The New York Times’ letters of recommendation oversing the praises of silly or humble things that usually don’t get much love. My letter of recommendation oversings the praises of something fancy that is already amply adored but upon which I would like to heap more adulation.
Last month I attended my first French wedding, and instead of cake there was an enormous cone plastered with Laduree macarons of every color and flavor. Because everyone else was distracted by the dancing that followed the presentation of the tower (complete with sparklers blazing at the top), the macarons were just sitting there begging to be plucked off one after another and popped into my mouth. I ate five in quick succession, minutes after gorging myself on fancy hors d’oeuvres and a two-course dinner. Despite feeling queasy with overindulgence, I contemplated a sixth, because one does not NOT eat Laduree macarons when they are put in front of you, free of charge, with no one paying attention to your intake.
Macarons are gluten-free, which strikes me as miraculous because most delicious things are not, unless there is dairy involved. So that’s the first thing that makes me a macaron fan. Then there’s the fact that they are beautiful. They come in every color of the rainbow and are even sometimes iridescent. The flavors are delightful, ranging from classics like salted caramel to seasonal inventions like green tea with litchi. Also, nearly every macaron maker always features at least one flower flavor like rose, violet, or orange blossom. The only thing that comes close to rivaling rose glace is a rose macaron. And finally, when you bite into them there’s this textural tension that’s almost sexual, as you crack through the fragile cookie crust, which yields to the airspun yet chewy interior layers, which in turn sandwich a creamy center.
So, one macaron in and of itself is heavenly. They’re not cheap, and they’re also pretty sugary, so usually I eat just one at a time. Walking into a macaron shop, seeing the sea of brightly colored orbs in their geometrically pleasing arrangement, and picking out the one I want is a sweet sorrow. But I never regret my choice because I have never in my life eaten a less than sensational macaron. And the act of having to choose a favorite makes it that much more delicious.
This is why the macaron tower is almost too good for its own good. Or I should say, the unsupervised macaron tower is too good for its own good. With no one to stop my inner seven year-old from coming out of hiding, I am tempted to eat one of every flavor. Or to try, at least. On the night of the wedding there were probably eight different colors and I only got five in before my stomach gave me ample indication that I had eaten about three too many. But it was worth it for those several moments of heaven and the mental if not physical afterglow.
Apparently macaron towers are a trend inspired by the French tradition of serving a croquembouche instead of a tiered cake at weddings. A croquembouche is a tower of choux – puff pastries filled with cream. I am pretty sure they are the same thing as profiteroles, based upon the photos I’ve seen and also based upon a line from a TV program that for some reason will stay with me until I die. I must have been watching a show about celebrity weddings, and Celine Dion was saying, “I wanted a mountain of profiteroles. I said, ‘Make me a mountain of profiteroles!'” She sounded like Veruca Salt but with a horrid French Canadian accent, and it was seared into my memory.
As is the feeling of abject joy that I felt as I hovered over the table with the macaron tower, helping myself to one after another, caramel melting into coffee into blackcurrant into pistachio into lemon, until maximum capacity was reached. I would highly recommend that you try it, if ever given the chance.