Monday, October 20, 2008

In Cannes: Macaron Mania

French macarons are gorgeous things – perfectly round, chewy, and often brilliantly colored cookie-like confections made of egg whites, almond powder, and sugar. I tried making them once (pre-culinary school, I should say) and the results were not pretty. I quickly decided that macarons should be left to the macaron professionals.

I stumbled upon some of those professionals while walking through a winding pedestrian street in Cannes off of the famed (expensive) shopping street Rue d’Antibes. L’Atelier Jean Luc Pelé calls itself a “Créateur de Goût” or Creator of Taste. So maybe these macaron professionals aren’t modest… but they are pretty darn creative.

When I first walked into the shop I saw row upon row of brightly colored macarons to my left. To my right and in the back were artisanal chocolates and other decadent delights. But the macarons were too enticing to ignore. In addition to traditional varieties, Jean Luc offered flavors like rosewater, apricot-lavender, fig, and green tea. Even more surprising were the savory macarons, creations that looked just as jewel-like as their sweet counterparts: fois gras and spice, anchovy, olive, foie gras and apple, and tomato and basil. Jean Luc sells 21 flavors of macarons in all and makes them all on-site.

I picked up a few sweet flavors and conducted a taste test with my colleagues Cara and Nicole. Here were the results:

• Caramel sea salt – My favorite. The confection tasted of deep caramel, almost burned, but pleasingly so. The sea salt made the caramel dance on my tongue.

• White chocolate and rosewater – Rose is my new flavor obsession (I also bought rose petal jam at the Cannes Monoprix), but it’s definitely not for everyone. I also loved this macaron. The beginning of each bite tasted like marzipan; it was in the aftertaste that the rose made its presence known.

• Fig – I also love figs! (I guess it’s not surprising since I was the one choosing all of these flavors…). Dusted with poppy seeds, this dusky purple macaron was delicately flavored and just a bit figgy.

• Lemon – Bright yellow and chewy like a lemon square, this was Nicole and Cara’s favorite.

• Lavender-apricot – This one didn’t do it for us. The flavors were too subtle, and only Cara could detect the lavender at all. (And she’s pregnant – doesn’t pregnancy enhance your sense of smell?)

For the spectacle alone, Jean Luc is definitely worth a stop in Cannes, and according to the card they also have a shop in Paris. I’m not able to find a working website, but here’s the address in Cannes: 36 rue Meynadier.

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