Friday, December 18, 2015

Macaron Day

While doing some cleaning the other day, I found a flyer for one of the macaron shops I visited on Macaron Day earlier this year. I wrote pretty much all of this post way back in March, but for some unknown reason, never finished or posted it. Just *slightly* overdue, but here's a recap of my first real Macaron Day experience.

The first day of spring was Macaron Day, which meant that participating vendors were giving out free macarons to anyone who showed up for the holiday. (It was also to raise awareness and money for City Harvest as a portion of the proceeds from macarons sold that day went to them.) Despite Macaron Day running in the city for 5 previous years, I still had not gotten 1 free macaron. Some years I was too busy at work and/or the lines were too long. The last time I tried, I got out too late (2:30 or so) and the first 3 places I stopped at had no macarons left so I gave up. I commented at the time that they should just call it "Macaron 1/2 Day" since there was no way the free macarons were going to last until 5 pm. This time, I vowed to do things differently, to start earlier, and to see how many places I would be able to hit.

Stop #1: Woops at Port Authority. I set off around 11 this year (much better than last time) and decided that Woops, which had a location in Port Authority Bus Terminal, would be a good place to start the macaron crawl. Although I passed through Port Authority fairly regularly, I hadn't even known there was a macaron stand there. I figured that it was early so I had a good chance of getting a macaron, and even if this was the only one I got all day, it was still more than what I got last time.

They had a couple different flavors at Woops and I went for the Nutella. They were the only place that had their free macarons in sealed packages, which was nice, so I just tossed it in my bag for later. This actually ended up being the last macaron we ate (I saved whichever ones I could so that A and I could eat them together and share in Macaron Day even though he had to work). It was okay, but not our favorite. The Nutella on the inside was a little bit more liquidy than I had expected it would be, which made eating this macaron a little bit messy, and the cookie crumbled a little more than it should have.

Stop #2: Bouchon Bakery at the Time Warner Center. I've bought macarons from Bouchon before and knew they were good, but with how crowded the mall up there is, I wasn't sure they would have any left. Luckily they did!

Bouchon's offering was chocolate salted caramel. This was one of the best macarons all day and it's why people are always going to Bouchon for macarons. Cookie texture was perfect and the flavor was spot on. I always worry with salted caramel that the caramel flavor is going to be too intense but this was great, perfectly balanced. Although I had packed a ziploc bag to wrap up some macarons to share with A for later, this one I ate there because I didn't want the filling (which went to the end of the macaron) to smear all over the paper wrapping. Poor A didn't get to try this one. We'll just have to go back to Bouchon another time to get some. It's not like it's far. 

Stop #3: Epicerie Boulud by Lincoln Center. On my previous failed macaron crawl, I think this was the first place I stopped and they were completely out. This time, I fared better.

I went with the pistachio macaron since that one looked more popular than the vanilla that was also on offer, and because we had really liked the pistachio macaron from the TJ's box set. This was good, but it didn't hold up as well as some of the others. The cookie was a little drier and more crumbly than some of the others, but the taste was good. It was the only pistachio I got all day so I can't really compare to anyone else's pistachio macarons.

Stop #4: Francois Payard Bakery near Columbus Circle. This finished off the 3 Macaron Day spots in the Columbus Circle-Lincoln Center area (and also completed re-visiting all the ones where I had failed last time). City Harvest was at FPB for the event and they still had macarons! This day was going much better than last time. I thought they might run out at the stops I was going to make after FPB, but I figured at least I was going to have some macarons to show for my effort.

FPB was offering a special mint macaron for the event, one that they don't usually have available for sale. Although I was tempted by other flavors, I had to get that one because if not now, then when? Biting into this one, it was green on the inside, which was supposed to be similar to City Harvest's colors. This was another one that we really liked. The mint flavor was great and the cookies were also quite good.

Stop #5: FP Patisserie in the Plaza Food Hall. By the time I got over to Plaza Food Hall, places were getting busier, it was lunch hour for a lot of people, and I started to think they were going to start running out of macarons. I was still going to try, but if I didn't get any, I was pretty satisfied already with what I had been able to pick up since it was so much better than last time. Luckily, FP Patisserie still had plenty and the crawl would continue on for a while longer.

I was trying to decide between the raspberry champagne and the passion fruit, and asked for a recommendation. The guy there suggested the passion fruit since they mix in a bit of chocolate, which makes it a little different. Great recommendation. We loved this one. There was that hint of chocolate that you could definitely taste, but it matched up really well with the passion fruit flavor. And since this is another Francois Payard place, you can be sure the quality/texture of the macaron was just right.

Stop #6: Epicerie Boulud at the Plaza Food Hall. Yes, I already went to the other Epicerie Boulud, but the poster did say to eat macarons around the city at all participating locations. It was at this point that I started to recognize fellow Macaron Day crawlers that I would see at multiple other stops.

This time, I picked up a raspberry macaron. I was starting to get a little peckish, so I ate half of it and put the rest away for A to eat later when we met up for lunch. The cookie was the same as the pistachio one, a little bit drier, but overall, it was good. I didn't think the flavor of the raspberry jam was as rich and pronounced as the other raspberry macaron I got later, but A thinks he might have gotten more jam in this one and thought this one had better filling.

Stop #7: Sugar and Plumm at FAO Schwartz. Located in the sweets shop at the (now closed) toy store, they had a bunch of different flavors but only a few for the special event. A didn't get to try this one, because they only gave a small square of paper (better for the environment?) to hold the macaron and I couldn't wrap it up for later. 

I picked the passion fruit macaron. This might win for the prettiest macaron as I loved the red and orange coloration and how it seemed to glitter under the toy store's bright lights. Taste and texture, it was very different from any macaron I had before. The filling was thick and creamy and very rich. You could really taste the cream, like you can in ice cream. It also was kind of a "sticky" macaron and the filling was chewy. That doesn't mean it was bad, just different from what I was used to with macarons. Very sweet and very rich, but also very pretty.

Stop #8: Macaron Cafe just down the street from FAO. I liked this section of the crawl because there were a whole bunch of Macaron Day participants in a straight line. This was the first place where I encountered a line outside, and it reminded me of a previous Macaron Day where I tried to go to the Macaron Cafe in the 30s and the line was just way too long. I hoped it would be worth the wait!

Once inside, I figured out why the line was so long. They let you choose from the entire selection of macarons and that included some of their more unique flavors that no one had. I decided on the rose lychee, but it was a tough choice since so many sounded good. This was another one of our favorites. We love any rose flavored dessert and this was no exception. It was a little heavy on the filling, and since we ate it later on, the filling had started to melt a little bit, but it was more solid when I got it so that was on us. But the flavors of the rose and lychee were so good. 

Stop #9: Mad Mac Macaron at the Bernardaud store. This looked like a pop-up that was at the store just for this event. Pretty much everyone "shopping" at the time was on line for a macaron.

I picked up a raspberry macaron here. It was on the smaller side for size, but it was quite good. I liked the raspberry filling better in this one than the Epicerie Boulud one, but A liked the other one a little more. The cookie was better on this one though; we both agree on that.

Stop #10: Eclair Bakery in Midtown East. This was the spot where I started to feel like I hadn't "prepared" enough for Macaron Day. I thought I was smart, bringing a zipper-closed bag since it was snowing, and packing away inside that an empty ziploc bag (sandwich bag size) to collect macarons so I could share them with A later. But it was at Eclair that I realized that multiple people had brought plastic tubs for their macarons. Tupperware! It didn't even occur to me to do that, but I watched several people (who were not traveling together) rearranging their packed macarons in their boxes. I was running out of space in my ziploc bag, but it had served me well for the most part. Is bringing Tupperware really a thing? Clearly I was a Macaron Day newbie.

Eclair was offering salted caramel macarons. This was pretty good, but I liked the Bouchon one a little more (and it's easier to get to).

Stop #11: Macaron Cafe in the East 40s. This would end up being my final macaron stop of the crawl. (Although I did check out the other Macaron Cafe in the 30s later in the afternoon, they were out of free macarons by that time.) I was pretty excited and was hoping to get one of the other flavors I had been eyeing at my first Macaron Cafe stop.

Success! I got the honey lavender. It didn't fit in my ziploc bag which was bulging at the seams, since the Macaron Cafe macarons are on the larger size, but that didn't matter since I was heading to lunch with A and was planning to share this with him while we waited for our special Shake Shack burgers. Just like the other one from Macaron Cafe, this macaron was fantastic. The honey and lavender flavors went together so well. We would definitely go back for another one of those.

All in all, it was a pretty successful Macaron Day and I'm so glad that I went. Not only did I get some much needed exercise (over 18,000 steps for the crawl!), but it was really fun. It reminded me a little bit of the Easter Egg scavenger hunt from the year before, going around the city looking for all the hidden eggs. I really get a psychological boost from doing things like that, running around the city finding or picking up stuff. This really fulfilled a need that I hadn't even realized I was missing. It was a lot of fun and the awesome macarons were a great bonus.

I don't know if we could pick a single favorite macaron, but the 2 Macaron Cafe ones are up there along with the 2 Francois Payard ones and the one from Bouchon. 11 macarons for the 2 of us definitely made up for all the years we walked away with none. Long live Macaron Day!

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