One of our main goals while visiting Paris was to sample the macarons. L and M are huge fans of macarons, and even had them as our wedding favors (chocolate, blueberry and chai). However, we will freely admit that none of the macarons in Chicago (even the most expensive) can rival those in Paris. Prior to our trip, we did some research to narrow down the overwhelming choices for some possible top contenders. After reading many ‘best of ‘ lists we arrived at two top contenders – Ladurée and Pierre Hermé. With this shortlist in mind, we set out to conduct a scientific study of what would be the top macaron in Paris, along with our good friends and gracious Paris hosts, T & I. Below, we compare the two shops on various parameters, and discuss our final decision. And no, we did not get IRB approval for this study (Social Science joke!)
Location in Paris we visited: 21 Rue Bonaparte, Saint Germain des Prés, Paris
Flavors Sampled: Salted Caramel, Colombian Chocolate, Pistachio
Location in Paris we visited: 72 Rue Bonaparte, Saint Germain des Prés, Paris
Flavors Sampled: Creme Brulée, Venezuelan Chocolate, Salted Caramel
Price and Line:
Both stores had lines out the door (and were located mere blocks from eachother in the Saint Germain des Prés neighborhood). However, Ladurée gets the hat-tip for having lower prices for roughly the same sized macarons. At Pierre Hermé eight macarons were €15.70, Ladurée came in at €12.10.
Verdict: Ladurée – we are poor grad students, what do you expect?
We got yelled at in each store for taking pictures – but only after about 20 photos. Oops…?
In terms of decor, the two shops could not be more different. Ladurée is a pastel-colored confection, full of filigree and antique fixtures. Pierre Hermé, on the other hand, is extremely stark and sleek, and really goes for the minimalist look. This style was also reflected in each store’s Christmas window decorations, as seen below.
Verdict: We slightly preferred Ladurée, for its old-world charm.
Pierre Hermé provided little menus with all of the macaron flavors so you could decide while waiting in line. However, Pierre Hermé was also out of a flavor – one that might have been our favorite flavor! Overall, Pierre Hermé was more inventive, and had flavors like Olive Oil/Citrus and Chocolate/Foie Gras, whereas Ladurée only had more classic flavors.
In terms of flavors, it was decided that at both locations, the salted caramel and chocolate were the best, so we will discuss those below.
Both of the restaurants featured a single-original dark chocolate South American macaron, with chocolate cookies and dark chocolate mousse filling, dusted with cocoa powder.
Verdict: Split Decision – One of our testers preferred the Pierre Hermé, and two preferred Ladurée.
Salted caramel is such a delicious and unexpected flavor – and is one that lends itself very well to macarons! All 4 testers ranked salted caramel as the top flavor at both stores. While each was delicious. the key difference was between the fillings – Ladurée had a filling of actual milk caramel, while Pierre Hermé was filled with a salted caramel-flavored buttercream.
Verdict: Ladurée – the actual caramel made all of the difference.
You can’t really go wrong with either choice. But we do have a winner. Overall, considering price, decor and overall taste, Ladurée was the champion. We can’t wait to go back!