Eat Here, Not There: Macarons

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There are two kinds of cookie that sound alike. One is a confection of sweetened coconut, sometimes with chocolate drizzled on top, that looks like a small mountain and is very popular during Passover. This is a macaroon with two O's.

Macarons (with one O) are a French confection of meringue, almonds and a soft filling, either buttercream or ganache. Because they're doctored with food coloring, they look like a Crayola box of Whoopie Pies, and unfortunately, more than half of the time they taste like a Crayola box, too.

The grande dame of macarons is Ladurée, a Parisian boutique with four branches, including the most crowded bakery I've ever seen on the so-tourist Champs-Elysées, where scads--"murders" would be the best collective term here--of tourists line up to buy extremely expensive macarons in a rainbow of colors.

Ladurée is famous for a reason; despite the hours-long wait, haughty-even-for-Paris service and usurious price, it is excellent--without peer, to hear some people wax lyrical about it. Every large city in America has a bakery that thinks it's going to be the next Ladurée, and nearly every bakery fails.

We have our share here, too: There has never been a macaron that I could recommend without reservation. Sure, there are some decent stabs--Paris In a Cup comes close, but it don't make the confections. It buys them from Xuan Pâtisserie, more famous for its excellent chocolates. The macarons at Pascal are awful: chewy, sticky and expensive. Layer Cake Bakery commits a worse sin: the ones there appear to go stale within five seconds of being removed from the oven.

It was, then, with great trepidation that I ordered macarons at Au Cœur de Paris Bakery in Westminster. Honestly, the only reason I did was the price tag: $1.25 each ($15 per dozen, which is an unbelievably low price). That, and the fact the baker was French.

When I bit into the raspberry macaron, I was transported. Not to the Champs-Elysées and its macarons snobs, but to an unpretentious table at the Fête de la Patrimoine (cultural heritage fair) in the city of Meaux, about 30 miles east of Paris, where I had the most perfect macarons I've ever tasted, the first such that didn't make me wonder why they were ever invented.

The hazelnut macaron was similarly excellent, with a subtle flavor and a really deft hand in the making. The shell shattered in my mouth, but the meringue below was still soft and chewy, and the hazelnut filling inside had its sweetness tempered so the nut flavor could shine through.

I haven't yet been back to try the other flavors, but I will be: despite its odd location in a strip mall that appears out of houses like a corn "volunteer" in a field of soybeans, it's worth finding. Make no mistake: Though macarons are beloved of the wealthy, the best ones are not in Newport Beach or Anaheim Hills, but in a bakery on the outskirts of Little Saigon. You'll be hearing more about this gem soon.

Au Cœur de Paris Bakery (also known as Le Versailles), 9441 Edinger St., Westminster, (714) 775-8465.


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15 comments
Lille Bose
Lille Bose

dave, have you tried layer cake in irvine? their macarons cost the same and their citrus flavors are awesome (and their passion fruit is the best)

Joan
Joan

That picture doesn't look like examples of good macarons, but I'll give them a try, nevertheless.

david
david

I tried these macarons this weekend. The hazelnut one was nice but the raspberry one was disappointing. The raspberry filling was stiff and stuck together almost like a piece of fruit roll up. I had to take a nice chomp to break a piece off of the macaron. The pistacio was ok. The chocolate and coffee were mushy tho. Instead of there being a distinct filling layer, the filling and cookie mixed together to form a wet cake-like texture. This could just be my personal preference but I like my macarons crispy on the outside with a little chew on the inside. I was excited about this place because they offer the cheapest macarons around but you get what you pay for.

S. Britchky
S. Britchky

I recently had one each of their macaron flavors. A couple were very nice, something you might find at a fancy Beverly Hills department store. The rest were sensational -- lightly crisp shell with the Platonic Ideal of a delicately creamy center. I carry a few with me in case I run into Angelina Jolie or Mother Teresa's spirit.

Some yelpsters complain about rough service, but I haven't seen it. And I'm glad Au Cœur de Paris is in a nondescript Westminster bunker strip mall instead of at Saks BH or next to a tattooed-hipster haven, neither deserving.

ila Nguyen-Hayama
ila Nguyen-Hayama

the ones at marche moderne are pretty good too. they only have them in pistachio though.

Idreamoffrance
Idreamoffrance

Not surprised the best French patisserie is in Little Saigon. Will try this soon!

Malinxe
Malinxe

I just found this place last week and it does not disappoint! I had two of each flavor they had and all of them were delicious. My favorites are the raspberry and the pistachio. Also they look too cute in the little box, all colorful and yummy!!

QueerInMySoup.com
QueerInMySoup.com

Mon dieu !! C'était un secret cette pâtisserie !! ;) Ok, now that the secret it out I better pass by before the lines get ridiculous.

JP
JP

Thanks for this posting! Been looking for macarons that are good in OC/LA. Nothing has been as good as Ladurée! Can't wait to try these!

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

You know, I'll give them another shot. The one time I went I didn't get any citrus flavors or passionfruit, and I thought they were stale. Next time I'm down that way I'll stop in. They have Portola Coffee in bags, which is nice.

S. Britchky
S. Britchky

Undoubtedly a matter taste -- like everything.

I was in the area early yesterday, so I stopped in for a nice ham and Swiss croissant and more of the exceptional macarons. (I'm not big on the flavor they use for the raspberry.) In texture, mine were neither "mushy" nor "cake-like" nor "like a piece of fruit roll up." The center, surrounded by a delicate, crisp shell, was what you call "wet," what I call "creamy," in any case, far from the dry and chewy styrofoam of gourmet-supermarket macarons. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. ;-) In fact, it's similar to the smooth, luscious filling that's so hard to find in chocolate candies these days. Splendid morsels, to my taste.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Il n'y a jamais de secrets chez les journalistes... ou bien, disons chez les prétendants journalistes. :-)

queerinmysoupcom
queerinmysoupcom

After your recommendation I went there last Sunday and got more than a dozen of their macarons and I can confirm - the raspberry was pretty bad. It was definitely like they cracked open a jar of Smuckers and stuffed it in a macaron. Other than that, everything else was exceptional (the pistachio, chocolate, hazelnut) and definitely worth the price.

Alphonse Disqus
Alphonse Disqus

It's fun studying foreign languages, isn't it? Anyways, did you hear what Mrs. Johnson told the Principal about Laurie?? Check Twitter!!!

You had me interested in this place, M. Doodle, but now I'm thinking it's probably just another puny macarooni.

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