The Great Macaron Showdown, Round Three

You may remember, from about a month ago, the Great Macaron Showdown. During Round One, Colin and I bought macarons from the super-traditional Ladurée; we thought they were great. During Round Two, Colin’s brother treated us to macarons from Ladurée’s more experimental rival Pierre Hermé; they were great, too. That left things at a bit of stalemate.

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Rounds One (Ladurée) and Two (Pierre Hermé)

Well, when our friends Beth and Will were here earlier this month, they generously volunteered to serve as macaron tasters in a head-to-head competition between the two rival stores. Thus, I am pleased to bring you Round Three: Ladurée vs. Pierre Hermé.

As with any true competition, this one required training. Specifically, we stretched our stomachs with loads of good food for several days before attempting the macaron showdown.

But I digress. On the day of the showdown, we went a little overboard and purchased 20 macarons, 12 from Pierre Hermé and eight from Ladurée. We made sure to choose a few similar flavors from each so we could compare head-to-head, but we also embraced Pierre Hermé’s experimental nature and opted for some adventurous flavors.

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What we chose:

From Pierre Hermé: salted-butter caramel (x2), lemon, jasmine, Madagascar vanilla, Ispahan (rose, litchi, and raspberry), Satine (cream cheese, orange compote, and passion fruit), Jardin Andalou (olive oil with mandarin orange and red fruits, x2), Montebello (pistachio and raspberry), Mogador (milk chocolate and passion fruit), Ultime (Madagascar vanilla and Belizean chocolate).

From Ladurée: pistachio, orange blossom, vanilla, raspberry, chocolate, coffee, Corsican orange chocolate, chocolate Earl Grey tea.

The competition was steep. The vanilla macarons from each store, while they had slightly different tastes, were both good, and we were split down the middle as to which we preferred. We didn’t love the just-chocolate ones because the chocolate seemed too heavy for such delicate cookies. In general, Pierre Hermé’s macarons seemed to have more ganache than Ladurée’s, perhaps because it was often a different flavor from the cookies, but whether that’s a pro or a con was much debated. (I preferred Ladurée’s more minimalist ratio, but I’m the kind of person who scrapes icing off cupcakes before eating.) My personal favorites from this round were Ladurée’s pistachio (I always love pistachio!) and Pierre Hermé’s Mogador (passion fruit cookies with chocolate ganache).

Conclusions:

  • Twenty macarons is definitely too many for four people, but it was worth it.
  • Taste: A tie. Both are excellent, but Pierre Hermé seems to use more ganache (a pro or con, you choose!).
  • Price: A tie. Expect to spend close to 20€ for six or seven macarons (the two stores offer different size boxes, but unit prices are similar).
  • Presentation: Ladurée. Ladurée has a million styles of boxes to choose from, and their signature designs are iconic. Pierre Hermé uses simple red and white boxes with plastic inserts, which, instead of feeling sleek and modern, felt a little basic.
  • Store experience: Pierre Hermé. At Pierre Hermé, the salespeople were happy to explain the flavor options and offer recommendations. At Ladurée, the salespeople were more hands-off. This is generally fine because Ladurée has fewer and more straightforward flavors, but now that I’ve been to each store at least twice, I feel confident in saying that the atmospheres are definitely different.
  • Fun factor: Pierre Hermé. Should this even really be a separate competition category? It seems so obvious that this one goes to Pierre Hermé, since it’s basically their raison d’être. And they do it well. I didn’t even know quince was a fruit until I walked into Pierre Hermé! I still haven’t tried it, though. I guess I’ll have to go back.

Recommendation: If you want a pretty box as a souvenir, go to Ladurée (I now keep my jewelry in one of their boxes). But if you live here or plan to eat macarons frequently, go to Pierre Hermé—it’s every bit as good but much more exciting. And whichever store you choose, definitely get pistachio because it’s delicious.

So, after three rounds, I guess it’s official—Pierre Hermé takes the cake cookie.

Bon appétit!

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“Let them eat macarons.” —  what Marie Antoinette should have said

3 thoughts on “The Great Macaron Showdown, Round Three

  1. It is much plainer, and will be boring, probably, but we’ve discovered that an English muffin (I have Gayla’s grandmother’s recipe for sour-dough ones, which I’ve made several times) split, toasted, and spread with cream cheese, then key lime jelly, is very good!! Will serve you some when you’re back in South Georgia! Maybe will be an adequate substitute for macarons.

    Like

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