Macarons (also called "Luxemburgerli" in Switzerland) are sweet, tiny, creamy, soft, light, exquisite. They melt in your mouth. They come in countless flavors and colors. And they are difficult - if not impossible - to make at home. All these factors contribute to their growing popularity in the U.S. We know that cupcake haters are eagerly waiting for something else to come along and create a new trend, and yes, they have tried to promote macarons for exactly that reason. But let's not compare apples and oranges.
The history of macarons goes back to 1533, when the first almond meringue cookie was crafted with almond powder, sugar and egg whites. However, the macarons we know and love today were the creation of Pierre Desfontaines of the French pâtisserie Ladurée in the early 20th century. Desfontaines was the first to think of "pasting" two of these cookies together with a layer of buttercream, jam or ganache. This idea was not only well-received all over Paris (the rest of France is not that macaron-crazy, actually), but it also helped Ladurée rise to fame: They now claim to sell 15,000 macarons a day.
What makes macarons so special for me is the contrast of textures: The almond meringue disks have a fragile, thin crust, but are moist and chewy inside. The filling, on the other hand, packs most of the flavor and is usually intensely creamy. You could say that a macaron is where "crispy" meets "moist & chewy" meets "velvety & smooth".
Unfortunately, really good macarons are difficult to come by outside of Europe. Macaron Bee is the first place I have given a try here in DC, and I was pleasantly surprised.
The store is small and located on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. Everything about it looks cute: The white drapes and colorful decoration in the window; yellow paint chipping off the exterior; an old park bench right in front; even the logo itself. Inside, you'll find a glass counter exhibiting what looks like hundreds of tiny round treats in a variety of flavors, a table with milk/sugar/etc. for coffee drinkers and a girl that will happily tell you everything you want to know about what's on offer. That's about it, because there's just no room for anything else. Macaron Bee is simply a tiny store selling tiny sweets.
I was lucky enough to be accompanied by a friend, both because this meant that we could try almost all flavors on the menu, and because I had forgotten my camera. Thank you, Ms Kitkat (yes, she might have more appearances in this blog in the future)!
Since we were completely exhausted and hot after walking up from M Street in desert-like weather conditions - and I know what I am talking about here, I lived in Abu Dhabi for almost 2 years - we started off with some fruity flavors: Key lime and lemon. The difference between the two is very subtle, so I would probably not get both in the same box, but they were absolutely incredible. One bite reminded me of why I loved macarons and made me question why I hadn't had one in so long. The texture was exactly what it should be and the filling can only be described as heavenly smooth. It surely made us forget all about the heat.
Even though the key lime and lemon macarons left me thinking they could not be beat, I seriously reconsidered after trying the gianduja. Gianduja is a sweet kind of chocolate with hazelnut paste. - So imagine full-on creamy Nutella flavor in a tiny macaron. Delicious.
The Macaron Bee girl told us that their bestseller is fleur de sel caramel, but both of us were not at all excited about this one. It tasted and felt like salty butter. Ms Kitkat spoke highly of the almond and espresso, which - together with lemon- were her favorites. I would also recommend pistachio and pink champagne. The latter had an actual champagne-tingle. Other flavors we tried were passionfruit and rose, and while the passionfruit tasted intensely fruity and almost refreshing, the rose was not a hit. You probably really need to like the fragrance in order to enjoy it in a macaron.
Overall, Macaron Bee made us girls very happy. We each left the shop with six super cute little macarons in a super cute little box inside a super cute little bag (see pictures) which we paraded around like birthday gifts. The price of $11 for six is very reasonable, even more so considering their quality. I'll be taking my macaron-loving mum here when she visits.
Brownie Points: 3 out of 3