Part 1 – The Looks…
The original plan was for me to review Thierry and Thomas Haas individually before doing a comparison of the five heavyweights of the Vancouver macaron scene. But during my drive to Theirry a few days ago, I realized that it was unfair to compare something I was eating at the moment to something that was eaten days or even weeks ago. I can’t even remember the details of a television show I watched just two days ago, how do I expect myself to remember exactly how a macaron I ate five days ago tasted? I also happened to have around an hour of free time so I decided I would hit up all five of the major macaron producers.
Since I was already on my way to Thierry, I started there. I next went to French Made Baking. After a quick in-and-out at French Made Baking, I drove all the way to 42nd and headed west until I hit Faubourg. I then drove back downtown and reached Soirette around 40 minutes after I left Theirry. I was about to drive to my final stop at Thomas Haas in North Van when I realized how dumb I was for not remembering that they had a location on Broadway. But since I had to pick the kids up from school in West Van in 30 minutes and had no time to waste, I continued with my plan of driving to the north shore location of Thomas Haas. I made it there within 15 minutes and purchased the last of the macarons. Mission accomplished; I had visited all 5 macaron makers within an hour. Now that the mundane part is done, I can’t wait for the fun part: tasting and comparing the macarons.
I’ve split the comparison into several parts. I will rank the producers from best to worst in each comparison. This first part today will be an overall comparison between the looks of the macarons from each producer. In the second part, I will compare and contrast the flavour/taste of the different macarons. Then in the third part, I will be comparing their textures. Lastly, my final comparison will discuss all the other aspects not covered by the previous three parts and I will present an overall ranking of the five producers.
I will, however, not be assigning scores or averaging the individual rankings. I don’t believe that the overall winner can simply be determined by the producer that has the top overall score or the best average ranking. I believe the macaron is more than the sum of it’s parts. The fact that a producer has the best average ranking does not necessarily mean that it makes the best macarons. Also, since this is a subjective tasting done by me and my wife, and not an objectively scientific comparison done by machines and instruments, we want the results to be determined by our ourselves. We want the results to reflect who we think made the best macarons, and not which producer happens to have the best average ranking. So without further ado, here are the results:
I thought Soirette had the best looking macarons of the bunch. They were the most uniformly shaped macarons of the five, maintaining the most consistent circumference and height. The macarons from Soirette also had the best colours; they were not too wild yet not too subdued. The shells of the macarons were smooth and relatively free of air bubbles and the fillings never exceeded the width of the shells. Two of the macaron shells were even embellished, with the green brush strokes on the guiness (green) macaron and the line of salt on the truffle (olive) macaron.
2. Thomas Haas:
Thomas Haas and Faubourg tied for second place. I liked the size of the macarons from Thomas Haas. They were the right size, not too big and not too small. The colours of their macarons were more subdued, which I thought was a negative. Some of their macarons had colours so similar to each other and so muted that it was easy to confuse one macaron from another. The shells of the macarons were basically smooth though they had more noticeable air bubbles than the ones from Soirette. The sizes were pretty much uniform in terms of circumference of the shell but there were slight differences between the height of each macaron. This could be attributed to the differences in the amount of filling for each type of macaron. Some macarons received so much filling that they exceeded the width of the shells while others received much less filling.
Unlike my first macaron experience at faubourg, this time all of their macarons were very similar in size. They were a little smaller than I would have liked, but they were definitely nice-looking if you hold them on your hands. I liked their brighter colors because I could more easily differentiate between the various macarons. I thought the sprinklets of vanilla on the vanilla macaron and the contrasting colours of the top and bottom shell of the capuccino macaron were nice touches. What I didn’t like was when the macarons were placed on surfaces. The shells were crooked, causing some of them to stand at an angle. The fillings were also applied in a way that didn’t allow the top and bottom shells to rest parallel to each other. This resulted in a less than optimal look for their macarons. Though some of their macarons were free from air bubbles, others had issues with large and very noticeable air bubbles on their shells.
The macarons from Thierry are alone in fourth place. They were much too big, the biggest of the five by far. If they they were any bigger, they would be approaching burger slider territory. The fillings were also inconsistent, with one having a lot a the two others having barely visible fillings. I thought their colours were too bright and looked very unnatural. These macarons also had a lot of air bubbles on their shells, the most of the group. The only thing they had going for them was the consistent circumference, which gave their macarons a uniform look.
5. French Made Baking:
I knew the macarons from French Made Bakery would come in last place before I even started the comparison. Tossing aside the looks of the crushed macaron, you could tell that the other two varied widely in their shapes. Both were not circular and had different circumferences and heights. The fillings were also not visible at all, giving them a mono-colour look. The shells were so smooth that the errant air bubble became very noticeable. The saving grace for the looks of these macarons were their colours. I like the pastel colour scheme where the colours of each macaron was not too wild but still different enough so that one can easily differentiate between the individual macarons.
If the comparison was based on looks alone, Soirette wins hands down. Let’s see how it compared when flavour, texture, and other tangible and intangible factors were taken into account.