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by Sylvie Bigar | August 24, 2011 | Food & Drink
|Prestat’s London store|
In the name of world peace, we will not take sides to declare who invented macaroons or chocolate truffles, because that really doesn’t matter. What matters to our palates is that this season, two quasi-aristocratic artisans of sweets, one from the country that gave us Coco Chanel, and the other, Kate Middleton, are landing on our domestic shores.
Besides Brigitte Bardot, one of France’s most important contributions to humanity is undoubtedly the macaroon (macaron en Français), a soft, chewy and crunchy biscuit made with ground almonds, egg whites and sugar. In Paris gourmands still swoon over these sacred pastries, debating over which maker is their favorite. But one company, the lauded 149-year-old pastry maker Ladurée, often wins the popular vote.
Macaroons started as simple cookies until, as Ladurée claims, a cousin of Louis Ernest Ladurée named Pierre Desfontaines decided to clasp two cookies together and fill the center with ganache, creating a sophisticated sandwich. The modern-day Parisian macaroon was born.
Since 1993 Ladurée co-owner David Holder, who also remembers visiting the historic tea salon with his parents, has been leading an international drive for global pastry domination. Throughout the world, his stores are designed to resemble luxurious jewelry boutiques, elegantly displaying their sugary gems. Just like a fashion house, Ladurée launches a new collection of flavors each season.
“We work hard to ensure that taste, color and aroma blend together,” Holder says, “And in New York, we will celebrate the cinnamon-raisin macaroon.”
He adds, “I wanted our first boutique to be on Madison Avenue, but now, we are actively searching for the perfect tea salon location.” 864 Madison Ave.
When Nick Crean and his half brother, Bill Keeling, bought Prestat Chocolates (founded in 1902), they both treasured the childhood memories of treats their mother bought them and thought it would make for a “relaxing” retirement project. Twelve years later, the siblings keep thinking up new flavors and types of bonbons, and after tremendous success in England are now crossing the pond to bring us British chocolate, stamped with a Royal Warrant—the Queen’s formal stamp of approval.
“One of the first things we did,” says Crean, “was to ask our artist friend Kitty Arden to redesign the packaging.” The result is a whimsical creation of pink, purple and gold. “Our truff les are not only the Queen’s favorite,” he added, “but also celebrated children’s author Roald Dahl’s. From this, it’s easy to extrapolate that Willy Wonka’s magic lab was really based on the Prestat factory.”
The truffles, filled with Marc de Champagne, hazelnut praline or sea salt and caramel, will make sweet gifts. And if you want to keep some sweetness for yourself, there are four bars: milk chocolate with cinnamon, creamy white chocolate, intensely dark 80 percent cocoa and, of course, a traditional dark chocolate with English mint. Chelsea Market Baskets, 75 Ninth Ave., 212-727-1111
PHOTOGRPH BY MELINA HAMMER (MACAROONS)