My friend Anna organized the first ever French Macaron Crawl in NYC last month! Well, it may not be the first ever, but it was the first I was privy to so we'll leave it at that. There are two variations of the macaron/macaroon. You may be more familiar with the coconut macaroon confection that is mainly American in nature. But the macaron looks like a sandwich cookie! It is a light cookie/cakey texture (meringue based as Wikipedia informs me) and has some creamy (often buttercream) goodness in the middle. When I first saw it I said "That looks like a mini pastel-colored hamburger!" And thus that's how I referred to them until I was corrected.
Anna was extremely organized about the whole thing. She made score sheets and also planned a logical route to the places we were headed. We started at Columbus Circle went to Herald Square then to Chelsea off to the Flat Iron District trek to the East Village and landed in Tribeca. (So freakin' logical I loved it!)
We started off with a good amount of people, about 10 or so. And we were all ready to be amazed!
Bouchon Bakery (Columbus Circle Mall)
I came late so I missed the array of treats purchased at this bakery. It was the most French-like so we expected it to be the most tasty and authentic. In the end it was the most expensive ($3), even if the macarons were a bit bigger than usual and offered little in variation from the basic flavors of lemon, chocolate, strawberry, lavendar, etc. So the consensus that I heard about Bouchon was it was "okay."
Macaron rating for this location: N/A
MacarOn Café (Herald Square)
Now, this is one of those tiny places that you can (and probably have) passed by and completely missed it. I've walked down that particular street going west several times and never even noticed it. The space is quite compact and intimate but very well lit with comfortable cushioned stools and a love seat in the back. Not the greatest space for almost a dozen crawlers, but great for a few friends just wanting to taste some macarons or have soup, salad, or sandwich.
Anna was kind enough to buy a dozen that we shared. We had four flavors: passion fruit, rose and lychee, coconut, and nutella. My favorites were the passion fruit and nutella. As far as I'm concerned nutella can do no wrong in anything. I detested the rose & lychee. It reminded me of that awful pink medicine I was made to take when I was sick as a child. And the doctor always said "It tastes like bubble gum, it'll be fine." Well, the doctor was a liar and it tasted nothing like bubble gum. It therefore became known in inner childhood circles as that nasty pink stuff. To date I can never take Pepto bismol because it reminds me too much of that yucky stuff.
Cut up pieces of macarons are available on the counter to sample and on the way out there was a peanut butter macaron that was delicious! The soft cookie part was a dark blue while the inside was peanut buttery goodness.
Macaron rating for this location: 6.5
Madeleine Patisserie (Chelsea)
We decided to walk off what we'd eaten thus far and head down Sixth Avenue towards our next location. It just so happened there was a street fair extending from 34th to 23rd Streets that day. Some of us briefly dropped off from the group to get dollar lemonades (or in my case a gyro) and some other goods. But we all made it to the latest location which is, yet again, a place I've passed many times and never noticed. I was shocked I never stopped and looked inside this lovely bakery. Not only did they have many French delicacies they had an astounding selection of macarons.
They even had a separate list with, I swear, at least a few dozen macaron flavors. Almost everyone was intrigued by the carmelized pear and purchased one. I also bought a mango one and caramel (I was highly disappointed they ran out of praline). Again, the fruit was one of my favorites! I liked carmelized pear but didn't love it. Though, it did remind me of pie which is never a bad thing. The caramel was incredibly sweet so if you love caramel you'll love this macaron. Some went for pink champagne or an expresso-like one and everyone seemed pretty psyched about the overall variety that was available here. Space was limited because the back area was pretty much taken over by earlier crowds and at one point it seemed the bathroom was out of commission but overall I'd definitely come back and see how the other confections stand up. And perhaps they'll have the praline macaron next time also.
Macaron rating for this location: 8.5
L.A. Burdick (Flat Iron District)
This next place was a nice pit stop and also offered other things besides macarons. Anna had been here when she was in Massachusetts I believe, so she was already familiar with the choices and tastes. The service was great and everyone was glad to sit down after standing in the previous location. There was complimentary water and I even got to indulge in my lamb gyro.
I was not too impressed by this place's macarons though. The macarons were tiny compared to the other locations and didn't seem worth the dollar I paid. The tastes were a bit heavy, the cookie/bun part was kind of hard, and the flavors limited here also. I'm not a huge fan of ginger so I was kind of put off by the overwhelming taste of it in my macaron. Of all I'd say this was my least favorite. But I'd come back to try some of their other offerings. Their cake in particular looked tasty and moist.
Macaron rating for this location: 5
Dessert Club Chikalicious (East Village)
By this point we lost two people due to sugar-induced fatigue and travel for a conference. But the rest of us were still up and running!
My buddy with Ramen&Friends blogged about Dessert Club Chikalicious and earlier that week I was there to try their brioche bread pudding, which was good. During that visit I happened to see they had macarons and informed Anna pre-crawl. So I was very happy she added it to the list!
At this point the heat may have been getting to us from walking in the sun and add on the fact that we'd been eating lots of sugar you can imagine how sluggish we were getting to this location. Dessert Club is also a pretty small spot, but had enough space for our group and a couple other patrons. I have to say it seems 'service with a smile' is lacking there so their food tends to make up for it.
The painted colors on these macarons were vibrant on the white backgrounds and the tastes strong yet not too strong--a good balance I'd say. My salted caramel macaron was soft and chewy and sweet with a tinge of saltiness. I really enjoyed it. Some others had the blueberry macaron and some the lemon. One member had the red velvet cupcake, which she said was very good. The prices and size for the macaron were reasonable and while they only offered a handful of options they were slightly different from other places which made the macarons interesting.
Anna then declared that we were hitting one last place. We lost about two more people in our group to go get protein and good carbs at this point and it was just six of us that were off to...
Macaron rating for this location: 7.5
Takahachi Bakery (Tribeca)
As a native New Yorker and someone who's learning to drive I realize my observational skills can use some tweaking. I admit I have tunnel vision when I walk. I look towards where I'm going and just happen to notice other places. Yet again, we arrived at a place I have passed a few times and never once noticed that there was a big Japanese bakery on the corner! Though Takahachi is relatively new so it may not have opened when I passed by.
This was yet another place Ramen&Friends reviewed and I mentioned it to Anna as she said she was interested in going there.
At this point everyone else dropped off on the macaron aspect of the crawl and ate savory goods. I was the lone person to purchase macarons and stayed with my safety, passion fruit. I also got a matcha one for Anna since it only seemed right the one who spearheaded the whole thing should try something from each and every location.
As people detoxed from the sugar we noticed how clean and futuristic the place looks. It was big enough for a group of a dozen or more and even seemed to be a nice spot for moms to bring their kids. They drew pictures of the food offerings on a big chalkboard in the back and patrons can see the chef making macarons or other food items on a TV. Helps you to know who's making what and how.
I liked the passion fruit macaron here and it was a decent size. I'd say it almost matched Bouchon's in size and was much cheaper. It was a light passion fruit taste which I liked and wasn't overly sweet. Takahachi also had a lot of baked goods and their cookies looked moist and chewy. I vowed I'd come back, especially since I work a few blocks north of it and go to the library on the same block on occasion.
Macaron rating for this location: 7.25
After that we all headed off to either nap or full on sleep in the comforts of our bed. I had high hopes of exercising that never came to fruition. Luckily, the day wasn't humid but sunny and pleasant and we were all in good spirits though probably a tad bit dazed. It was a great crawl and major thanks and props to Anna for organizing it! I look forward to next year's and hope to see more crawls for varied foods in the very near future.