Wednesday was a brilliant day for a myriad of reasons:
1. It was the first day of spring!
2. The sky was clear and so blue and sunny, the 40º weather didn’t matter.
3. My roommates and I all had the day off. The 3 of us all have unconventional schedules; this never happens
4. MACARON DAY! http://macarondaynyc.com/
Let me just start by saying Macaron Day was everything I wanted it to be and more. With my roommates Rose and April at my side, a red beret perched upon my head, the Macaron Adventure just past 11AM. I charted our course, an ambitious plan to visit six bakeries. I was somewhat nervous. I had hyped up Macaron Day so much to my roommates, in my own mind, and to the world on this blog. Free Macarons! Delicious French cookies! So many participating bakeries! You have to go! As we approached our first bakery I fretted, What if we’re too late and all the macarons are gone? It’s almost noon! There might be horrible long lines! What if we are uncomfortably pressured to buy things? I crossed my fingers and prayed this wouldn’t be a let down.
Epicerie Boulud at Broadway and 64th was first stop on our macaron tour.
Lovely displays of fresh bread and Easter sweets greeted us as we stepped inside. With only slight hesitation, I approached the counter. “Hi,” I said to the cute/French-looking/slightly effeminate/young man behind the counter, “We’re here for Macaron Day!”
“Great,” he replied, and pointed to a bowl of macarons, “Please take one. We have Chocolate, Pistachio, Raspberry, and Hazelnut-Passion Fruit.” And it was just that easy. We each selected a different flavor- Rose took Pistachio, April grabbed a Chocolate one, and I tried the Hazelnut-Passion Fruit.
We bit into the sweet little morsels and grinned. The light airy consistency complemented by a crisp shell and a slightly chewy texture: that is the trés bien combination of a good macaron. Rose and I both agreed that these were good, though not the best we’d ever had. “I can’t wait to compare them all!” I cried.
Then April shared a shocking confession: “Guys, now that I’ve eaten one, I can say this: that was my first macaron.”
Rose and I gasped at this revelation, “Seriously? Sacre bleu! What did you think??”
“I loved it and I can’t wait for more!” And withe that pronouncement, we departed for …
Destination number deux: Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle.
Maybe it was the beginning of the lunch rush, maybe it was the fact we didn’t buy anything else, maybe it was something else, but Bouchon Bakery seemed over Macaron Day when we got there at noon. There was no indication that it was a day out of the ordinary. After a short wait in line, we were hastily told, “We only have Vanilla.”
“Great!” was our reply, and we were quickly shoved three tiny vanilla macarons. Most macarons are 2, maybe 3 bites. These were one. They were great though! Perfect crispness on the outside, followed by fluffy chewiness. By the end of the day, I would have been happy for a mini-macaron, but as it was only macaron deux, I was left wanting more! It was lucky our next stop was only a block away!
Macaron numéro trois was waiting for us at Francois Payard Bakery on 58th and Broadway.
The scene here was the most celebratory yet. Not surprising as Francois Payard is the man responsible for Macaron Day in New York. Inspired by Paris’ Jour du Macaron, he initiated the American version in 2010. With a display at the front and an area in the back devoted to passing out macarons, the festive feel of this shop was on par with that of my red beret. With beaucoup de(that’s french for “a lot of”) options- Raspberry, Hazelnut, Mint Chocolate, Chocolate, and Passion Fruit– April and I both went for Raspberry and Rose opted for Passion Fruit. The flavors were excellent, the ganache stellar, and the texture trés bien. We left the shop praising Francois Payard’s pastry skill and ingenuity for creating what was already a fantastic day. We couldn’t get enough of Monsieur Payard and we were in luck! The next stop on our itinerary was another of his establishments!
FP Patisserie at the Plaza Hotel on 59th and 5th Avenue for our quatre (4) macaron of the day. With sugar now coursing through our blood, we really hit our stride.
The Plaza Hotel is known for elegance and luxury. Even it’s food court, dubbed The Todd English Food Hall, lives up to this standard. FP Patisserie was quite similar to Mr. Payard’s other shop. But here the flavors were more sophisticated. April and I again chose the same flavor, the intriguing Honey-Violet. It was a surprising and fresh burst of flavor, new to both our taste buds. Rose sampled an exotic chocolate flavor with a tricky french name none of us could remember. You know the cliché about us ladies and our chocolate, and this particular macaron was pronounced, “Really good,” emphasis on really.
A New York fact: if three girls step foot in the Plaza Hotel, they have to talk about Eloise. We took a peak in the hotel’s elaborate gift shop, dedicated entirely to the iconic pint-sized Plaza inhabitant. Macarons and Eloise? Cuteness was pouring out our ears as we departed the hotel with still more macarons in store!
Our adventure now brought us to my old favorite macaron place (highlighted in my last post), The Macaron Cafe.
Arriving around 1PM, we hit major lunch traffic. The little shop was full to bursting and by the time we left, the line to get in was out the door. This wasn’t simply because of Macaron Day, this cafe is a popular lunch place for the mid-town crowd. We persevered through the sea (la mer en francais) of people and upon our unison cry of “We’re here for Macaron Day!” were faced with overwhelming decision: we could pick any of their 28+ flavors. There was no time to look at all the options and so we all chose the same: Lemon. I had raved about my love of this flavor of macaron, and bemoaned it’s absense at all places we’d visited thus far. The consensus was unanimous: The Macaron Café had the best macarons thus far. Not just the incredible selection, but the initial crunch and texture was perfect. The macaron is not the namesake of this place for nothing!
The final stop of our tour: the Mad Mac pop-up shop at Bernardaud on Park Avenue and 59th.
“Pop-up Shops” are a NYC fenominon- a shop that appears for a short period of time- a day, a week- and then is gone. Sometimes they occupy empty locations, sometimes they are created in parks, and sometimes they occupy other stores. For Macaron Day, and that day only, Mad Mac macarons were being sold in Bernardaud- a store selling trés chic french decor.
Florian Bellanger, the chef and co-owner of Mad Mac, also the star of Food Networks Cupcake Wars, was there signing books and celebrating Macaron Day. As I took the picture of our sixth and final stop, I realized I needed two hands. My solution? Display my pumpkin (how creative) macaron in my mouth. Just as Rose snapped the photo, a woman emerged from the back room. “What a creative picture!” She exclaimed in a glorious french accent, “You have to take a photo with Florian!” She said, and called him over.
“Magnifique!” I said to Monsieur Bellanger and, “Merci beaucoup!” We left the shop with huge smiles on our faces. “I wish every day was Macaron Day!” said April, an excellent cupcake baker in her own right, who was star struck by the celebrity of Florian Bellanger. It was the perfect end to our Macaron Adventure. Au revoir! The door of Macaron Day closed, but another opened- spring! I’m so glad it’s finally here!