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BradenP

REPORT: Macaroon Tasting Notes

8 posts in this topic

A few of us eGulleters teamed up last Tuesday and tasted the macaroons of seven different bakeries. The criteria was that we would taste only chocolate macaroons as chocolate is one flavor that seems to be offered by all bakeries who make macaroons.

Here are the bakeries and my notes. I will let others ring in with their own opinions.

1. PIERRE HERME: Spots of cocoa on the exterior, chocolate cake mix taste.

2. LENOTRE: Shiny exterior, soft and crumbly, more cocoa taste, less chocolate taste.

3. STOHRER: Light brown color with a taste that resembled previously refrigerated brownie.

4. SAINT PREUX: Dark brown color, thickest of the bunch, chocolate came mix taste.

5. LAUDUREE: Spots of cocoa, medium brown, cocoa powder taste, the most dark chocolate taste.

6 JEAN-PAUL HEVIN: Medium brown and slightly shiny, mild chocolate cake mix taste.

7. MOM AND POP ON RUE CLAIR: Matte finish with the mildest chocolate taste of the lot.

The winners:

5. Lauduree was first with 6 votes, most of us noted a presence of spices and bitter cocoa taste.

4. In second place with 5 votes, the Saint Preux was the best of the chocolate cake tasting ones.

2. Lenotre came in third with 4 votes. Similar cocoa presence as the Lauduree without the spice.

The losers:

3. Stohrer was the clear loser with 5 people noting it was their least favorite. The medley of refrigerator tastes being the biggest complaints.

6. JP Hevin had zero votes for or against. It should be noted it was the most expensive of the bunch.


"When planning big social gatherings at our home, I wait until the last minute to tell my wife. I figure she is going to worry either way, so I let her worry for two days rather than two weeks."
-EW

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While I appreciate your efforts, I have some misgivings about your method.

The true test should be to taste a range of macarons (btw I prefer the French spelling since it makes clear the distinction between that product and the US consistently coconut confection).

The great achievement of Pierre Herme was his introduction of a range of new tastes and flavors to the old fashioned macaron. To sample only the chocolate is like comparing steak houses on the basis of their cheese burgers.

A few months ago on a much smaller and less systematic scale I did some comparing of my own.

First I did not even bother with Stohrer and Hevin. To buy a macaron at either is like ordering sushi at Zabar's. Stohrer's babas are great, but I would never eat a macaron there. It is not their speciality. Hevin's chocolates have their fans, but I would never go there for pastry.

Second I don't know SAINT PREUX at all. Does it have anything to recommend it? And I did not get to LENOTRE.

My test was limited to LADUREE and PIERRE HERME. I compared their respective specialities and avoided chocolate since it struck me as too prosaic.

Since I did this at the beginning of February and did not take notes I have to reconstruct my conclusions from memory. As I recall I tried Isphahan, beurre sale, olive oil, pistachio, and one or two others. My overall judgment was that while technically the Laduree pastry (in terms of texture and crunch) was good, my overall preference in terms of taste was Herme. The flavors were simply more vibrant and exciting.

For what it is worth the preference of the le grand public parisien is also for Herme. I went to both on a beautiful Spring-like Saturday in early February. The quais were packed with strollers. The shops were full of shoppers - - it was the weekend before Valentine's Day. The line at Herme was longer than the line at Laduree.

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While I appreciate your efforts, I have some misgivings about your method. 

The true test should be to taste a range of macarons (btw I prefer the French spelling since it makes clear the distinction between that product and the US consistently coconut confection). 

The great achievement of Pierre Herme was his introduction of a range of new tastes and flavors to the old fashioned macaron.  To sample only the chocolate is like comparing steak houses on the basis of their cheese burgers. 

I think the true test of a good macaron is with the simplest of flavours. If a place can't do a simple flavour well, then how good can the more complex flavours be? The flavours might be spectacular, but what about the macaron, itself?

I did a test last month using caramel and coffee flavours. I found Pierre Herme to be overly sweet as well as unbalanced (much too much filling), though PH tended to have stronger flavours than the other brands I tried. I'm sure there are better out there.

There are long lines at PFChang's, Red Lobster, and the Olive Garden, too, but that doesn't make them the very best. Being crowded isn't necessarily an indication of being good. It just means the place is popular.

Thanks, Braden, for posting the report. I was wondering what happened to the macaron taste test, but I didn't want to nag! :smile: I'm sorry Sadaharu Aoki wasn't included. The macaron I had from his place wasn't very good, I thought, and I wondered what others thought of his macarons. I agree with JPHevin, by the way. They were hardly spectacular.

What's next? I'm hoping for pain au chocolat...or if it could be done, croque monsieur! :biggrin:

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Can't believe that you guys have not included Grégory Renard.

I would also disagree with VivreManger "methodological" view. Chocolate macarons are a world of their own. Dalloyau's for instance is very special. Renard has four different kinds.

In general, I also don't think that direct, "blind" comparison creates more objective view. I believe that, on the contrary, it distorts the actual experience. Some macarons are meant to be kept, some not. Some aim at being a nice sweet, others at being a culinary experience diverting your attention. Some focus on flavours, others on textures. Some focus on feling familiar, regressive. Some others on incarnating a tradition. Some on being innovative, some on making you feel rich and special. Those are all different projects. I think that that kind of direct comparison is very misleading and gives a premium to the most spectacular macarons, which are not necessarily the best

It seems to me that a more effective metric than "which one do I prefer when they're all in the same room" is "where would I go to buy macarons?", and I would add "what kind of macaron, for what use?".


Edited by julot-les-pinceaux (log)

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For what it is worth the preference of the le grand public parisien is also for Herme. I went to both on a beautiful Spring-like Saturday in early February. The quais were packed with strollers. The shops were full of shoppers - - it was the weekend before Valentine's Day. The line at Herme was longer than the line at Laduree.

There are long lines at PFChang's, Red Lobster, and the Olive Garden, too, but that doesn't make them the very best. Being crowded isn't necessarily an indication of being good. It just means the place is popular.

I quite agree that lines at Changs etc. prove nothing. My comment was prefaced by "For what it's worth.." And the mispelt reference to the "le grand publique" was ironic.

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I think the true test of a good macaron is with the simplest of flavours.  If a place can't do a simple flavour well, then how good can the more complex flavours be?  The flavours might be spectacular, but what about the macaron, itself? [...]

[...] I found Pierre Herme to be overly sweet as well as unbalanced (much too much filling)[...]

Agreed on both counts.

It seems to me that a more effective metric than "which one do I prefer when they're all in the same room" is "where would I go to buy macarons?", and I would add "what kind of macaron, for what use?".

Well said. That is exactly why I can understand why some people enjoy Pierre Hermé's macarons so much, and I do not. I recognize that some people like the crazy flavors. Some people like the over-abundance of the filling. Some people like to bite into an olive piece in their macarons. Those must just be characteristics that some people look for as signs of the "best" macarons. I'm just not one of those people.

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My litmus test for macarons is two basic flavors -- vanilla and pistachio -- and last month I sampled:

Ladurée

Grégory Renard

Gérard Mulot

Dallayou

Fauchon

Pierre Hermé

Jean-Paul Hévin

Sadaharu Aoki

Lenôtre

Gosselin

Café Angelina

La Maison du Chocolat

I've listed them roughly in order from most enjoyable to least, but without getting into boring details, the winners for me were Ladurée for vanilla and Grégory Renard for pistachio. The biggest loser was La Maison du Chocolat. Granted, it was neither vanilla nor pistachio, but it was a wretched excuse for a macaron.

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While I appreciate your efforts, I have some misgivings about your method. 

The true test should be to taste a range of macarons (btw I prefer the French spelling since it makes clear the distinction between that product and the US consistently coconut confection). 

My test was limited to LADUREE and PIERRE HERME.  I compared their respective specialities and avoided chocolate since it struck me as too prosaic. 

Regarding the method, there are probably as many different ways to test and try as there are macaron flavors (and I like the fact that macaron tasting can spark that discussion) But, personally, I was quite happy with the method. It’s a rare day that I’d actually get to 7 different macaron shops in one day and sit and try them all. It was interesting to see just the variety in chocolate (not just the taste, but texture, look, size, etc)

I think the true test of a good macaron is with the simplest of flavours.  If a place can't do a simple flavour well, then how good can the more complex flavours be?  The flavours might be spectacular, but what about the macaron, itself?

I did a test last month using caramel and coffee flavours.  I found Pierre Herme to be overly sweet as well as unbalanced (much too much filling), though PH tended to have stronger flavours than the other brands I tried.  I'm sure there are better out there.

While I think in theory the simple-flavor test works, I’m not sure I entirely agree. I think part of that is just a matter of personal taste. Several months ago, I went with a friend to Laduree and we each had a vanilla, chocolate and caramel. I recall one being spectacular, one being pretty good and one just so-so. (I can’t remember which was which, this was many months ago and I don’t go to Laduree very often) My friend had the same varied feelings, but not about the same flavors.

In general, I also don't think that direct, "blind" comparison creates more objective view. I believe that, on the contrary, it distorts the actual experience.

It seems to me that a more effective metric than "which one do I prefer when they're all in the same room" is "where would I go to buy macarons?", and I would add "what kind of macaron, for what use?".

I think that the question of where you buy as opposed to which you prefer is a valid one. I always buy my macarons at Pierre Herme. However, Pierre Herme did not come in top for me on the tasting. My views pretty much mirrored the overall tally, with the exception of Pierre Herme coming in 2nd. In response to prasantrin above, I, too actually noted during the blind taste that the Pierre Herme was particularly sweet. Although I don’t personally love all their flavors (the one I don’t care for is the truffle) overall, I like what they do. And, even though they came in second for the tasting, I would still go there for my macaron shopping. I’m also enjoying both the taste and look their new flavor, Montebello, (pistachio & strawberry)

Also, a very kind guest brought me a large box for a dinner party earlier this week and, of course, everyone had a particular favorite...didn't mean any where better than others, just that to each his own taste. I think there's one they make called Celeste - and that seemed to be one of the most favorites among the guests.

And, yes, the ‘blind’ comparison did make it a little difficult for me. I felt like there was a chocolate explosion in my mouth and found it hard to know if I was tasting something new or it was just the residual flavor of some of the more intense ones.

But, regardless, for me it was an interesting, educational and worthwhile experience. Plus it’s always fun tasting anything in good company!


52 martinis blog

@52martinis

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