le macaron: pierre hermé vs. mcdonalds

Yes, you did read that correctly...McDonald's (in Paris) does sell macarons.  On my previous visits to Paris I had always scoffed and turned my nose up at the thought of eating a macaron from McDonalds, but this time, curiosity got the better of me...what if they were actually...good?  On the other hand we have Pierre Hermé - internationally know for their top quality confections (and they have the prettiest macarons I've ever seen).  I was in heaven the moment I walked into the shop - it was a feast for the eyes and I never wanted to leave.

There simply wasn't any possible way to do a 'blind' taste test.  Trev and I knew it would be obvious which was which, but we were going to give them each equal consideration.

I'm going to start with the macaron from Pierre Hermé because they were, without a doubt, the BEST macaron I've ever eaten.  Seriously.  First of all, their flavour combinations were spectacular - so smart and unexpected (therefore intriguing to the palate).  We shared a box of 12, so we sampled quite a few flavours.  Lemon & carmelized fennel, aniseed & saffron, pistachio with ceylon cinnamon & morello cherries, lemon & hazelnut praline, jasmine tea, peach apricot & saffron, passionfruit & chocolate...and there were a few standards too - their caramel with fleur de sel was outstanding - the caramel had a deep browned taste that really stood out.  Also their dark chocolate macaron with ganache filling was deeply satisfying, but 1/2 a macaron was enough.  Beyond the amazing flavours of Pierre Hermé's macarons, the texture was perfect.  The delicate little shells had a nice little crunch that gave way to the soft, moist cookie within and the texture of the butter cream was spot-on.  Perfection.  I think it's dangerous that they ship internationally...in a moment of weakness I could see myself buying a box of 24 macarons online...

I thought I'd also add in a quick note of comparison to Ladurée, the other elite of macronage in Paris.  I tried their macaron in April (read about it here).  I think Ladurée sticks a lot closer to classic flavours, nothing too outside the box.  I think in April I had been slightly disappointed in my flavour selections - I like ganache or buttercream fillings, rather than gelee - so my opinion may have been slightly skewed.  But there's something else that made Pierre Hermé a favourite - the shop itself.  The staff were incredibly friendly and invited me to take as many pictures as I wanted, whereas when I was at Ladurée photos were forbidden and the staff shuffled us through the line without any added pleasantry.  Sometimes it's the little things that make a big difference.  If anyone else has an opinion on Pierre Hermé vs. Ladurée, I'd be curious to know what you think.

Alright, on to the McDonald's macarons - overall they were not awful.  The winner of the bunch was pistachio - it tasted pretty good and if you were in the mood to cram your mouth full of macarons, it would do the trick.  The chocolate one was also good - it had a really fudgy flavour and texture.  The vanilla was just ok - it had a strong artificial vanilla taste.  The red fruit & mango macarons were just 'meh' - I'm not into the gelee filling and the flavours weren't that good.  The one that made us both go "blech" was the passionfruit (orange colour), so much so that after we each took a nibble we dropped the rest back in the box to throw out.

So would I recommend buying macarons from McDonalds when visiting Paris?  No.  (My first choice would be Pierre Hermé, obviously)  There are so many fabulous little patisseries with display cases crammed with all kinds of delicious treats, including macarons, all over town.  I think it would be much more rewarding to discover a hidden gem with amazing macarons then give in to McDonalds just for the sake of convenience.  BUT, if you're wandering around Paris with sore, tired feet and you really need to use a bathroom, why not stop into McDonalds and buy a few macarons in order to gain access to their toilet? Just stay away from the passionfruit ones.