light outer shell with a creamy centre that melted in the mouth. The passion fruit gave the otherwise very sweet chocolate that extra kick, providing for me the perfect macaron! 10 out of 10 for this one, and it has to be the winner!
Paris, je t’aime!