Gasp! Non-food photos!

I’ve realized that I haven’t written a post or shared any photos from last year’s trip to Paris and Rome that wasn’t about/of food. And although it seemed like it, I didn’t just eat and eat the entire time I was there. I saw the sights, too.

So I’m sharing some of my favorite pictures from my trip to Paris last year, and none of them features food that I actually ate, imagine that.

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I love the view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. It takes an exhausting climb to get there, but what’s 284 steps to see what is arguably, the best view of the City of Lights? I like that it’s high enough to get a breathtaking view of the city but but still low enough to see structures and buildings in detail. Plus, from this vantage point, you get a bird’s eye view of the craziness that is the Place de Charles de Gaulle.


I have to admit, my mouth was hanging a little open in disbelief as I stood here and took this photo. This (unfortunately vandalized) plaque marks the spot on the Place de la Concorde where Marie Antoinette of France, my 2nd favorite historical figure, was beheaded during the French Revolution. I simply could not wrap my head around the fact that I was standing there, where history took place, where Marie Antoinette’s life unjustly  came to a grisly, violent end over 300 years ago. I felt the exact same wonder and awe when I stood at the Traitor’s Gate where Elizabeth I (my #1 favorite historical figure) entered on her way to be imprisoned in the Tower. I swear, both were practically religious experiences for me. And yes, I know how incredibly nerdy and geeky (and creepy?) that potentially sounds. I don’t care.


I remember seeing this building and thinking, “God, I want to live there.” I guess I could say that about almost every other building in Paris, but there was something about this particular one that made it so memorable to me. Maybe it was its proximity to and view of the Eiffel Tower? Or that it was about five minutes away from Rue Cler? Or that its style and architecture is so distinctly Parisian? Whatever it is, I want to live in this building (although one on Avenue Foch would do just as nicely I daresay. Haha.).


Now this one for me is a head scratcher. While this woman with the baguettes in her backpack is, in all likelihood, a tourist, what she’s doing here, exposing her bread to all the elements is very Parisian (very French? Is this practice a nationwide one?). I cannot, for the life of me, understand how you can carry your food around uncovered, exposed to dust, smoke and viruses and bacteria floating in the air and still eat it afterward. I. Just. Can’t. Why don’t they make bags big enough to cover the whole baguette? Haven’t the French ever heard of airborne diseases? As a germophobe, I just don’t understand.


L’église de la Madeleine looks nothing like a church from the outside, since it was built like a Roman temple. Inside though was one of the most beautiful and solemn churches I have been in. Yes, it is not as colossal as the Notre Dame or as grand as Sacré Coeur, but I daresay Madeleine has an aura unlike the other cathedrals’. With its Roman columns and muted lighting, there is something understated and stately about L’église de la Madeleine.

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And, another one from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Just because.

Sigh. I love and miss Paris (and not just its food).

The Paris PASTRY App!!!!!!!!!!

An app. For finding the best pastries in Paris. An app. For finding the BEST. PASTRIES. IN PARIS.

BEST. PARIS. PASTRIES. APP… Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Yes. I have been rendered incoherent by an iPhone app. But in case you haven’t noticed from my blog, I love pastries and all types of sugary confections. I also love Paris. And, separate from my love of the city and of the food group, I also love, love Parisian pastries. So it really is no surprise that news of David Lebovitz’s Paris Pastry App has reduced me to a mumbling, giddy fool.

First of all, it is an app to find the best pastries in Paris. I know I keep repeating it, but isn’t the idea of it just so brilliant yet so simple? Isn’t that something every visitor to Paris needs? A directory of 300 (!!!!!) of the best chocolate, pastry and ice cream shops in the city and, arguably, the world, all carefully chosen and tested (oh, wouldn’t we want to have THAT job) by David Lebovitz. Yes, the same man who I am indebted to for my discovery of La Maison Du Chocolat’s Rigoletto chocolate, the pastry chef/writer whose blog always leaves me drooling a little bit and pining for a trip to the French capital and its unrivaled food.

And only a pastry fiend like David can come up with an app as well thought of as this. I have a feeling that he has experienced the pain and disappointment of going all the way across the River Seine for a tarte citron (or a cannelle or a millefeuille) only to find the shop closed. He obviously doesn’t want anyone to have to go through that, ever, so the app conveniently includes verified operating hours for each shop.

The app also organizes the shops per arrondisement, all the better for anyone to lay out their pastry plan of attack.

To me, though, the best, most well-thought of feature of this app are the maps. The OFFLINE maps, i.e. you don’t need an internet connection to access the maps, as they are all stored within the app. As David put it, the money would be better spent on croissants & chocolates, than on astronomical 3G roaming fees on your iPhone. I couldn’t agree more.

Other features of the app include gorgeous pictures of the the pastries and breads by David (if you need more inducement to go visit Poilâne or Patrick Roger), a French-English glossary of pastries, the capability to store and share your favorite pages from the app and David’s top 25 shops to help you get started.

It must be said, though, that the app isn’t cheap. In a world of free or $0.99 apps, I know a lot of people will balk at its $4.99 price. But do consider that getting a similar guidebook will cost at least the same, likely more, and that that guidebook will probably be outdated in a year or two. On the other hand, this app will be updated with all the newest information periodically. Also, this has the added convenience of, you know, being inside your phone, versus a guide book that you have to lug around separately (besides, don’t you need the space in your handbag for your chocolate/pastry purchases?).

So in my opinion, the $4.99 would be more than worth it. My only complaint about this app is that it wasn’t available yet when I went to Paris in July. But maybe that’s a good thing, since if this was around by then, I probably would’ve gone home hundreds of Euros poorer and 10 pounds heavier.

App screenshots used with David’s permission.

The last Paris food post

No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to La Grand Épicerie (thanks for the tip, Divasoria!) an authentic crêpe or a ridiculously sinful dessert. So, I tackle all three in my last Paris food post *sigh!*

Really, anyone who loves food should visit La Grand Épicerie, even if just to look. Because it the place is a shrine to all things delicious. It’s a place to buy food, sure, but a mere supermarket it is not. Aisle upon aisle of the best of the world’s food, glass cases filled with all types of cured meats you can imagine (I counted 4 or 5 types of jamon iberico alone), a prepared foods section that will give you decision fatigue, a boulangerie and an aisle devoted only to salt. Yes. To salt. That’s how serious they are about their food. And that’s why I love it there. (I wish I had more pictures, but this and my previous pastry display case shot were the only shots I dared to take, since photos are technically not allowed.)


Regular salt, pink salt, Spanish sea salt, Greek sea salt, French sea salt...

My mom and I were just supposed to make a quick stop to grab lunch while waiting for Chapelle Notre Dame de la Médaille Miraculeuse next door to reopen for the afternoon. I wandered around the store aimlessly ogling at the food so long that my mom had to give me THE look for me to remember that I was there to BUY food, not to just look at it. So we bought a baguette, some lomo iberico, some macarons (duh) and this salad:


We had to eat on the sidewalk (we had to ditch my original plan to go to a nearby park because of the rain), but this was still one of my favorite meals in Paris. Seriously. Simple but really, really delicious. The lomo in particular, was very good, I wanted to smuggle it back into Manila.

Another must-eat in Paris would be, of course, crêpes. And Crêperie Bretonne, along with Crêpes du Josselin were highly recommended. We ended up in the former because the main Josselin was closed.


Crêperie Bretonne. So cute, no?

I had a mushroom, ham, cheese and egg crêpe which was OK, but quite frankly nothing to write home about. I suppose the authentic buckwheat crêpe takes some getting used to. I preferred my mom’s crêpe of ham, cheese and tomatoes because I think the flavor of the tomatoes balances out the earthiness of the buckwheat.

What IS worth writing about, though, is this:


Surprise, surprise, it has caramel.

Dessert was a crêpe with caramel and salted butter with an added scoop of vanilla ice cream (obviously my motto during this trip was “go big or go home”). I know it doesn’t look like much, since the caramel looks like it was carelessly drizzled on the crêpe, and it was. The waiter who was preparing it actually drizzled some caramel on his coworker’s shoes (such a waste of perfectly delicious caramel). But don’t let the mess fool you. It was delicious.

The crêpe, as you can see from the outline of the plate underneath it, is super thin. The result of this is that the edges get a little toasted and crispy, while the middle still stays soft and delicate. And while my waistline will not thank me for it, it was the right move to order the ice cream with it, since with it you get that wonderful warm-and-cold contrast with the freshly cooked crêpe. Also, even in all its salted glory, the syrupy caramel with just the crêpe would’ve been just too much, so the vanilla ice cream provides that balance. And I’m telling the truth here, not just trying to justify that scoop of ice cream. Hehe.

And finally, the other standout dessert from my trip (outside of chocolates and macarons, of course) is this:

The Ladurée Le Saint-Honoré Classique

Basically, it’s a mini-tower of mini-cream puffs on a caramelized-sugar-topped flaked pastry base, finished off with whipped cream.  No further explanation needed, really. How can that not be good?


And so it ends. I’ve written the about all the food I’ve had that was worth writing about. And now I’m left a little sad and a little hungry, too (naturally). But more than anything, I’m even more determined to go back to Paris and try more of what the city has to offer, as I’ve barely scratched the surface. Plus, I still haven’t even had these. So yeah, I’m definitely coming back. Waistline be damned.

The Madame Grès exhibition, pt. 2

“I wanted to be a sculptor — for me it is just the same to work with fabric or stone.” – Madame Grès

I think nothing embodies that sentiment more, than the collection of seven extraordinary dresses in white at the special Madame Grès exhibition at the Musée Bourdelle.


Although the exhibition was staged at Musée Bourdelle only because of renovations to the Musée Galliera, I think it was particularly apt that the collection was displayed at museum for sculpture.  Not only because of Madame Grès’ initial aspirations, but also because her dresses, this set of seven in particular, do look like statues in marble.

I never knew fabric could be draped, tucked, shaped, braided, gathered and ruched so many ways, and with such beautiful results. And while the colored gowns are just as beautiful, there is no better way to appreciate the detail, the work and the structure of Madame Grès’ gowns than when they are in white:

I can’t decide if the dresses above (or almost all of Madame Grès’ dresses, for that matter) are impossibly intricate or actually deceptively simple. Because it could be argued, after all, that they are all just draped dresses. But at the same time, they aren’t JUST that. They are, through the genius of Madame Grès, works of art, too. Like sculptures.

PS: If you want to see more pictures of the exhibition (I’ve got about a hundred), click here or on any of the photos to see them on my Flickr account. There are TONS of other gorgeous dresses, trust me.

Paris again: The Rose Bakery

No, you read right, I’m not done with the Paris food posts yet.

I came across The Rose Bakery while researching places to eat (here, and here, among other places). Everything I read about the place was positive, how it’s THE place to have brunch in Paris. Then I read this book about Paris and Parisian living:

Inès de la Fressange gave the place her seal of approval? I’m so there!

With a name like The Rose Bakery, I imagined the place to be charming, with helpful and friendly staff, and fresh, wholesome comfort food and unfussy home-baked pastries and desserts. And everything was as I imagined it to be.

With its selection of salads, quiches, mini pizzas and specials, the blogs were right when they said that The Rose Bakery is THE place to have brunch in Paris. Everything is light (except maybe the burger, which is on the menu), fresh, simple and made from organic produce. And everything is beautiful, too. The salads are vibrant with carrots, beets, beans and tomatoes, not necessarily all in one salad. The baked goods are pretty, too, with chocolate and cream cheese marbled on the brownies, raspberries topping a tart and gleaming blueberries atop a cake.

But the food wasn’t just a feast for the eyes, they were, of course, delicious, too. We had one of the specials, the chicken fingers. The chicken itself wasn’t particularly special, but credit must be given for the fact that they weren’t greasy at all and were still tender. The thing that carries the dish, though, is the marinara dipping sauce. Full of that summery tomato flavor, maybe a little garlic and a lot of herbs (basil, for sure), the dipping sauce brightens up the average chicken tenders and is the undisputed star of the dish. The roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes and the unidentified white vegetable were good, too, well seasoned and not oily.

But The Rose Bakery is famous for their quiches, not their chicken, so we made sure to get one of those. We ordered the roasted tomato and bacon quiche with vegetables on the side (about €14). And one bite into the quiche explained to us why TRB was famous for them. For one thing, the texture was perfect, creamy and velvety but just egg-y enough to not be crème brûlée. Then you add cheese, bacon roasted tomatoes and a crispy crust to that fluffy goodness? AWE. SOME.

I loved the veg that went with it, too (shocker, I know). The beans were the most perfectly seasoned beans I’ve ever had. And the leek and mandarin orange salad provided great contrast to the creaminess of the quiche with its citrusy dressing. Both were so good, I gladly finished all my veggies!

Enough about veggies though, even if they are THAT good. Even the most mindblowingly delicious salad can’t keep me from having some dessert. From a selection that included scones, polenta cake, a fresh berry salad and a raspberry tart I chose these two, because I really can’t resist a dessert that incorporates cream cheese in it.

The Rose Bakery’s Carrot Cake and Marbled Chocolate & Cream Cheese Brownies

Don’t be fooled by their famous carrot cake, it’s not cupcake-sized, it’s huge. And that’s exactly the way it should be because it’s yummy. While the flavor is the same as any well-made carrot cake, the thing about TRB’s is that it’s not greasy at all. All carrot cakes or cupcakes (even my favorite from Sonja’s) are almost always unavoidably greasy because most recipes call for A LOT of oil. I remember the first carrot loaf I baked called for one and a half cups of vegetable oil (!!!), and it was still very greasy even if I just put in one cup (can you imagine if I put everything in?). Yummy, don’t get me wrong, but still greasy. But TRB’s was the least oily one I’ve ever had, in fact I wouldn’t call it oily at all. Just perfectly moist.

And apart from the presence of cream cheese in it, the other reason I chose the marbled brownies (sold by weight) was because it was so pretty. I mean, come on, how could something with cheese and chocolate AND that looked that pretty not be delicious? Not possible, at least in The Rose Bakery’s case. The chocolate part is rich and dense while the cheese parts are less dense and a little bit tangy and salty. To put it more succinctly: yum.

The unsurprising conclusion to this post is, duh, I have to go back to Paris and have more of what The Rose Bakery has to offer. Too many tarts, cakes and loaves remain untasted by me, and that has to be remedied.

Plus, I JUST found out that the Arnaud Delmontel boulangerie and pâtisserie is just right across the street (how the eff did I miss that? I blame the cream cheese brownies).

The Rose Bakery has two branches in Paris: on 46 Rue des Martyrs (9th arr., Metro: Notre-Dame de Lorette or St. Georges) and on 30 Rue Debelleyme (3rd arr., Metro: Filles du Calvaire).

The Madame Grès exhibition

I’ll admit, I didn’t know who Madame Grès was until one of the contestants on The Fashion Show did an awful job in modernizing her designs. The challenge was for the contestants to put a modern twist to a legendary designer’s legacy (Coco Chanel, YSL, Dior, Pucci and Halston where the other designers) and Merlin, the contestant who got Madame Grès, didn’t know who she was.  When he admitted as much during judging, the judges of the show, Isaac Mizrahi and Iman among them, nearly had heart attacks.

I remember googling her and photos of her her designs and thinking they were beautiful. Then I forgot about her. Fast-forward a few years later and I read Garance Doré’s post on the Madame Grès exhibition in the Musée Bourdelle. Garance’s photos and, of course, the dresses themselves made me want to go and see the exhibit myself. As luck would have it, the exhibition was extended, and I was able to go and see it in Paris.

And I am so glad I did. The collection, 80 or so pieces from the 1930s to the 1970s, was remarkable.

Detail on the first dress in the Madame Grès exhibition

Set against the background of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle’s work and home, each piece showcased Madame Grès’ (real name Germaine Émilie Krebs) mastery of the feminine form and of fabric.

This dress is the only thing that has ever made me want to wear orange

The bulk of the collection was made up of her trademark pleated dresses, and rightly so. All looked deceptively simple, but were some of the most intricately structured pieces of clothing I have ever seen.


This dress was, if I’m not mistaken, made of a single piece of fabric

Each dress made me want to photograph every single inch of it.


Painstaking detail

And from every possible angle.

I love how it’s a completely different dress from behind.

Needless to say, I took a lot of photos.

This post is just meant to be a teaser of sorts, a peek into the exceptionally curated exhibition. I’ll be working on more posts soon (sorry guys, but a two week vacation + 1.5 weeks of business trips = a horribly clogged up inbox), with more amazing dresses, including more of my favorites, so bear with me.

In the meantime, you can click on here to see my set on the exhibtion on Flickr.

My trip in Instagram/iPhone

I think I’ve been converted. I used to own a Blackberry but switched to an iPhone when I lost my Bold. And I’m loving it.

One of the biggest surprises about the iPhone was its camera. I used it during my trip when my camera battery conked out or when I left my memory card in my laptop (stupid, I know). It’s pretty good, no, considering it’s a phone camera? And one of the photos that convinced me that it was a good camera was this:

From the garden at the Carmelite monastery in Lisieux, France (where St. Therese’s remains lay): the Million Flower (that’s what I was told it was called), uh, flower. It was one of those days (yes, it happened more than once) when I left my memory card in my computer. But the flowers in the garden were so pretty, I had to take photos. And these flowers and this photo are my favorite of the lot. I was really surprised how the iPhone camera captured the detail: the veins on the leaves, the teeny-tiny blossoms and the even tinier specks on the bigger flowers. The photo’s so good, it doesn’t look like it was taken from real life.

And here’s another photo of other flowers in the same garden. I love the contrast of the bright yellow against the deep fuchsia:

And although I know some real artists and photography enthusiasts scoff at the app Instagram, I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s real easy to use and is a great help for those of us who want to tinker with the look and feel of our photos but don’t have the time/money/skill/patience to take photos on film or edit digital ones themselves.

And here are some of my favorite Instagram photos from my trip:

The macaron display case at the la Grande Épicerie. I had to take this stolen shot with my iPhone because photos aren’t allowed inside the store.

And the same is true with this shot:

Another stolen shot of another pastry case, this time, Ladurée at Rue Royale.

I didn’t just take prohibited photos of sugary things, of course. I also took photos of the touristy stuff from my iPhone, including one of my favorite photos from my trip:

And proof that throwing a coin into it works:

I threw a 5-peso coin into the Trevi Fountain the first time I was in Rome. And ta-da! I got to go back. But I forgot to throw another one in this time around. Oooops.

Obviously I had fun with my iPhone and tinkering with Instagram during my trip. Instagram, I think, is great way to sort of have a different version a memory of a moment or place , to give a photo a feel that an un-Instagrammed photo can’t capture.

And besides, when the photos are as yummy-looking as this one, don’t you want as many versions of it as possible?

PS: You can follow me on Instagram: tightsarntpants.

PPS: You can see more of the photos from my trip by clicking on the link to my Flickr account, which could be found on the right sidebar.

The Ultimate Macaron Taste-off, Pt 3

I’ve saved the best for last. It’s my favorite flavor of them all: caramel. Not just any caramel, though, but Caramel au beurre salé. Caramel with salted butter. The contrast of salty and sweet… gaaaaaaaaaah… I don’t even know how to describe it and do it justice. But it is seriously one of the best flavor combinations in the world.

But which among the Parisian patisseries makes the caramel macaron I’m willing to travel across Paris for? Scratch that, a macaron I’m willing to travel across the WORLD for. Who made the macaron I took home from Paris to Manila, whose filling I unashamedly licked off the box? Not directly of course, I used my finger.

From top to bottom: La Grande Épicerie, Ladurée, La Maison du Chocolat and Pierre Hermé

Is this what heaven is made of? I sure hope so.

Well, not La Grande Épicerie’s. Their caramel macaron was the most disappointing of the lot. The filling was thin and runny, the flavor of which was overpowered by the cookie, which was just too sweet.

No such problems with Ladurée’s macaron, though. The opposite of thin and runny, their filling was the closest to traditional caramel: gooey, thick and sticky. I mean, look at the photo. And it tastes the closest to traditional caramel, too. Sweet and almost syrupy, but not overly so, as the French abhor anything that is saccharine-sweet. The sweet is balanced out by a hint of saltiness, but for me, not enough of it. I need more of that contrast, a heavier hand with the salt for this particular macaron to take me to gastronomic heaven. So while this macaron is a VERY good caramel macaron, it’s just not a good enough caramel AND salted butter macaron. Especially when compared to the last two on the list: Pierre Hermé and La Maison du Chocolat.

I know I said that caramel and salted butter is one of the best flavor combinations in the world. Well, La Maison du Chocolat, the same people behind my beloved Rigoletto chocolate, thought they could make it even more drool-worthy by adding another layer of flavor: bitter chocolate. And they were right. So, so, so, soooooooo right.  And unlike their vanilla-chocolate macaron, where the chocolate took the limelight from vanilla, the caramel and salted butter is still the star of the show in the Rigoletto macaron. Apart from the color of the filling, I wouldn’t have immediately guessed that it was chocolate that gave the filling that subtle hint of bitterness. If I didn’t know, I would’ve thought that they took the caramel to almost burning point, but the quality of the bitterness was different. Deep and smooth, not sharp and jarring. Bitter, sweet, and salty all complementing each other. *droooooooool* Chocolate DOES make everything better.

But as much as I would like to go on and on an on about La Maison du Chocolat (I kinda did already), there’s still one more macaron left standing: Pierre Hermé’s Infinement Caramel. And Mr. Hermé  doesn’t need the help of chocolate to make a fantastic  caramel au beurre salé macaron. With the texture of whipped butter, the filling of this macaron is absolute perfection. There’s not one thing about it I would think to change. The sweetness is just right, the saltiness is right on the money and there’s a slight creaminess to it all that I think comes from the butter. And, as with most of PH’s macarons, the filling is laid on THICK (I mean, look at that bottom macaron!), a fact that we should all be thankful for everyday.

And so who wins it? Who makes the ultimate  macaron? It was tough to choose, I even ate extra macarons to come to the decision, but in the end, I couldn’t. Pierre Hermé and La Maison du Chocolat tie for the best caramel au beurre salé in Paris.


And so it ends, my very serious, very scientific search for the best macarons in Paris. But there will always be more patisseries and chocolatiers who will make more and more of these delicious little buttons for me to try and compare with the others. Hopefully, I’ll make it back to Paris to try them all (well, not all…).

But if I don’t,  Pierre Hermé, La Maison du Chocolat and Ladurée are only just a short flight away in Tokyo.

The Ultimate Macaron Taste-off, Pt. 2

And so here we are, part 2 of my taste-off, where I find the best vanilla and chocolate macarons in Paris.

Like I said in part 1, I think these flavors can make or break a patisserie. If you don’t get vanilla or chocolate right, then what hope is there for other, more complicated flavors? But I’m not here to find out who among La Grande Épicerie, Ladurée, La Maison du Chocolat and Pierre Hermé got theirs right, it’s a given that their macarons would be good. I’m here to find out who among them made theirs better than everyone else’s.

Vanilla: from top to bottom: La Maison du Chocolat, Ladurée


Ok, so I feel like I’m cheating here a little bit. I only have two contenders here, and La Maison du Chocolat’s vanilla macaron, as you can see above, is actually vanilla and chocolate. So why the too-short list? Well, La Grande Épicerie doesn’t really have a vanilla-only macaron. When I was there, the only macaron with vanilla that they had was the Kalamansi and Tahitian Vanilla one, and that obviously can’t compete in this category. On the other hand, Pierre Hermé’s Macaron a l’Huile d’ Olive et Vanille, with an actual olive in the middle of it, is not something I’m willing to go through again… and so I’m left with the two above. And if I’m being totally objective, I’d be down to one contender, because La Maison du Chocolat’s is actually, in essence, a chocolate macaron, not a vanilla one. So, by default, the best vanilla macaron in Paris can be found in Ladurée. But that’s not to say Ladurée doesn’t deserve it. Their vanille macaron is delicious, not too sweet or overpowering but still distinctly vanilla, and not some vague, sweet, creamy flavor. So who’s to say that there’s a better vanilla macaron out there?

Chocolate: from left to right: Pierre Hermé and Ladureé (note: I didn’t include La Maison du Chocolat and La Grande Épicerie anymore because I knew they couldn’t stand up to these two anyway)

This was tough. Really. I had to take multiple bites of the macarons because I really couldn’t decide which was better, and no, that’s not just an excuse to eat even more macarons. Like I need an excuse. In my opinion, these two are very similar. They even look the same, apart from the sprinkling of cocoa on the Pierre Hermé one. Both have fillings based on dark chocolate, not milk chocolate, so they’re less sweet, more chocolate-y. But one has a slight edge over the other, in that its flavor is slightly more intense, slightly richer and slightly more bitter. The differences are, in my opinion, very slight, but when you’re looking for the best of the best, the smallest differences matter. So who won this round by the slightest of margins? Pierre Hermé.

And so, the grand dame and the bad boy of the Parisian patisserie scene each win one round in this battle. As it stands, it’s Pierre Hermé-2,  Ladureé-2, La Grande Épicerie-1 and La Maison du Chocolat-0.

But it’s not over yet. In the final part of this series, I saved the best flavor for last: Caramel and Salted Butter. Yuuuummmm.

The Ultimate Macaron Taste-off, Pt. 1

And, finally, I’ve been able to do it. After battling with a cold (and an impaired sense of taste) during the first few days and getting in some preliminary taste tests (it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it), it’s done. I’ve found the best macarons in Paris.

Well, ok. I need to qualify this a little bit. As much as I would’ve loved to try every single macaron in the city and compare them all with each other, that’s obviously impossible. Every single patisserie worth mentioning, even your friendly neighborhood one, even McCafe for crying out loud, offers macarons. I’d have to spend a year in Paris, hundreds of Euros and thousands on dental care if I wanted to do that. So I’ve narrowed the sources down to four places: Ladurée, Pierre Hermé, La Grande Épicerie and La Maison du Chocolat. The last one wasn’t supposed to be in my original plan, but after sampling their macarons earlier this week, I realized it would be a travesty to not to give its caramel one a chance, hence the inclusion.

Also, I didn’t buy and try every single flavor each place offered. To be able to compare them to one another, of course I had to pick the same flavors across the stores, so my choices skewed towards the staples: Pistachio, chocolate, etc. I also have ruled out certain flavors I didn’t like (PH’s Vanilla and Olive Oil) or knew didn’t stand a chance (La Maison’s chocolate) or wasn’t adventurous enough to try (anything flower-based, licorice, etc.).

I bought them all the same day, all within about an hour of each other, so no one had a freshness advantage over the other. As you can see, I took all this very seriously. As I should, because we’re talking about roll-your-eyes-to-the-back-of-your-head-delicious here, people.

And so, here goes. Part one of my search for the best macarons in Paris, where I tackle the flavors Pistachio, Lemon and Coffee.

Pistachio: from L-R: Pierre Hermé, Ladurée, La Grande Épicerie

Right off the bat, I found Pierre Hermé’s too sweet. Too much vanilla, I think. If I tasted it with my eyes closed, not knowing what it was, I probably wouldn’t guess pistachio right away.

So just like that, it’s down to Ladurée and LGE (that name is just too long). Ladurée’s macaron filling was light and fluffy and had the most aromatic, essence-of-Pistachio (sorry, I can’t find a better way of describing it) flavor among the three. LGE’s, on the other hand, has a milder flavor, but is still very much Pistachio. Its filling is a little on the oily side though, which is never a good thing. Overall, though, I found the aftertaste of Ladurée’s a tiny bit too… pistacho-ey. I know that that’s probably the wrong thing to complain about, but it was just a smidgen too much for me. And so the winner of the Pistachio round is La Grande Épicerie.

Lemon: from L-R: Pierre Hermé, Ladurée, La Grande Épicerie (although their macaron is officially Kalamansi and Tahitian Vanilla)

Knowing Pierre Hermé’s penchant for strong, bold flavors, his Citron macaron comes as a disappointment. It’s relatively weak, compared to the hard-core lemony-ness of Ladurée and LGE’s. I honestly expected more from Mr. Hermé. But enough about the disappointing ones, let’s get on to the two remaining contenders, shall we? LGE’s combination of our very own Kalamansi (actually, I didn’t ask if it was the same kind, but I’m assuming it is) and vanilla was surprisingly good. The vanilla doesn’t overwhelm the citrus flavor at all, the Kalamansi is still center stage with this one. I guess the vanilla was added in there to balance out the bitterness that Kalamansi can have sometimes. But for sheer concentration of tart, lemon-y goodness, I’d have to give it to Ladurée. Their lemon macaron is just that. Lemon. No frills, just pure and straightforward (almost over-the-top, even) LEMOOOON. And you can’t really ask for more than that in a lemon macaron.

Coffee: from top to bottom: La Grande Épicerie, Ladurée, Pierre Hermé

I’m a wuss when it comes to the flavor of actual coffee for drinking, but when it comes to coffee- flavored food (ice cream, cake, candy, etc.) the stronger, the better. And that is why this particular flavor was an easy one to decide on for me. I just had to pick what was the strongest-tasting of them all: Pierre Hermé. The other two, particularly Ladurée, might as well have been made from instant coffee compared to PH’s.

And so at the end of part one of my taste-off, La Grande Épicerie, Ladurée and Pierre Hermé all win one flavor each. But lemon, pistachio and coffee are not the macaron flavors that will make or break a patisserie. In my opinion, the measure of how good a macaron-maker a bakery is are its vanilla, chocolate and caramel macarons, all of which I’ll tackle in part two of my taste-off.

In the meantime, whose other macarons should I have included in my very scientific and serious study? Let me know in the comments!