Although macarons have never really appealed to me, I made it my mission while visiting Paris to discover what all the fuss over the bite-sized French sweets is about.
In case you’re not familiar with macarons, they’re made of two almond meringue discs and filled with a layer of buttercream, jam, or ganache. They come in a multitude of flavors and colors. They’re also not the cheapest thing in town, as each bite-sized sweet will run you about €2.
When it comes to macarons, there are two pâtisseries (pastry shops) that are famous in Paris, and the world over, for their rainbow assorted sweets: Ladurée and Pierre Hermé.
Since these two are known as the best of the best, I set out to do a (completely unscientific) taste test by sampling macarons from each pâtisserie.
Both Ladurée and Pierre Hermé have very different vibes. Ladurée is soft and traditional, while Pierre Hermé is vibrant and innovative. Sort of, classic vs. modern.
I opted for four macarons from both Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, and chose the same flavors to keep the taste test fair. I skipped the option to have them packaged in a fancier, more expensive box, and opted to just have them in a regular take-away bag.
With macarons in hand, I headed to Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Luxembourg Garden, my favorite green space in Paris.
The four flavors I chose from each was chocolate, salted caramel, rose and pistachio.
Here’s how each fared, according to my taste buds:
Pistachio: While the one from Pierre Hermé had a creamier filling, I enjoyed the lighter taste from the Ladurée macaron.
Rose: I actually thought the Rose macaron from Ladurée was horrible and didn’t finish it after my original bite. I thought it tasted like a strongly perfumed soap. The rose macaron from Pierre Hermé was much lighter and milder, with just a hint of rose flavor.
Salted Caramel: Again, while the one from Pierre Hermé had a creamier filling, I enjoyed the overall taste from the Ladurée macaron.
Chocolate: Although the chocolate macaron from Ladurée was good, I far more enjoyed the one from Pierre Hermé. It had a stronger, richer chocolate flavor. Pierre Hermé is also known for their chocolates, and it showed in their chocolate macaron.
And the winner is …
The overall winner? It was a tie. I preferred the chocolate and rose flavored macarons from Pierre Hermé, while I liked the pistachio and salted caramel flavored macarons from Ladurée more.
A Surprise Twist
On a different day I stopped in at Gérard Mulot’s in the Marais district to pick up one of their amazing pain au chocolats. (You can read more about Gérard Mulot’s and their delicious pain au chocolats here.) While there I decided to try to a few of their macarons: chocolate, salted caramel, and pistachio. Although I wasn’t a fan of the pistachio, their chocolate and salted caramel macarons won me over. I thought both were better than either that I had from Ladurée or Pierre Hermé. All I could think was look out boys, a new macaron has come to town.
And as I sat on the bench in Place de Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, and sampled the macarons from Gérard Mulot, I understood what all the fuss is about when it comes to these colorful, bite-sized sweets.