In Search of the French Macaron in NYC…
Finding a delicious or even a good French macaron in New York City is nearly impossible. Why? It’s because it’s not that popular in comparison to (the easily confused with) the coconut macaroon and the ones I usually find taste terrible. So, Robyn and I set out a journey to find the best macaron possible in New York City yesterday morning.
Let me set up some standards to let you know what is a “good” macaron. A good macaron should be sweet but not cloyingly so, it has to have a good ratio of cookie to filling, and the cookie has to a thin, crisp crust with a bit of a melt-in-your mouth texture once a bite has been taken. I will not do the normal rating system from my previous “best of” posts since it’s a bit hard to define a certain grade but I will give feedback on what is good and/or bad about that certain macaron.
First up is Silver Moon Bakery. They only have two flavors, Almond Chocolate and Chocolate for $2.50 each.
The almond chocolate macaron has a thinner cookie than the chocolate macaron. It is a bit large, approximately 3 inches in diameter, and a bit too yellow in color. The chocolate ganache, tasting 60% cocoa, was not exactly a superb chocolate but it was smooth and it’s fine. The cookie has the thin, crisp crust on the outside but the crumb of the cookie was a bit too dry to have that melt-in-your-mouth feel. The ratio of cookie to ganache is about 1:1, which is pretty much the desired ratio.
The chocolate macaron is thicker than the almond and a bit shorter in diameter, about 1/4 inch less. The macaron is not as crusty as the almond but it’s a bit richer and moist due to a thicker cookie. The ganache is exactly the same. Both macarons are fine and I do find it better than Bouchon Bakery’s terribly chewy macarons. It wasn’t the “blow my mind” greatness but they were not awful macarons either.
Next up is Georgia’s Bake Shop.
Starting with the chocolate macaron…
The chocolate was decent; nothing remarkable to note about. The cookie was fine. The chocolate flavor of the cookie and the ganache was there but it wasn’t tantalizing on the tongue that seduces one to be enamored with this macaron.
The pistachio macaron (pictured above) had the same texture like all the other macarons tasted: thin, crisp crust with a slightly dry, sweet crumb. The pistachio filling however was not to my liking. It lacked the pistachio flavor and it was sweet as Robyn correctly put it, “cupcake frosting.” Technically, it reminds me of a cloyingly sweet vanilla icing that someone has put too much confectioners’ (aka powdered) sugar. To the sugar lovers, this your macaron. This is not my type of macaron.
The cinnamon macaron was an interesting flavor choice to create a macaron. The cookie texture is still the same but the filling was too overpowered by the cinnamon. How it felt like eating a piece of this macaron was the initial sensation of cinnamon but after a brief moment or two, your tongue gets a wave of cinnamon flavor washing over your entire palate. It’s a nice idea but they need to tone down the cinnamon a few notches then it would be fine.
The strawberry macaron’s jam filling was sweet but not as bad as the pistachio filling. The cookie was a bit more crustier than I would like.
A box of five macarons (the fifth one was another chocolate) cost $7, which would cost $1.40 each. I do not think a $1.40 a macaron can justify for getting something that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter (think of the size of half-dollar coin but a tiny bit larger than that). If you want to go a little more particular with the cost, it’s 93 1/3 cents for each inch or so you are eating. Hmmm…with these mediocre macarons for that much, I would definitely pass if I had the choice to buy this again.
La Maison du Chocolat is the next stop. We went to the Rockefeller Center instead of the Upper East Side location, just because of the convenience of the location. Recently, La Maison du Chocolat has started a new line of flavors that have been released for the public to buy. Here’s the large sign that is displayed on their window and the flyer’s information.
It’s tempting to see all of these maracons…
Our strategy was to buy a few macarons of different flavors (the small are $2 each and the large are $5). Robyn bought the Quito (chocolate), Guyaquil (Vanilla and Chocolate), and the Rigoletto (Caramel and chocolate) macarons, while I bought the Salvador (Raspberry and Chocolate) and the Romeo (Coffee and Chocolate) macarons. Here’s the photos…
I started with my macarons. The Romeo macaron, that is the coffee and chocolate flavored, was wonderfully rich in flavor and texture. The coffee flavor was bold, robust but not at all bitter; the chocolate was smooth, dark (tasting about 70 – 72%), and creamy. I like this macaron; it’s a great macaron for the coffee lover.
The Salvador Macaron which is the raspberry and chocolate was fine. I’m not a big fan of the flavor pairing of chocolate and raspberries in the first place but for the sake of macarons, I’ll eat it. Back to the point, the raspberry flavor was vibrant, tart, and the sweetness of the filling is balanced since it to the chocolate ganache.
Robyn’s macarons: I started with the Guayaquil, the one chocolate vanilla flavored macaron. The vanilla is from the macaron cookie and the chocolate is obviously from the chocolate ganache filling. The vanilla is delicately flavored. I tasted it when the cookie slightly dissolves releasing it’s beautiful, subtle flavor then it’s hit with the rich, dark chocolate (tasting about 70% cocoa) ganache melting on my tongue. It’s a wonderful combination but once the chocolate actually hits the tongue, the vanilla is practically an afterthought. I would like it if they did accentuate the vanilla flavor by actually adding some vanilla into the ganache instead of being purely chocolate and cream.
The Rigoletto Macaron, the caramel and chocolate flavor, was a bit unique to me. The caramel was nicely burnt (since that’s what caramel is supposed to be) with a slight hint of salinity to contrast the pure burnt sugar flavor. It’s a good macaron but somehow I do not like the flavor so much. I think the caramel was a few degrees too burnt for me that the bitterness is not making me truly happy.
And finally the Quito Macaron, the chocolate macaron. This is the dark chocolate lover’s dream of a macaron. It’s intense pure dark chocolate (tasting about 72%) ganache with the dark chocolate macaron cookie. It all melts in the mouth in harmoniously with tiny bits of crust that comes from the cookie. I like this one for being unadulteratedly chocolatey.
All of the macaron cookies are good. They have the thin, crisp crust of the macaron shell and they do have the flavor that was indicated on that macaron flyer/information sheet.
The last destination for the day was Almondine Bakery located in Dumbo, Brooklyn.
Robyn bought the box for $7.
This was the first macaron we tried.
Initially we thought it was chocolate since it has the chocolate macaron cookie…but we assumed incorrectly when Robyn cut it in half.
The macaron came out to be peanut butter and chocolate. This is an innovative flavor for a macaron yet it is very American since it’s trying copy the flavor combination of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. (Just a side note, all these macarons are the softest in texture when trying to cut in half; meaning it is the freshest or the most moist.) The filling flavor was roasted peanut butter, which was the predominant flavor with the chocolate macaron shell actually is detected as a background flavor. It is wonderful. If this was done in a French style or Pierre Herme’s way, probably it would have been a hazelnut praline with caramelized banana…or something like that. Anyways, it’s delicious and it’s one of my favorites from this box.
Next is the apricot…
It was an unusual flavor since I never thought one would make one. The problem with this macaron is that the apricot filling was cloyingly sweet that once the macaron hits the tongue all you can taste was a hint of the apricot and everything else was screaming SUGAR! They need to adjust the filling recipe and cut the sugar in half. It’s almost unbearable.
The strawberry macaron…
The whole view of the macaron did indicate that the macaron was busted up a bit but it’s fine anyways since it’s all going down to the stomach. The strawberry, like the apricot filling was too sweet. Somehow in Almondine’s kitchen all the jam filled macarons have been awfully sweet. The macaron shell was melt-in-your-mouth goodness though.
It looked like a miniature crooked tiered layer cake; it’s adorable. The lemon macaron fared a lot better than its jam filled counterparts. The lemon filling was bright, tart, slightly sweet and creamy which melds with the soft cookie shell harmoniously with textural offsets of the crust. It’s really good. This is my other favorite from this box.
Lastly, the pistachio macaron…
Like Georgia’s Bake Shop’s pistachio macaron, the filling is sweet like cake icing. I don’t understand why these bakeries are not creating a true pistachio flavored filling? This is a bust in my book but it’s not as sweet as the jam filled ones in this box of macarons.
That’s all Robyn and I have visited on that very Sunday, just because of small delays and side stops that prevented us to cover the last two stops that we planned: Payard and Trois Crepes in the Upper East Side. However, we do not totally regret it since I was not too thrilled with Payard’s cake from last semester and there was not much buzz about Trois that would make us go there. These establishments will be visited in the near future but for what we have tried today, I would say La Maison du Chocolat prevailed as the best macaron in NYC. All of their macaron flavors are consistently bold on the palate, not cloyingly sweet, and their cookie shell has some structure, not super soft as Almondine’s. But I will place Almondine as Number 2.
Note: If you do want to read about everything else but the macarons that happened that day (e.g. other pastries and pizza, etc.) please click here.
Silver Moon Bakery
2740 Broadway (at 105th Street)
New York, NY 10025
Georgia’s Bake Shop
2418 Broadway (at 89th Street)
New York, NY 10024
La Maison du Chocolat
Visited: 30 Rockefeller Center Plaza (on 49th Street)
New York, NY 10012
Other location: 1018 Madison Avenue (between 78th & 79th Street)
New York, NY 10021
85 Water Street (near Main Street)
Brooklyn, NY 11201