I recently visited Paris in April, which is pretty awesome in itself. We happened to be staying within a few blocks of both Pierre Herme and Laduree, making the perfect setup for a macaron taste-test. I explained my plan to Matt, and he was slightly incredulous. “You want to buy how many of whats, where?!? Aren’t these basically cookies? Why do you need to do this?”
Once I got him to admit that I could have much worse habits than a baked goods fetish (purses, shoes…) he was slightly more accepting. It didn’t stop his jaw from hitting the floor when he found 75E chocolate Easter Eggs at Pierre Herme. I was proud of myself for managing to snag my prized macarons without disturbing him or the baby and causing a scene. Believe me, it was a stealth operation.
Laduree Macarons, left to right: Rose, Chocolate Mint, Pistachio, Caramel with salted butter, Chocolate Cherry. Not pictured: Blackcurrant violet, chocolate passionfruit.
Laduree’s shop is crowded and packed. The cases of sweets are in the front and the cafe is to the right, but it’s not immediately apparent which line is for which. The shopkeeper seemed impatient and dissatisfied with my order, which I made hastily, not knowing anything about the flavors. Macarons are kept behind the glass case, in boxes, and you choose flavors from a laminated menu.
I’m sorry to say that I almost spat out the first Laduree macaron I bit into. The chocolate cherry one had all the overwhelming tart flavor of cherry combined with bitter dark chocolate. It makes my mouth pucker just to think of it. The macarons themselves were denser than the Pierre Herme macarons, and the filling more sticky than creamy.
Both the pistachio and chocolate passionfruit macarons were good, and although I preferred Pierre Herme’s caramel macaron, the Laduree one was also tasty. Stay away from the berry flavors and rose flavoring, which is like eating perfume.
My selection of Pierre Herme macarons: in front, Salted Caramel and Jasmine. In bag (top row): Coing & Rose, Mint and Green Pea, Pistachio. Bottom row: Jasmine, Chocolate passionfruit, Marron & Green tea.
The shopkeepers at Pierre Herme were all incredibly friendly, even though it was clearly apparent that I was trying to get the most macaron for my money. After I exceeded a certain number of macarons, they charged me by the pound, which was quite less expensive than by the piece. I really preferred these macarons to Laduree’s. Though the cookies were similar in texture, Pierre Herme’s fillings are creamier and more mildly flavored. The green pea and mint flavor was SO GOOD I wanted seconds – which, sadly, was not the case with any other macaron. Herme’s caramel flavor is not as sweet as Laduree’s, which I prefer.
Second favorite PH flavor was Chocolate Passionfruit which captured the fruit without being cloyingly sweet. Even the Jasmine was incredibly delicate. Only after a few minutes did the Jasmine flavor come through, tasting exactly like the tea.
Conclusion: Pierre Herme over Laduree, hands down. Since they cost about the same and have similar flavors, you really have nothing to lose. But, if you want to try both, it’s easy enough. The stores are only a few blocks apart. Win-win, either way!