French macarons are glorious confections, little sandwiches of buttercream or ganache filling pressed between two meringue disks. (They are not to be confused with macaroons, which are coconut, and most definitely do not resemble tiny round pastry sandwiches.) When well-made, macarons are delicate combinations of crunch and cream. What also distinguishes them, and makes them the hands-down favorite amongst 6th grade girls, is the vast array of colors and flavors pastry chefs can give to them. Pierre Hermé famously made Ispahan macarons of rose, lychee and raspberry; he also liked to flavor his macarons with ketchup, cornichons and hot sauce. (Maybe don't try this unless you're Pierre Hermé.)
You can make your own macarons (with or without ketchup), as they're somewhat labor-intensive but not that much harder than making, well, meringues and buttercream. (See Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery, p. 58.) In L.A., you can buy them from Les Macarons Duverger, who sells them at Monsieur Marcel and even Whole Foods. You can get your macarons filled with ice cream at Milk, or the size of hockey pucks at Lemonade, where they'll cost you $4 a pop. Or you can venture out to a happy number of local patisseries, bakeries and bistros and buy them singly or by the box, preferably with a demitasse of espresso. Turn the page for our 10 favorites.
10. Napoléon's Macarons:
Of all the things you can put inside a tiny kiosk, macarons have to be among the prettiest, the rows of perfectly formed pastries forming a sudden rainbow behind glass. The Napoléon's Macarons kiosk in the Americana at Brand is a brightly colored hut in the middle of a mall, a welcome oasis in the midst of way too much shopping. Opened since Dec. 13, this is the second shop -- the first is in the Westfield Topanga mall -- from French native Razmig Cyril Tchoboian. Flavors include Ethiopian espresso, French lavender, lemon meringue pie, salted caramel, tiramisu, rose, raspberry and vanilla crème brûlée. 608 Americana Way, Glendale; 818-291-9160.
You may drive by this unassuming cafe a few times without stopping in, but once you do you'll find it worth coming back. The cafe and bakery, open since 2005, serves breakfast and lunch sandwiches, including things like French toast, a crab cake Florentine, mini Kobe burgers and both Croque Monsieurs and Madames. They also, unsurprisingly, bake fresh baguettes and pastries -- opera cake, croque en bouche, eclairs and napoleons -- as well as very pretty classic macarons. Flavors include chocolate ganache, raspberry, lemon and pistachio. 5373 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles; 323-934-5858.
8. Figaro Bistrot:
Figaro resembles a movie set of a French bistro as much as it does an actual bistro, with its cute outdoor patio tables under awnings and calligraphied windows, nicely dressed people reading newspapers while drinking espresso and nibbling pastries, or sipping glasses of wine at the bar -- and everywhere the happy noise of bustling servers and atmospheric music and conversation. Inside a large case next to baskets of pretty bread there are shelves of eclairs and tiramisu, fruit tarts and chocolate mousse, croissants and Paris brest pastries -- and macarons, lovely ones, lined up in rows. Among the flavors are vanilla, chocolate, orange, raspberry, chocolate and lavender. 1802 N. Vermont Ave. Los Angeles; 323-662-1587.