Think of Paris, think of macarons! And of course, Ladurée and Pierre Hermé come to mind since they are Paris’s finest makers of these sugary treats.
My test taste started with Ladurée, the old guard on famous Champs-Elysées.
Ladurée has been a venerable institution since 1862, well-known for its beautiful macarons and cakes of different varieties. The flagship on Champs-Elysées is such an elegant and chi-chi patisserie-cum-tearoom, with crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and even the washroom has ornate gold details adorning the walls! A strict “no photography” policy applies here so I only managed to take a shot of the counter laden with trays of delicious looking pastries.
Due to time constraint, I didn’t have the luxury of dining in so I picked 8 macarons to go. For take-out, the macarons come packaged in pastel and gold boxes which are works of art themselves. I’m still keeping the box as a souvenir for myself!
There’s a basic range which is available all year round, and some seasonal flavours. I had bitter chocolate, pistachio, orange blossom, blackcurrant violet, caramel with salted butter, and lemon, all of which are permanently available. The other two, lilies of the valley and mimosa, are seasonal flavours created specially to celebrate spring’s return.
8 macarons gone in a flash. Frankly speaking, I wasn’t overwhelmed. My first thought was “huh, that’s all there is to macarons?” True, they were texturally flawless but it was obvious that the ratio of ganache to meringue was inconsistent. None of them made any impact—I felt that I was just eating overly sweet atas confections. A pretty disappointing experience, I’ll say.
With no less excitement though, I moved on to Pierre Hermé, Laduree’s esteemed, if much younger, rival. This is the man responsible for the “renaissance of macarons” where he made a splash in Paris by using Japanese aesthetic in creating a dizzying range of colours and flavors.
The take-out only outlet on rue Bonaparte reminds me of a jewelry shop—simple and classy. This is no ordinary shop but a rabbit hole! A real feast for the eyes even before one takes a bite of anything. Again, “no photography” policy applies here.
I wanted white truffle macaron very badly but was told that it’s a seasonal flavour. Aww, I could feel my heart sinking =(
Anyway, these are what I had: Magnifique (strawberry & wasabi), Mosaic (pistachio & griottine), Infiniment Caramel (salted butter caramel cream), Huile D’Olive & Vanilla (olive & vanilla), Mogador (chocolate & passionfruit), Eden (peach, apricot & saffron), and Chocolat (pure dark chocolate).
And WOW, I finally understand what’s with all the hype with Pierre Hermé’s macarons. They are really, really, REALLY heavenly! I particularly like how meaty they are, with thin crust and a very soft (not chewy) interior. And those seemingly odd pairing of flavours? Brilliant, I tell you, just brilliant~!
I didn’t leave with just macarons in my hands. Pierre Hermé is renowned for his Ispahan—a heavenly mélange of flavours: rose, raspberry, and lychee. It looked too pretty to be eaten but hey, someone has got to do the dirty job of destroying it =)
2 meringue-like biscuits (I don’t say macarons cuz this is more like a pastry in the shape of macarons) flavoured with rose water and tinted a gorgeous shade of pink, sandwiched between smooth delicate rose petal white buttercream filling, and layered onto the cream are fresh whole raspberries and sweet tropical lychee. Omg, this was incredible, so sooo lovely and ethereal. I want it again!
With this box came the end of my quest for macarons. As you can probably tell by now, the macarons from Ladurée are remarkably from Pierre Hermé in many ways: Ladureé is traditional in terms of macaron flavours, colours, packaging; Pierre Hermé is daring, modern and adventurous. Laduree’s macarons are less buttery, slightly smaller with less filling; Pierre Hermé’s flavours are deeper, more intense and explosive with a smoother texture.
In the world of macarons, there are Ladureé people and Pierre Hermé people. I’m with the latter, for sure, cuz the man is a total genius! The macarons do not come cheap but you’ve got to try both before you decide which camp you are in =)