An array of desserts in Paris and New York? It’s the stuff dreams are made of. For Amy Thomas, the dream came true when she moved to Paris to write ad copy for Louis Vuitton. Her memoir, Paris, My Sweet, is a starry-eyed tour of the City of Light’s best pâtisseries, juxtaposed with the American-style treats of her beloved New York. It’s “a bonbon of a book,” said USA Today, one woman’s heartfelt homage to two iconic cities and all the sugared surprises life can offer.
Today, I’m delighted to welcome Amy for a special guest post on the Jour du Macaron — which takes place tomorrow, March 20 — a magical day that ties together pastry shops, charity, and free almond cookies cemented with ganache… Well, I’ll let Amy explain the rest:
Macaron, Mon Amour
by Amy Thomas
When I first moved to Paris, I was all but ignorant to the charms of the French macaron. I wasn’t even one of those people who exclaimed, “Ohhh, I thought you meant those little coconut things!” Macarons just weren’t on my radar. Not in my consideration set. And since I wasn’t really aware of them, they weren’t able to seduce me.
But, for better or worse, that all changed when a colleague shared his macaron mania with me. In an effort to introduce me to French culture as much as the delicious French delicacies, he presented me with a beautiful box one day: chic and sturdy, covered in a bold illustration, I knew this was something special. I was instinctively captivated, especially when he dramatically removed the lid to reveal the contents. There inside were tidy rows of Technicolor double-decker treats, pretty and petite, feminine and elegant. I was mesmerized—practically hypnotized and immobilized—until he prodded me to sample one.
I wonder if everyone has their “macaron story.” The first time they bit into a proper French macaron… do you? I just remember the crunch: feeling that light-as-air shell break and then give way to a delightfully tender, almost wet texture. Then came the ganache: an uber-rich, creamy-chocolaty filling that held the two meringue cookies together. And suddenly, it was a symphony. Crisp but chewy, ethereally light yet laden with flavor, the textures and tastes converged flawlessly. I had chosen Pierre Hermé’s Mogador (for my colleague fell firmly on the Hermé side of the great debate of who makes the best macarons: Pierre Hermé or Ladurée), and no two flavors had ever complemented each other better than the rich chocolate and tart passion fruit.
Needless to say, that wasn’t my last experience with the macaron. Once I was properly schooled (not only by my colleague, who proved to be eternally generous and devoted to my douceur education, but through classes at La Cuisine Paris, and my own diligent explorations and samplings), I could never resist a macaron. Or 47.
That’s right. 47 macarons in one day. It was 2010 and, inspired as I was by my new affection for the iconic French treats, I decided to celebrate Macaron Day, which was created by Pierre Hermé. At the time, he had six boutiques in the city and you could go to any one of them to receive three free macarons. But if you went to all six, and got a card stamped to prove it, you were rewarded with a box of 35 macarons.
I started at the rue Bonaparte boutique as I expected that would be the busiest throughout the day. Sure enough, at the ripe hour of 10:15, there was already a line down the block. But I dutifully waited and kicked off the day with my three free choices: milk chocolate and earl grey, vanilla, and raspberry and wasabi. From there, I went to rue Vaugirard (pistachio, caramel, and the lovely mélange of peach, apricot and saffron), followed by avenue Paul Doumer (chocolate, white truffle and hazelnut, and apricot and pistachio). At Publicis Drugstore, I actually declined my three free macs. The sweet mania was too much, even for me. After stopping for some savory fortifications, I hit rue Cambon (lemon and hazelnut praliné, raspberry and balsamic vinegar, and the much-acclaimed olive oil and vanilla) and finally ended my tour of duty at the Galeries Lafayette, where I was rewarded with my own pretty, illustrated box of beautiful macarons.
Two years later, I’m still enamored. And now that I’m back in New York, it’s almost as if macarons are following me; haunting me. Ladurée arrived on the Upper East Side last August, making it possible to sink my teeth into a lovely little lemon macaron at l’heure gouter. I’ve also discovered local bakeries with outstanding macarons that—in flavors like maple bacon and peanut butter and jelly—have been adapted for American tastes. And, bien sur, Macaron Day will be celebrated across the city this Tuesday, with more than a dozen bakeries and tea salons offering free macarons. It’s hard to imagine there was ever a time that macarons weren’t in my life and my heart.
Thank you, Amy!