Pierre Herme vs Laduree (Paris) – Macaroon Might
Laduree is the old guard on the Champs Elysees, Pierre Herme the rock’n'roll master on the Left Bank. Laduree’s macaroons are more traditional in flavor; Herme’s current collection revolves around the theme of “Fetish.” Laduree has a tea shop, no doubt a symbol of its properness; Pierre Herme launches his new dessert lines at strip clubs. Herme used to work at Laduree and apparently felt stifled.
Herme has an extensive collection of desserts that have been well documented by many. The store itself probably has a homing device that draws in anyone with a sweet tooth. On every visit to Paris, I’ve allocated a lunch at this hot spot. To date, I’ve limited myself to the macaroons but after reading SweetNapa’s pilgrimage to Pierre Herme, I will put all of the desserts on the to-do list.
While Herme’s macaroons are always decadent, they are inconsistent. They are generally too sweet for me (which means I can only eat 2-3 in a sitting instead of 4-5) but one visit during this trip yielded perfectly-sweetened specimens. Their texture is a touch mushy – I’d prefer my macaroon to not yield so quickly. Nonetheless, their flavors are always intense. The rose will envelop your mouth like a great perfume, the olive in the middle of the olive/vanilla will decisively cut through the vanilla’s sweetness, and the caramel in fleur de sel will burst in your mouth. The flavors are as bold as the man and his methods it seems.
I had tried Laduree’s macaroons once here on American soil. Their memory was one of a perfect macaroon – a firm texture with an acceptable sweetness. After Pierre Herme one day, we ventured to Laduree the next. The lines were just as long for these more traditional macaroons.
On this day, there were some hits and misses. The macaroons generally had a firmer texture (re: preferred) than their Herme counterparts but the flavors were not as explosive. The rose was more subtle, the fleur de sel didn’t burst with caramel richness, and the lemon was more bitter than sweet. It’s a more subtle, traditional approach. If one could somehow harness the impact of Herme’s flavors without using so much sugar and stick them into a Laduree macaroon for texture, they too might have lines snaking around their storefronts.
They also differ in sustainability. After a few days, the Pierre Herme macaroons will get very soggy and mushy while the Laduree will get rock hard. I wouldn’t suggest bringing any back for your friends unless you’ll see them (and they’ll eat them) the minute you step off of the plane. As for recommendations – I think they’re too subjective and you’ll have to fly to Paris and try them for yourself. I will probably visit both on any future trip.
Pierre Herme Official Site: http://www.pierreherme.com/
Laduree Official Site: http://www.laduree.fr/