How do you celebrate Jour du Macaron in Paris? First, think of macaron heaven and figure out how to get there. Following the lead of my macaron connoisseur, my daughter, we decided to go to Pierre Hermé's upscale, macaron specialty boutiques - her favorite. There are 8 locations, but we planned to get to 5 of them.
Pierre Hermé, a pastry chef, left Fauchon in 1996 to start his own macaron line. Fauchon is a specialty store for French fancy foods, located in Place de la Madeleine. This is my first venture into the Pierre Hermé shops and I will find out soon how comparable his products are to the original macaron fabricant, Ladurée.
In 2005, Pierre Hermé organized the first Jour de Macaron. This was a day dedicated to giving the public a chance to taste macaron from participating shops, for free. As a marketing gimmick, this is a good way to get product exposure by getting into the news, to introduce the product to a bigger clientele whose interests may have been peaked with the thought of trying something new.
For today, March 20th, Jour du Macaron - on its 6th year - was organised to benefit a charitable organization, Autours des Williams.
Days before, we planned how to prepare for this celebration. After our heathy breakfast servings of fresh fruit and vegetable juice and a bowl of oatmeal with mashed sweet yam, we were out the door by 10:00 a.m.
We figured out a walking itinerary from Place de la Concorde. With comfortable walking shoes, a light jacket and a hat, we headed to our first stop: 4 rue Cambon Paris 1er (off of rue de Rivoli).
There was a short line when we got there. While waiting to be served, a representative of Autours des Williams - " of the Williams and Beuren syndrome: a genetic disorder that affects more than 300 000 children today" - came to us to talk about their organization. We received some information, a guide to the macaron flavors, and a raffle entry form to fill up for a chance to win the grand prize: brunch for two at Royale de Monceau. For a small donation, we each were entitled to choose 3 pieces of macaron to sample, for free.
These were the macaron flavors that were being offered and more. By the time we finished visiting 5 shops, we each had 15 pieces each. We sampled some as we were walking away to head to the next stop and some pieces we saved to take home, to be savored later.
Passing through Place Vendome, we were on our way to 32 Avenue de l'Opera Paris 2e. Place Vendome is a shopping mecca for chichi brands. A good number of the jewelry boutiques are located here.
This was a much longer line and it took almost twenty minutes before we were served. I, in the meantime, was choosing flavors from my list that sounded exotic and different. My first three flavors were coing et rose, chocolat et foie gras, créme brulée. And this time, I was eyeing to sample right away Metissé - carrotte, orange, canelle (cinnamon), Chuao - chocolat pure origine chuao, cassis et baies du cassis, huile d'olive et vanille.
Passing l'Opera de Paris, we were going to Galleries Lafayette on 40 boulevard Haussmann Paris 9e.
The Pierre Hermé shop is inside the Galeries Lafayette, on the -1 floor. There was a big spring-shoe sale going on, but we could not be distracted from what we were accomplishing to do. My samples from here were truffe blanche et noisette, infiniment caramel, Arabella - chocolat au lait, banane, fruit de la passion et gingembre (ginger) confit.
It was a bit of a long walk from Galeries Lafayette towards the Arc de Triomphe - from boulevard Haussmann to rue de Boetie - this was a long stretch, and then we turned right on l'avenue des Champs Élysées. On an empty bench, we sat down to take a 5 minute break.
Pierre Hermé has a small shop inside the Publicist Building, on 133 l'avenue des Champs Élysées Paris 8e. This building is known more as the Publicist Drugstore, which is open up to midnight. The ground floor houses high-end brands from cigars to you name it, in open stalls that are open during regular business hours from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
This was another long line and it gave my daughter time to window shop. From here, I walked away with asperge verte (asparagus) et huile de noisette (hazelnut oil), Indulgence - menthe fraiche et petits pois (green peas), mandarine et huile d'olive. We took another 5 minute break, gearing up for the last shop to visit. From the Place de l'Arc de Triomphe, we walked down on l'avenue Kleber.
By the time we were at the Place du Trocadero, we realized that we had passed several major tourist destinations. We continued on to avenue Paul Doumer.
We got to 58 avenue Paul Doumer Paris 16e and were happy that it was a very short line. My last 3 choices consisted of figue, églantine et foie gras; Mogador - chocolat au lait et fruit de la passion, infinitement rose.
With all those flavor descriptions, I learned some new French words! By the time we got home, we had been walking, standing in line, and eating some of our macarons for five hours. We could have shortened our walking time by taking the metro. But, we figured, walking would help burn the unusual high-calorie intake we were having today.
I made it home with four petits sachets, with three macaron pieces in each, intact. Through the afternoon and evening, I was slowly eating them, one by one, and discerning the flavor profiles from what seemed to be unusual combinations, in some. It's almost going through the same process of figuring whether I like the wine or not. For the most part, I liked them all.
Pierre Hermé takes his creativity from the "path of nature" - from the fruits in season, their taste, their fragrance, their texture, the climate, and throw in his cravings at the moment. From there comes his flavorful combinations - delightfully different from anything else in the macaron market.
Thank you Pierre Hermé for making our day! We also thank you for your community and civic mindedness.
I am looking forward to next year's Jour du Macaron, and this time it will be to discover the flavors from the atelier of another pastry chef.