Memories of Paris: possibly the best macaroons ever

December 9, 2010 at 10:49 2 comments

Anyone’s who’s halfway serious about macaroons (or macarons, if you want to be really Frenchy) will know that the best ones are to be found in Paris. Moi, I am not serious about macaroons at all as a rule. I first tried some in Taipei, out of a neighbourhood bakery, which was a big mistake because they weren’t much different from pastel-coloured biscuits – two floury, crunchy slabs sandwiching a squirt of randomly flavoured buttercream – not impressive at all. I did not know what was the big deal with them bloody macaroons.

In the course of my pre-trip prep, I was trawling Tripadvisor for places to eat in Paris when I realized that Pierre Herme ranked in the top ten of >6000 restaurants there, and technically, it is not even a restaurant, but a patisserie. Thus it was decided. I told Mr. Manx, “Mr. Manx, we shall visit Pierre Herme when we are in Paris.”

He replied, “As you wish, my love. Is it one of those steak tartare places?”

I said, “No. It sells macaroons.”

He said, “Macaroons? Those pastel-coloured biscuits? You hate those pastel-coloured biscuits. I hate those pastel-coloured biscuits.”

I said, “I have reason to believe that the pastel-coloured biscuits we had in Taipei do not qualify as macaroons. I think it may be that macaroons and pastel-coloured biscuits are two different things. In fact, these are so different that they are spelt ‘macarons’.”

And so it was.

Please pardon the lighting in our Paris apartment. It turns everything yellow when it was really a bright, lovely assortment of colours.

This is a box of seven and these fellas cost something like €2 apiece. Here’s what I remember of them. From bottom upwards:

#1 is Mogador, which means passionfruit with chocolate. I think it must be a point of pride with M. Herme to create taste combinations that are unintuitive and therefore intriguing. This one pairs the bright acidity of passionfruit with the tongue-coating creaminess of milk chocolate. Clever and tasty, but, as Johnny Depp says in Chocolat, “Not my favourite.” Also, I find bright yellow an unappetising colour, unless it’s on Cheetos.

#2 and #4 are the same – caramel with fleur de sel. This one turned out to be my favourite, so I’m really glad I went with my gut and got two.  This one has it all – the heavy, burnt lushness of caramel and then the surprising zing of the pinch of salt that lets you keep tasting the caramel again, over and over. This is the one that pops into my head when I think about macaroons macarons at all.

#3 is pistachio. I’m afraid I don’t have much recollection of pistachio. It was good, certainly, but didn’t stand out.

#5 is ispahan, which is rose with raspberry and lychee. It was my second favourite in the bunch, because eating it was such a pleasant surprise from beginning to end. If you nibble a little bit of it, you get the light, airy flavour of lychee-tinged rose, which somehow you don’t taste as much as smell. Then if you take a bigger bite, you get a hit of tart raspberry jam that brings you back to earth in much the same way as filling your lungs with the first breath of air on a cold morning.

#6 is chocolate, which always has an unfair advantage with me, because as long as there’s plenty of good strong chocolate in it, and not too sweet, I will like it. This had plenty of good strong chocolate in it, and was not too sweet. My third favourite.

As a fitting counterpart to #1, #7 is chocolate and cassis, which explains its purple tinge. Like #1, this was an unusual combination, but I found this pairing of dark choc and sweet berry rather more appealing.

The lighting in the bathroom was much better for photo-taking, though not so good for eating in

Here’s a close-up of a semi-eaten #6. You can see how thin and crisp the outer shell is. You have to be careful just picking up these babies because they’re so delicate. When your teeth meet the shell, it shatters gently and immediately. The fluffy part inside is cool, sweet and airy, and you can’t always differentiate it from the filling, which is very thick and plentiful, and very fresh. When it’s in your mouth, you’re never quite sure if you should chew or just let it melt. I tend to chew, which brings the textures together beautifully, but then the experience doesn’t last so long. 

It’s a testament to how good these were that, after our return, Mr. Manx has, upon passing certain shops, said things to the effect of, “Oh, they sell macaroons here – shall we get some? Should we get six, or ten?”

I hear that Pierre Herme can now also be found in London, so, Kel, since you’re coming along in my suitcase, we can go pig out some day.


Entry filed under: Dear Diary. Tags: , , , .

Memories of Paris: A L’Etoile D’Or The Blue Frog and the Dodohead

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kel  |  December 10, 2010 at 12:32

    yaaaar. i am so taking this up.. now to find a suitcase large enough. hmm. just in case i can’t fit back in on the return trip..

    • 2. Katie  |  December 11, 2010 at 21:13

      LV does some nice travel trunks… hmm…


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Welcome to my blog!

My blog-name is Katie but I will not respond if you call me that in real life because it's not my real name. Yes, I do practise virtual-world paranoia. No, I do not enjoy stalkers. But I do enjoy writing and having folks reading said writing, so welcome to my world. It's nice to meet you.

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I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song (Jim Croce)

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Hogfather (Terry Pratchett)

Books read in 2010 and 2011

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling) - 'cos the movie's coming out!
Frankenstein: Lost Souls (Dean Koontz) - ah, bugger, it's part of a series! Now I hafta find all the books...
Dismantled (Jennifer McMahon) - oh, good one
Tigerlily's Orchids (Ruth Rendell)
Shutter Island (Dennis LeHane) - reminds me too much of work
Holy Fools (Joanne Harris) - it's official: I prefer her scary books
A Series of Unfortunate Events; The Unauthorized Autobiography; The Beatrice Letters (Lemony Snicket)
The Little Friend (Donna Tartt)
The main books - 11 so far - of the Southern Vampire series; the Aurora Teagarden series except for A Fool & His Honey - that makes it 7; Sweet & Deadly (Charlaine Harris)
The Woman in Black (Susan Hill)
Full Dark, No Stars (Stephen King)
Room: A Novel (Emma Donaghue)
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
The Bachman Books (Stephen King)
Men At Arms (Terry Pratchett)
Carpe Jugulum (Terry Pratchett)
The Fifth Elephant (Terry Pratchett)
Beauty (Robin McKinley)
The Sandman, Vol 1 (Neil Gaiman)
The Burden (Agatha Christie) - her crime novels are waaay better
Snuff (Terry Pratchett)

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