I'm going to start Macaron Day (March 20, natch) by saying something bold: Macarons are not the new cupcake.
Don't get me wrong--in spite of this statement, I am not a macaron hater. It's just that I firmly believe that a good macaron is harder to come by than a good cupcake. Too sweet, too eggy, too chewy--the pitfalls with macarons are numerous, whereas cupcakes, like pizza, seem to go by the adage that even when they're bad, they're still kind of good.
If, however, all macarons were made like the ones at Pierre Hermé, it might be a different story.
Dubbed the "Picasso of Pastry", Pierre Hermé is basically--dare I say it--the mac daddy, the closest thing to a rock star that the macaron could possibly claim.
This is a lot to live up to for pastry pilgrims like myself, and so when we approached the macaron mecca on Rue Bonaparte, I must confess to a soupcon of hesitancy.
But you know what? If there is a macaron that will make you a believer, it is probably going to be from Pierre Hermé.
We picked up three from the eclectic menu: the Marron et the Vert Matcha (chestnut and green tea), the Fragola (strawberry-balsamic), and the Magnifique, an unlikely pairing of strawberry and wasabi.
(Warning: I'm about to wax very poetic about these little burger-cookies.)
I said it on Serious Eats, and I'll say it again. Biting into one is like biting into a cloud: the macaron is light as air, and yields perfectly to the generous dab of ganache, which is smooth, rich, and creamy without having a texture that is incongruous with the delicate cookie base.
And that's just the texture--the flavors are just as thoughfully balanced and delicious. Each of the flavors we sampled, while unusual, not only worked, but worked well. This was most notable in the strawberry-wasabi flavor. The wasabi was not so much a smack as a whisper, giving the sweet strawberry a little nudge and certain je ne sais quoi. It wasn't spicy per se though, and you really shouldn't be scared of it.
So what is this all to say? Pierre Hermé makes a mean macaron. If you're in Paris, go there.
Pierre Hermé, various locations in Paris (we visited the one on Rue Bonaparte); online at pierreherme.com.