Friday, July 15, 2011

A Macaron All-Star (Pierre Hermé)

In case you couldn't tell what these were, I've got a brochure above the box to help you out

Earlier this week, the MLB All-Star Game was played at Arizona's Chase Field. Generally speaking, I am not terribly interested in watching any major sport's all-star game, even though the outcome of the MLB All-Star Game is actually very important because Bud Selig thought that it would be a great idea to award home-field advantage in the World Series based on the outcome of an exhibition game (to make the game mean something!). Right, but despite its warts and flaws, the MLB All-Star Game is head and shoulders better than any of the other major sports'. The Pro Bowl? What makes football such a great sport is the players' intensity and energy, neither of which are on display at the Pro Bowl, where hits are weak and defenses seem to only be concerned with what night club they'll be going to later. The NBA All-Star Game? Non-existent defense and lackadaisical play make this game a snoozer. I don't want to see a score on every possession, damnit. The NHL, though, may be on to something with the way they structured this year's all-star game with two captains selecting teams in a mock draft. Interesting, but I still prefer baseball over hockey. 

So what does all of this have to do with food? Well, in the world of macarons, Pierre Hermé's creations would most definitely make the roster for the all-star team. If I had to pick an MLB player as a comparison, I would say that Pierre Hermé is a little bit like Justin Verlander: one of the best in the business with numerous accolades and distinctions on his resumé whose offerings come at you hard and heavy with no holding back. Like a Justin Verlander fastball, Pierre Hermé's macarons are bold and packed with a ferocious intensity, which is to say that the macarons are strongly flavored with seemingly audacious flavor combinations. Green Asparagus and Hazelnut Oil? Fresh Mint and Sweet Peas? Color me intrigued. 

I decided to treat myself to a box of seven macarons from Pierre Hermé's London location. From left to right in the picture at the top, I tried Dark Chocolate, Apricot and Pistachio, Fresh Mint and Sweet Peas, Salted-Butter Caramel, Rose and Rose Petals, Green Asparagus and Hazelnut Oil, and Olive Oil and Vanilla. I couldn't wait to dig into the macarons, so I ended up walking a block down the street and perching myself on a random apartment building's stoop. Pedestrians walking by gave me funny looks as I took these pictures. What, you've never seen a person taking pictures of macarons in the palm of their hand before??? Anyway, here's what I thought about each flavor: 

Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate: So rich and decadent that it almost tastes like a truffle, especially given the fact that there is so much filling. The stuff of chocolate lovers' dreams.

Apricot and Pistachio

Apricot and Pistachio: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. A very nice macaron with a great pistachio filling, this was one of my favorites.

Fresh Mint and Sweet Peas

Fresh Mint and Sweet Peas: Light and refreshing. I think there were actually chunks of pea mixed in with the filling. And your eyes are not deceiving you, the top and bottom cookies are not the same color.

Salted-Butter Caramel

Salted-Butter Caramel: One of my two favorites. It was just so ridiculously smooth and buttery with a luxurious richness to it. A bit of saltiness helped to round out the flavor.

Rose and Rose Petal

Rose and Rose Petals: The lone disappointment. I found it to be perfumy and too artificial-tasting.

Green Asparagus and Hazelnut Oil

Green Asparagus and Hazelnut Oil: I didn't really taste the asparagus, as the hazelnut oil was quite overpowering, but this was still a pretty tasty macaron.

Olive Oil and Vanilla

Olive Oil and Vanilla: The second of my two favorites, this macaron offered a nice balance between the silky olive oil flavor and the warm vanilla. Very nice. 

Texture-wise, these little guys are supposedly not as crisp as other macarons, but I found the texture to be quite good. The cookie:filling ratio is decidedly skewed towards the filling in Pierre Hermé's macarons, and, with the exception of the Rose and Rose Petal macaron, flavors were strong and bold. All in all, I was quite pleased with my first taste of Pierre Hermé's macarons. While they are certainly not cheap (£1.80/macaron or £80/kg), they are worth a splurge if you are craving some well-made, intensely flavored macarons. Pierre Hermé certainly deserves all of the praise he has received for his macarons, and I am really eager to try out his other pastries when I head over to Paris in a couple of weeks. As the Justin Verlander of the pastry and macaron world, Pierre Hermé truly stands out and demonstrates a mastery of his craft that sets himself apart from his peers. 

13 Lowndes Street
London SW1X 9EX
United Kingdom

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