In cooking, as in baking, as with anything else, there's a pattern in whatever the same cook is offering to you. We'll call it the DNA of the baker in this case. So I'll stick to the essential: instead of an unecessary litterature essay on each macaron, I'll analyze 2,3 macarons who are representative enough of the work of each macaron boutique's pastry chef.
And YES...I will spare you with the annoying redundant speech on the difference between macaroons and macarons! Ha ha ha...Geezzzzzzzz.......
What I am looking for in a macaron (marks over 10):
-overall depth of taste: good (7), Very good (8), Excellent (9), Exceptional (10)
-Work of the cream-based filling: Ok (6), Good (7), Very good (8), Excellent (9), Exceptional (10)
-Technique: Good (7), Very Good (8), Strong (9), Exceptional (10)
Cooking, baking is about technique, technique and technique.The better the technique,
the more vibrant the flavour, the more exciting the texture, the more memorable the food item.
I have baked those sweet confectioneries myself for many years, perfecting them week after week, and all I can say is that they are tricky, not as simple as its straightforward almond/icing sugar/egg whites combination
would suggest if you are interested by a macaron that's close to perfection. The technique part includes the macaron shell technique, work of textures too (not a determinant aspect since all I need is a macaron that tastes good, but this counts and needs to be underlined).
-Work of the shell: this is important, I know. And it involves a serious technique. There's nothing as depressing as a badly conceived shell. With that said, the taste is more important. I'd rather sample a delicious macaron that looks just ok than a great looking one that tastes bad.
What I am discarding:
-My personal preference with regards to flavor: I sometimes see people writing that they picked a rose flavored macaron whilst they can't stand that flavor. Surprise..surprise.. they happen to not like the macaron, Rfaol! The best way of increasing the non-biased ratio of your judgement is to avoid playing with fire when you know you'll get burnt ;p
***Unit price of macaron in Montreal: Between $can1.50 to $can1.70
The following will list the macarons that stood out (in my opinion) first, the ones that impressed less at last: Point G 8/10
1266, avenue Du Mont-Royal Est
Montréal, QC H2J 1Y3
Visited: Thursday Dec 9th, 2010 14:00PM
Picked chocolate madirofolo (8/10 very pleasant chocolate taste, not too sweet, perfect smooth shell ), roasted pistachio (8/10 The pistachio filling is refined, delicious taste), Caramel fleur de sel (7.5/10 The taste was great, but I am removing .5 points only because the filling was slightly less inspiring as with their other macarons I tasted)
Pros: Perfect technical mastery to keep the balance between crunchyness and tenderness, airyness and sweetness, and excellent work of the texture (vibrant and refined) of the macarons too. $can1.50 to $can1.70 a pop (the normal price for macarons up here) and indeed, among the best macarons I had in this city. The only reason I do not rate them 9/10 and 10/10 is because of comparisons to my previous macaron tastings in Paris (Ladurée 8.5/10, Pierre Hermé 9/10, Gregory Renard 7/10, Fauchon 7.5/10, Aoki 9/10, Gerard Mulot 6.5/10, Arnaud Larher 8.5/10 ) , in Nancy (Maison des soeurs Macarons 9/10) and one that I had at Restaurant La Porte in Montreal (8.5/10).
Cons: Nothing to mention.
-Overall depth of taste: Very good (8) Liked the depth of flavors
-Work of the cream-based filling: Very good (8) Their ganache shows lots of skills, great refinement,
great texture and taste.
-Technique: Very Good (8) A macaron is meant to provide an enjoyable initial crunch that turns into a
gentle melting mouth bite. That's exactly what their macarons delivered.
-Work of the shell: Strong (Exactly how it should be: not fragile, and yet not mushy nor hard. Ideal smoothness) Restaurant La Porte's macaron
: I had at Restaurant La Porte, Montreal, perhaps the best macaron I ever sampled in Montreal along with those of boutique Point G. It is a restaurant, not a macaron boutique, but I still insist on inserting this note given the outstanding level of that macaron. I called them on this Dec10th and they confirmed they have their macarons available for take-out. They only had caramel macarons available today. You can have a look at the amazing macaron I had on my last dinner at La Porte by clicking here
. Esprithé 7.8 / 10
112 av Laurier ouest, Montréal
Visited: Friday Dec 10th, 2010 16:00PM
Ésprithé is known for its tea-flavored macarons. But they also have the classic macarons, which I picked for the sake of a proper comparison to the other boutiques 's macarons that I chose: choco, strawberry,lemon,pistachio and so on. I'll spare you the flavor details on each (whether I like pistachio better than chocolate is irrelevant here) and will go straight to what we need to know: Regardless of the flavor, there was a great technical mastery at play throughout. Each bite had perfect balance between perfect vibrant texture, amazing taste, mastered consistency of the ganache and meringue. Clearly the second best of this evaluation right after La Boutique Point G, which is a surprise to me since I was somehow left under the impression (whilst reading most opinions on Montreal's macarons) that La Maison du Macaron was slightly ahead.
I was welcomed by two amazing francaise women, very welcoming and great professionals. At some point, the younger francaise woman had some problem with the cash machine, and here comes a francais -- I presume the owner --- with a loud arrogant '''C'est quoi le problème
''! In French, this is mean, plain mean. A great way of ruining the amazing service of both women. AND I am French, from France! So Imagine...You just do not do that in front of customers! I hope this was just a misunderstanding and that it is not usual, because I too can lack warmth....and tend to give up on places where the owner does not understand that it is not an obligation for a customer to knock at his doors. La Maison du Macaron 7/10
4479, Rue de la Roche, Montréal,
QC H2J 3J2 (514) 759-9290
Picked Lemon (sweet lemon cream filling, nice but not mind blowing 6/10), Pistachio (I would have preferred a more refined pistachio ganache, but it still had a nice depth of taste brought by the intense pistachio cream filling 6.5/10) , Raspberry macaron (upfront sweetness, classic raspberry taste 6/10), chocolate (Good 7/10).
Pros: At $can 1.50 apiece, they are affordable sweet little treats, great service plus little extras like the accompanied booklet and notes of introduction to the macaron, its history, etc
Cons: some of the macarons had shells that cracked easily + the fillings would benefit from more refinement
Overall, satisfying macarons. Not great, but good enough.
Located on the Plateau Mont Royal, both La Maison du Macaron and Le Point G are close to each other (approx 3 minutes walk) EUROPÉA ESPACE BOUTIQUE 6.5/ 10
33, Rue Notre Dame Ouest "Vieux Montréal"
Tel : 514-844-1572
Visited: Friday Dec 10th, 2010 15:00PM
Couple of classics, as with the other choices, so that apples are compared to .... apples:
Pistachio (the tastier pistachio macaron I ever sampled in Montreal. Delicious 10/10 ...but technically not well conceived: the shell lacks consistency, the ganache missing firmness). And this pattern continued with the chocolate, raspberry, vanilla macarons. The problems with those macarons were important technical ones:
It is as if the macarons were cooked by two different bakers. One focusing on the taste (very tasty macarons, indeed...although at times the strength of sweetness kinda overwhelmed the appreciated depth of aromas that was present in each bite; pistachio really tasted pistachio, vanilla tasted vanilla, etc), the other on the textures and consistency (weak in both the ganache and the meringue)
This is a reminder that a kick of exciting sweetness is not enough to make a great macaron: you also need balance, and conceiving it properly (again, the ganache here turned liquid easily + the shell was too fragile).
Just an ending note on the service: the Francaise woman who was at the counter on this Friday Dec 10th 15:00PM had this as a welcoming message '''it is obvious that the counter is overthere!'''. Now, I have no pleasure in writing negative notes. I have more fun with pleasant reviews, but truth be told...good education / tact is something widly mastered in the civilized world! Usually I call back the restaurant and file a complaint for such, but I will pass on this one since she ended being correct afterwards. The two other Gents standing behind their respective counters were fine.
Bottom line: I did also try the macarons at XO Le restaurant, all the major patisseries of Montreal, and also
at some restaurants who do offer them. All good, but there was no point of repeating ourselves over and over thus
I chose to review only the major places specialized in macarons in Montreal (The exception being La Porte, which is not specialized in macarons, it is a restaurant, but I chose to review its macarons because I had one there on a previous dinner that did impress me to the point that I thought they are worth of mention in this rundown on Montreal's macarons. Since it is not a specialized macarons place, do not expect a huge variety of macarons. For ie, on the day I called they had only those caramel macarons). ABROAD
In Paris, I love both Pierre Hermé and Ladurée macarons.
I'd rate most of their macarons in between 9/10 to 10/10.
In March 2011, while visiting Paris, I bought this box of Ladurée's macarons. As you can see from the photos, there's not much to criticize in terms of textures. The size of the macarons is also ideal, in my view. They are well done and that is no surprise: they have been around for so long, mastering their macarons with the best baking techniques out there. Indeed, excellent treats. All I can say is that more and more macaron boutiques around the world are now offering macarons that are as nicely baked as those of Ladurée. While it used to be a must to travel all the way to Paris to get a touch of Ladurée (or Pierre Hermé) macarons, it is no more the case.