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French Macarons

Table talk: June 2018

by M.B. Lewis

From the June, 2018 issue

At a library cooking demo in spring, People's Food Co-op chef Keegan Rodgers effused for 90 minutes about the delicacy and delights of French macarons. Made predominately of meringue and almond flour (and not to be confused with gooey coconut cookie "macaroons"), this timeless confection is newly trendy.

Macarons can be found all around Ann Arbor, but three interesting sites are clustered downtown along four blocks of Fourth Ave. Bring a couple friends for a tasting tour on this Macaron Trail, because these sandwich-cookie confections are available in dozens of varieties and stimulate fun comparisons (along with blood-sugar spikes).

Starting at the newest shop, Grand Rapids-based Le Bon Macaron on S. Fourth near Liberty introduces the magic rapidement from first glimpses into the multicolored display case. Imagine being a four-foot-tall kid catching that rainbow wave at eye level! Staffers report that "unicorn" is the most popular, likely because of its sweet-cake flavor and glitter wash atop pastel-swirl shells. Better for mature palates are the Mexican chocolate, which packs slight lingering heat, and strawberry-lavender, which reprises spring in fruit and flower tones via complementary pink and purple shells and mild buttercream filling. The macarons here are small (half-dollar size), cost $2 each, and arrive frozen from the company's central Michigan bakery. Tea and coffee are available; weekly drink specials include a free macaron.

On N. Fourth near Ann, Tea Haus offers monthly lineups of six macarons from its around-the-corner bakery, Eat More Tea. In May, bright spring colors heralded varieties like cherry, strawberry margarita, and kiwi--with telltale black kiwi seeds in the buttercream. Rhubarb is slated for June when it floods the farmers market; tea infusions often intensify flavors of the cream filling, which are apportioned generously. The standard macarons here are comparatively gigantic-sized for nibbling through your whole pot of tea--and cost $2.50 each. Mini versions top the three-tier tea tower and are available in $12 six-packs to go. There's no coffee, but soups and light meal fare

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can temper the sugar bombing. Because traditional macarons are known to be gluten-free, Tea Haus helpfully labels rare exceptions (like churro flavor) as "non-GF."

The final stop on this trail is People's Food Co-op, where macaron availability proved unpredictable in May. Just before my deadline, two varieties finally appeared in the pastry case: subtle Earl Grey tea-flavored shells with a killer chocolate ganache filling, and lavender-infused vegan shells (made with chickpea brine) with non-dairy cream filling. PFC offers the least cloyingly sweet macarons on the avenue, in half-dollar size and costing just 99 cents each.

Enjoy your trip on the Macaron Trail, and Vive la France!     (end of article)

[Originally published in June, 2018.]


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