The weather was beautifully sunny on Columbus Day, so it was the perfect opportunity for me and my mom (visiting the city for the day) to make the pilgrimage to the highly-anticipated and well–covered LADURÉE (map!) in the Upper East Side. I’ve always had a weak spot for macarons, so of course I had to come and pay homage to one of the greats.
Different from other pastry shops, Ladurée has a pedigree. Cue the wikipedia article! (“It is known as the inventor of the double-decker macaron, fifteen thousand of which are sold every day. They are still one of the best known makers of macarons in the world.”) And this was the first location in North America, woo! No wonder people were going crazy. I had heard about the lines from my friend who visited the first weekend the shop opened, and was sure that the excitement would have died down a bit by now, but no such luck. We arrived after 5pm, and there was still a respectable queue of eager eaters ready and waiting.
While we all waited politely under the awnings, we took turns and passed back a menu of the selection that awaited us.
Finally, we got through the door and were greeted with? Another line! This time, a little shorter, but it was pretty much a “get in, get in line, buy your macarons, get out please, thank you” kind of deal. Completely understandable, given the amount of people waiting, but I had hoped to browse the store a little more. The decor is really quite gorgeous, with delicate pastel details. It is everything that you could expect from an authentic Parisian macaron shop. I snapped a quick photo before being given the “no-no” by a clerk, oops! Too late.
While waiting on the “inside” line, we tried to figure out the pricing. The macarons themselves are $2.70 each (I am curious to see if it rises in the future), and there is a semi-complicated set of prices for various fancy boxes in different sizes and designs. From what I gathered, if you buy 7 or fewer macarons, you will automatically get a little non-descript wax-paper bag, nothing special. If you buy 8, you get a little paper box that fits 8. You can also get a paper box that fits 15. And then there are sturdier keepsake-type boxes (aka “prestige” and “crystal” boxes) which I imagine would be used for gifts. It’s all a really fascinating system, but we were content to dole out the extra dollars for the eats and not the packaging this time around.
Not content to have to choose, we decided to go with one of each of the 13 flavors and double-up on the popular chocolate, caramel with salted butter, and raspberry.
Once home, I had a fun time with the unboxing:
We were very precise and egalitarian with our taste-testing. Every macaron was split into quarters and shared among four people for a thorough taste-testing. Here are the unscientific results of all the flavors, on a scale of 1 (bleh) through 10 (yumtastic):
1) Lemon (citron) – quite yummy, not too tart but super citrusy – 8
2) Rose petal – “it’s like prancing through a spring meadow” but also like you’re just eating a flower – 5
3) Peanut – good nutty taste, but nothing mind-blowing – 5
4) Vanilla – like a crème brûlée in macaron form – 7
5) Cassis violet – wonderfully moist and berry-tasting, very memorable flavor – 9
6) Cinnamon and raisin – all that is good about this taste combo. It’s like essence of cinnamon and raisin bread, but without the bread! – 8
7) Orange blossom – a bit too meringuey, just kind of like orange some some flowers – 4
8) Coconut – mmm! If you like coconut, you will like this. Has the chewy coconut bits in it for a full-textured experience – 7
9) Pistachio – a traditional selection, very good nut flavor. You can’t help but feel classy while eating it – 9
10) Coffee – uh, tastes too coffee-ish, like an espresso sugar bomb. It was too intense. We needed a palate cleanser afterward – 3
11) Caramel à la fleur de sel (caramel with salted butter) – they sell this caramel by the jar at this shop. It is pure decadence, but may be a bit too gooey-sweet for some tastes – 7
12) Raspberry – little crunch seeds, with a great fresh raspberry flavor. Not cloyingly sweet, just right – 9
13) Chocolate – this is the only one that made me audibly sigh. The fudge in-between tasted like perfect chocolate, a teensy bit on the dark side, with an incredibly smooth and creamy texture – 10!
So did we end up slouched on the couch with macaron crumbs on our faces and shirts when we were done? Uh, yeah. That Ladurée cranks out some pretty good stuff. It’s not all perfect, but the fruit-flavored and chocolate macarons are really excellent and a notch above the rest. Must go back again soon for more of the favorites!