Battle of the French Macarons
Ladurée, Pierre Hermé, and Fauchon are only a few names in the big business of macarons. As a matter of fact, there are as many places that make these little delights in Paris as there are vintage accessories in a Parisian girls’ closet. So why the obsession of out-of-towners with Ladurée?
I decided to see for myself if Ladurée deserves all the hype it’s getting internationally and went on a mission around town to test nine of the biggest names in French macarons.
Gourmet French Food
Are you surprised? I sure as hell am. Fauchon’s reputation for gourmet food in France is huge. In the case of macarons, they fared worst out of the nine.
They have a big problem with macaron texture; it’s surprisingly hard compared to the others. Sometimes bits of the hard shell will get stuck in your teeth and that’s never good. The filling taste is also erratic. The Chocolate was almost tasteless while the Chocolate-Passion Fruit was really sour.
#8 Gérard Mulot
Pastries & Chocolate
By weight, around 1.50€/macaron
I read in an English magazine that Gérard Mulot was one of the Top 5 Best Macaron Shops in the city!
Well, they were not in my opinion. The macaron texture and the filling texture were sometimes hard, sometimes refined. The Chocolate and Blackcurrent-Violet tasted just bland and sweet. I hate that…when you just taste the sugar. These macarons tasted almost machine-made.
Pastries & Chocolate
I adore having afternoon tea at Angelina, but I was so disappointed in their macarons. The macaron texture was like Gérard Mulot as was the filling taste.
The Chocolate was bland yet the taste of Mont Blanc was delicious! The others were just “pretty good”, nothing to get excited about.
#6 Pain de Sucre
By weight, around 1.75€/macaron
The macarons do not match the level of their cakes and pastries. My biggest problem was that, although silky smooth, there was just way too much filling in them. Result: The filling weighs them down. Just looking at them makes me feel like I overate.
Gourmet French food
What’s amazing about Dalloyau, is that it was already serving traditional macarons at the Versailles Court during the reign of the extravagant King Louis XIV in the 17th century.
These macarons were just alright. The macaron shell was sometimes hard, sometimes not. The Raspberry and the Blackcurrent-Rose tasted like artificial candy. The Bergamot Tea macaron tasted so faint that it could have been vanilla. The Pistachio, however, had an exceptional nutty taste.
Pastries, Perfume & Cosmetics
Ladurée is indeed very good, with macarons that, for the most part, are well-executed and well-presented. I did have two issues with them: they’re a bit too sweet and rich for my taste, and their flavor called “Marie-Antoinette” is really unappetizing = citrusy, with a strong muddy aftertaste.
#3 Piere Hermé
Founded 1998 (In Tokyo)
Pastries and Macarons
Monsieur Herme’s story is quite an interesting one. His career has taken him from Lenôtre at the young age of 14, to Fauchon, then to Ladurée. He finally opened his first boutique in Tokyo in 1998. It wasn’t until 2004 that P.H. finally opened a store in Paris.
In all honesty, his macarons are extremely similar to Ladurée’s, but with extra attention paid to the details and more risks taken to discover new textures and flavors. For example in his Chocolate he’s added fleur de sel to accentuate the flavor, but just the perfect amount (unlike some of the others). The Blackcurrent-Chocolate, although a tad heavy, has a tiny blackcurrent fruit inside that worked nicely to lighten the filling. The unconventional Olive Oil was exquisite, and had a beautiful bronze finish, exactly like olive oil. Very nice touch!
Gourmet French food
Gaston Lenôtre was and still is a major figure in the French pastry industry, and venerated as one of its greatest innovators. After my letdowns from Gérard Mulot, Angelina, and Pain de Sucre, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Lenôtre. This time I wasn’t disappointed! The macarons were as good as the pastries. They weren’t as sparkly as Dalloyau or Fauchon, but they were tastefully beautiful. The macarons gave off this antique beauty that I found quite attractive. There was nothing nouveau riche about them appearing. deliciously authentic and noble.
Their flavors aren’t as sexy as Pierre Hermé, but each of them was perfectly executed and I savored each bite, one by one. Even the Jasmine Tea, as faint as the real tea is, had a distinct taste that was immediately recognizable.
#1 Hugo & Victor
Pastries & Chocolate
There is fresh talent on the block and they are smokin’!! I was introduced to Hugo & Victor at a press release party in Paris. I was chitchatting away when a waiter offered me a macaron. I took a bite and was so surprised by it that I stopped talking and looked at the marvelous thing I had between my fingers. Yes, it’s a macaron, but no, I haven’t had one like this before…
I knew when I had set myself out on this mission, Hugo & Victor was definitely going to be on my list. Not only did they do well, they topped it as you can see. They have completely mastered the texture of the macaron, each was extremely delicate and refined. The filling texture was smooth and as light as air without sacrificing taste. The Earl Grey-Milk Chocolate had a full-bodied tea flavor that was incredible.
The Black Current….OMG, the Black Current was like a utopic revelation in my mouth which woke up all my senses. Eating that macaron was an unforgettable experience. So yes, I did indeed save the best for last.
Hugo & Victor is definitely where I’ll be satisfying my macaron needs from now on.
About the Author: Fooled one too many times by tourist traps, Paris for Epicureans scours the city hunting out restaurants worth your time and money. Fabulous, so-so, flat out bad, she tells it like it is! Photos taken by Paris for Epicureans unless noted.
Pierre Hermé (delivers throughout Europe)
Dalloyau (several shops outside of France in Europe & Asia)