What is round, pretty, and delightfully handcrafted? French macarons!
Originally a Parisian delicacy, these sweet pastries made their way to St. Petersburg via Le Macaron. Located downtown on First Street Northeast, this French pastry shop/café is a chain that offers handmade macarons for any occasion – whether you’re on your way to a movie at Baywalk, having a special event, or just stopping by to sooth your sweet tooth. Open since January 2012, the store already has a loyal following, including fans from the original location in Sarasota.
So why delight in these little French treats?
Originating in Paris, macarons are a meringue-based confectionery filled with either jam or cream. Not only is the taste extraordinary, but it’s hard not to feel like you’re biting into something exclusive. Maybe it’s their versatility.
“You can do whatever you want. It’s not just a pastry, it’s a box of macarons!” says Anthony Capoccello, owner and franchiser of St. Pete’s Le Macaron. “They can be presented as a gift for parties, weddings, or any other events.”
Not to mention they are a satisfying, light alternative to bring to the table, as opposed to a heavyweight dessert.
Le Macaron’s treats are slightly different than the ones found in Paris. For example, the size of macarons in France are sometimes smaller with sweeter flavors that are caused by the amount of sugar added. Different types of meringue, and the crunchiness of the exterior shell are also varying elements. Capoccello, who hails from Versailles City, France, informs me that there are currently 18 flavors of macarons at the shop.
“We had seventeen, but recently added the coconut,” he explains.
These pastries are periodically shipped to St. Pete’s Le Macaron from the original shop and bakery in Sarasota, where each one is handmade to perfection by two French bakers. When discussing why some flavors are chosen, Capoccello says, “You need to know what people want to have. It’s like cake, you can experiment with whatever flavors imagined.”
This creative process allows for experimentation with mixing herbs and sweets with basil white chocolate, or classic fruits like raspberry and lemon. Deciding which flavors to taste may be the hardest part of the experience, but regardless, you’re going to take something special home.
Many customers are particular with their choices.
“One woman comes in and chooses two pistachios on her way to the movie theater every time,” Capoccello says.
The assortment can be overwhelming at first, but if you know what you like, it’s easy to catch on. My first taste is the temptress black currant with a blueberry colored coating and rich jam like filling. Narrowing it down, I also choose the pistachio, raspberry, passion fruit dark chocolate, caramel, lemon, coconut, and white chocolate mint.
The first bite is like an airy egg shell, cracking and crumbling apart. Then, my teeth sink to the middle, reaching the delicate gooey – and sometimes creamy – filling I call heaven. Pistachio is a popular flavor with its cool, pastel green shell and visible specks of nuts. The center is as smooth as butter. Some macarons are reminiscent of a fortune cookie with a mild, sweet shell coating; the flavor develops once the palate meets the filling. Others are immediately bold, like the white chocolate mint that tastes like a shamrock shake.
When I ask Capoccello what his favorite flavor is, he can only answer, “All of them are my favorite, of course.” Later on, I get the feeling that caramel may in fact be it.
You can order one macaron for $1.80, or select box collections that contain 6 to thirty pieces and range from $10 to $48. The shop’s cases also contain designer chocolates, gelatos, and pastries like the delicious pain au chocolat – a baked croissant filled with chocolate (recommended with coffee).
Later this year, Le Macaron spreads the love with a new location opening up at the International Mall in Tampa. I have a feeling that anyone who visits a Le Macaron will soon have a favorite flavor, frequently returning for more … and more!
Visit Le Macaron’s website at www.lemacaron-us.com. (Note: Currently you can only order online through the Sarasota store.)
Le Macaron: 203 First St. NE, St. Petersburg, FL (727)-498-6481
Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-8p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.-10p.m.