February 22, 2010
If you’ve spent even a small amount of time in Paris, you know that the macaron is ubiquitous. And in a city of fastidious eaters, it’s significant that a single dessert has managed to win the hearts and minds of so many. But the debate rages on: who produces the best macaron of all? While Dalloyau and Lenôtre both make a commendable run at it, everyone knows that there are only two real contenders.
In one corner, we have the elegant and established Ladurée, which has been turning out sweet confections since 1862. And in the other corner, we have upstart Pierre Hermé, the enfant terrible of the dessert world who worked at Ladurée before setting out on his own. (Word on the street is that the “oppressive” traditions at Ladurée were preventing him from exploring the crazy flavor combinations for which he is now world famous). Naturally, we wanted to get in on the debate, so Sarah (another Hip Paris blogger) and I gathered some friends last week for a comprehensive taste test. Two boxes of macarons later, we reached a nearly unanimous verdict!
In the chocolate category, Pierre Hermé blew Ladurée out of the water. The flavor was far deeper, the texture smoother, the overall experience significantly more heavenly. Pistachio went pretty much the same way. But then we came to the most contentious category of all: caramel beurre salé (buttery salted caramel).
This flavor is no joke in France. You’ll see some variation of it on nearly every dessert menu in Paris. In other words, this category is make-or-break. Initially, Ladurée lured us, as the filling of their macaron has actual caramel in it. Nice touch, but we decided the overall effect was a bit too sugary.
In the end, Pierre Hermé pulled through yet again. His filling is more buttery than caramel-y, but the overall experience is balanced and, to my palate, quite other-worldly.
So there you have it! Pierre Hermé comes up big in every category. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not going to refuse a box of Ladurée macarons if one happens to show up on my doorstep. But in a macaron head-to-head, my money is on Hermé.
So readers, what do you think?
Pierre Hermé. 72 Rue Bonaparte, 6th arrondissement. Tel: 01 43 54 47 77. Metro: Sainte-Sulpice (Line 4) or Mabillon (Line 10).
Ladurée. 21 rue Bonaparte, 6th arrondissement. Tel: 01 44 07 64 87. Metro: Saint-Germain-des-Pres (Line 4). For Ladurée’s other Parisian addresses, click here.
Feeling ambitious? Try making your own macarons with David Lebovitz’s recipe.
Written by Tory Hoen
After attending Brown University and spending two years in New York, Tory bought a one-way ticket to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a writer (and of drinking wine at lunch). During her time in the City of Light, she chronicled the euphoric highs and the laughable lows of ex-pat life on her blog, A Moveable Beast. Though she's now based in New York, she travels frequently to Montreal and Brazil, and she'll use just about any excuse to jet to Paris ("I ran out of fleur de sel"). A regular contributor to Hip Paris, Tory also writes for New York Magazine, Time Out New York, and she is a co-author of Gradspot.com's Guide To Life After College.
Website: Tory Hoen