The Great Macaron-Off

My life is pretty good right now. I may not be living as well as, oh I don’t know, say Derek Zoolander in his heyday, but I felt pretty lucky on Friday to be able to sit on a bench in the sun in my own little corner of Paris with absolutely nothing to do but kill time and relax while I waited to meet some friends. The truth is, I’m really good at doing nothing (too good), but I am in Paris, and I feel like I should always be doing/seeing/drinking/eating/enjoying something. So I decided to resurrect the macaron-off that Rana and I started back in 2010.  It’ll bear absolutely no resemblance to the Zoolander walk-off; I just wanted to sneak this picture in.

The Pierre Hermé caramel I tried my first day here was pretty outta control, so I thought it would be interesting (nerd alert) to taste caramel and chocolate everywhere I go and rank them, and also try any other flavors that grab my interest and rank them all on a scale, a Maracon-o-meter of sorts.

My first tasting was from Hugo & Victor, a place that feels like it should be selling Cartier watches instead of macarons and chocolates. Seriously, the pastries are encased in their own little displays behind glass. You tell them what you want and they rush off to get it for you from some secret place in the back, all James Bond-like and stealth. I asked for caramel, mango, and grapefruit (which is “pamplemousse” in French – I love that word) and I was so enamored by the sleek canisters that displayed the macarons that I completely forgot to ask for chocolate. Oh well, Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor shall be my Macaron-o-meter. It’s a good excuse to go back.

Next, I went to Ladurée, where I went a little nuts and bought five: chocolate, caramel, lemon, vanilla, and because it looked insanely beautiful and was practically begging me to buy it, strawberry with marshmallow cream sprinkled with pink sugar.

The caramel results: The flavor of Hugo & Victor’s was nice, but the texture was surprisingly dry—a little too dry for me. The consistency of the Ladurée caramel was smooth and creamy, and even though the flavor was maybe a tiny bit sweeter than H&V’s, I preferred Ladurée’s.  (The H&V caramel is on top in the photo below, Ladurée on the bottom.)

My caramel ranking so far: 1: Pierre Hermé is still killing it 2: Ladurée 3. Hugo & Victor

The chocolate results: It’s probably an unfair comparison since I tasted the PH chocolate two weeks ago, but the memory alone was good enough to completely eclipse the Ladurée chocolate today. The Pierre Hermé chocolate was like spooning chocolate melted in a saucepan on the stove directly onto my tongue; Ladurée felt pretty uneventful in my mouth.

Chocolate goes to 1. Pierre and (a very distant) 2. Ladurée

The rest: All good, but if I have to pick my faves:

1. Ladurée lemon: Bright and fresh, like one of Veronica’s lemon squares in a macaron.

2. PH mint

3. H&V’s grapefruit

4. Ladurée strawberry-marshmallow: By far the prettiest.

5. H&V mango

6. Ladurée vanilla

Two points:

If you think my life is ridiculous because I sit around tasting and then ranking macarons all day (not every day), you’re absolutely right; it is. It’s exactly the life I imagined when I decided to move to Paris and I’m super grateful that I’m getting to do this for a little while. Trust me, when I’m sitting at the desk of my future job at 8 pm one night in the (hopefully distant) future, one of my mental escapes will be me sitting on my park bench in the sun on Rue Saint-Honoré, a caramel macaron melting on my tongue.

If you think I didn’t google how many calories are in a macaron, you’re wrong and you’re flat-out crazy; I’m all over that shit. Reports are anywhere between 60 calories (seems low) and 250 (seems high) so I’m going with 125. Do I feel bad? Nope. Well, maybe a little. But that’s why I sweat like an overworked farm horse and watch in horror as my whole body shakes like Jello while I balance on one toe in Bikram yoga every day. 1000 calories burned every time. That’s 8 macarons. Or maybe two and a half of this Pierre Hermé Ispahan croissant I also tried. You gotta read this. There are fewer words, I promise.