Six or seven years ago, the landscape of macaron shops in NYC was drastically smaller than it is today. Back then I used to get my fix from now-defunct Fauchon – oh, how I’ve missed having lunch at Fauchon! The price of their macarons was no higher than $1.50 each and I thought that was exorbitant at the time. The only other shops to offer decent ones were Payard on the Upper East Side (also now shuttered, but the parent of two downtown stores) and La Maison du Chocolat.
Fast forward to 2012 and we have a plethora of choices throughout the city, as well as an entire day devoted to celebrating this tasty treat. When I first heard of Macaron Day NYC approaching this year I dismissed it, not certain that I would be motivated to go all around town to try them at different stores. The day before the event, however, the anticipation of a gorgeous spring day put me in full-on macaron mode. I pulled up the map of participating locations and made a gameplan, charting my trick-or-treat route all along the east and west sides of Manhattan.
I got to the first shop on my list at around 10:30 in the morning and the final one at 3:00 in the afternoon (technically the eleventh shop I visited, although the man behind the counter at Payard was kind enough to stamp me for both of their locations, so I ended up completing the dozen needed for the special giveaway). I finally called it a day when I went to Macaron Cafe a few minutes later only to discover they had finished offering their free macarons. All tolled, I walked six miles and consumed nine regular sized macarons and two miniature ones. Sounds like a pretty good day to me.
I saw all kinds of macarons yesterday: big, small, sweet, savory, red, purple, yellow, green, some were pre-packaged for the promotion, and some were put on lollipop sticks and displayed like flowers. Some shops offered only one free flavor, while others had a large subset of their flavors available. I was hoping someone would offer a square one (a macarré, that is) for the occasion, but no such luck at any of the places I visited.
Along the way I tried not to repeat a flavor more than once, which I accomplished despite having chocolate four ways. I also tried to choose flavors that I normally wouldn’t order. However, I regret not getting coffee macaron at any point (I chose a rose lychee at Francois Payard and, while it was good, that would have been a good place to get the coffee flavor).
Here were my five favorites:
Passion fruit macaron from La Maison du Chocolat. This was the only flavor they offered for free. I was surprised to discover that instead of a fruit jelly, the filling was a passion fruit flavored chocolate ganache. Yum!
Raspberry macaron from Épicerie Boulud. They had several of their flavors available for free, but customers could not choose which one they wanted. Nice size, great fruit flavor, and excellent filling-to-meringue ratio.
Salted caramel macaron from Bosie Tea Parlor. They had several flavors to choose from for the promotion but I knew my day wouldn't be complete without a salted caramel. Also, this is not a fake background, there was an electric blue wall on their neighbor's facade. I thought it would be an interesting contrast. I was wrong.
Chocolate praline macaron from Mille-feuille. They had several flavors to choose from as well. I loved the way the colors looked on the inside, and the ganache filling was delicious.
Dark chocolate macaron, flecked with tiny shards of cocoa nibs, from Mad-Mac. This was a miniature macaron, and my very last one. A great way to end my Macaron Day!
I learned some things yesterday. The chef and co-owner of Mad-Mac was the executive pastry chef for Fauchon’s flagship store that I used to frequent. Candied bacon is always a good thing. The macarons at Bosie Tea Parlor are made in-house by a third-generation macaron maker. And, outside Dominique Ansel Bakery, an older fella who realized we had both requested the lemon macaron (which turned out to be great tasting, but disappointingly crumbly and dry) told me that tasting different macarons across NYC is like “kissing all the frogs before you find your prince”. Food for thought.
Some more of my Macaron Day:
Left-right-top-down: outside Francois Payard Bakery; chocolate praline macaron from Mille-feuille; lemon macaron from Dominique Ansel; lobby of Time Warner Center; counter display at bisous, ciao.; strawberry macaron at bisous, ciao.; rose lychee macaron from Francois Payard; candied bacon with maple cream cheese frosting macaron at Macaron Parlour; Payard macarons at Butterfield Market