Posts Tagged ‘macarons

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*

14
Oct
11

Miette San Francisco is the Zooey Deschanel of bakeries


Miette is a sweets shop/bakery that’s the pinnacle of adorableness. Stepping inside makes you feel like you’ve gone through the back of the wardrobe, into a pastel-colored world of adult-approved confections. This is a place where everyone walks away happy. (We went near closing time, so the fridge case was somewhat barren by then.)

We visited the location in the Ferry Building: a gourmet, touristy food court cross-bred with a farmers’ market. I imagine the freestanding Miette stores are even more of an immersive experience.

Their coconut cake was heavenly, moist cake with light layers of coconut frosting in between. My favorite dessert of the entire trip, which is saying something considering the caliber of the city’s food. Apparently the cake’s made with plenty of coconut milk, the bacon of the fruit world. I.e., anything made with it will invariably taste good, but not be good for  you.

We also sampled an array of cookies, starting with the French macarons.  They make theirs without food coloring, a “California interpretation” of the French classic. This caused some confusion over which one was what flavor (we tried everything from lavender chocolate to pistachio). While the cookie part was good, the flavors in the creme-y filling could’ve been stepped up.

The peanut butter cookies, chocolate sables, and gingersnaps came home with us to DC. (You can order them online.) My favorite was the latter, which were crisp and buttery with chewy bits of candied ginger. Mmmm, Miette. How I wish I’d brought home more of your delicacies.

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.

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.

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.