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A tasting of local French macarons: Formaggio Kitchen, Whole Foods, Tous Les Jour, Violette Bakery

c
coriolis Nov 10, 2013 05:08 PM

Hi, a very long time lurker here with a hopefully helpful comparison of some Boston-area macarons. I'm trying to improve my macaron-making technique in time for Christmas this year. But I thought I'd try researching the local "professional" creations--the tastiest research ever! One fine day, I happen to be near 4 different places that offer these tasty, crazy pricey treats, and I also had a box of Trader Joe's macarons sitting in the freezer. The first photo shows, clockwise from the top, ones from Whole Foods' bakery department, Violette Bakery, Formaggio Kitchen, Tous Les Jour (Burlington Hmart), and Trader Joe's (there are two macarons from each). The second photo (profile view) shows them in the same order from left to right. When I could, I tried picking mostly neutral flavors since it wasn't possible to get the same flavors at each location.

Tasting notes: Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Tous Les Jour were actually pretty similar texture-wise with Tous Les Jour being slightly more delicate. Whole Foods had the "freshest" taste and the most generous filling. Plus, they don't use artificial colors which is also very nice. Formaggio Kitchen was too sweet for me and had a much chewier, wetter texture. Violette Bakery was less sweet and had a very different cake-like texture; it very obviously does not look like the others. Anyone who might be seeking a traditional French macaron will be disappointed. However, as a flourless sandwich cookie, it's perfectly enjoyable on those terms--I actually did like it.

Appearances: Tous Les Jour cookies were extremely uniform in appearance and very pretty to look at from the top. But too bad, they were so very flat with nearly nonexistent "feet." Trader Joe's were much smaller in diameter than the rest, but the feet on them looked a lot like the ones from Whole Foods. Formaggio Kitchen's macarons have much larger feet, making them stand up taller (food nerds know that this is desirable quality in macarons). The sizing of Formaggio’s cookie halves was also more irregular than any of the others. The ones from Violette Bakery were huge and lacked the traditional shiny top and crisp outer skin found in macarons, but it's really a different animal altogether. I should also mention, since macarons are often given as gifts, that only Formaggio Kitchen seems to have the right size boxes. Whole Foods plops them in a plastic takeout container. Tous Les Jour uses a plastic baggie. Violette uses a wax paper baggie. I guess, technically, the Trader Joe ones come in a box, but you're on your own if you are gifting them like that :)

Pricing: (here's the crazy part!) Tous Les Jour and Formaggio Kitchen sell for $2.25 each. Violette Bakery sells for $2 each. Whole Foods are $1.89 each. I don't remember how much the Trader Joe's ones are, but there are 12 to a box, and it couldn't have been more than $3-4 per box.

Verdict: I wouldn't pass up the frozen ones from Trader Joe's, and the Whole Foods ones can be an occasional treat. I'll skip the ones from Tous Les Jour. Formaggio Kitchen's are also really not for me either. Perhaps much of the difference is that some are using an Italian meringue versus a French meringue technique in their recipes?

Tasted before, but not part of this sampling: Thinking Cup coffee shop offers several flavors each day. I remember thinking they were a bit too sweet. They are a little over $2 each--I don't quite remember. L'Espalier provides a little token French treat as a goodbye gift in their coat check area. The goody bag changes all the time, but last month I received a pretty wonderful macaron after lunch. (Chef Bacheller, tell me your macaron secrets!!)

Haven't tried: Flour, L.A. Burdick, Gourmet Boutique in the Westin Copley hotel (the visibly massive amounts of food coloring was a huge turnoff), Macaron Sweeterie (closed before I could get around to going there).

…If I ever visit Paris, I’d pretty much do nothing but visit pastry shops…

 
  1. c
    coriolis Nov 10, 2013 05:10 PM

    Hmm,,the first photo didn't load right...

     
    1. StriperGuy Nov 10, 2013 05:23 PM

      Nice review.

      I recently had some at a dessert table at an event at the Westin Huntington, looked gorgeous, flavors were forgettable.

      1. C. Hamster Nov 10, 2013 05:36 PM

        I just yesterday ate some macarons from the Danish pastry whatever in WAtertown and they were excellent

        3 Replies
        1. re: C. Hamster
          c
          Crazy Egg Nov 11, 2013 05:17 AM

          I always enjoyed the macarons at DPH and recently had the ones at Violette. Thought the DPH ones were better. Which flavor of macarons did you get, C. Hamster? The passionfruit and lemon ones were quite good every time we got it. I never get to taste the raspberry ones because my kids get to it first!

          1. re: Crazy Egg
            C. Hamster Nov 11, 2013 09:26 AM

            There were 6 and I got the raspberry one! I wasn't sure what the other flavors were. Green, yellow , tan and 2 others I don't recall.

            They were the first I've tasted since ODing on macarons in Paris a year ago and they compared well.

            1. re: C. Hamster
              c
              Crazy Egg Nov 11, 2013 06:33 PM

              The green is likely pistachio, yellow is lemon, tan can be either vanilla or maple. They do change their flavors around, so I am guessing the flavor using the colors you described. So lucky you got the raspberry one!! I have to be smarter next time and eat one before the kids see them!

        2. g
          gimlis1mum Nov 10, 2013 06:04 PM

          Thanks for the report! I've ordered macarons from Petal's Table several times, most recently at a lunch that they catered. I haven't tried Formaggio's but I would hazard a guess that Petal's are closest to theirs in style - pretty sweet, very delicate, no artificial colors and they come in a box designed for macarons.

          Good luck with your macaron-making...did your research help you with your technique?

          1. p
            pollystyrene Nov 10, 2013 11:30 PM

            Thanks for the report and photos. I gave up after trying the ones at Formaggio (bland) and Burdick's (way too sweet), but you've got me curious about the ones at WF now. So far what I've had here can't compare to the ones in Paris. You must go! Even if you can just swing a layover at the airport, they've got Laduree stands there.

            3 Replies
            1. re: pollystyrene
              w
              winedude Nov 11, 2013 09:15 AM

              You don't need to go to Paris to try "Parisian" macarons, just New York. I was there a few weeks ago, and had macaron at both Laduree and Maison du Chocolat on Madison Avenue, Upper East Side. They taste just like the ones in Paris (though after much trying, I've concluded that macaron really aren't for me--they're fun, but don't have enough "oomph" in the flavor department.)

              1. re: winedude
                p
                phatchris Nov 11, 2013 11:32 AM

                Ive heard great things about Melita Fiore in Salem.

                1. re: winedude
                  p
                  pollystyrene Nov 12, 2013 01:48 PM

                  I'd forgotten about the Laduree in NYC. Did you prefer the ones there or at Maison du Chocolat, or did you find them equally oomphless?

              2. enhF94 Nov 12, 2013 03:16 AM

                Thanks for this thoughtful report!

                1. m
                  MaxEntropy Nov 13, 2013 09:12 AM

                  When you get to Paris, don't miss Pierre Herme.

                  Or you can order them online,
                  http://www.pierreherme.com/products.html

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MaxEntropy
                    p
                    pollystyrene Nov 13, 2013 08:55 PM

                    Unfortunately, they don't ship to the US.

                  2. divinebaboon Nov 14, 2013 08:51 AM

                    I've had Macarons from the following places, ranked from tastiest to meh:
                    Laduree
                    Trader Joe's
                    Dominique Ansel Bakery
                    Maison Du Chocolat

                    Trader Joe's box of macarons is definitely a great deal.

                    1. c
                      Crazy Egg Nov 18, 2013 05:49 PM

                      Anyone tried the macarons from Northlight Baking Co? The flavors look interesting like pink peppercorn and rose, mango chili lime and blackberry bayleaf. Thinking of getting a few and will report back if no one has tried.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Crazy Egg
                        opinionatedchef Nov 18, 2013 06:25 PM

                        http://www.northlightbaking.com/p/mac...

                        looks v intriguing! i like her flavor combos, and it looks like she is not chintzy with her fillings.

                        1. re: Crazy Egg
                          c
                          Crazy Egg Jan 2, 2014 08:42 PM

                          Finally got to try Northlight Baking Co.'s macarons made by Shira Melen. The macarons are 2 inches in diameter and the flavors really come through. The flavors I got were: gingerbread, fig cardamom, peppermint stick, salted caramel ganache, blood orange elderflower, milk chocolate ginger, london fog (earl grey), passionfruit, lavender, orange blossom. The weakest flavor I believe I got was orange blossom. Even then, I could taste the orange flavor. I just would have liked a stronger orange flavor profile. The surprise was fig cardamom, where I could taste the fig and the cardamom. The first five flavors were the holiday edition macarons and the last five were of my choosing.

                          The macarons have a nice crunch on the outside and have a chewy interior, just how I like it. The macarons were not too sweet, exactly how I like them. The filling was really good, as I mentioned the flavors did shine through. Having the flavor come through so clearly is something really hard to achieve. So, I was very pleased at being able to taste the flavor profile in each. I could practically do a blind tasting and let you know the flavor. It was that good. They were also pretty to look at with the london fog having a blue color and gingerbread having a light brown top and dark brown bottom. These maracons at least rival Violette. I haven't had all of what Violette has to offer, but will now have to do some sort of comparison.

                          Finally would like to add that I got the macarons delivered personally for a fee, but the goods can be picked up at Shira's place in Somerville. Very pleasant and easy to order my maracons via e-mail with Shira. It was a pleasure!

                        2. opinionatedchef Nov 20, 2013 02:53 PM

                          Finally made it to Violette today. 1001 Mass Ave, DOWNstairs under a Yoga studio, by Undergound at the Cellar. Ah yes, the old Orson Welles Cinema- where you could at one time wash dishes in exchange for dinner.......

                          Anyway, these women at Violette are a very talented pair. Of all the food businesses, I walk into a bakery with so much mistrust and suspicion that it really is like a huuuge surprise to find good product And so , of course, i had to tell CH about it.

                          I tried 2 of their macarons- salted caramel, and fig// and a piece of orange almond torte.They were all terrific.(Did i really just say that? I did indeed.) The macarons were much heftier than any others I've had- wider and higher, with a perfect {not skimpy) amount of filling. They were very moist and had a beautiful mouthfeel. Not dry and airy like a meringue.If you're going to pay $2.50 for a cookie, this is the one to buy.

                          The torte was not the heavy dense moist torte i expected; it was moist but both light and dense in a pound cake kind of way. Very clean orange flavor.

                          Man, i am NOT feeling sorry for gluten intolerant people who have Violette for their sweet tooths! What a delight. Look forward to sampling more.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: opinionatedchef
                            opinionatedchef Dec 21, 2013 11:51 PM

                            they have some wonderful macaron flavors this busy Xmas week Today I sampled their House made Nutella and a Lime Coconut and a Chocolate Mint. Wow, what great combos, each and every one. And some were not just moist but creamy moist inside. yumola.

                          2. opinionatedchef Dec 19, 2013 05:50 PM

                            Violette's are so large (and wonderful). Easily twice the weight of most others.

                            Did anyone see the Globe feature on that new Salem bakery , Malita Fiore, that features macarons?

                            http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regi...

                            1. rlh Jan 2, 2014 01:40 PM

                              Being a huge fan of Laduree macarons and not finding Formaggio or Burdick's even a close approximation, I picked up the Trader Joe's dozen multicolored/flavored assortment at $4 for a dozen. I tjust thawed them even though there are no directions on the box. The exteriors were quite good, but the filling were W-R-O-N-G - they were jammy and super sweet, not creamy and intensely flavored. Though not macarons,k these are perfectly fine desserts for the (very low) price, but I think I may still have to head to Laduree for what seems like the real deal for me-and get to Violette.

                              1. gini Jan 27, 2014 05:03 PM

                                I have a random, but on topic question.

                                Has anyone ever bought 500 macarons in Boston? I need to do so for my wedding. I am not a huge fan of Formaggio's, and while some of LA Burdick's flavors can be good, others are terrible. I haven't yet tried Northlight or Violette.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: gini
                                  opinionatedchef Jan 27, 2014 05:29 PM

                                  hi gini,
                                  the Violette woman is lovely to work with, and her product is really superior.(Congrats , btw!)

                                  1. re: opinionatedchef
                                    gini Apr 13, 2014 04:14 PM

                                    We bought two of each flavor macarons from Violette this weekend to try them out. Wow, were they horrendous! Each cookie was a different shape and texture and all but the lemon version had absolutely flavorless insides. I was most dissapointed. I shall try Northlight asap.

                                    1. re: gini
                                      opinionatedchef Apr 13, 2014 06:12 PM

                                      really? i'M ASTOUNDED. what a bummer/so sorry but i've honestly never had them any way but delicious.

                                      1. re: opinionatedchef
                                        enhF94 Apr 14, 2014 05:41 AM

                                        Macaron have to weather so many difficult to control/recognize variables... perhaps this weekend’s sudden jump in humidity might have taken many makers by surprise?

                                        1. re: enhF94
                                          Allstonian Apr 14, 2014 05:55 AM

                                          Humid weather might well damage the texture, but I can't see how it would render the macarons flavorless.

                                          1. re: Allstonian
                                            opinionatedchef Apr 14, 2014 12:38 PM

                                            very true. also, for small bakeries, one never knows when some items are made, so thinking about them being made this weekend might be inaccurate (because wkends are prob the busiest retail days for her.) i would imagine she does most of her production in non-retail hours. well, she is a very conscientious person, so i'm hoping this is just a temporary slip, as it happens to everyone...

                                      2. re: gini
                                        Small Plates Apr 14, 2014 11:30 AM

                                        Yeah, I've been disappointed in Violette's macarons. My fav is still Burdick's in Harvard Square.

                                        1. re: gini
                                          c
                                          Crazy Egg Apr 14, 2014 06:33 PM

                                          Let me know what you think of Northlight and the flavors you get, gini. If they are as good as I have had, then I think it may be time for another order.

                                      3. re: gini
                                        c
                                        Crazy Egg Jan 27, 2014 08:45 PM

                                        I would give Shira at Northlight an e-mail. She responds fairly quickly. Very sweet person and easy to work with. I really enjoy the flavors she has for her macarons. Good luck with your planning!

                                        1. re: Crazy Egg
                                          gini Jan 28, 2014 08:02 PM

                                          Thanks both!

                                        2. re: gini
                                          enhF94 Feb 9, 2014 12:36 PM

                                          Congratulations!

                                          Maybe CSCA, if you haven't tried them yet? At least you'll get a lot of names of people who've made them before and recognize feet.

                                          (Since CSCA is one of the very few culinary schools that doesn't provide a bachelors' or associates' degree, they tend to get a higher proportion of students who are cooking as a second career or fun job, and so have an enormous number of grads who want to do small-time gigs like this one.)

                                        3. c
                                          coriolis Feb 17, 2014 01:22 PM

                                          Got some macarons from The Patisserie on Newbury: pistachio, lemon, chocolate. $1.25 each. They stood up really tall like the ones from Formaggio Kitchen so I was afraid they would turn out sticky and too chewy. But they had a really nice texture and not overly sweet. (I know, I know, macarons are pretty sweet, but the best ones manage to keep it in balance)

                                          Lemon and chocolate were nice flavors. Pistachio didn't taste like pistachio. They also had vanilla, coffee, and raspberry which I didn't get. I think they are a smidge smaller in diameter than any of the other local ones I tried earlier, but definitely bigger than the ones from Trader Joe's.

                                          1. MC Slim JB Apr 14, 2014 06:03 AM

                                            While I think of it, there's a truck called Cameo Macron now operating: http://www.cameomacaron.com/

                                            And a Southie macaron bakery called Miam Miam is shortly forthcoming: http://boston.eater.com/archives/2014/04/02/miam-miam-macaronerie-will-sell-macarons-in-southie.php

                                            http://mcslimjb.blogspot.com/

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