Macarons Don't Have Coconut? What The What?

Go ahead & prepare yourself....somehow I've written over a thousand words on a pastry the size of a quarter. Apparently I am uneducated by European standards when it comes to macarons.  I believe they should be of the coconut variety.  Chewy goodness.  And then one day my sister decided to make macarons for our sister's bridal shower.  And she showed up with these numbers.  Excuse me - what is this?  No coconut? What a difference adding an extra 'o' to a word can make.

IMG_5444
IMG_5444

And then I tried her version of the classic French pastry.  Almond flour.  These essence of flavors, melting in your mouth.  Yeah. They're good.  Not in a "I could eat 50 of these right here, right now, keep your paws off" kind of way.  But more like a "It's crazy how much flavor is in this little bit of sweetness."  It's a lesson in savoring.  And this comes from a world-champion food scarfer-downer.

So I couldn't wait to find "real" macarons in Paris.  So I googled the best places to go.  Because I planned to try them all.  And that was until I realized how expensive they are.  I mean - almond flour people.  It's not exactly cheap to hire squirrels to grind down all those nuts.  I'm just saying.  They are about $2 each at most places in Europe.  Which doesn't sound too bad.  Until there are 50 incredible flavors you want to try.  And you realize the whole thing fits in your mouth in one bite. It makes that $2.50 piece of banana bread at the local coffee shop look like a bargain.

But it's vacation.  And we do crazy things on vacation right?  Ok, maybe it's just me.  And hey - it's Paris.  I'm not going back - so no regrets.  Forty dollars on macarons it is.  Despite the impending pastry financial crisis, I was determined to sample at least a few - and I wanted to be sure I was tasting the best.

I'm obviously no macaroon expert - but The Google told me some people prefer softer versions, others like their's crispier.  But no matter your preference - two names come to the top of every list and website you can possibly find.

Laduree

Laduree
Laduree

The most famous of all macaroon makers.  And it's just beautiful.  And there will be a line - and but it's worth it.  Just beware if you take your spouse who has no interest in pastry-related affairs  It may feel like torture.  There are a lot of locations in Paris, so look them up before you leave him & find the one (or two or three) that fit into your touring plans.  We went to the flagship store on the Champs Elysses.  P.S. There is also a shop in London across from Fortnum & Mason (the tea store, remember it from here) but I skipped that one so I could say I ate them in Paris.  Cause that's what makes it special - why say you had French macaroons in London or NYC?  That's like saying you had a hot dog in Israel.  It just isn't right.

Laduree Macaroon Menu
Laduree Macaroon Menu

The line moves pretty quick & they have a tons of workers packing beautiful teal boxes full of rainbow color of macarons.  Except there isn't a heads up of what colors are what flavors.  It looked like there were (emphasis on were) menus of the different varieties, but I say know what you want before you go.  I stole this picture from another blogger  - so study up.  That way you won't in your rush to keep the line moving, miss out on what could be your favorite flavor.  The little signs in front of each (in French of course) didn't help me, mostly because I can't read size 8 font, in French, from 10 feet down the row.  Must have left my X-ray vision at home.

Laudree Macaroons
Laudree Macaroons
Laduree Macaroons
Laduree Macaroons
Laduree Bag
Laduree Bag

But in this choose-your-own macaron selection process, there is everything from coffee to licorice to citrus to pink peppercorn.  I bought a big box for us to bring home & share with my now macaron obsessed sister.  And the rest of the family too.  Though to be honest I've not seen anyone crazed by a glorified cookie like I saw in her that night.  It was worth it carting those things across the ocean.  They have an amazing selection of other fine pastries and tarts too....so it's worth a stop even if you have no love our non-coconut neighbors.

Laduree Pastries
Laduree Pastries

Pierre Hermes

I think I actually liked the texture of these better, as they were a bit softer.  But let's be honest.  I'd need to eat more than three to be worthy of having an opinion.  Plus their flavors were a little more of the wall.  We stopped in at their store at the far end of the Champs Elysses, near the Arc de Triumphe.  This store is hidden inside the Publicis drugstore.  But don't picture a CVS or Walgreens folks.  It's got security guards in suits.  And they sell $50 stationary next to the $200 perfume, next to the $2 macaroons.  Yep.....we still weren't in Kansas.

Pierre Hermes macaroons
Pierre Hermes macaroons

We grabbed a few there to eat and ran for the closes bench to people watch and taste out first morsels of macarons in their homeland.  Andy chose some super fancy chocolate version.  Bleh.  I can't stand chocolate.  Yes I know that breaks all female codes, but alas it is what it is.  I chose the Rose Petal version.  It was definitely a different flavor than I've tasted before, but I liked it.  Until Andy said it tasted like Fruit Loops.  Men.

McDonald's

Yep.  Our American transplant sells macaroons in their McCafes.  Which are actually cafes with a separate ordering counter from the burgers & fries.  We didn't try them, but all the research I did before we left said they weren't half bad.  And they are cheaper.  And definitely better than whatever you can find in the USofA.  We oogled over them at the McDonald's in Versailles.  But when you're craving a potato product, sweetness just won't do.

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images-12

Have you tried macaroons here in the homeland?  Where can I find awesome versions when I travel stateside?  I think the shipping from Paris might break the bank so I need to find an alternate option.  Or I can just plan a party to try to make these on my own.....anybody with a solid recipe or a party in need of sweets?