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By Theadora Brack in Paris
Who’s the top macaron in Paris? Two names I often hear during heated gastronomical debates in my circle are the historic old school favorite Ladurée, and the flashy newcomer Gérard Mulot. While both are certainly splurge-worthy, I’ve often wondered if one had a bit of an edge over the other.
So this week I’ve taken it to the table, by conducting an impromptu taste testing with three of my favorite food snobs. Scientist Jean-François, filmmaker Peter and writer Véronique all agreed to lend a helping hand, while sipping crisp white wine.
But first things first, Cheapos, let’s meet our contestants!
€15 (per half dozen macarons)
Time spent waiting in line: one hour
Since 1862 Ladurée has been donning pastels like no other. Their shops are sprinkled about the city, including Charles de Gaulle Airport Terminal 2.
Tip: Every year Ladurée rolls out a “flavor of the year,” along with a matching set of gift boxes. More tidbits: Belle Époch poster artist Jules Chéret designed their Saint-Germain tea salon and shop at 21 Rue Bonaparte. Sex and the City fans, Carrie Bradshaw “ate here” during the season six finale. Also, Ladurée’s pastel colors inspired the color schemes in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.
€9 (per half dozen macarons)
Time spent waiting in line: 15 minutes
On the flip side, sparky new kid on the block Gérard Mulot has been pouring on the pizazz with a vibrant palette since 1975. From the day-glo-get-go, Mulot’s shops, macaroons, and gift boxes have been bursting with his trademark set of fluorescent colors.
His shops are located in Saint-Germain des Prés and the Marais, but the main bakery and flagship shop are located at 93 Rue Glacière in the 13th arrondissement.
Tip: Tours of the workshop are offered. Just contact the Glacière shop prior to your visit.
The taste testing
Round one: First impressions
The first round was all about looks, see. Tucked away in Véro’s kitchen, I hid the telltale signs of boxes and bags, and quickly quartered six macarons (three from each contestant). Acting as the impartial moderator, I then presented the samples (organized by flavor) on a white dish (pictured, top), and asked the judges for feedback on the macaron colors. Gut reactions were immediate and judgment was swift.
In living color
“So French, more natural and very chic,” said Véro, describing Ladurée’s soft pastel hues. “Classical,” said Jean-François before he continued. “Those bright ones are tacky and look artificial.” Peter concurred with a filmmaker’s snapshot. “While the vibrant macarons are photogenic, they’re too gaudy-looking.”
And just like that (in no more than two minutes), Ladurée won the first round in the looks-alone department. Ring-a-ding-ding!
Round two: Sweet is the lore
Then, with eyes shut, phase two of the testing got underway. My judges blind-taste-tested each sample, starting with the citron.
“I like this one because it reminds me of my mother’s lemon pie,” said Véro, gesturing toward the Mulot product without knowing which one it was. Both guys concurred, giving the Mulots high marks for their “natural zest.” With his eyes closed, Jean-François couldn’t place the taste of the Ladurée citron sample, while Peter found the same pastel morsels “too sweet and artificial tasting.”
So you can’t judge a book by its cover
After they sampled four more macarons, I revealed the results, which were surprisingly consistent and unanimous.
Here the tables turned, Cheapos. The judges found the Mulot macarons “natural tasting,” “authentic,” and “recognizable,” despite their artificial colors, while they found the Ladurée samples “saccharine” and “artificial,” even though visually they seemed more appealing.
After Mulot was declared the winner of round two, post-game contemplation continued throughout the night with more wine. But of course!
Try both and be your own judge. To make the game even more interesting, add other famous makers like Arnaud Larher or Pierre Hermé to the mix!
Cheapos, who makes your favorite macaron in Paris?
Have a favorite macaron? Tell us about it in the comments section.
A big thank you goes out to Véronique, Peter and Jean-François! Cheapos, I sprung the taste testing on them at a recent dinner party. They took it seriously and elevated it to another level. Merci!