Celebrate macarons on the French pastry’s special day
By SELENA FRAGASSI For Sun-Times Media March 19, 2014 12:36PM
The macaron tower at Alliance. | SUPPLIED PHOTO
Updated: March 19, 2014 7:36PM
Yes, there really is a holiday for everything. But unlike Root Canal Appreciation Day (May 11) and the super annoying Talk Like a Pirate Day (Sept. 19), this is something we can totally get behind. Macaron Day, this year on Thursday, started in New York in 2010 to pay homage to the indulgent French delicacy, a sweet meringue “biscuit” made of egg whites and sugar and filled with buttercream or ganache. They come in a variety of colors and flavors, from the traditional (chocolate, vanilla) to the more playful (key lime pie, passion fruit) to the weird (foie gras, really?).
Although there have been questions of its origin — suffice to say, way before our time in a land far, far away — the cookie has taken off in recent years in the United States, with such honors as its own pub crawl and a spot in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s. In Chicago, the macaron has seen a growing presence at a number of French and non-French patisseries citywide. While the holiday has yet to reach official status here, don’t fret — there are plenty of purveyors in our fine city where you can hang up streamers and create your own party. Here are some of our faves:
Bon Macaron Chicago
Executive chef/owner Catherine Cooper was trained in Paris but opened her own business here in 2013. Although she mostly assembles wholesale orders for events and gifts, you can find her creations at Foodstuffs, Sunset Foods and random pop-ups. Want to learn to make your own? Cooper will lead a Macaron Bootcamp May 17-18 at Kendall College. As part of National Macaron day, Cooper has partnered with Bow Truss Coffee, 406 N. Wells. From 1 to 4 p.m., anyone who donates $5 to Autism Speaks will receive one free Bon Macaron (while supplies last).
Try: The “playful line,” which includes Birthday Cake, PB&J and Mojito.
Aren’t there just those times you really want a macaron on the Metra? Vanille Patisserie to the rescue! With a location inside Ogilvie Transportation Center (and two more in Lincoln Park), it’s nearly becoming the Starbucks of French bakeries in Chicago — and thank goodness. Get your fix at the new spot at Clark and Dickens; here you can watch the chefs prepare the treats from a glass-enclosed decorating room.
Try: Nutella, Lychee
It’s worth a trip to this boutique bakery in Evanston. Bennison’s crafts its Parisian treats “the way they were made 400 years ago” (although, no clue on how much they paid to get the recipe from French royalty). Authentic and fresh, their colorful assortment is some of the best in town.
Try: Originals like Chocolate, Vanilla and Pistachio
When the French bakery’s Logan Square location shut down late last year, you could almost hear the gasps down Milwaukee Avenue — their pastries are that good. Thankfully, a sister spot in Lakeview is still going strong and a forthcoming food truck just might have macarons coming to you. And if you really want that spot on the Square, donate to the Kickstarter to bring it back.
Try: Lavender Milk Chocolate, Salted Caramel (and look out for seasonal flavors).
Get your celebration started with Alliance’s Macaron Tower of power. That’s right a tower. Covered in macarons. They come in various sizes and themes; try the Summer Tower to fight those winter blues. If you’re accident prone, go for the assortment box.
Try: Mexican Chocolate, Lemon Poppy