By Elena del Valle
Photos by Gary Cox
For several years we have been fans of Pierre Hermé macarons, lightly flavored ethereal French pastries (see Pierre Herme Paris bakery for glorious macaron pastries). It had been a while since we had macarons and we were eager to find out if they were as good as we remembered. Soon after arriving in Paris, France we headed straight for the nearest Pierre Hermé shop we found.
It was in the basement of the very crowded Gallerie Lafayette department store not too far from our hotel. It was the first time we visited a satellite of the famous French pastry chef and although not all the macaron flavors were available there were enough to satisfy us until we could make our way to the pastry maker’s boutique in the Latin Quarter near the Church of Saint Sulpice.
The prepackaged box of specialty foie gras macarons
Time flew away from us and it wasn’t until Christmas Eve morning that we found the time to visit the Latin Quarter Pierre Hermé shop. We made a point of arriving early in the day to avoid the afternoon lines we had seen in prior years during the Christmas and New Year holidays and were surprised to discover a line of customers that spilled outside the shop onto the sidewalk and snaked past the corner. It was snowing and gray but nobody seemed to care as we all stood patiently on the sidewalk waiting our turn in the queue in the freezing cold.
A pleasant young lady from the shop kept the line from bunching up in front on the neighboring store to the bakery. Another lady passed the holiday catalog to patrons in the line and a third young woman held an umbrella in one hand and a tray of chocolates in the other hand while she offered chocolates to patrons waiting in line. The chocolate bite was nice.
The festive window display featured macarons as ornaments
After a 20 minute wait on the cold and windy sidewalk we entered the small boutique. We were excited to be back and immediately searched the store for macarons. The busy boutique was filled with French, English and Japanese speaking customers and a about a dozen staff members behind the counter. As soon as we approached I saw beautiful seasonal Buches de Noel, pastries and further along, in the display case area nearest the register, the reason for our visit, rows of macaron pastries in a variety of colors and flavors.
No sooner had we joined the line that a young woman offered to help us. We had taken the time while in line outdoors to select our choices from the color catalog and were ready to order.
Another window display
With gloved hands she gently picked up the macarons and placed them in our box. After the first selection of Rose macarons she had to stop and wait. It was so crowded behind the counter that she couldn’t reach the macarons to place them in our box. Three of our picks were sold out.
In the past the Macarons D’Excepcion seasonal macarons were available for purchase individually. This year, specialty flavors, seasonal and foie gras, were only available in prepackaged boxes of 16 for 38 euros. One box contained four each of Envie, violette et baies de cassis; Pomme Verte et Angelique de Montagne, pomme verte, angelique de montagne et pommes aciduelees; Fortunella, kumquat, anis etoile, kumquat confit; and Agape, citron et pain d’epices. We knew from past visits that the two foie gras macaron flavors, Chocolate et Foie Gras and Eglantine, Figue et Foie Gras, were favorites and ordered the box containing eight of each.
Our selection of macarons
On December 31 we made another trip to the Pierre Hermé store in the morning. Once again there was a line of customers spilling outside the entrance although this line was shorter than the one we had encountered on the previous visit. Staff were managing the queue and handing out chocolates which were divine (it was only possible to purchase them in a variety box rather in single flavors). This time a young lady on seeing our camera while we were outside the store indicated quite firmly to us and the lady in front of us who was photographing the window display that “photographs inside the store are forbidden.” This morning they had no rose macarons, one of my favorites.
As we headed home we collected our thoughts and discovered that although we enjoyed sampling the macarons with a combination of flavors our favorites were the two foie gras varieties and the macarons with a simple combination of flavors, Rose, Truffe Blanche et Noisette (white truffle and hazelnut), and Infinitement Caramel (caramel with salted butter). The best discovery was that we still thoroughly enjoyed the Pierre Hermé macarons. Even after waiting in line in the cold Paris winter our macarons had been satisfying and as good as we remembered them. Vive les Pierre Hermé macarons!