Tuesday, October 18, 2011

LaDurée and a Macaron Fad

Walking along the streets of New York over Fall Break, I was surprised to see a line forming outside one of the fashionable shops on Madison Avenue. The elegant gold letters above the door read “LaDURÉE” and the store window displayed a beautiful arrangement of pastel boxes and artfully arranged macarons. The inside was equally exciting, with gorgeous decorations and cases of macarons in a multitude of colors and flavors. Not being a tremendous macaron-connoisseur myself, I googled "macarons" and "LaDurée" to discover what was so particularly enticing about this store.

Macarons—not to be confused with coconut macaroons—are small cookies made principally of egg whites, sugar, and ground almonds. While the simple macaron biscuit dates to the 16th century, the sandwiched macaron filled with ganache was invented in the 20th century by LaDurée itself. The macaron has enjoyed enormous prestige in France and across Europe as a whole, although the United States generally has had less of an appreciation for them. However, recent days have seen a surge in American macaron consumption with shops opening across the country and Bon Appetit declaring the macaron “the new cupcake.” The New York LaDurée is the first to be opened in North America. Lines like the one I saw continue to form out the door even though it has been open since late August. One newspaper article even reported that a woman in labor had her husband stop on the way to the hospital to run into LaDurée and buy macarons.

Part of what makes the macaron so special is the variety of colors and flavors they come in. LaDurée invents a new flavor each season. Existing favorites include vanilla, pistachio, strawberry-mint, rose, chocolate, blackcurrant violet, and caramel with salted butter. The two seasonal New York flavors thus far have been green apple and cinnamon raisin. Each flavor also has a correspondingly unique color. Not all flavors are globally accepted, however. One variety, the licorice macaron, was not granted FDA approval and thus is not sold in the US!

Although prices are steep at $2.70 each, the dainty boxes with arrangements of the colorful cookies make a beautiful gift. The macaron itself is light and sweet. So the next time you’re in New York, hazard the lines for a taste of something deliciously French!

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