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.
This small family-owned patisserie, open for fifteen years, is wedged into the second floor of a Pico Blvd. strip mall, an unlikely place for such a surfeit of Gallic charm. There are pastries and coffee for breakfast, excellent soups and sandwiches for lunch, organic chicken and salmon for dinner. There's also, taking up a pleasantly large amount of the dining space, a huge case filled with Viennoiserie -- including mousses and tarts, napoleons and financiers -- and a large tray of utterly lovely macarons. Flavors include lavender, pistachio, rose, caramel fleur de sel, apricot, hazelnut and coffee. 8950 W. Olympic Blvd., #110 Beverly Hills; 310-888-8833.
For some people, Sumi Chang's macarons at Europane, her Pasadena bakery, hold a place of reverence for reasons that go beyond genre. Yes, they are perfectly crafted examples of the pastries, delicate disks in a bright spectrum of colors. But they are also enormous -- easily double the size of the macarons produced in most bakeries. Chang says that she does this for reasons other than her patrons' general gluttony: because the larger surface area means that the interiors remain chewy and moist. Whatever works. Flavors include passion fruit, blackberry, pistachio, hazelnut, mocha, coconut and sea salt caramel. 950 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; 626-577-1828.
5. Lette Macarons:
In the years since owner Paulette Koumetz and French pastry chef Christophe Michalak opened their first macaron shop in Beverly Hills in 2007, 'Lette (the name was shortened from the original "Paulette") has expanded across the city, with four other shops, and probably more in the works. All good news for Angelenos, who can pick from the many brightly colored cookies in the equally brightly colored shops, all outfitted with pretty macaron trees like, maybe, Sofia Coppola's idea of a Christmas tree. Pick from among salted caramel, coconut, rose, mint chocolate, orange blossom, pumpkin, almond and pistachio. 9466 Charleville Blvd. Beverly Hills; 310-275-0023 and four other locations.
4. Jin Patisserie:
There are very few places in Los Angeles where having a cup of tea and a plate of macarons is as much fun, as serene and pleasant, as the outdoor patio of Jin Patisserie in Venice. For the last ten years, Choo has made remarkable macarons -- brightly colored and smaller and plumper than most of those made by her competitors -- at her Abbot Kinney shop. Sadly, you only have another week or so to get your macarons here, as Choo is closing her shop on March 24. Until she reopens her new shop (location as-yet undetermined), we can all order her macarons and pick them up at her Culver City production kitchen. Flavors include Earl Grey, salted caramel, raspberry, espresso, rose, jasmine, cassis, olive oil, lychee and pistachio. 1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice; 310-399-8801.
3. Bouchon Bakery:
Bouchon's bakery is a tiny place, more kiosk than anything else, a little outpost next door to Bouchon's bistro. Thus you have to order your pastries and coffee to go, or carry them out into the sunny courtyard outside -- which is pleasant, although one gets rather jealous of the glorious interior space of the bistro. Anyway, Thomas Keller and his vast company manage to cram a pretty stunning patisserie into a glass case and a check-out stand. The pastries are all made upstairs in the enormous pastry kitchen (maybe they could put cafe tables up there), which apparently operates 23-hours-a-day. One reason we like this place so much? Because they have matcha macarons, which come in either "mini" or "Parisian," which I guess just means bigger. Also peanut butter-and-jelly (!), chocolate, pistachio, salted caramel, Earl Grey and raspberry. 235 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills; 310- 271-9910.
2. Bottega Louie:
Maybe it's the vaulted ceilings, or the filigreed signature written in cursive on pretty much everything, or the incredible din of all those people eating and talking -- or maybe it's just the well-tailored ghosts with their invisible suits and ties (the location once housed a Brooks Brothers) -- but downtown's Bottega Louie often feels more like a Parisian train station than a restaurant. This is not a bad thing, especially when there are so many stunning pastries occupying such a large space in an already, well, very large space. There are gorgeous pastries and breads and cases of desserts, which include not only rows of macarons but examples of "le grande macaron," a giant macaron with whole fresh raspberries. Did we mention the many traditionally-sized macarons? Rows, as in an enormous abacus of them, separated into a broad spectrum of colors. Flavors include chocolate orange, salted caramel, dark chocolate ganache, espresso, rose, violet cassis and pistachio. 700 S. Grand Ave. Los Angeles; 866-418-9162.
1. Little Next Door:
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There are a great many reasons to spend time at Little Next Door, on Third St. near Crescent Heights: the cozy space, with pretty cafe table seating either inside or outside or at the long bar, where you can get a good look at the many wine bottles, the giant copper espresso machine, and the shelves of preserves, rillettes, tapenades, confits and jams that chef-owner T. Nicolas Peter makes in the large back kitchen. The French bistro food, which includes lovely things like socca frites and a pretty stellar salad Niçoise. And then there are the pastries and breads, all made in-house. Perhaps chief among these are the many macarons that are stacked in pretty geometry on plates above the dessert case. These are fantastic little cookies, delicately constructed, in creative and interesting flavors, not too garish in color, perfectly built and balanced. Order an espresso and a few of them, then take a bag home for later. (They won't last the ride home.) Flavors include raspberry and balsamic vinegar, salted caramel, hazelnut and truffle, orange blossom and praline, pistachio and Amarena cherry, passion fruit, coconut and Caribbean grand cru chocolate. 8142 W. Third St. Los Angeles; 323-951-1010.
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