Macarons in New York City

by Zoe Baker-Peng

So many macarons, so little time.

I welcomed Thursday March 20th not only because it was the first day of Spring but also because it was the return of Macaron Day. Macaron Day NYC began in 2010, organized by François Payard, the chef and owner of FP Patisserie and François Payard Bakery. Inspired by Jour du Macaron in Paris, Macaron Day is devoted entirely to the celebration of the French delicacy – les macarons – and many participating bakeries/patisseries donate a portion of the day’s profits to City Harvest charity. If you want to learn more about what a macaron is (and how it differs from a macaroon) as well as how to make them, watch the video on the Macaron Day website.

Why was I so excited? The key part of Macaron Day is that participating locations give out a free macaron to customers! Having missed Macaron Day my first year in NYC (not by choice or accident), I was determined to make the most of my day this year. I planned my macaron excursion around the city by looking at the map of participating locations on the website and decided to work my way downtown. I knew that most locations had a limited amount so I had to hit the streets bright and early, keen and ready for my macaron reviewing and eating.

If you missed Macaron Day this year, keep an eye out for it in March next year but, no matter the time of year, it is always worth knowing where to find the best macarons in the city. Here is my Macaron Day story with the places that I visited and a short review on each one.

I decided to start on the UWS and took the bus down Broadway to Épicerie Boulud (1900 Broadway, between 63rd and 64th). I chose a chocolate macaron (out of a choice of three flavors) which was wrapped in cellophane – not the best idea as it was nearly impossible to uncover the macaron without crushing the soft shell. The macaron was a nice start to my day but certainly wasn’t going to steal the show. The chocolate flavor was not strong enough and the ‘biscuit’ shell exterior was slightly too soft.

I walked down to Columbus Circle and stopped at Bouchon Bakery (10 Columbus Circle, floor 3) where I was given a chocolate macaron (no other choices). This macaron was slightly larger than my previous one and unwrapped. The outside shell was too chewy but the ganache was smooth (slightly too gooey, however) and the chocolate had a richer flavor although there were strong hints of hazelnut.

The best macarons in the New York are at FPB.

Next stop was FPB (1775 Broadway at 58th Street) and I was excited to try the macarons of the founder of Macaron Day. I was not disappointed. The vanilla macaron I chose (FPB had at least five choices) was exquisite – the strong vanilla flavor was delectable and flecks of vanilla bean graced the smooth ganache. The exterior shells were perfectly crisped but not crunchy and melted softly away on my tongue.

I walked across Central Park South next to try FP Patisserie in the Plaza Food Hall. FP Patisserie had the same choices as FPB and this time I chose the chocolate and cacao nib macaron. Again, this macaron was delicious with crispy shells which softly broke as I bit into them. This macaron was by far the best chocolate macaron of the morning – the flavor was wonderfully rich and intense.

Next stop was Macaron Café (625 Madison Avenue but entrance on 59th street). I had to wait in a short line here but was given a list to study while I waited, of all the macarons they sold – all of which were available for macaron day. I decided to try an unconventional crème brûlée macaron which was certainly interesting although it had a rather strange crème brûlée taste and was too sweet for my liking. I was disappointed with this macaron’s texture as the shells were very chewy – they almost tasted stale – and were extremely dense. The ganache was lovely and smooth albeit slightly too creamy. I give Macaron Café points for letting customers choose from all of their normal selection, however.

Afterwards, I stopped at Mad Mac Macaron at Bernardaud (499 Park Avenue at 59th street) which was a slightly surreal experience as I walked past china displays to the back of the store to claim my free macaron. I wasn’t expecting much of the macaron, given the settings in which it was procured, but I was pleasantly surprised! I chose a blueberry macaron which had an excellent, authentic flavor complemented by the softly crisping shells and the smooth filling. My only complaint was that the macaron was smaller than all the others.

I hopped on the subway to 8th Street-NYU and proceeded to walk along St Marks Place. I stopped in at Spot Dessert Bar only to find that they had run out of their designated 500 free macarons for the day (this was at about 1PM!) I continued to walk along the street to Macaron Parlour (111 St Marks Place). Here I tried the S’mores macaron and, as the world’s biggest marshmallow fan, I was impressed. The marshmallow and chocolate filling was not overly sweet and the ganache was smooth and flavorful. Normally s’mores-based treats are overly chocolate-y but this macaron had a strong marshmallow flavor which I liked. The shells were slightly too chewy and this macaron was quite small but overall I thought it was tasty and worth the far walk eastwards.

I retraced my steps and continued westwards to Mille-Feuille Bakery (552 LaGuardia Place) where I was handed a salted caramel macaron. This macaron was good but not particularly noteworthy – the shells were reasonably crispy although slightly chewy and the ganache erred towards gooey rather than smooth. The salted caramel flavor was sweet and strong although the salted caramel macaron that I picked up afterwards at an FPB outshone the Mille-Feuille one.

My last macaron at FPB (116 West Houston street, between MacDougal street and Thompson street) was as good as the other François Payard macarons from the morning. The salted caramel flavor was intense and again, the macaron had the perfect texture on both the outside and inside.

Macaron Day 2014 was a thoroughly satisfying day and a highlight of my spring break. Look out for it next year but be sure to visit these locations throughout the year for delectable and intriguing macarons!

Zoe Baker-Peng is a sophomore at Barnard and Managing Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Recipes wikia and FPBNYC.


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