Sunday, March 20, 2016

Macaron Day 2016

Today was the first day of spring which meant it was time for another Macaron Day! We were really excited this year because Macaron Day fell on a Sunday which meant we could both go macaron hunting together for the first time. We planned out our schedule, mostly following the same route through Midtown that M took last year. We figured we wouldn't get 11 like M did last year since it was the weekend and it would likely be more crowded, but we aimed to try for as many as we could.

Stop #1: Woops at Port Authority

The crawl started off at the same spot as last year, the Woops kiosk at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. They just handed out macarons without giving you a flavor choice and we ended up with 2 different ones to try. It wasn't the greatest start to Macaron Day as the person behind the counter somewhat patronizingly corrected our pronounciation of macaron, even though it was pretty clear why we were there as they weren't selling anything else that we could see. (As an aside, we weren't wrong (see here) and to us macaroon means something else (like these).)

M's review: I wasn't sure what flavor macaron they had handed me and it was hard for someone of my height to see inside the macaron case after we got them because it had suddenly gotten crowded, so I spent most of the day thinking it was an oddly colored peanut butter macaron. After tasting it, I think it was actually blueberry. It wasn't my favorite one but it fell within the top half of my ranking. The blueberry flavor was nice, not overly sweet, and the cookie held up relatively well.

A's review: I was handed a pistachio macaron which was fine by me. Being my first free macaron ever it held a special place in my heart. Overall, it was just okay. There wasn't a ton of discernible pistachio flavor, and the cookie portion part had a nice crisp exterior but wasn't extremely chewy in the inside. It was okay, but nothing special. The cream had a nice consistency, though.

Stop #2: Francois Payard Bakery

Francois Payard Bakery is basically the home of Macaron Day, so it's a great place to stop by. Last year, they had quite a few flavors of macarons to choose from but this year they had only 2 - black n' white and strawberries and cream. Since we visited another FP location where we both got the strawberries and cream, we'll leave that one for later and just talk about the black n' white here.

A's review: I opted for the black n' white at our first stop in the hopes that we'd get to the second Francois Payard stop in time for me to get one of the strawberries n' cream from there. The black n' white consists of 3 vanilla bean ganache, vanilla macaron cookies, and a dip in 61% dark chocolate. Because of the chocolate dipping, everything else gets a bit lost. The chocolate shell packs a lot of flavor, and it ends up overpowering the vanilla encased underneath. I couldn't even get much of a feel for the cream inside. It wasn't a bad macaron, but it wasn't the best.

Francois Payard Bakery was also the home of a new macaron hybrid that people have been talking about all week - the macaron donut. These were $5, not part of the free macaron giveaway, but today was the first day they were available (and they would only be around for a limited time). Consisting of a strawberry flavored fried dough bottom, a strawberry cream filling, and a macaron top, and about the size of a small cake donut, this was pretty good. It was definitely sweet but it had nice strawberry flavor and the texture of the "donut" held up pretty well.

Stop #3: Bouchon Bakery

Although we had indulged in the macaron donut at Francois Payard, we hadn't eaten any of our other macarons yet, instead saving them for later. The first one we actually ate was the cookies and cream macaron from Bouchon Bakery at the Time Warner Center.

M's review: This was by far my favorite macaron of the day. I had liked the one I got last year at Bouchon, and Bouchon is one of the few places in the city where I've actually bought macarons, so it was no surprise that I thought this one was fantastic. The cookies had the perfect chewiness, and the cookies and cream flavor was exactly what I was looking for. It was like eating an Oreo cookie but with much better texture. After eating it, I was a little concerned that I might have started the day with the best instead of ending it on a high note, but either way, I'm just glad we were able to get one of them. We tried making it to another Bouchon location later in the day but they had just run out minutes earlier.

A's review: Best macaron of the day by a long shot. It all starts with the cookie, and this one was phenomenal. Perfectly crisp exterior that evolved into an amazingly chewy interior. They also had the perfect amount of cream filling which was equal parts smooth and sticky. Eating this was like eating warm cookies and cream ice cream. It had the perfect consistency, and it made me want to go back and actually buy more of their macarons. I wish we could have saved this for last, but the way in which they construct their macarons makes that difficult. The cream fills the entire cookie interior and is a pretty thick layer so it would squish out far too easily.

Stop #4: FP Patisserie at the Plaza Food Hall

The patisserie had the same options as Francois Payard Bakery, but they had already run out of the black n' white, so we both got the strawberries and cream. That macaron was strawberry puree and white chocolate ganache in a strawberry macaron shell.

M's review: I think it's just a coincidence, but all of the macarons in the top half of my ranking were from the first few stops. This strawberry and cream macaron was good, similar in flavor to the macaron donut. It was a little sweeter than I prefer, but it was still good. The texture of the FP macarons are of course always nice too.

A's review: As previously mentioned, I banked on getting to this second FP location to get the strawberries and cream macaron option. I'm glad I did. You could really taste the strawberry in the cream, and the cookie had a really good texture to it. I don't think it was quite as good as Bouchon, but it was still really good. After eating this cookie I kind of wished I had gotten two of these instead of splitting my choices, but how was I supposed to know which one I would like more?

Stop #5: Macaron Cafe

Last year, Macaron Cafe was one of M's favorites, and we were both pretty excited that they hadn't run out of macarons yet when we got there. (This was technically our sixth stop, but we're skipping listing or numbering the ones that had run out already.) They had let customers choose any macaron from their vast selection in the past, but this year had narrowed the eligible ones down to a "seasonal" list (of about 9, so still quite a few choices). (It seemed to be a trend this year to have less options to choose from, for whatever reason.)

M's review: I debated for a bit between the Earl Grey and the jasmine, with a brief temptation by orange blossom, but in the end, ended up getting the jasmine. I anticipated that it would taste like fragrant jasmine tea, one of our favorites. Unfortunately I have no idea what this flavor was. I didn't taste any jasmine whatsoever, just something kind of bitter and not really easy to discern. I made A try a bite (even after I said it was awful), and he tasted banana. I have no idea what was in there, but it was my least favorite macaron. I have no interest in getting that again, and I was so confused because the ones we got from Macaron Cafe last year were so good!

A's review: I opted for the Earl Grey since I really like drinking that tea. I'm not really sure what flavor this was in the end. It had a bit of a citrus flavor which I assume was meant to account for the bergamot, but after that it was all downhill. The cream had the consistency and the flavor of room temperature butter. I was actually looking forward to this one as M liked Macaron Cafe so much last year, but... this was a complete and utter disappointment.

Stop #6: Woops on 2nd Avenue

After attempting a new pop-up spot in Bloomingdale's that had already run out of free macarons, we found ourselves at another Woops, this time near the Queensboro Bridge. This one had a designated person handing out the free ones from a giant cardboard box. Not sure if there were multiple flavors, but we both got cookies and cream.

M's review: This Woops macaron was okay, but I liked the blueberry better. Texturally it was about the same, but I found the cookies and cream flavor a little too intense (for lack of a better word). Oddly it seemed to have a strong fragrance to it which was a little overwhelming. I definitely preferred the Bouchon cookies and cream.

A's review: They called this cookies and cream, but it didn't taste anything like cookies and cream. In fact, I don't even know what I think this tasted like. It was okay, but it wasn't anything amazing. It had a similar texture to the other Woops macaron I had, but it was nowhere near as good as the Bouchon cookies and cream option.

Stop #7: Eclair Bakery

M remembers Eclair Bakery from last year mostly because it was the place where M realized how many people brought plastic containers to hold their entire macaron haul. This year, they were giving out vanilla macarons.

M's review: This one was okay for me, probably right in the middle of the pack. Texturally I didn't like it as much as Bouchon, but the flavor wasn't bad. The vanilla was a little on the sweet side, but it was fine.

A's review: I didn't like this one very much. Sometimes you can tell when it's artificial vanilla flavoring instead of real vanilla, and that was my thought when eating this one. It just didn't quite taste right, and that was disappointing. The cookie also wasn't nearly as chewy, and since this was the second macaron we ate, following Bouchon, it was a major letdown.

Stop #8: Macaron Cafe

This Macaron Cafe location in the East 40s was M's last stop on her macaron crawl last year, and considering how satisfied we were with Macaron Cafe last year, we were happy to get another one from them here. Once again, we decided to try 2 different ones.

A's review: I got the matcha chestnut macaron because it sounded really interesting. I've had chestnut desserts before, and they had a really nice, subtle sweet and nutty flavor that I thought would pair well with the flavors of the matcha. As you can see, the matcha cream far outweighed the chestnut cream, and that was a huge issue. The matcha was, expectedly, really bitter. Unfortunately there wasn't nearly enough chestnut cream, and this whole cookie was really bitter overall and not very pleasant to eat at all.

M's review: I wasn't sure what cassis was, but the guy working there said it was black currant, so I got that instead of the apricot and chocolate coconut ones I had been considering. This was definitely better than the jasmine one, as it actually had a nice, sweet fruit flavor. That said, it was still very rich, just like the other one, and not as good as I remembered from last year. Pretty disappointing since those were some of my favorites.

Stop #9: La Maison du Chocolat

We had gone to the La Maison du Chocolat location at the Plaza Food Hall earlier in the day, but they were out of macarons and we'd have to wait 30 minutes (which we didn't think was worth doing). Luckily they hadn't run out of all of them yet by the time we got to the Rockefeller Center location, so we still got to try them. They had a bunch left, but all the flavors we initially asked for - raspberry, passion fruit, hazelnut - were gone. Clearly we have similar taste preferences to a lot of other people.

M's review: I ended up getting the Macapuno, which had coconut and lime ganache. I definitely tasted coconut, but no lime. This was probably the sweetest macaron I had all day, too sweet, and even sweeter than the chocolate and praline truffle we got at Godiva immediately after. (It was a very sweet afternoon.) It reminded me a little bit of the macarella cookies we made one year at Thanksgiving (based on this), when we only had sweetened shredded coconut instead of unsweetened, and combined with the additional sugar, it was so ridiculously sweet that only my grandmother was willing to eat them. It was kind of like that, very, very, very sweet. All that said, I still preferred that to the jasmine one from earlier.

A's review: I opted for the Quito when all of our first two or three choices were all gone. It's a chocolate cookie filled with a dark chocolate ganache, and I thought that sounded good. Their website describes the macaron as, "The embodiment of chocolate, as we like it, is expressed in this full-bodied dark chocolate ganache with fresh, fruity and floral notes." I don't know about fresh, fruity and floral notes, but I got one note. SWEET. Yes, there was chocolate mixed in there somewhere, but the overriding flavor profile of this macaron was cloying sweetness. It wasn't horrible, but it definitely wasn't what I was expecting.

Although we still love Macaron Day, and there were some bright spots like Bouchon and Francois Payard, it was a little bit of a disappointing day overall based on how we liked the macarons. If you're looking for the short version, here are each of our rankings in order:

M's rankings:
1. Bouchon Bakery cookies and cream
2. Francois Payard strawberries and cream (x2)
3. Woops blueberry
4. Eclair Bakery vanilla
5. Macaron Cafe cassis
6. Woops cookies and cream
7. La Maison du Chocolat Macapuno
8. Macaron Cafe jasmine

A's rankings:
1. Bouchon Bakery cookies and cream
2. Francois Payard strawberries and cream
3. Francois Payard black n' white
4. Woops pistachio
5. La Maison du Chocolat Quito
6. Woops cookies and cream
7. Eclair Bakery vanilla
8. Macaron Cafe matcha and chestnut
9. Macaron Cafe earl gray

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