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The world at a glance | delight

I { Paris }

Vive le Macaron!

A love letter to a dainty and delicious confection. By Susan Weissman | Photography by Maren Caruso


I confess to a simple obsession—I am in love with French macarons. For the uninitiated, I must emphasise that the variety to which I refer, sometimes called a gerbet, is distinctly different from its namesake counterparts such as the coconut macaroon commonly served during Passover or the crunchy Italian version. The object of my obsession is a sugary delicacy consisting of two airy disks made of almond flour, confectioner’s sugar and egg whites sandwiched together by a dollop of pastry cream, fruit preserves or silky ganache. The texture of the ruffle-edged layers is much like a meringue, slightly crunchy on the outside, giving way when chewed to a soft middle. About the size of a small yo-yo, the addictive confection comes in traditional flavours such as vanilla, chocolate and coffee, with the repertoire expanding in these adventurous culinary times to include unexpected but pleasing tastes such as blood orange, tomato and rose petal. Tinted in every shade imaginable, to behold them en masse is to behold objects of precious beauty—their taste as A Tasteful Gift Historians say macasublime to the palate as to the eye. rons arrived in France If you’re at a loss for a visual, track in the 16th century down Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, when Catherine de where the macaron becomes a recurrent Medici introduced symbol of the extravagance of the French them from Italy. Court on the eve of the Revolution. Their popularity remains to this day, with the delicate treat a staple at Parisian tea salons, fashionable bridal showers and as a smart gift for a dinner party. Not long ago, the macaron was rarely seen outside of France. Food historians say it arrived on the scene in the early 16th century when Catherine de Medici came from Italy—chefs in tow—to marry Henry II of France. Its etymology takes its root from maccarone. That’s right, pasta, or the Italian word for fine dough. Serious foodies will argue the best still come from the City of Light, with the most authentic and perhaps most prestigious produced by the pâtissiers of Ladurée, who not surprisingly supplied the glorious macarons that graced Coppola’s film. A plethora of pâtissiers in Paris bake equally divine macarons. Names such as Pierre Hermé, Fauchon, Dalloyau and Lenôtre roll off the tongues of food cognoscenti. I have also encountered very respectable samples at lesserknown pâtisseries in the city. On one memorable occasion, I came across macarons the size of small hamburgers at a family-owned shop in the Marais. That day they were flavoured with pistachio, and they were heavenly. My daughter and I consumed a small wax

Serious foodies will argue the best macarons still come from the City of Light, with the most authentic and perhaps most prestigious produced by Ladurée. i s s u e t h r e e 2 0 11 | F O U R s e a s o n s m a g a z i n e

The world at a glance | delight

The love of the macaron transcends cultures. In Cairo, I serendipitously stumbled upon a branch of Fauchon on the Nile. Business was brisk. up a slew for me, freeze them and fly to the bag of the pale green treats en route to the U.S. with the precious cargo in her carry-on. Picasso Museum, and once we were done, I’m not a big fan of freezing anything, but I You love Ladurée (who doesn’t?), but we went back and got more for the return here are a few other suggestions. have to admit macarons, as precious as they trip to the hotel. seem, hold up well in the freezer. The world has gone mad for macarons A friend who now lives in Tokyo tells me in the last few years, and contenders to the the Japanese, too, are crazy for macarons, French variety can be found in places outside and the city is alive with French outposts Paris. In New York, shops devoted to the such as Dalloyau, as well as nine locations macaron have become nearly ubiquitous. At of Pierre Hermé. And while Takashimaya is one time, the most distinguished—and with no more in New York, the Japanese-based hefty prices attached—were found at La luxury specialty store remains as beautiful Maison du Chocolat on Madison Avenue, as ever in Tokyo, offering macarons from and many swear they still top the list in the Fauchon in its food hall. If you’re in the city Big Apple. But these days Bouchon Bakery, during cherry blossom season, typically Adour, Jacques Torres, Payard, Georgia’s early April, inquire about sakura macarons, and Something Sweet are respectable flavoured with cherry buttercream. Café de competitors, and don’t be surprised if the Bigot is famous for them. neighbourhood bakery tries its hand at We asked fans on our Facebook page and at FourSeasonsMagazine Not to be overlooked is a special type of making them—with pretty good results. .com to share their favourite macaron made in Zurich: the Luxemburgerli. The best I’ve encountered came from the pâtisseries. Don’t see your top Only an inch in diameter and lighter in sadly now-closed Mark It With G in Shelter shops? Chime in online. texture than a typical French macaron, this Island, New York. My daughter discovered • Bisous Ciao little treat is filled with flavoured whipped the bakery courtesy of Google when we New York City—Dana Landon • Macaron Sweeterie cream rather than buttercream. Created in were living in a place where macarons were Lexington, Massachusetts— Christi a Luxembourg confiserie by Camille Studer hard to come by—at least, good ones. Out • Pâtisserie Sadaharu Aoki in the 1950s, the confection made its way of nowhere, the specimens arrived via Paris—Scott Baldwin to Switzerland, where it’s now a brand of FedEx on my birthday several years ago. • Oberlaa macaron sold exclusively by Confiserie Side by side in a lavender box adorned with Vienna—Guido Lanzoni • Vero Sprüngli. Sometimes referred to as a baisers white insignia and sectioned by colour with Hong Kong— W . Tsang de mousse, which translated from French crisp white dividers, each macaron played • Adriano Zumbo means “foam kiss,” the little kisses come off the other as if a rainbow had been Sydney—Marissa in distinctive flavours such as mandarin, captured within the box. The usual flavours • Le 15 hazelnut, cinnamon, chestnut, raspberry made an appearance and were delicious, Mumbai—Borna Forsek and, my favourite, champagne. You can buy but it was the more exotic flavours such as • TWG and Canelé Singapore— Nikole Horkin the delicate treats at the Zurich airport if rose petal mousse, an ethereal confection • Bottega Louie you can’t make it to Confiserie Sprüngli in combining white chocolate mousse and Los Angeles—Tara Durkan the city. And because they’re tiny, you can rose water, that put these macarons in • Meresse go ahead and safely choose a handful of another category. Aix en Provence—Nadia Walter flavours to enjoy. The love of the macaron transcends • Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris— Eria Charalambous And while they’re not quite diet food, cultures. Consider the fact that I’ve also it should be noted that one regular-size eaten fabulous macarons in Cairo, where I macaron weighs in at about 60 calories—not bad for something serendipitously stumbled across a branch of Fauchon on the Nile. 4MORE go to so aesthetically satisfying and delicious. Diplomats, expats and fashionable Cairenes keep business brisk. 1for a macaron recipe On one occasion just before New Year’s Eve, there were none to and to join the discussion on where to find the world’s best. be had. The whole supply had been packed up earlier in the day for a dinner party in the desert. For years, when the exchange Susan Weissman is editor of Four Seasons Magazine. rate was good, I would have a friend who was living there buy

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i s s u e t h r e e 2 0 11 | F O U R s e a s o n s m a g a z i n e