Since 2007, the macaron—the elegant, diminutive, and quintessentially French dessert cookie—has been sold at Paris McCafés, the mini-McDonald's where you can also find free wireless internet and coffee served in porcelain cups. But a recent marketing campaign from the fast-food giant has brought new attention (and disdain) from macaron aficionados, who argue that these "little macs" bear little resemblance to the delicate treat they adore. That's because an authentic macaron, made of whipped egg whites, ground almonds and sugar, has a shorter shelf life than is demanded by an industrial food franchise, so the classic ingredients have been tinkered with.
Phyllis Flick, a local food writer, visited a McCafé last week and posted this critique on her blog The Paris Notebook: "I stopped by the McCafé at the Louvre today and tried the caramel; it wasn't bad, but a bit too heavy and sweet for my taste."
Since that visit, Flick has returned again to Pierre Hermé,one of the local pilgrimage sites for true macaron fans. Her experience there put the McDonald's macaron in stark and unflattering relief.
She explained by telephone today that,
"the Pierre Hermé macarons are subtle, delicate, and meant to be savored. You have to eat them slowly so as not to miss the many intricate flavors. I worried that some of them, like the (green tea) matcha and sesame or the strawberry and balsamic, might be overpowering, but in fact they were delicate, light and airy, and absolutely delicious. By contrast, the McDonald's macaron tasted like sugar. It was chewy and heavy, almost the opposite, unfortunately."
It's true that the McDonald's macaron is cheaper than you'll find at Pierre Hermé. A single industrial cookie costs $1.22, while the handcrafted treat from Hermé costs $2.15. For true macaron nuts, however, two dollars isn't too much to pay for a bite of authentic artisanal tradition. A real macaron, as Flick points out, is "one of the few luxuries that everyone can afford."
To try a McMacaron, visit:
McDonald's McCafé 140 avenue des Champs-Elysées in the 8th arrondissement, 5 avenue du Général Leclerc in the 14th arrondissement. There's also the one inside the Louvre.
For some of the best macarons in Paris, visit:
Pierre Hermé – 72 rue Bonaparte in the 6th arrondissement, 4 rue Cambon in the 1st arrondissement, and185 rue de Vaugirard in the 15th arrondissement.
Ladurée – 21 rue Bonaparte in the 6th arrondissement, 16 rue Royale in the 8th arrondissement, and 75 avenue des Champs Elysées in the 8th arrondissement.
So, where are you headed? Would you try a macaron from McDonald's?
FOR FURTHER READING:
The Wall Street Journal – Mon Dieu! Will Newfound Popularity Spoil the Dainty Macaron?
Serious Eats – Interview With Macaron Specialist Dorie Greenspan
Slate – How McDonald's Conquered France