On the menu: Cookie of the year
December 16, 2011
NEW YORK CITY – I was recently taken into the most cutting-edge, need-to-have-it corner of the New York foodie world, and it had nothing to do with rooftop gardening, using ingredients only from within your ZIP code, or restaurants that hold a lottery for reservations. It’s not a local product, it’s not healthful, and it doesn’t use any animal parts previously considered inedible.
The craze of the moment is macaroons – but not those coconutty blobs I had always thought owned the exclusive rights to the name. More properly, this is a macaron – a French cookie-like confection of egg whites, sugar and almond powder.
On a visit to New York, former Aspenite Jeanne Anderson said there was somewhere she needed to take us, a few blocks south of her workplace. The steady rain, the darkness and the fact that we weren’t hungry didn’t matter; this was urgent. We sloshed through the Upper East Side and arrived near the corner of Madison and 71st – home to Laduree. The shop itself looked like something you might consider eating – colorful, soft, sweetly lit – if it weren’t for the fact that the small space was crammed with New Yorkers neatly queued up. Behind the glass lie the imported macaroons, in a dozen or more flavors, mostly pastel-colored, which the precisely attired, very polite staff packed into boxes that looked like they should be holding diamonds. It verged on uncomfortably crowded, and the wait looked infinite, but Jeanne told us that, since Laduree opened in August, this was the least jammed she’d seen it. Clearly, we were going to wait.
When word spread that they were out of caramel fleur de sel – easily the most enticing flavor among also-rans such as pistachio, orange blossom and rose – I considered bailing. But it turned out they were only out of the small ones ($2.70 apiece); the larger ones were still in stock. We got a caramel fleur de sel to share, and I also took a small black forest.
The wait was too long, the shop was too crowded, the macaroons were gone in two bites, and as cutting-edge food trends go, make mine a burger, fries and shake from a newfangled, beyond-local burger joint.
But we had our quintessential New York experience – waiting in line with a lot of strangers for something you can’t get just anywhere.