Thursday, January 16, 2014

Laduree, Paris - the Mecca of Macarons

Laduree - visited January 1, 2014
Before Paris, I had never heard of Laduree. Oh I had heard people wax poetical about macarons (no, that's not a misspelling, that's how the French spell their ganache-filled meringue sandwich cookies, not to be confused with the American macaroons of coconut) and where to get them but since I've never really liked macarons, I never paid much attention. But since I was in Paris, I yelp'd where to get good ones and at nearly the same moment, I had no less than three friends tell me I must go to Laduree.
Fortunately Laduree has several locations, one of them being on Champs Elysees which is where we went on New Year's Day. Even more fortunately, they were one of the places actually open on New Year's so I had the opportunity to join the line of people out the door waiting to get in to line up some more inside. Boy, these had to be some kind of macarons, right? I figured if I didn't like Laduree's macarons, I wasn't likely to ever like them at all.

Despite not being a macaron fan, I enjoyed my visit inside Laduree tremendously. It was just so....French. Beautiful confections, not just macarons, were lined up invitingly behind glass counters manned by neatly attired Laduree personnel ready to help the customers and move the line along. When it was finally my turn, I wish I could've lingered and stared at everything but mindful of all the people behind me, I had to be decisive.

The  famous Laduree macarons
The smallest box of macarons you can buy is a box of 6 for 15.80 euros. Ouch ($21.50 USD!). The box was pretty but since I wasn't a macaron fan, that seemed excessive for 6 mini macarons. But of course you know I bought them anyway. They give you a flavor brochure while you're in line so you know what to select when it's your turn. I chose the praline (1), chocolate (2), lemon (1) and salted caramel (2) for my nieces and I to share. And, because I couldn't resist it and I was already there anyway, I chose two individual cakes, both having some form of chocolate, because they were pretty and I wanted them :).

And they have very pretty packaging as well so in this case, you can judge the book by its cover. I don't know the official names of the cakes I bought, just that they were chocolate and they were pretty. That's all I needed.

My review of the macarons: I can understand why people like them so much, some flavors are better than others, the ones from Laduree are the best of all the macarons I've had, the meringue cookies were crisp and airy while the ganache fillings were rich and creamy. The praline was good, the lemon was lemony, the chocolate was almost too chocolaty for me (as hard as that is to imagine) and the salted caramel was my favorite but probably the only one I'd get again if I happened to be in Laduree again. But I don't think I'd go out of my way for them. I'm just not into macarons. But I'm glad I've had what's reputed to be the best of them so I know what a great one tastes like.
Praline Macaron
But can I tell you this hazelnut praline confection (below) was one of the best desserts I've ever had?? While I can remain somewhat indifferent to the best macarons of Paris, I would line up multiple times for another one of these hazelnut praline slices. By all that's sacred in desserts, this is the Holy Grail. Or close. The bottom layer was crunchy, the mousse filling was creamy decadence and the overall look and taste was just scrumptious. It's just as well I don't live in Paris or I'd be as big as a house because I'd have to eat one of these every day just because I could. And as proof of how much I like this cake, it doesn't even bother me that it was 6.10 euros. $8.30 a slice? I don't care. It was worth it.
Hazelnut Praline slice
The second chocolate dessert I got from Laduree was this chocolate square, layers of chocolate cake sandwiching a chocolate mousse filling and topped with chocolate ganache and a decorative nut crunch with a bit of edible gold foil. This was good too and had similar elements as the hazelnut praline slice but it wasn't quite as good. On a scale of 1-10, this would be an 8.5 while the hazelnut praline would be a 43. Still, it was a good choice and I'm glad we were able to sample more than macarons from Laduree.

Oh and for anyone in Southern CA, rumor has it Laduree will be opening a branch in Newport Beach so you don't have to go all the way to Paris for a macaron or the hazelnut praline slice. Not that I minded the travel....

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