First up was the macaron triangle of Hayes Valley. It's strange, on one corner there are three macaron establishments: Paulette, Miette, and one of the many La Boulange. Next we headed to Thorough Bread and Pastry, Patisserie Philippe, and Sandbox Bakery. We also tried to get the Lady Kiss over at Noe Valley Bakery, but they didn't have any.
Once we had our treats procured, we headed back to anneh's with our winnings (two from each place, one plain and one fun) and a bottle of rosé. It was time for analysis.We started with one we were pretty familiar with, La Boulange. Their outposts are everywhere in the city, so we'd both had them before, multiple times. This time we got the vanilla and the coffee. The vanilla really should've been called almond, it was gooey and sweet and tasted just like marzipan. Actually, it tasted more like a vanilla Tootsie Roll, either way I kind of hated it. The outsides weren't quite right either. The coffee flavored one was definitely more delicious, but the whole thing was chewy like a caramel (the inside were definitely caramely). I would eat that one again, but wouldn't touch that vanilla if i had to.
Next was Paulette. They've got an outpost here in SF, but the macarons are actually made in Beverly Hills and shipped up here. That part is kind of disappointing, as it would be nice to know what they taste like fresh. We tried three flavors here (pumpkin we ate while out and about), vanilla, and coconut. No pictures as we ate them too fast, but they were nice. Their outsides had enough crunch and the insides the right amount of chew. The pumpkin one was a bit much, in the same way that pumpkin spice lattes are. Perfect for the season, but not necessary year round. The coconut was almost overwhelming, but the vanilla was kind spot on.After Paulette's, we moved on to another old favorite, Miette. Miette has an outpost at the ferry building also, so both Anneh and I were familiar with their treats. Here we tried the vanilla and the rose geranium. Both of these are great, and I love the way they taste. Their outsides are lumpy looking, and are lacking the smoothness of a traditional macaron. As anneh says, it looks like they're trying to trick you into thinking they're healthy, as if they were whole-grain macarons or something like that. In addition to being lumpy looking, the insides are not the same paste-like filling found in most macarons. Instead they're like buttercream. While they are delicious treats, it's almost seems like they aren't the same type of cookies as the rest of them. Once we worked our way through the Hayes triangle, we moved on to Thorough Bread's vanilla/chocolate combo, and their lemon. They actually serve them frozen and you need to wait for them to thaw before you can eat them. The vanilla/choco combo was hard to cut through, and was sort of a chewy mess. It had a nice flavor though, but was sort of unmemorable. However the lemon was delicious. The filling was tart without being overpowering, and the outside had a nice crispness to it, but with a dry inside. This was probably my second favorite one of the day. Also they get bonus points for the awesomely bad pun. Next up was Philippe's. They didn't have a vanilla, so we had to go with hazelnut as our plain and decided on cassis for our fun one. First of all these guys are huge. Gigantor, almost double the size of the miette. Their texture is nice though, the crust had the right crispness combined with the perfect chew, but the filling melted on your tongue too quickly. Also the size was sort of overwhelming, making the ratio of crust to filling a bit wrong. I think if the size was tweaked a little, these could be my favorite. Although, to be honest i didn't like the flavors of either of these, but then again I kind of dislike hazelnut, and the cassis was too sweet/artificial. I mentioned that the cassis looked like a hamburger, and anneh said she thought it actually tasted like one. Clearly, it's been a long time since vegetarian anneh's had a hamburger. Last up was Sandbox Bakery, which is actually Christopher David Macarons. The ones there were hands down the most visually appealing. The tops are sprinkled with a shiny sugar, which us magpies were immediately drawn to. There were four flavor options (pear, chocolate, grapefruit with star anise, and butterscotch), and we decided to try them all. The texture was pretty good on all of these, but the flavors were a bit too sweet. The pear actually was quite tart too, in that tongue curly sort of way. The chocolate was good but forgettable, and the anise in the grapefruit was odd. If anneh thought the last one tasted like hamburger, then I have to say this one tasted like duck. Chinese duck. I'm sure it was the anise flavor, but it wasn't awesome. What was awesome was the butterscotch. I don't even like butterscotch and that thing was downright delicious. I would dare say it was my favorite of the day, but I don't know if it was the "best" macaron in SF. It was however the most delicious thing. Anneh thought the flavors were too quirky and trying to hard (she likened it to Humphry Slocombe and their weird flavors. Quirkiness over quality she says. Well i put those exact words in her mouth, but that was essentially her sentiment.
Overall, seems like the best, most traditional macarons in SF are the ones you can find at Paulette. However, i think it's fair to say there are a lot of great options. Pass on the La Boulange ones though, I went back and tried it after i ate the others and it was terrible in comparison. I was sort of surprised by that, but anneh agreed too.
And if you know of another great macaron here in the city, let me know. I know there are a few more lurking about waiting for us to nom them.
so much fun was had! thanks for the invite marc, it was a brilliant idea!
that said, i think it's time to call in professional help.
don't judge me, we can't all be awesome housewives.
ps. see that scar on my arm under the two freckles? i hate it so much. it's like an :/ emoticon that stares at me all day long.
happy birthday wee froggie (and lawrence too)!
and now, for the amazing mieko's frog army!
this morning morm and i got up early (as in hours before i'm normally awake) to go volunteer down at temple. each year, for chinese new year's, they have a huge celebration. unlike other religions, this one (or at least the temple my mom goes to) doesn't have services. you're supposed to go on new year's day, but you go when you want to (well between 8am and 7pm). you say your thanks and prayers, ask for your blessings, offer your fruits, ask your questions and then go home. it's how most of their day-to-day behavior is, but on new years, they ask you to stick around and partake in a feast (and yes, it's fully buddhist and therefore vegetarian, but even randall liked it).
i ended up on serving duty: eggrolls, fried taro, and then sweet and sour crispy soy item. samshrew, randall, and chris showed up later, but didn't have to stick around long (samshrew got roped into eggroll duty for a while, but got out of it when the rush ended). morm and i left after six hours of serving up food, and needless to say, i was pretty exhausted at the end of it.
also, i never really considered myself a religious person (i only go to temple a couple times of year, and mostly because of morm), but you know there's something sort of amazing about a religion that says, hey come say what you feel like and before you go why don't you eat a boatload of food. not to mention it sounds like it was invented just for me.
growing up my mom sort of encouraged this sort of thing. in fact, if i didn't get the crab claw (or if she had unhinged it before i had a chance to make a round of bad jokes and demonstrate how the crab claw could move posthumously), i would throw a fit. not like a kicking and screaming fit, but a pouty one. i'm doomed if i ever have kids of my own. mostly because i will probably still want to play and they will fight me for it. good thing crabs have two claws.
and in case you didn't know, lobsters do too.
as a total random aside, we saw john hodgman in an "intimate" conversation with dave eggers today. it was part of the sfsketchfest, and was really quite fantastic. i love his wry literary humor. after all, i don't lol, i just quietly chuckle.
private for friends of nick p: if you see him anytime soon, call him lobot. john hodgman will, and that guy's an expert. you can't really fight that.