Dreaming of MacarOns
In just a few hours, I’ll be hopping aboard the TGV (high speed train) for yet another trip to Paris; no complaints here. And while I’d normally be dreaming of the different macarons I’ll be enjoying at both Pierre Hermé and at Ladurée, I find myself thinking back to macarons I had … in New York City.
It was after lunch at Ben’s Kosher Deli with a friend of mine, our ritual when I am in town, when I told her we had to pass by 36th Street, for I had heard about a little café specializing in macarons (the small French delicacy, not the big coconut macaroons that are often served during Jewish holidays). It’s a rather unappealing area – imagine the excitement of the garment industry alongside hordes of tourists, piling through Macy’s and heading to and from Penn Station. Yet on this nondescript block off of 7th Avenue, a big white and pink sign with a large black arrow points you to the tiny French MacarOn Café (no typo here, that’s their logo). On the day I visited, another sign was near the door, handwritten in big pink letters, “Happy Macaron’s Day.” This suits the mood of the place perfectly.
It’s absolutely miniscule in size, but overflowing with colorful artwork, energy and of course, butter. Tall, slim, charming and French bien sûr, Co-Owner Arnaud Cannone is ready and waiting to take your order for soups or sandwiches, just a coffee or the plat du jour, right at the entrance to the café. I overheard one woman answer that she was there for the “cookies.” No matter what you call them, she was right to head directly to the counter inside, with rows of the most colorful and bright macarons I have ever seen. I spent some time chatting with Arnaud, and he told me that his wife, Co-Owner and Pastry Chef Cécile Cannone, bakes the macarons on-site every night.
You’ll see a real rainbow of colors and a full range of flavors: pineapple (yellow and light green), coquelicot or poppy (bright pink), kiwi (bright green), as well as pistachio, coconut, lemon, strawberry, chocolate, peanut butter, orange blossom and still more. With new flavors added each week. One that really caught my eye was the tuxedo white chocolate macaron: two black macaron shells sandwiching a white filling. That made me scratch my head and ask – how can your white chocolate macaron be black?
Cécile let me know that many of the macaron shells use the same exact recipe, letting the flavor of the almonds dominate, with just the addition of coloring in the end. If lemon juice were added to the lemon macaron, for example, the shell would become too soft, she explained. However, this is not true for all: the chocolate macaron does have cacao powder in the shell, there is matcha tea in the matcha macaron, just as there is real coffee in the espresso macaron. My tasting of a dozen of the flavors later confirmed this.
One thing I noticed right away was that these macarons were quite large in comparison to the smaller “gerbets” as they are called in pastry shops in Paris. You also can’t help but notice that they are served colder than your typical Parisian macaron. To this, Cécile says very simply, “They must be kept in a refrigerator, as there is butter in the buttercream!” Understood. She recommends that you take them out about 15 minutes before eating. I challenge you to buy a few and wait 15 minutes before tasting. It’s not as easy as it may sound. Especially if you have my personal favorites in hand – peanut butter and strawberry. To those I might have to add the new Halloween flavors that Cécile is currently working on: pumpkin, chestnut and tiramisu. Bonne chance !MacarOn Café 161 W 36th St (between Broadway and Seventh Ave) +1.646.573.5048 Subway: A, C, E, 1, 2, 3 to 34th St – Penn Station www.macaroncafe.com Mon?Fri 7am?7pm