Monday, May 10, 2010
First day in Paris I headed to Saint Germain for a head to head of the city's food icon: the Parisian macaron (different than, say, the "French macaron" since varies per region). Smooth, delicate, yet still crisp and chewy, these are really incomparable to any in California let alone New York.
It's crazy how much of an institution Laduree is - supposedly the creator of the macaron, this chain is probably one of the single most suggested places to visit in Paris. Most of the flavors were very traditional (cassis, pistachio, salted caramel, etc), but what really struck me was the branding. The packaging and window displays are impeccable, reminiscent of places like Sprinkles or Miette. Who wants to eat pretty things wrapped in pretty boxes? Me, and just about every other person in the world!
The food itself, however, was much better at Pierre Herme. His flavors are known to be more adventurous, and while I didn't get a chance to sample any foie or truffle macarons, I did have some delicious olive oil-vanilla and jasmine green tea ones. Not very out there, but still far more inventive than the standard Laduree palate. The flavors were also just stronger, bolder, and more satisfying at PH, even for the classics like salted caramel and pistachio.
Pierre Herme is also known for ispahan, a combination of rose, lychee, and raspberry that works in an amazingly feminine way. The traditional version is in macaron form, and you can just see the difference in quality. Laduree's (on the right) just looks chunky and pedestrian compared to PH's, and the taste was reflective. My sister had a really delicious ispahan croissant, filled and glazed in such a way you could still distinguish the three flavors separately but still melding into ispahan bliss. This was definitely something worth going back for.