Thursday, October 8, 2009

Paulette, Miette, et le chien affamé

Ever since I started looking at food blogs and writing my own, I've been impressed with the incredible skill and dedication of so many home cooks out there. I'm consistently blown away by the complicated recipes people will bravely undertake and then write about, revealing every misstep along with each success. I've read about people curing bacon, making puff pastry, and trying their hand at fresh ricotta. So many cooks seem undaunted by things I see as obstacles: candy thermometers, cooking things under bricks, yeast. As a rule, I pretty much avoid anything that requires deboning or cheesecloth.

I guess we draw lines arbitrarily. Why will I make crackers from scratch but refuse to bake bread? One can't be that much harder than the other, just a bit more time-consuming. I suppose as deep as my love for cooking may run, so runs my laziness, and it's randomly applied. There are certain things I'm just not interested in making by hand. 

While much of this can be attributed to personality, it's also a result of where I live. In San Francisco, there's no reason to make your own dim sum. That's why we have Yank Sing, and any number of alternatives in Chinatown and the Richmond. For good ramen, I can roll down my hill to Hotei in the Sunset. For excellent ramen, I can roll a little further to Tanpopo in Japantown. And then there's the matter of the little French macarons that have become so popular in the last year.

I've seen many food bloggers attempt these delightful little cookies with varying success. Every time I see a photo of a homemade macaron, I feel a surge of admiration for the person's fortitude. I know macarons can be moody little bastards, and can turn out entirely differently depending on how humid it is, whether the egg whites were properly aged, or if the almonds were ground finely enough. It seems that just looking at the little suckers the wrong way can doom you: a hopeful, beseeching glance can send these sweet, chewy mouthfuls into an angry fit, rendering them flat and gummy.

I love these cookies too. But I will never make them. I'm just not determined enough.

Also, and perhaps the more important reason, is because five blocks from our house is Boulange de Cole, where periodically I'll pick up a few macarons on the way home from work. I am particularly fond of their passionfruit ones. Or because from work I can walk to Paulette in Hayes Valley, which packs the macarons in slender, brightly-colored boxes. Buying macarons from Paulette makes me feel chic and French, like Catherine Deneuve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

And because there's Miette in the Ferry Building, where the husband stopped the other day after a few errands.

He picked up a tidy half dozen: raspberry, hazelnut, and pistachio.

We ate them after dinner, one after the other, silent little termites making our way through the bag. I'm not sure toiling over these myself could equal the pleasure I felt in opening Miette's little cellophane bag to see the delicate macarons carefully lined up so as not to crush each other, but I'm positive it could not equal the happiness I felt that the husband surprised me with them on a plain old Wednesday night.


  1. There's nothing like surprise goodies. You know, I've never had macarons. I should fix that.

  2. HERE's your love letter! I love this kind of surprise. I've tried macarons, and they're finicky things. I feel as if I should persist, but it's hard to do when I can walk down to Darcis patisserie and just BUY them. Or (even better) get my husband to do it... These look glorious.

  3. Oooh . . so jealous. I make my own macarons because I have to! No macaron bakeries down the street from where I live . .or anywhere close, for that matter. Not sure if I would ever make them if I had access to them. They take SO much work!!!

  4. I'm always in awe of anyone who can make those lovely little macarons. I am just not that person. I would be too intimidated to even try.
    How sweet that your husband surprised you with them!

  5. I'll do a lot of things, but I can't ever see myself tackling macaroons either! That and homemade pasta - I just have no desire.

  6. Oh I envy your foodie haunts! If I had the ease of picking up these delightful morsels, I think I'd have to see my dentist more often. I must say starting a food blog has been a great push towards trying recipes like puff pastry, but I completely hear you on the bread issue....maybe one day.

  7. Macaroons are on blogs everywhere. I have never had them. I wonder though what is so special about these cookies. Maybe one day I will be lucky enough to taste them and see why everyone raves about them.

  8. I'm picturing two termites chomping macarons... what a lovely sight! Sounds delicious.

  9. I'm right there with you. I do some mildly complicated things, like baking special items around the holidays, but I'm not making gourmet stuff every day. We had generic Hamburger Helper the other week. It didn't even say Hamburger Helper on the box! But I still think the passion for food is recognizable in the dedication to writing about it regularly, and you show the same appreciation for ingredients and complexity of dishes as the person making it in a kitchen. Cheers to macaroon love!