I spent my last day in Paris completing the search for a good macaron. Not a perfect macaron, because there is no such thing as a perfect anything. The search was not deliberate at all to begin with. I’m never a big macaron person, but the combination of being in Paris, the beautiful, pearly macarons sitting behind shop windows on the streets, and the tourist mentality that macarons are just so French has made me give in and buy a macaron from time to time.
I don’t exactly know what I look for in a good macaron. But I know it’s a good one when the shell has just the slightest crunch, and after you break into it the macaron just dissolves in your mouth. A moment it is still sitting there on your tongue, the next it is gone. A chewy macaron automatically earns a strike. I want a macaron that is so delicate it is almost fragile.
Each Thursday morning during the semester, I would take the metro to Saint-Germain-Des-Prés, and walk along Rue Jacob to get to my class that starts at 10am. I love the fact that my school is right in the middle of this neighborhood that has such a cultural signficance. I would walk past Cafe de Flore, Les Deux Magots, knowing that I’m walking on the same paths that Hemingway and Picasso have walked on. On the last week of school, I showed up to the class, panting, thinking that I was late, only to find out that there was no class and I was too dumb to realize that beforehand. So I rewarded myself for waking up so early and running to a non-existent class by buying a macaron from Ladurée, which was on the way from the metro stop to the class. I got a tonka flavor, which is a vanilla-like flavor extracted from the Brazilian tonka bean. It was okay. Kind of melt-in-your-mouth, a tad too sweet. The shop is really cute though.
Also in Saint-Germain-Des-Prés is Cafe Pouchkine, a French and Russian fusion cafe restaurant. That’s where I got some of my favorite macarons. Once you got one in between your fingers and take a bite, the macaron just crumbles into delicious sweetness. They don’t sell singles, however, so I got a box to share when my friend, Selina, visited Paris. During that same visit, I brought her to Canal Saint Martin, strolled through the bare Tuileries gardens, stopped by Angelina for their famous hot chocolate. Along with the rich hot chocolate we got an Earl Grey macaron. That, however, did not leave any strong impressions. I enjoyed the subtle tea flavors, but the texture was not delicate enough.
On my last day in Paris, as a last-minute effort to get something for my family, I ended up at Galeries Lafayette with 17234265 other tourists and people like me. That area is one of the most touristy part of Paris, and is right next to the majestic Opera and Little Tokyo. The food section of the shopping mall, Galeries Gourmandes, dedicated an entire floor to patisseries and sweets. There are counters from Pierre Herme, Dalloyau, Sadaharu Aoki (amazing matcha pastries and chocolate). I’ve tried Dalloyau‘s macarons before and they were underwhelming. And how could I not sample one from Pierre Herme? After waiting in the long line and receiving a not unkind judgmental look when I said I’m only buying un macaron, I was surprised by how mediocre the macaron was – I got the chocolate passion fruit flavor, and although I love the fruity sweetness, the shells were way too soft. Finally, I stopped by Jean-Paul Hévin and sampled a macaron in Violette flavor – don’t ask me what flavor it is, because I had no clue what the sales person said. It’s fruity like blueberry, and it is my favorite out of all that I have tried. An almost fluffy shell with a nice crisp to it, and perfect filling to shell ratio. So voilà, the champion of my macaron hunt goes to Jean-Paul Hévin, which was where I got a box of macarons for my family as souvenir. Even my Dad, who is not a fan of sweets, gave them a nod of approval.
I am not entirely sure why I dedicated my farewell-Paris post to macarons. But I miss the city and miss the feeling of love-hating everything that Paris has. I’m grateful for the countless times after I’ve cursed the city, there is always a thing or two that made me fall in love with Paris all over again. I don’t think it’ll ever hit me that I’ve lived several months of my life somewhere as surreal as Paris. I still remember the first time I bought a baguette, tucking it under my arm, breaking off the quignon (the ends of a baguette) as I head back home and savoring the fresh, crunchy dough, feeling so beautifully “Parisian.” Or the many times when I sat by the Seine with some friends, drinking cheap wine we bought from supermarkets, soaking in the night lights of Paris and sighing at the beautiful, lit up Notre-Dame. And of course, all the food – fresh galettes oozing with cheese and fresh mushrooms, escargots in buttery persil sauce, mafalda pasta coated with thick, truffle cream. It’s been four of the best months in my life and there is no other way I would rather spend my semester abroad.
Will I ever be able to actually live in Paris? Trying to envision my future living in this city, I would give an uncertain yes… But first, my French still has a long way to go. And I still need to get used to having dinner at 9PM. And perfecting the blunt, French way of saying no. And making up my goddamn mind when I walk into a bakery.
Perhaps I’ll stay forever a little tourist at heart. Paris, tu me manque. A bientôt! ❤