A couple of weeks ago I started a section on reviews. If you have missed the first review of the series, make sure to check it out as it was about some of the best pizza in Sydney at Caffe’ Moretti. Today I am changing topic: no pizza, no Italian food at all. Since I started blogging I have seen many beautiful macarons in the blogosphere. So much so that I gave it a shot too a few times and I can tell you I still have a few surprises up my sleeve. Making macarons at home is so much fun, but I wanted to sample the ones made by professionals. And when you talk about macarons here in Sydney there is only one name that comes to everyone’s mind: Adriano Zumbo. Adriano is a well known patissier whose fame has been definitely boosted by his appearances on Masterchef Australia, so much so that the TV channel SBS has even made a show about him!
I must admit I did not know him before I started blogging. Having moved here only recently I am still learning about the local must try places/foods and I was really curious to find out what all the fuss was about. Besides, I was really craving macarons and they are his signature pastry after all. So a couple of weekends ago we headed over to his famous Balmain patisserie. This is his main (and first) shop. He has now opened a café in Rozelle and another patisserie in Manly. I knew it would be busy, so the relatively long queue outside the shop did not surprise or bother me.
We had both our girls with us and the 1 year old was fast asleep in her pram. When we got closer to the entrance I was shocked by what I saw. The patisserie is small. No, not just small. Miniscule. It is long and narrow, leaving probably only 1.5 meter of space between the counter and the wall! That is a complete turn off for me. Besides, there was no way a pram could fit in there (there was barely space for 2 people to stand side by side!). Not a child/family friendly place for sure. And that is another big minus for me and many other people. To me a patisserie is a place you should be able to take your kids in for them to choose a sweet treat… instead movement inside can be quite a challenge. It should also be a place where you are allowed to relax, breath in the aromas, enjoy the colors… you do eat with your eyes (and nose) first, after all! And a patisserie (and a famous one at that) should let all your senses have some fun!!! I was so disappointed by this… I am also somewhat claustrophobic so I stayed outside with my little ones and sent my husband on a “macarons mission”. He asked me “what flavours should I get” and I said “you choose”. I had no idea what was on sale. As soon as he entered the shop he was told by one of the guys working there that there was no queue if you only want to purchase macarons… he could have walked straight in and gone to the end of the shop to buy them! OK… a sign might be helpful here. While waiting outside, I noticed a few of the pastries at the window: classic pain aux raisins, pain au chocolat, cinnamon scrolls, croissants… and then a little bag that cought my attention. They looked like Italian amaretti sandwiched with chocolate ganache… then I read the name and that was another MINUS: he calls them Baci di Dama. Now, I do not know how he makes these cookies, but they do not look anything like Baci di Dama to me! Baci di Dama are traditional Italian cookies (mainly from Piedmont) made with sugar, hazelnut/almond meal, butter and flour. They can be made with or without cocoa and are sandwiched with chocolate. There is no egg in their dough and they look quite compact and not as wrinkled as amaretti. Amaretti on other hand are more similar to macarons as they contain egg whites, but look more “cracked”. You can see a picture of amaretti here, while here you have my recipe and picture for Baci di Dama. I do not like it when professionals get things like this wrong, and I find it somewhat misleading.
When my husband came out he had his little treasure box… He got 6 “normal” macarons and 1 special macaron in its own little box. I managed to go in for a couple of quick pictures before going back to our car.
Back in the car I ask him what flavours he got. Ok, I forgot… never ask a man such specific questions. To them shapes, colours, flavours… are not essential things to remember. He had to get some macarons… and he did, that’s it! Ok, never mind I am sure we’ll manage to understand what we are eating.
As soon as we get home I took a few pictures for you guys before we attacked the poor macarons. They look nice, not perfect though. A bit rough and uneven and not all the feet have come out perfectly. Still, the taste is what I am more interested in.
We start from the “normal” ones:
- Chocolate – very good, intense chocolate flavour yet light, crunchy and chewy
- Vanilla – very good, delicate and with a white chocolate ganache… yum
- Salted caramel butter – the BEST, an explosion of flavour in your mouth, light and buttery and so tasty
- Strawberries and cream – nice, great colour and light cream and strawberry filling
These were the “recognisable” flavours. We managed to discover the names of other 2 macarons by checking out his website, while one remains a mystery.
- Mint and chestnuts – the green and orange shell (nice colour) tastes more like basil than mint to me (?!) and it has a very mild flavour while the chestnut filling is nice in consistency but way too delicate in taste. Not a combo I would eat again… mint can overpower the taste of anything (I guess that is why the shells were so mild) and chestnuts need to be the star of the show here, which was not achieved.
- Mystery Macaron – the green/blueish looking shell… there’s definitely some mint in there too. Too mild in flavour to understand what it is really made of. It is not even on the online menu… My theory is “if you can’t figure out what you are eating, well it probably wasn’t that good after all”.
- The “Lucky Dip” – this is a fun idea. It is a “random” macaron fully covered in chocolate. So you get to know what you’ve got only when you bite into it. 10/10 on the idea, but the lucky dip was not lucky for us. We found out later by reading the online menu that we got the Black Sesame, Licorice and Lime… oops, I had not guessed any of the flavours, but still nobody in the family liked it. What a shame as the chocolate cover was so yummy!
So, I guess I was not impressed by the “creative” flavours. I am quite adventurous when it comes to food, so it was not the choice of flavours that I didn’t like, they just didn’t taste good enough or “strong” enough to appeal to my tastebuds. The classic macarons were instead very good, with the Salted Caramel Butter leading the group.
Would I go back? Not sure. All things considered, I am not sure it was worth the drive, the queue, the wait outside. Definitely not with the kids. I may give his café a try, as long as it is not as small as his Balmain shop! And if there is a next time, I’ll make sure to read his online menu before going, so I know what I am buying! Here is the latest macaron menu (that does not include the “Mystery macaron”), each macaron costs $2.30:
Charred Coconut & Black Rice Pudding
Kaffir Lime & Ginger
Strawberries & Cream
Caramelised Palm Sugar
Black Sesame, Licorice & Lime
Chestnut & Mint
Toasted White Chocolate
Salted Butter Caramel
So, where did you eat the best macarons? What is your favourite macaron flavour? Or what would you like to try? Any other suggestions for great macarons in town my Sydneysider friends?
On a completely different note, remember you still have a few hours to enter my international giveaway for a chance to win a digital scale! The giveaway will will end on July 10, 2011 at 11:59 pm GMT. One winner with a valid entry will be selected at random through random.org. I will announce the winner on the blog soon afterwards. Good luck everyone!
296 Darling St
Balmain, NSW 2040
02 9810 7318
Monday to Saturday
8:00am till 6:00pm
8:00am till 4:00pm
Closed on Public Holidays
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