My quest to start a whoopie pie stand of my very own in a Chicago farmers market.
I took the macaron taste testing up a notch this past weekend and went to the fancypants (highly technical term) Pierrot Gourmet Cafe at The Peninsula hotel in downtown Chicago. Or “The Pen” as some cool people call it. As it turns out, sometimes things are fancypants and priced at $2.25 a macaron for a reason: they’re fantastically made.
You might have noticed a bizarrely large white disk standing on end in the above photo. I (and my testing companions) ate that sweet lunar beauty. And it was delicious.
Because it was a PB&J macaron! A giant PB&J macaron. More on that later. First we had to find a spot to eat our macarons; the wait to sit and eat at the cafe was 30 minutes plus it was more of a sit-and-eat-a-whole-meal-that-consists-of-foods-other-than-macarons, and I wasn’t there for that kind of thing. So we walked a few blocks to the Water Tower Place and set our classy, classy coffees down on a cheap, metal table.
One guess what’s lurking beneath that two-tone cardboard quonset hut.
Up first was the cranberry macaron.
The shell of the cranberry was pretty surprising because it wasn’t light and airy, but dense and chewy. Usually one of my biggest qualms with macarons, but the filling was a nice kind of strong and the shell wasn’t too sweet. I wouldn’t order this macaron again (although I am usually a cranberry fan), but that’s mostly because it was outshined by several of its compatriots.
Next was probably my favorite: nutella. Not because I’m a big nutella fan (I wouldn’t even say that…I’m a mild nutella fan), but because there were tiny pieces of crispy caramelized sugar adhered to the shell. It made for a fantastic crispy/chewy/airy (in that order) textural experience. Pat (the bf) thought it tasted like a Toblerone and also really enjoyed it. I suppose I would have to agree, but I would never choose a Toblerone over this macaron.
The pistachio was pretty standard in flavor although the shell was lighter than the cranberry, which was nice. In fact, all of the shells had different textures. Some were too dense and chewy, others were light and airy, others were dry and too crumbly, others had the perfect crisp outer shell/soft interior.
Next up: grapefruit.
The shell on the grapefruit had a great texture, but there was very little filling, and what little there was tasted only vaguely of grapefruit. Pat, a staunch grapefruit-hater, thought this made sense because as he said, “Who likes grapefruit?” Well, I do, and I’d like a little more grapefruit flavor.
Pat and I both really enjoyed the salted caramel even though the filling wasn’t caramel, but buttercream. In the past, this disappointed me because I didn’t think you could ever get a true caramel flavor out of buttercream, but apparently you can! Pierrot Gourmet sure figured out how.
The pumpkin tasted like pumpkin and not just spices! Although the spices were there too. It was fantastic. Not pictured is the choco coconut, which confused Liz because she couldn’t taste the choco (another barely-there filling problem like the grapefruit), although Pat loved it. To continue on his candy bar kick, he compared it to a Mounds, and what with the coconut-flake-covered shell, I’m inclined to agree again. Another textural success.
We gave our sugar-filled tummies a break and went back to my apartment. And then there was…
DUN. DUN. DUN…
It was very architecturally impressive. It kept on standing even after several bites:
The filling was truly just peanut butter and jelly, but the jelly was only in the very center of the massive shell, so the three of us had to work through some pretty intense peanut-butter-only bites before some PB&J nirvana. Amazingly, the shell had the perfect texture. It was totally worth $6. And just for fun, eating the moon shots:
These macarons are some of the best I’ve ever had. Right up there with Bennison’s. Some were even better. Yep, I said it.