For those of you who don’t know, a macaron is not to be confused with a macaroon.
The latter is a big messy mound of coconut.
The former is a delicate French sandwich-like cookie consisting of almond and egg white, and generally filled with a ganache, jam, or buttercream. They are uniform in size, and available in a variety of colors and flavors.
This Parisian staple is available in no less than four local eateries, helping Hayes Valley solidify its unofficial status as the “Little France” of San Francisco.
La Boulange, Hayes & Octavia
$1.50 per macaron
Perhaps the most well known macaron-dispensing establishment in the area is La Boulange, as it boasts 20 locations in the Bay Area. Starbucks notoriously bought the chain over the summer, but as far as we can tell it remains just as charming, reliable, and delicious.
La Boulange’s macarons aren’t the star of the show, but they do give a sense of well-roundedness to the available pastries. The splashes of color next to all of the croissants make for a great display, and the boxes they come in are incredibly charming.
The cookie itself isn’t as light as a true French macaron – the overall texture is more bread-like, and the consistency runs quite a gamut between flavors. Bonus: they also sell a box of “Macarons de San Francisco” which are simple cookies made of almond meal and sugar.
Miette Bakery, Linden & Octavia
$1.85 per macaron
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the inside of Miette Bakery is whimsical and gorgeous. The pink walls and adorable yellow-and-white-striped awning totally give away the fanciful nature of this shop. It reminds us of the opening sequence of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
The macarons here are displayed in beautiful large glass jars along the shop’s dessert case – they generally carry about five flavors at a time.
These cookies are a bit larger, and unique in their neutral colors. The flavors are subtle, and they are all the same in size and density. The Miette macaron has a nice crisp outer layer, and is chewier than its Hayes Valley counterparts. All in all a VERY classy macaron – retaining several traditional characteristics of the originals, with a distinctive and refined twist.
Chantal Guillon, 437 Hayes
$1.75 per macaron
This specialty shop stands out as the only macaron-specific business in the neighborhood. Sure, they offer a variety of teas and espresso to compliment your treats – but here, it’s ALL about the cookie.
The entire room is white, white, white — it constantly looks like they’re about to host a runway show — but that means we can’t help but focus on row after row of brightly colored macarons. They almost look unreal, as Chantal Gullion’s attention to detail in size, shape, and texture is completely unparalleled. The taste packs as much, if not more, punch than the color.
Their selection of flavors is constantly rotating with the seasons – classics like vanilla and pistachio are always available, and there’s no shortage of surprises: i.e. red velvet, raspberry verbena, and a pumpkin-flavored piece coming this month. If you’re looking for subtlety, you’re in the wrong place: these macarons are sweet and powerful.
Gourmet & More, 141 Gough
$1.49 per macaron
Do not make the mistake of letting this unassuming facade keep you away from the amazing medley of goods inside. This storefront is a Francophile’s dream come true. We’ll focus on the macarons here, but it should be said they have an astounding cheese room in the back, and a great outdoor patio.
The macarons sold here are kept in a refrigerated case, so your purchase should be allowed 30 minutes to come to room temperature to reach deliciousness potential.
The cookies themselves are works of art – varying in texture, color, and décor. The pistachio cookie is encrusted with crumbled pistachio, the lemon is caked with coarse and brightly colored sugar, and the espresso is carmelized on top. The flavors are unbelievably natural, and each one is exquisite in its own right. They are the product of L’Artisan Macaron, helmed by Chef Alexandre Trouan – who studied his craft in Paris under Pierre Hérmé himself. You can complete the L’Artisan experience here by ordering a dozen in their beautifully crafted blue and gold box, complete with the history of the company embossed inside, for $21.
Please note it is not the fault of Hayeswire, or its contributors, should you develop an unhealthy macaron habit due to the contents of this article. Should you feel your consumption of macarons is adversely affecting you, your loved ones, or your bank account, please seek help immediately. Otherwise – spend locally, and bon appétit!