Chocolate and Macarons, Episode 36

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Does the thought of chocolate and macarons make you perk up and salivate? You're not the only one!

People are crazy about French macarons and sometimes I wonder why. You see, growing up in France, the macaron was not the treat I ever chose at the patisserie. My mother let us choose one item for dessert on Sundays, and I wasn't about to choose the smallest thing behind the glass! But, as time went by, I came to try a few, and I find them delicious, but they are still not my go-to Sunday treat.

The Macarons Craze of the 2000th

Having said that, I am clearly in the minority. When you visit France you'll see visitors buying macarons by the thousands. They buy them at the airport, one rue de Rivoli, at every little bakery in Paris, and they pay handsomely for them too Sometimes as much as 3€ a piece! That has me shaking my head I must admit, but I'm a no-nonsense type of person.

Why Are Macarons So Popular?

I think the popularity of macarons has to do with how pretty they are. Just look at them! Cake decorators need real skill to do what they do. With a macaron, it's all about the coloring agent.

And, unlike other French pastries, they are small. Diet-conscious visitors don't feel so guilty buying and eating them. They are also gluten-free normally (unless the filling contains flour) and the recent explosion of gluten-free foods probably helped the lowly macaron.

Chocolate, the Food of the Gods

A couple of years ago I watched with great interest as a new business opened in my village. A gourmet chocolate shop. I couldn't believe my eyes because I live in a small French village with no foot traffic and only a handful of other businesses. But there was the gorgeous chocolate store-front and even more beautiful fine chocolates. And it's still there! Why? Because the chocolates are gorgeous, they taste fabulous, and they charge an arm and a leg for the smallest box.

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Milk chocolate with whole hazlenuts: Chocolate and Macarons episode

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French Food & Wine

10 Replies to “Chocolate and Macarons, Episode 36”

  1. Chocolat, yeuh! I agree with the original Spanish explorers: chocolate tastes awful (unusual for someone with French blood, I suppose). Café noir, on the other hand….

  2. Ladurèe make amazing macaroons, and I love all their flavours!!
    You thought they had crazy flavours, we have a baker here in Australia that revolutionised macaroons here in AUS.
    Check this video out! http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/golden-macarons

    And you’re right Pierre Hermes desserts were AMAZING, I think I spend about €200 at that shop lol! I had a rose raspberry croissant, delicious and amazing are under statements of how great it was.

    Keep up the good work, I love the podcast!!

  3. The history of chocolate is fascinating, it must have been an incredible experience for people back then to discover a treat that we now take for granted. As I have gotten older my taste has changed and I prefer dark chocolate to milk, although I’m not adventurous with flavours.

    As Fatima said in her comment, we have Adriano Zumbo in Australia and he had alot to do with inciting the macarons craze here. I think that the celebrity chef phenomenon and related tv shows such as MasterChef are responsible for raising awareness of such tasty (and pretty) treats, food stylists and bloggers help to maintain the momentum. Laduree has even opened a small shop and cafe in the Sydney CBD, it isn’t in the best location but is quite popular. I love macarons and have tried a few different flavours, plus they’re so pretty to photograph 🙂

  4. Bonjour,

    My wife and I are planning a trip to France this next summer for our 15th wedding anniversary. I am dusting off my high school french and diving into the culinary wonderland to make sure we get the most for each region we visit. My wife is researching the art, architecture, and history. We are enjoying the planning and the resulting anticipation!

    I have listened to about half of your pod casts so far and have thoroughly enjoyed them, I appreciate your knowledge of both the American and French cultures and the great tips of how to be polite and enjoy our trip. We have two questions that we would like your help with:

    1. For religious reasons, we choose not to drink alcohol, tea, or coffee. (One may wonder what else is there to drink?!) How do we politely turn down these drinks and not offend? I am sure we will be saying “une carafe d’eau” many times, but do you have any other pointers to best navigate this pillar of french culture?

    2. My wife is a professional photographer and will certainly bring back thousands and thousands of pictures of our trip. What laws, rules, customs should we be aware of? Realizing that shop owners consider their shops as Americans think of their home/living room… If we go into a nice cheese shop or bakery, how do you ask for permission to photograph their wares? Are there uniquely french worries about photographing buildings, artists on the streets, people being people, general crowds near landmarks? etc… We don’t want to end up in jail, with a black eye, or come across as an impolite American.

    Again, I appreciate your pod cast and it has become a large part of my preparation, I especially loved the three episodes on pastries. I have since made Macaroons, Gateau Basque, and plan on working my way down the list.

    Merci

    1. Hello Gavin and welcome to Join Us in France!

      On your first question, don’t worry about offending, you won’t stand out that much, especially if you order something else instead. There are plenty of French people who don’t drink alcohol!

      Sure, ask for a carafe d’eau (which is free), but why not also order an Orangina (carbonated French Orange soda) or a Perrier (French carbonated water)? Or ask if they don’t have a local organic fruit juice (“avez-vous un jus de fruit bio?”), lots of restaurants have them now.

      No coffee or tea at breakfast will make you stand out more than no alcohol, but again, you can ask for a “chocolat chaud” (hot cocoa), or “un verre de lait froid/chaud”, or a juice. Cacolac is a great French cold chocolate milk BTW, tastes better than most coffees, let me tell you that! Don’t ask for Orangina for breakfast, that would be strange, I’m not sure why, but it’s not a breakfast drink.

      Photography in France is straightforward despite what you read/hear. In public you can take pictures of anything/anyone unless they ask you not to, sometimes there are signs indicating no photography, look for those before you shoot. If you’re not sure and want to ask, show your camera to the shop keeper and say “je peux ?” Keep the camera in plain view and don’t try to hide what you’re doing. I usually don’t ask for permission, but if I get any hint that the person isn’t happy about it I stop immediately and move along.

      One rule to remember specifically for France: even in public, you may not take pictures of a stand-alone minor, but as soon as there are 2 or more persons in the photo, you’re OK. I’ve actually researched this because I take a lot of basketball photos, there are kids involved all the time, so I had to check on the law.

      Voilà, glad the show is helping you plan your trip.

      A couple of questions for you now: how did you hear about the show and where are you planning to go in France?

      Best,

      Annie

      1. Merci Annie for the guidance.

        I have been brushing up on my french using a great app/web site called Duolingo. It is great for written french, but I needed to supplement my study with audio sources to increase my listening comprehension. French podcasts seemed like a good place to start. So I was searching using my Podcasts App on my iPhone for “French News” “French Language” and finally “French Food” and your podcast came up. While your podcast may not help me as much with my french listening skills, it has been a gem in the rough to aid in our preparation.

        We plan to spend 3 days in Paris and then 4 days in a loop through the Loire, Brittany, and Normandy, with two more days in Paris at the end.

        We are struggling with the balance between seeing/doing as much as possible, and taking it slow and savoring the terroir, so to speak. We are doing our best to plan only two major things a day to assure we don’t rush, and can go wherever the sights, smells, or music may take us.

        Our current daily plans are:
        1. (Fri-Sat) Fly into Paris and stay in the Marais neighborhood.
        2. (Sun) Ile de la Cite, Sacre Coeur, and a Seine river trip at night.
        3. (Mon) Arc de Triomphe, and then a walk down the Champs Elysees to and through the Louvre.
        4. (Tue) Versaille and then a drive to the Chateau de Maintenon.
        5. (Wed) Chateau de Chenonceaux, Chateau de Villandry, and then drive to Brittany.
        6. (Thu) Mont Saint Michelle, Omaha Beach, Bayeux Tapestry, Cliffs of Etretat.
        7. (Fri) Ruins of Jumieges, Giverny.
        8. (Sat) While staying in the Rue Claire area, Eiffel Tower, Opera, Visit an open air market
        9. (Sun) Half day open before our flight back.

        It is a shame that we don’t have more time, but we love our little children and may need to rescue grandma. We are consoling ourselves that this is just the first trip of many to come. We have tentative plans for 3-4 years out, to visit the south of France along with stops in Spain and Italy. In addition it would be great, once our children are a bit older, to spend a few weeks in a Gite.

        Any suggestions or tips on our itinerary would be welcome. We still have 7 or so months of planning and we are open to change, especially if you have some gems for us!

        Again, merci,
        Gavin

      2. On a side note, your basketball action shots are very good, it can be quite difficult to capture fast moving action in indoor situations. My wife enjoys photographing outdoor portraits, landscapes, architecture, and animal life. You can see her website here: http://www.bphotogenic.com. Upon our return we will have to post a few pictures to your facebook page.

        Again, Merci for your podcast!

  5. Hi Annie and Elyse
    I am like Elyse – I prefer just the macaron without the cream and plain dark 70% chocolate. BTW – Ladurée has three stores in the US – two in NYC and one in Miami plus stores in the Middle East and Asia. Dalloyau has stores in Asia and the Middle East. Many tourists flock to the Paris locations. Dalloyau invented the Opéra cake.

  6. Annie, Côte d’Or is Belgian, not a French house-brand. I must say that in my memory the Côte d’Or we bought when we lived in the Netherlands was higher quality than what we buy in the grocery here (Leclerc is our regular). They seem to be selling their “cheaper” lines rather than their best stuff in France.

    1. Interesting remark Kaye. I must say that to me country of origin doesn’t matter that much. I love Belgium anyway! A bar of Côte d’Or will still make me happy any time, and as I like to remind my family if I’m happy, everybody’s happy 😉

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