Laduree Champs Elysees: Munching on Macarons in Paris, France
Ladurée Champs Elysées
75, avenue des Champs Elysées – 75008 Paris, France
You can’t go to Paris without visiting Laduree for macarons. So Laduree was our first stop when we got off the train from Le Havre on Saturday afternoon. Literally, we braved the jam packed France traffic from our aunt’s house in the suburbs to Champs Elysees in downtown Paris for a taste of these decadent little meringue cookies. The car ride was particularly scary, not only because it was our first time experiencing ‘no lane’ traffic while looping around the Arc de Triomphe but our younger cousin at the wheel had just gotten her driver’s license. Seriously, she just got her Learner’s Permit, the little “A” sticker standing for “Apprenti” was just newly pasted onto the back of the car. Needless to say, this was a pretty white-knuckled ride!
When we got to Laduree, to no surprise, the line up was so long that we almost had to stand outside. I didn’t mind waiting at all. We were in Paris! I’m a pretty wide-eyed traveler, it’s a miracle that I wasn’t mugged. Anyhow, our wait in line allowed me to take as many pictures as I wanted. When we got to the counter, the snippy servers frowned upon picture-taking and snapped at us in French that pictures are not allowed. Coming from Vancouver where everyone and their dog takes pictures of their food, it’s a little shocking. We had also visited London, England on this trip, and eateries in England were totally happy letting us take photos. France is a little bit different. So some of my pictures in this post are sort of grainy because I had to snap the photos on the sly.
When our place in line finally moved from the foyer to the inside of the store, it was like entering a fairy tale, the decor was so grandeur, the ornate ceiling trimmed with intricate floral pattern details and the antique light fixtures and the dramatic arched windows, each window nook featuring a fancy French pastry on display. I was in awe. French desserts are just amazing, as beautiful as they are delicious. It’s like eating little pieces of art. And the detailing on each little cake, brioche or cream puff is incredible, down to the last gold leaf or perfect piping of whipped cream, all these neat little treats were lined up in impeccable rows in their display cases. I’m not sure if it’s because Laduree is constantly busy or if French servers carry themselves with a certain air of sophisticated snootiness, but when it came to our turn to order, I was almost afraid to. The servers are very impatient and if you appear the least bit indecisive (which obviously I did, I barely read French after all!), they get pretty huffy and puffy as if you’re wasting their time. Given, we took a pretty long time ordering. All the signs were in French, even though half the customers were tourists. Thank goodness we had our French cousins with us!
While we were waiting for our macarons to be packaged, I snuck a few more photos. Notice the famous Mont Blanc chestnut cream dessert below.
Laduree is world-famous for their classic macarons. We bought so many of them that our French cousins asked us if there are macarons in Canada. Of course we have macarons in Canada, but we don’t have a Laduree. There’s only one in North America and it just opened two days ago in New York City. Here’s a detail that I found surprising though, the actual size of macarons is huge! They’re larger than Oreos! The size of macarons that we’re used to in Canada is what they refer to in France as mini macarons.
Macarons have a long history and it has been said that the actual cookie originated in Italy in the 17th century. It was the French, Pierre Defontaines, the second cousin of Louis Ernest Laduree to be exact, who came up with the idea of sandwiching sweet jams and cream in between two macaron cookies.
To be honest, I love macarons for the cookie part, the sweet, chewy and light-as-air merigue cookie, I only think of the filling as a happy bonus. So I was over the moon when I saw these gigantic, real size macarons at Laduree! Making macarons is an art form, they’re made of egg white and sugar that is carefully beaten to the right consistency, then baked at a certain temperature with the oven door slightly ajar, and at Laduree, the pastry chefs store their macarons for two days before serving them so that the cookies reach just the right texture and flavour, the jam melding into the cookie and the cookie aging to an irresistible combo of a slightly firm top and chewy center.
I took the rest of these macaron photos at a nearby McDonald’s because I honestly was quite petrified at being barked at by the Laduree servers! Incidentally, macarons are so popular in France, even McDonald’s serves them. More on that later.
The first Laduree macaron I bit into was the huge vanilla, smartly speckled with vanilla bean and filled with the richest, creamiest, smoothest vanilla bean cream I’ve ever tasted, it’s a shame I only bought one of these large vanilla ones. I could have eaten ten more. Also to note, the ‘feet,’ the little ruffly edge on the macaron was even all the way around, poorly made macarons have lopsided feet or a very thick layer of the ruffly stuff ruining the look and texture of the cookie.
These Laduree macarons were so light and delicate that even though we only walked one block with them, most of them got crushed in the bottom of our bag. That’s how airy these cookies are! Thankfully, they still tasted amazing though.
The large chocolate macaron was filled with chocolate ganache, needless to say the cookie portion was delicious, light and chewy, melting into rich chocolate flavours, the ganache was also rich with a deep cocoa flavour, and not as sweet as I would expect. I’m sure French pastry chefs use a different percentage of cocoa to sugar ratio in their pastries than Canadian chefs, making their chocolate richer in cocoa flavour.
The mini green apple macaron was the most surprising. It actually tasted like a juicy bite of a ripe sweet and slightly tart, Granny Smith apple. Aside from the chewy meringue texture, if I closed my eyes, I would think I was eating an apple.
The mini Madagascar macaron had a deeper, nuttier taste than the large chocolate macaron.
The deep purple black current mini macaron (slightly crushed) had a fruity taste, the jam in the center was just the right amount of sweetness.
The large Pistachio macaron was one of the most memorable, the cookie melted into a silky texture as I chewed it, and the cream filling was sweet, nutty and dense. Pistachio is always included as a classic macaron flavour, I think this may be because the pistachio flavours enhance the almond flavours in the merigue cookie.
The mini coffee macaron tasted like coffee ice cream, in other words, sweetened coffee. The cream in the middle was light, fluffy and delectable.
The large salted caramel macaron was one of my favourites, sweet as I first bit in, and as I was swallowing, the hit of salt made its cameo, further enhancing the sweetness from the cookie and the caramel cream sticking to the roof of my mouth.
Laduree specializes in very traditional, classic macaron flavours. There are seasonal items like the Madagascar Chocolate and Granny Smith apple but their focus is on traditional flavours. I’m glad we tried Laduree first because our next visit was to Pierre Herme, whom many regard as the Master of macarons as he ventures off the macaron map to create the most avant-garde flavours that look and taste like the pastry version of high fashion.