Every March, the excitement of NCAA basketball and composing the perfect bracket consumes America. Inspired by my own descent into March Madness, I decided to conduct a similar competition of the confectionery nature to determine Paris’s premier macaron. Pleased with my pastry participants, I seeded the Sweet 16 shops by Rive Droit and Rive Gauche (right and left bank) and set off on my furious foray in the City of Light. I acquired at least three flavors from each shop: a fruit, salted caramel or praline, and a unique macaron of my choosing. The meringue-based confections would be judged based on appearance, freshness, filling, texture and overall taste. 3 days, 16 pastry shops, 72 macarons and 1 sugar coma later, a champion emerged . Victory and defeat have never tasted so sweet. Without further adieu, I present Macaron Madness.
The Sweet Sixteen
Ladurée (1) vs Angelina (8)
Ladurée was my first stop. Arguably the most renowned sellers of the double-decker macaron world-wide, it would be a serious pastry faux-pas to overlook it. Around the early 20th century, Louis Ernest Ladurée’s grandson, Pierre Desfontaines, had the idea to join two macaron shells with a delicious ganache filling, et voila, the Ladurée macaron was born! The recipe has not changed since and Ladurée has become synonymous with macarons. I chose citron, salted caramel and the Marie Antoinette flavors, they were delicately packaged in a pretty pink box, and I was off to Angelina. Founded in 1903 and known primarily for their rich, thick chocolate, this would be my first time sampling their macarons. In addition to citron, caramel and earl grey flavors, I selected their signature Mont blanc macaron. Despite purchasing 8 macarons, a box was not even offered and they were haphazardly tossed into a paper bag.I started with Angelina’s Mont blanc flavor. Mont bland would be a more appropriate name if you ask me, I was seriously underwhelmed. Angelina’s citron/lemon had a better flavor and ratio than Laduree, whose citron flavor bordered on artificial in my opinion. However, Angelina’s bland caramel macaron (had I not known it was caramel, I would have had a hard time distinguishing the flavor) was no match for the rich caramel flavor that filled my mouth upon biting into Laduree’s offering. The Marie Antoinette was sweet with a slightly earthy undertone, hints of black tea, rose petals, citrus and honey. In comparison, Angelina’s Earl Grey Macaron boasted a bold flavor and truly captured the essence of earl grey, but after a bite I found it a bit cloying and almost overpowering. Winner: Ladurée
Jean Paul Hevin (2) vs Hugo & Victor (7)
Set back in a little haven off Rue St Honore, Jean Paul Hevin is one of my must stops in Paris. The siren song of their sinfully decadent chocolate tart is too much for me to resist, and I wouldn’t dare deny myself the pleasure even if I could. I get a little carried away, leaving with salted caramel, creme brule, praline, chocolate mango, and chocolate grapefruit macarons…. and a chocolate tart. I pop into Hugo & Victor, select lemon, salted butter caramel, prailine and pistachio macarons, and with that, it’s time for the next tasting match.Hugo & Victor jumped to an early lead with their lemon overpowering the chocolate grapefruit (pamplemousse) to earn solid points. After that, the Jean Paul Hevin macarons gained momentum with the chocolate mango (mangue), salted caramel and moved into the lead. Hugo & Victor’s macarons put up a solid effort overall, but they were no match for Jean Paul Hevin’s crème brûlée macaron and its creamy, caramelized vanilla biscuit with milk chocolate and smooth caramel center. I did my best to put my penchant for JPH aside, but much like the chocolate tart, their macarons speak to my soul. Winner: Jean Paul Hevin
Carette (3) vs Michel Cluziel (6)
Carette is a charming cafe, tea salon and well know Parisian pastry house with a prime location in the Place du Trocadero. Their salted caramel and the intense jam centered raspberry macarons delighted my tasted buds. Michel Cluziel’s chocolate is some of the best in Paris, but I found a size-able air bubble upon biting into the lemon macaron (a big no no) and overall while nice, they weren’t on the same level as Carette. Winner: Carette
Fauchon (4) vs Maison du Chocolat (5)
The caramel macarons at both Fauchon and Maison du Chocolat delivered a nice caramel flavor. I loved the coconut flavor in Maison du Chocolat’s chocolate coconut lime macaron, but I could barely taste lime, it was too subtle. Fauchon’s citron had a perfect lemon flavor, and their raspberry vanilla macaron was utterly divine. It was a close contest, but the texture, flavor and ratio of Fauchon’s macarons proved superior. Winner: Fauchon
Pierre Hermé (1) vs Yannick LeForte (8)
The tasting: Pierre Hermé is a Paris institution among patisseries, macarons included. I went in with high expectations and was not disappointed. On the other hand, this was my first (and most likely last) time tasting Yannick LeForte macarons. While I loved the funky flair in the appearance, funky could also be used to describe the flavor, and not in a good way. Winner: Pierre Hermé
Pierre Marcolini (2) vs Arnaud Laher (7)
I was excited to try Arnaud Laher’s olive oil macaron, but that was quickly replaced with disappointment. I love olive oil, especially when infused properly into a dessert, but sadly I found this macaron off-putting. I couldn’t even bring myself to finish it. On the other hand, Pierre Marcolini’s chocolate passion fruit was sublime. The consistency and ratio were on point, combined with a perfect hint of passion fruit. Winner: Pierre MarcoliniLeNotre (3) vs Sadaharu Aoki (7)
Asian flavors combine with French technique at Sadaharu Aoki and I was eager to sample their unique offerings. The sesame and yuzu macarons provided nice, balanced flavors, but the caramel was lackluster and overall a little on the dry side. LeNotre’s macarons, were delicate and delicious. The chestnut macaron put me over edge. Winner: LeNotre
Gerard Mulot (4) vs Cafe Pouchkine (5)
Refined Russian roots with a French twist, Cafe Pouchkine proved to be the biggest disappointment in the competition.
I liked the ambiance of their chic St. Germain cafe, so I sat, enjoying an afternoon glass of Champagne to accompany the tasting. Mulot’s macarons left something to be desired in their appearance, but they were fresh and flavorful.
Cafe Pouchkine’s were beyond stale, dry, and looked like they had been knocking around in my bag for my entire trip (so much so it warranted a picture)! Honestly, I was a little shocked someone thought it was acceptable to serve these to a customer. Sad. Winner: Gerard Mulot
And Then There Were Four…
Pierre Hermé (1) vs Pierre Marcolini (2) and Jean Paul Hevin (2) vs Fauchon (4)
After another round, numerous nibbles and careful consideration, Pierre Herme, Pierre Marcolini, Jean Paul Hevin and Fauchon moved onto the “Flavory Four.” Facing off on the Rive Gauche, the battle of the Pierre’s was a buzzer beater! Both make exceptional macarons, the texture, consistency, freshness – all perfection. Pierre Marcolini’s flavors, namely their passion fruit chocolate and caramel, packed a little more punch, winning out in the end. Over on the Rive Droit, it was down to Jean Paul Hevin and Fauchon. Fauchon’s raspberry vanilla was truly one of my favorites, but JPH’s salted caramel and crème brûlée triumphed.
Pierre Marcolini (2) vs Jean Paul Hevin (2)
Pierre Marcolini and Jean Paul Hevin faced off in a final delectable contest, almost too close to call. I preferred Marcolini’s passion fruit chocolate, but Jean Paul Hevin’s salted caramel, was the best salted caramel by far of all I tasted, and their crème brûlée was sans pareil, decidedly earning the nod for most outstanding pastry.
Paris’s Premier Macaron: Jean Paul Hevin
The Barge Ladies recommended Paris Macarons
- Jean Paul Hevin
231 Rue Saint Honoré – côté cour, 75001 Paris
- Pierre Marcolini
89 Rue de Seine, 75006 Paris
- Pierre Hermé
72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris
30 Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris
- Gerard Mulot
76 Rue de Seine, 75006 Paris
4 Place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre, 75016 Paris
14 Rue de Castiglione, 75001 Paris
15, boulevard de Courcelles 75008 Paris