Posts Tagged ‘French macaroons

21
Oct
11

A taste of La Boulange & Samovar, before the mad dash to the airport

One day on our San Francisco trip, we got off from an overcrowded cable car sweaty and ravenously hungry. I needed to get some food down my gullet, and quick. There was a Taco Bell nearby. Tempted as I was (yeah, I know I’m in in the minority as far as being a Taco Smell fan. But I’d still consider eating their taco supremes even if I found out they were made with Alpo. I said consider.), we were in the city of tasty foodstuffs, so we felt obligated to try harder. That’s how we ended up at La Boulange.


While I was in line, a glass case of pastries and macarons stared me in the face. Since I couldn’t get it out of my mind for days, we made a point to stop by again on the last day of our trip.

The almond croissant–while topped with lovely roasted almonds–was stingy with the filling. The pastry, not as flaky as we’d hoped. Solid showing, but not a stunner.

As for the macarons, the poor things endured a 12-hour trip back to the East Coast, including a layover in Dallas. They were in a dilapidated, soggy state by then. Luckily, we took these photos while they were still presentable.

The other place we tried on our last day was Samovar, a “tea lounge.” Because the online reviews of this local chain were mixed, we were on the fence about making the effort. But I’m glad we did.

The Yerba Buena Gardens location is in a serene spot overlooking the gardens. On a nice day, it’s probably a prime place for getting cozy with a kettle of tea. We sat inside, where the air was heady with incense–the smell actually turned my stomach a little.

This rosewater-tinged Greek yogurt combined some things I’m not crazy about: dates and walnuts. Yet it was so, so good: spoonfuls of Middle-Eastern flavors perfectly melding together.

Mr. X-sXe had the quinoa waffles, which are described as “pillowy” on the menu. That, they were. The syrup that came with it almost tasted of molasses, but our waitress said it was made of palm sugar. Either way, it had a caramelized flavor that made us want to do shots of it.

The tea at Samovar is pricey, but we shared a pot of pu-erh that the nice waitress kept refilling with hot water. The earthiness of the tea was a nice complement to our treacly breakfast dishes.

It’d be pretty accurate to say we left our palates in SF. All our food choices after we got home to DC seemed just blah. *Sigh*

13
May
11

Pastry haul from Paul

Paul Bakery opened its U.S. flagship in DC a couple weeks ago (how’s that for yer “second-tier city,” Chef Spike?) to a bit of fanfare, so the lines have been long. As I queued in a seemingly endless line, my accomplice was patiently waiting for me in an illegal spot by the courthouse, flanked by a bunch of police cars. Eventually she found a parking spot, but you can imagine the additional stress this added to our situation.

A macaron sized for American appetites.

As I waited in line, we exchanged panicked phone calls. “Has the line gone anywhere?” “Should you cut bait?” “How many people are ahead of you?”  Never has a pastry run been so angst-ridden and adrenaline-filled.

Finally, about 35 minutes later, I’m face-to-face with a glass case full of pastries on the left, salads and baguette sandwiches on the right. Given my misguided mentality that time spent in line = directly proportional to volume of food that must be bought to justify time standing in line, I ended up bringing back half the dessert case. 5 pastries at about $6 each, after tax. That makes cupcakes look like a steal.

At $6, the giant macaron is the price of 4 normal macarons–but it’s not large enough that you feel like you’re getting the Costco volume discount. The size seems distinctly un-French. And honestly, I’m not sure I want my macarons the size of a junior cheeseburger. Part of the charm of these cookies is savoring each nibble. The tininess makes them all that more special. (Or perhaps I’ve been brainwashed by the French. Entirely possible.) While the cookie part was enjoyably dense with a strong pistachio flavor, it was soggy instead of crispy on the outside. That could’ve been a result of its time sitting in the humid sandwich case, or in the getaway car of gluttony. Either way, it was a bummer.

Clockwise from bottom right: strawberry Napoleon, pistachio macaron, chocolate macaron, chocolate mousse cake, regular Napoleon. Photo thanks to http://justlastweekend.tumblr.com/

The Napoleons were simply a top and bottom layer of pastry sandwiching a custard filling. That made it hard to eat, since the filling would spill out when you went in for a bite. Personally, I prefer the Napoleons of my youth: concoctions with alternating layers of cream and pastry, topped with a thick black and white icing.

The chocolate mousse cake was pretty flimsy by the time we got around to it–the layers of mousse had come to room temperature by then. So it was pretty much like spooning chocolate-mocha fluff into your mouth. My accomplice enjoyed it this way; I liked the leftovers better straight from the fridge a couple days later, giving my teeth more to sink into.

Overall, we’d wanted to be more thrilled with Paul’s offerings than we actually were. They’re kind of like all the free museums in this town–it’s nice to know you can exercise the option if and when you want to, but you wouldn’t necessarily go out of your way.

14
Apr
11

Tout de Sweet, a quick sugar fix

Patisseries are candy stores for adults. Step inside, and the smorgasboard of delights puts you into sensory overdrive. Your first impulse is to take one of everything. After the ringing in your ears stops, you take a visual inventory to narrow down the contenders. You invariably fork over more money than planned, skipping out of the shop with a bag of carefully packaged goodies that gets broken into well before you get home.


That’s exactly what happened after we hit Tout de Sweet last weekend (minus the skipping), which was recently opened in downtown Bethesda by a French chef. We went just before closing and there was still a decent selection of cakes and macarons, although the croissants were sold out. We tried the lemon-basil, pistachio, caramel, vanilla, chocolate peppermint, and chocolate macarons. (Second box of macarons not pictured below.) After paying, we reconsidered the cupcakes, taking home one each of the coconut-pineapple and chocolate-peppermint.

Tout de Sweet is better when it sticks to the French stuff. The peppermint-choc cupcake was tasty (with interesting touches like a flash-fried peppermint leaf); the tropical one was just ok. It’s really all about the macarons here. Our faves were the lemon basil and chocolate-peppermint. Though I still bristle at paying $1.50 for a tiny cookie, these are pretty labor-intensive to make at home. So the price doesn’t look as bad when you factor in that French labor. Believe the Yelp hype when they say that these are the yummiest macarons you’ll find in the area. This definitely merits another visit to test their cakes and other pastries.

Side note: If you need something savory to balance out your sugar high, Hinata Grocery is just around the corner. Its tiny sushi counter is cramped, but here you’ll find some of the most fresh, reasonably priced sushi in the DC area.

***Update, June 19: Multiple subsequent visits have confirmed that this place makes the most perfect almond croissant IN THE WORLD. Perfectly flaky, generously filled with a light almond paste, topped off with freshly toasted almonds, a slightly caramelized coating, and a light dusting that doesn’t make you choke in a sugar cloud. Tout de Sweet pasty chef, please insure the hands that craft these croissants.***

12
Aug
10

The economics of French macaroons

Yes, these are difficult to make, supposedly quite labor intensive, but I just can’t get over how expensive they are. $1.50 each (the price of the ones below) is pretty par for the course. Yet they are small cookies. One needs at least 3 to constitute a portion. But to put it into perspective, buy 2 and you’re paying what you’d pay for a cupcake, which is a lot more satisfying considering how much air is baked into a macaroon.

Rose, lavender, and green tea macaroons from Cacao in Cleveland Park. I was trying to show how small these are, but they actually look huge next to the quarter.

While Cacao is a welcome addition to the DC dessert scene, I’ll probably try something else there next time. Apart from the lavender macaroon, the flavors weren’t distinct enough.

Enticing display of Eurogoodies from Cacao.

28
Apr
10

Best French macaroons in DC

Washingtonian magazine taste-tested them and here’s their top 4, from the May issue.

1. Adour, $22/dozen, 202-509-8000. At nearly $2/each, isn’t it weird that boutique cupcakes look like a deal in comparison?

2. Michel Patisserie, available at ACKC, 202-387-2626. Washingtonian recommends the chocolate and raspberry flavors. Pie V. Cake recommends the passionfruit (review here: http://bit.ly/bdKK86). $2 each.

3. Fancy Cakes by Leslie, 301-652-9390. These are $1.85 each and larger than your average quarter-sized macaroon.

4. Restaurant Eve, 703-706-0450. $8 for 6. They do a Guiness macaroon that’s actually supposed to be good.

Call in advance to order these babies from Adour.

If you can’t get a hold of those macaroons, or refuse to pay that kind of money for tiny French cookies, try Trader Joe’s macaroons at $4.99/dozen. Review here: http://bit.ly/8SkInT

03
Mar
10

It’s official. French macaroons are the next cupcake.

Or are they? I know of just a handful of shops that sell macaroons exclusively. They’re hard to make and keep crispy–texture is big, since you want the cookie part to have the effect of a meringue. Plus, their price (starting at $1 when you buy them individually, for a cookie barely larger than a quarter) makes $3 cupcakes look like a value.

Excerpt from the Salon.com article by Thomas Rogers:

But, even in their diminished form, the macaron is likely headed for a popular explosion. As YumSugar’s Susannah Chen point out in the Wall Street Journal, it has the makings of the next cupcake craze: “They come in different colors and flavors, and they’re indulgent, but they won’t wreck your calorie count for the day.”

Read the full article here: http://bit.ly/bMC9OH

Photo Source: Notes from My Food Diary. Click photo to view.

02
Mar
10

McDonald’s likens French macaroons to Big Macs

That’s right. The French macaroon, those little melt-in-your-mouth beauties, are available at McCafes in France. Apparently, the French aren’t happy about it. I can see why this ad (and the idea in general) might have them crying foul. Read the WSJ article here: http://bit.ly/9pTmGj

I’ve got mixed feelings. If these are well-executed (they’d better be decent if you’re selling French cookies to the French), then I’m not opposed to their being available on every street corner at a decent price. If they suck, then the French may have a case for beating us with baguettes.

27
Dec
09

Never met a macaroon I didn’t like

But I was disappointed by these from Starbucks, made by Chateau Blanc. Macaroons are supposed to be crispy on the outside. These are soggy, probably due to being transported from France, then languishing too long in the refrigerated case next to the tuna paninis.

Texture-wise, they have a nice heft and chewiness to them, if you can overlook the lack of crunch. With the exception of the raspberry, jam-filled macaroon (my favorite), the other fillings were mostly cream-based and somewhat lacking in flavor.

They’re $9.99/dozen, limited edition through the holidays. That’s what the advertising says, anyway. But at twice the price of the Trader Joe’s macaroons, might as well go for the Trader Joe’s. (Unless you like fruity macaroons. TJ’s only offers chocolate and vanilla. Read about ’em here: http://bit.ly/8SkInT).

07
Dec
09

Gratuitous macaroon photo of the day

I read yesterday that sugar depresses the immune system and that your body only needs 8 grams a day, energy-wise.

On most days, I exceed those 8 grams by breakfast. This morning, I had Vanilla Almond Shredded Wheat. 11 grams of sugar per serving.

Then a raspberry fruit tart with lunch. Another 16 grams. So I’ve already had 3x the sugar my body supposedly needs. *Sigh*

I guess I’ll just have to stare at photos of desserts for the rest of the day, like this one from the book “I Love Macarons.” (Click for more info.) Crap, now I really want a macaroon.

05
Dec
09

Trader Joe’s macaroons, my latest food obsession

One of the reasons I love this time of year is Trader Joe’s holiday products. There’s always an impressive selection of cookies, cakes and chocolates. I’m not sure whether these macaroons will be a holiday-only dessert, but I sincerely hope not. They’re definitely in the running as a freezer staple.

When I read about these in the holiday flyer, I was initially disappointed there were only two flavors (vanilla + vanilla cream filling and chocolate + chocolate ganache filling). Now that I’ve tasted them, I’m even more sad about the limited flavors. They’re good enough to deserve a product extension.

First, this box of a dozen is a pretty decent value, at $4.99/dozen (macaroons are usually at least $1 each at patisseries). Second, they’re just as tasty as what you’d buy at the patisserie, if not better. Even though I was initially worried that they’d lose their crisipiness in the defrosting process, you’d never know they came from the freezer. The cookie portion of the sandwich is crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside (it’s a combination of egg whites and ground almonds, so it eats like a meringue).

The real clincher was the filling. The vanilla cream is lightly sweet and fragrant; the chocolate ganache, the perfect balance of bitter and sweet. (Try the chocolate macaroon before it’s completely defrosted if you prefer a chewy center.) I was so impressed that even I texted a girlfriend, a fellow macaroon fiend, to stock up on these before other Trader Joe’s cutomers get their hands on them.