Real photos! One of cakes, no less. Cards, stickers, and a sparkly thing. Not sure where that came from. Mementos from my visit to Ladurée in 2000.

Long ago, walking along Champs Elysées with my sister, we happened upon a fancy pastry shop. This was before I owned a digital camera and before I knew much of anything, really. But what I did know was that this was a beautiful-looking shop. Filled with sweets and with the lure of tea, we went in, eyes wide and shining, to see what delicious treasures this Ladurée place would yield. Totally missed the macarons, though. Go me.

Since then, I’ve managed to make things right and get my macaron fix, despite not being able to visit to Paris on a regular (read: any) basis. While it’s nice that everyone in the city now seems to be churning macarons out, the hard part is finding a decent one. I’ve long given up the hope for anything that even approaches Ladurée and Pierre Hermé. I don’t know if it’s the memory of it that surpasses reality, but I hear this sentiment often echoed from others.

While everyone likes different combinations of chewy/sweet, if you’re picky, then you’re also looking for a shell that has a proper foot, the right texture and sheen on the dome, and no pockets of air inside. Consistency is hard to maintain, so there’s a huge difference in quality, sometimes even coming from the same shop. Asking when things were made and observing how they’re stored is important if you want gauge the quality of the macarons you’ll be getting.

While you can find macarons in many places nowadays, here are places I have visited across the GTA in recent weeks that yielded a decent macaron.

Lemon Tree (closed as of December 2011) is a tiny table found outside of the Lively Life store in the basement of the St. Lawrence Market. Their holiday flavour of brandied chestnut was phenomenal. Light on the brandy, but with a hefty chestnut base. I’d get macarons more frequenly from Lemon Tree, but they’re only at the Market on Saturdays and they usually sell out by about 3pm. Lemon Tree macarons run a just a tiny bit sweeter than the average, but are very flavourful, with a mix of buttercream and jam fillings. My current favourite maker of macarons in the city.

I’ve only visited Petite Thuet at their 1 King West shop, but their macarons have a more pronounced chew and almond taste. Their fillings aren’t too sweet and I enjoyed both the chocolate and caramel flavours. However, I thought that their domes weren’t very nice – very coarse-looking.

La Bamboche is a mainstay for macarons. Consistently good over the years and two locations to choose from. They also have more unique flavours like yuzu and sesame. Like Petite Thuet, these are not too sweet. They have smooth domes, and are light on the chew.

While you can find their products at McEwan’s, your best bet is to hit Bobbette & Belle‘s shop in Leslieville. Over a few visits, I’ve experienced a vast difference in quality, mostly on the good side of things. While they may have pockets of air and their domes can be a bit lumpy, the taste is good. Some find their macarons too sweet, but I didn’t think so. Eat these as soon as you can – I’ve found they don’t hold over to the next day very well.

On the West side is Nadège. It’s a very stark and white shop that displays their colourful desserts and confections at their best. The chestnut I was looking forward to was done up with an iridescent look, but the taste has a strange metallic taste to it. However, the salted caramel and pistachio had great flavour and I would consider those again. I find their macarons pretty dense in general once you get beyond the smooth dome and large pocket of air.

Ruelo is far up North of the city on Highway 7. These are the most beautiful of the macarons I’ve seen in Toronto, reminiscent of the more luxury macarons that are put out by the likes of Pierre Hermé with the use of iridescents and golds. Flavours are also more unique here as well. As you can see, they are good at consistently putting out a smooth dome.

In the heart of Yorkville is MoRoCo Chocolat, a very pretty and girly shop. The ones I had were of okay quality, but I haven’t eaten any of their macarons since May 2009. Caramel is always a safe choice in flavour, though I did like the lavender as well. Domes on the macarons were very coarse and the macaron cookie had a fairly dense chew.

So there we are. A run-down of all the places I’ve found macarons hiding and what I thought of them. Let me know of new places – I’m always on the look-out. While I’m pretty happy with Lemon Tree and La Bamboche, the hunt continues…

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More Macarons!

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