Laduree: Enabling sweet-tooth bearers since 1862
Before the cupcake craze, there were macarons.
The sweet, delicate confections still rule in Tokyo, and without a doubt the jewel in the crown is Laduree.
Since its humble start in the 1860's as a small Parisian bakery, the empire of Laduree has expanded to cross the globe while producing food, fashion and cosmetics.
But in my opinion, it all comes down to the humble macaron.
The macarons, though only a few grams, agitate our senses. The eyes have already devoured them. Fingers skim their surface, the flavors are gently... ... the flavors are gently smelled. When their fine crunchy shell is crushed, the ears are excited by the sound. Then the mouth experiences a delicate grace...
- Pierre Herme
Herme, a famous baker in his own right, helped the global spread of Laduree. The above quote truly encapsulates the many tiny pleasures that eating a macaron brings. Unfortunately, my first experience of Laduree was being shooed out of their Charles de Gaulle shop for trying to take a picture. It knocked my confidence but not my dream.
One day I would eat a Laduree macaron.
Since I ate at the cafe, I didn't really need the box...
Like all French cuisine, if you can't have it in France, you should try to have it in Tokyo. As it happened, my first trip to a Laduree cafe was extra special since my father took me there for a birthday treat. We went to the Shinjuku Lumine shop, which is little more than a sales counter and a few tables squeezed in together. The other Tokyo branches are certainly more spectacular, but it's literally all just window dressing. No matter where you go, you can't fault the exquisite taste.
Ta-dah! Neatly packed and ready to be eaten
Of course, the thing about macarons is that they're hard to eat more than a couple of in one sitting. No matter how tempting the giant macaron towers are, the rush of senses as described by Herme is best appreciated in small servings. At my first visit to Laduree I chose three macarons, but since then I always limit myself to two. And these two flavours are certainly my favourite.
Petale de Rose, Marie Antoinette, Petale de Rose
- Petale de Rose: Rose can be a heavy flavour, but these are incredibly light. The taste of the shell is so subtle that the creamy filling brings the rose gently, before anything else. As it slowly fades, the crumbling shell picks up strong notes of sweetness here and there.
- Marie Antoinette: based on Laduree's tea of the same name. It certainly has a Chinese black tea flavour, but again the sweetness wins out. However. rather than a sugary almond sensation, it's more of a rich honey sweetness. I don't know the detailed ingredients but some reviewers say that it contains notes of rose.
These days I'm lucky that my school is so close to the Shinjuku branch. I pop in every now and then, working my way through the different flavours. I always come back to Petale de Rose and Marie Antoinette though.
Since I don't know the first thing about reviewing food, I hope my descriptions of the tastes make sense. This turned into a little bit of a love letter to macarons.
If any readers have been to the Paris branches of Laduree, I'd love to hear opinions. I'm planning a trip to France in the Summer and really want to try "the real thing". Hopefully I won't get kicked out of the shop this time!