Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Chaque couleur, s'il te plait.

Suffice it to say, I've never had a macaroon (Le macaron, en francais) that I thought was really good. Until about 30 seconds ago.

Vacances is over. Vacances is the 6-week paid vacation that all French citizens get during the months of July and August where pretty much all of Paris shuts down and it's impoosible to get a good baguette (let alone a good patisserie) anywhere. Everyone is in the Cote d'Azur, Nice, Provence, Marseille - feasting on coq au vin and ratatouille in lavender fields with lots of chilled Chardonnays. La vie francais.

But now, the patissieres are returning to their shops and it is finally possible to walk 20 steps out your door and buy fresh bread. I went out on a limb today after my excursion to the Musee Maillol turned out to be fruitless (Tuesday is a strange day to be closed on). I went to the patissier just 20 steps outside my door and noticed that their specialty was macaroons.

A crash course in macaroon making might be in the cards: A macaroon is basically baked almond-flavored meringue disk. You can add colorings and other flavorings to make them prettier. The disks are sandwiched together by a hardish creme patissiere (which actually reminds me a lot of Oreo cookie filling (I guess Oreos could be considered American macaroons).

In this particular patisserie there weren't a lot of impressive looking pastries (I mean, hey they just got back from Toulouse last night!), but the macaroons were among the prettiest and most tempting i had seen. There were ten flavors and colors ranging from a verdant green pistachio to a regal purple creme de cassis. They were absolutley beautiful - I had to have one of every color, no matter what the cost, except for the blue "menthe frais" macaroon. I stand with my hero Jeffrey Steingarten when I adopted one of my mantras "food should not be blue." Plus, if it were really menthe fraise (fresh mint), it wouldn't be blue. Sorry.

I tried the purple one first - it was just screaming to be eaten. It was also the one I was most worried about. I was so, so wrong. A slightly crunchy shell encased a cassis-flavoured jelly like meringuey center filled with this Oreo-filling creme. The second, a coffee and chocolate macaroon just made it impossible to distinguish which I preferred.

Thusly, I have eight more macaroons left. Each with their own taste, but uniform in texture and gratification. I will attempt to be Proustian and concoct a sensory memory from each one. Lucky for you, I will keep it to myself. Not every madeline has a story to tell the world.

ADDENDUM: I just bit into the caramel macaroon and it gave me chills. I'm not even joking a little bit. And I actually hate caramel.

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