Paris: Macarons at McDonald's?
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
Rome: 5 best March values
Women's Day Italy celebrates the annual Festa della Donna on March 8 with discounts for ladies at bars, clubs, cinemas, and some restaurants. Over the weekend of March 6-7, all state-run museums and archaeological sites let women in for free. The Casa Internazionale delle Donne sponsors free exhibits, film screenings, and dance performances at Campo de' Fiori on March 7, from 11 a.m. to sunset. And don't be surprised if you see women across the city with mimosas, yellow puffy flowers on stalks that are traditionally bestowed by men (glorified rag weed, if you ask me). "Our World" photo exhibit Take a break from Rome's ancient glories to contemplate the modern human condition at the free National Geographic "Our World" exhibit at the Palazzo delle Esposizione. Ninety photographs are organized in a progression (kids, women, men, group) meant to highlight both our differences and similarities. via Milano 13, open Tues-Thurs and Sun 10a.m.-8p.m., Fri-Sat 10a.m.-10:30p.m., through May 2. Organic food fair La Citta' dell'Altra Economia, an organic food collective inside former slaughterhouse grounds in Testaccio, hosts its monthly fair on Sunday, March 21. Known as Altradomenica, the fair encompasses stalls selling locally grown produce, activities for children, and lectures. The marketplace is free and open 10 a.m. until sunset; enter at Largo Dino Frisullo. While you're in the neighborhood of Testaccio, you might stop to see statuary at Centrale Montemartini. Ara Pacis in its true colors The Ara Pacis—Emperor Augustus's Altar of Peace—will stay open after hours over the weekend of March 26-28. Visitors can see a multimedia exhibit devoted to singer-songwriter Fabrizio De André and another exhibit, "L'Ara Pacis in Color". Color will be projected onto the monument to recreate what it would have looked like when painted during ancient times. Evening visits March 26-28 from 8-11 p.m.; €9 ($12). Landscapes of the American West Museo di Roma in the medieval neighborhood of Trastevere is the unlikely site of an exhibit on the American West. American photographer Stephen Shore snapped the images for "Biographical Landscape" during his cross-country journeys from 1969 to 1979. Piazza S. Egidio 1B, Tuesday to Sunday 10am-8pm (last entrance 7pm) through April 25; €5.50 ($7.50).
Readers' best Mexico photos
The volume of your Mexico submissions—more than 850—speaks to this country's ongoing popularity and affordability. (Mexico did make our list of the top budget destinations in 2010 for the second year running.) For this slide show, we picked 18 outstanding shots, including flamboyant folk dancers, cliff divers in Acapulco, ruins along a beach in Tulum, and wild blue agave growing near the town of Tequila. Check out all the images here. MORE READER SLIDE SHOWS Reflections | Wildlife | Ireland STILL IN SEARCH OF... We're collecting your photos of doorways. Upload them through myBudgetTravel, tag them, and check back in the coming weeks for a slide show of the best submissions.
London: Lesbian and gay film festival
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San Francisco: Tacos get the star chef treatment
The Taco: a simple, wondrous thing. San Franciscans love 'em. And just like other foodie favorites, the taco is prime for reinvention. Tacolicious, a beloved Mexican restaurant in Cow Hollow, has invited some of San Francisco's top chefs to create their own unique culinary interpretation of the taco. Beginning today and going through the next six weeks, you can try a tasty new version every Thursday beginning at 10 a.m. The tacos will be sold at Tacolicious's Ferry Building outpost location, where Thursday is, serendipitously, Farmers' Market day. Fish & Farm's Chad Newton is serving up his tacos today, followed by Alex Ong of Betelnut, who is planning a taco of pork leg braised in duck fat and fish sauce infused with chilies, anise, and Szechuan peppercorns on March 19. Liz Shaw from A16 will be experimenting with beef tongue on April 1, and Delfina's Craig Stoll is still trying to decide between pig's head, lamb riblet, and tuna confit tacos for March 11. Other chefs include Robbie Lewis, formerly of Bacar and Jardiniere. Check Tacolicious's twitter feed for updates on the menu. Proceeds will benefit the non-profit Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture.