My quest to start a whoopie pie stand of my very own in a Chicago farmers market.
It may surprise you to learn that I have a “real” job (not! you probably figured that out by the scarcity of my posts…). That “real” job resides in Evanston, a quaint and beautiful suburb that sits right on the northern border of Chicago. I’m lucky enough to work in Evanston’s adorable downtown where you’ll find anything from a Burger King to Bennison’s, a bakery dating back to 1938. Said bakery was started by a Larry Bennison, who haled from the same city in Wisconsin that my mom is from. It’s a sign, right?
Maybe! I mean, his macarons are excellent.
Although I still have yet to try all of the macarons offered within Chicago city limits, and it may be easy to dismiss a macaron from a suburb (that dreaded S-word), Bennison’s macarons are not only beautiful, they’re seriously well-made too. Most have that perfect crisp outer shell that provides the quintessential crackle when you break it with your teeth and a moist, soft interior.
If all of the macarons I have tried in/around Chicago so far were Jersey Shore characters (stay with me here), Fritz’s would be The Situation – big, but all talk and no real substance or flavor. Bittersweet’s would be Vinny – sweet, but a little different from the rest, one that doesn’t quite fit in with the others. Vanille’s would be Sammi – a beautiful outer shell but kind of hit-or-miss in terms of likability. And Bennison’s would be Ronnie – they’d punch Fritz’s and then strut around going “One shot! One shot, bro! That was one shot!”
What I’m saying is: Bennison’s certainly beat Fritz’s macarons out of the park (and they’re also dating Vanille’s? ok byebye metaphor). They have Bittersweet beat on texture, in fact they have everywhere beat on texture. The only place that I’ve tried so far that could compete is Vanille, and Bennison’s flavors were all around better.
We started out with lemon and oh, what a starter it was. It had the perfect texture and tasted as buttery and lemony-sour as a lemon bar. Just wonderful.
Both my boyfriend and I were a little wary of the lavender as we’ve never tried a typical flower flavor before (yes, we skipped the lavender and rose at Vanille…we’ll be back though). He literally couldn’t stand it and thought it tasted soapy, and I thought it was pleasant. It actually tasted more like marzipan with a little flower tickle on the rear roof of your mouth. I don’t think I’d order it again though.
I was a big fan of the passion fruit, but I used to drink passion fruit juice as an afterschool snack when I babysat (oh, rich people and your afterschool snacks…) so I had developed a taste for it. Boyfriend on the other hand…
Not a fan. He did enjoy pistachio though.
I did too. It was perhaps the best we’ve had. Intense nutty flavor – the pistachio butter or whatever it was they had as the filling was well done – not too sweet, just all pistachio. The texture was different than the others though: the shell wasn’t quite as crispy and the middle was super dense. He enjoyed the strawberry as well, but I thought it was a little over-sweet and bordered on artificial-tasting. The vanilla was a major disappointment – it didn’t taste like anything. Vanille’s definitely beat them on that flavor. But the absolute, hands down, all-hail-to-this-macaron was the pumpkin…or should I say pumpking?
We both really enjoyed it. Intensely pumpkiny, not too sweet, spiced, complex, and the shell had pumpkin spices sprinkled on the outside that not only made it look pretty but enhanced the flavor as well. I think it might be the best macaron I’ve ever had.
So good for you, suburban bakery.
Fun fact about Bennison’s: a coworker told me about how nice it is to use Bennison’s as an excuse to get out of the office for a few minutes and stretch your legs, so I looked them up online first. Their homepage wished a happy birthday to…what else but their sourdough starter, Moe (I promise you won’t be disappointed if you click on that). It made me do that nose-snort-sort-of-quiet-look-around-to-see-if-anyone-at-work-heard-you laugh.