Look to the Cookie: NYC’s Macaron Cafe on Its Blossom-Inspired Sweets

Photos by ryan Benoit

Trendiness aside, our love for the macaron can be traced to its fulfillment of the three Cs: crispiness, cream and color. Delicate shells piped with flavorful fillings, these iconic French cookies are in the middle of a revival, and we’re along for the ride.

We were recently excited to receive a box of them from NYC’s Macaron Cafe. Excitement became walking-on-air bliss when we saw the flavors included: violet flower, orange blossom, lavender honey, rose, cassis and passion fruit. It was like entering a hidden garden — a delicious hidden garden that pairs nicely with champagne.

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Macaron Cafe

The floral flavors in our box from Macaron Cafe, clockwise from top left: cassis, violet flower, lavender honey, rose, orange blossom and passion fruit.

The confections came via two-day air, nestled among cold packs and with instructions to refrigerate immediately and eat within five to seven days. Twist our arms! This worked out perfectly because our friend Laju (remember Laju of the Culver City balcony garden?) was in town from LA that weekend. The three of us first met in New York and now call Southern California home — so it was especially satisfying to eat these Manhattan-made pastries under the shade of a few palm trees.

The macarons were divine. Each gorgeously textured cookie was bursting with flavor. We nibbled them in our garden on a Sunday afternoon over the Times and glasses of prosecco dotted with orange bitters and pomegranate seeds. Our favorite was the passion fruit macaron, which was practically radiant with the fruit’s sweet-tart personality.

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Macaron Cafe

I mix up a Sunday spritz — prosecco with orange bitters and pomegranate seeds — to pair with pastries from Macaron Cafe.

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Our favorite of the bunch: passion fruit. (Lavender honey and rose were close runners up.) Here it hangs out with one of our passion flowers.

Macaron Cafe now boasts three brick-and-mortar locations, and offers local NYC delivery along with shipping nationwide. A sexy alternative to a bouquet of flowers, gift boxes start at $16.

We had to learn more. So we chatted by email with Macaron Cafe chef/owner Cecile Cannone, who, partnered with husband Arnaud, opened for business in 2007. Below we talk spring flowers, macaron mania and the effect her French homeland has had on her work.

Plus, read on for details on a macaron giveaway happening this month!

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Clockwise from top, a postcard from medieval town Tourrettes sur Loup, famed for its violets — with macarons of the same flavor; Paris-born Cecile Cannone, chef/owner of Macaron Cafe; and Cecile’s 2010 book of recipes.

You were born in France. How did your upbringing influence your confections?

I was born in Paris, but I spent all my summer holidays in our family house in south of France, in a small village named Tourrettes sur Loup. The particularity of this village is that it is called the Village of the Violet because the economy of the village was based on the cultivating of the violet flower. It even has a Museum of the Violet. This medieval village is also very close by to another famous one, which is Grasse, very well known for its flowers culture and perfume industry.

So yes, I can say that my flower flavor list comes from this childhood place. It is cultural to eat flowers in south of France. We bake with lavender, orange blossom, rose water, and some kinds of edible flowers provide beautiful colors in a salad.

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What flowers are you excited about for spring?

I can’t wait for spring to come, especially while living in New York. I can’t want to smell lilac, jacynthe [hyacinth], lily of the valley at the park and in the countryside. Citrus flavors go well with flowers.

Did you grow up around plants and gardens?

Absolutely, when in the country, I took care of a big vegetable garden and fruit trees. People used to say I had a green thumb!

When you’re at home, what is your go-to macaron to eat? Is there a certain time of day you like to eat them?

To ensure quality, I make sure there is enough filling and that the flavors have developed in the shells. I have to eat many macarons each day at the bakery! Depending on the season, I would have a coffee with chocolate or caramel macaron in wintertime and definitely flower-based macarons with an iced tea in the afternoon during spring and summer.

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Laju and I dive in.

What are some other drink/macaron pairings that you recommend?

Champagne is great for a special occasion. Vouvray sparkling white wine, teas (from Mariage Frères), and of course, a coffee pairs well with any chocolate, fleur de sel or espresso macaron.

Ah, we need to try them with coffee! What are your favorite flavors of all time?

Dark chocolate! FOREVER chocolate.

What’s something a lot of people don’t know about macarons?

Macarons cannot be eaten or sold the day they are baked! They need at least 24 hours to rest and this allows the flavor filling to develop in the shells.

Why do you think macarons are experiencing such an impassioned resurgence right now?

It is one of the most difficult French pastries to bake, but it’s worth the time to perfect the look and taste! People love the elegant look and satisfying taste of macarons. And they are gluten-free! And can be dairy-free too!

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What sets Macaron Cafe apart?

As an artisanal bakery, we are free to choose the best raw products based on quality and taste without compromising anything for bottom-line returns. And our customers experience this every time they purchase our macarons and [from] our food menu.

What’s next for the bakery?

Macaron Day NYC 2014 takes place on March 20! We will be giving away 1000 free macarons in each of our three locations. Ten percent of our sales of all macarons on this day will go to City Harvest.

Finally, how does eating a macaron make you feel?

Like the song “HAPPY.”

—TH