It’s not just the extra “o” that separates the two desserts. Macarons and macaroons are both sweet desserts that use egg whites and sugar as a meringue base and get their names from the Italian word for “meringue”—but it’s pretty much apples and oranges from there.
The macaron, which is what this piece is about, is a bite-sized (or, with some of the larger Philly-sized macarons offered at some places, a multiple bite-sized) French cookie that features buttercream, ganache or jam filling sandwiched in between two light, crunchy meringue-y biscuit cookies that are often dyed using food coloring. And as a bonus, the macaron is usually gluten-free since the recipe requires crushed almonds or almond flour to be folded into the meringue base for the cookie batter. The resulting cookie batter, as well as the buttercream or jam frosting, is really a blank canvas for any flavor (or color!), depending on the resources and creativity of the pastry chef.
The French way to pronounce macaron is “mahck-eh-rohn,” though in the States it’s also pronounced “mack-a-roon” like, well, a macaroon (and—gasp!—sometimes spelled that way too). A macaroon here in North America usually means a coconut macaroon, which is a coconut pastry that folds dried coconut into the egg white/sugar base before being baked and even dipped in chocolate if you’re lucky. This type of coconut macaroon is known as a congolais in French, because the French know better than anyone that a macaron and macaroon are separate desserts.
So, now that we've gotten that French pastry 101 lesson out of the way, you won’t get mixed up when you order macarons from any of these six places...
Sugar Philly offers two sizes of macarons, a large one 2.5 inches in diameter and a more typical bite-size shape, so you have multiple ways to sample the flavors you haven’t tried and indulge in the ones you have. Located at 38th Street between Walnut and Sansom Streets on most weekday afternoons, the renovated mail truck serves as a homebase for Sugar Philly to serve up French macarons ranging from the wacky (like thai coconut peanut curry and green tea), to the traditional, like hazelnut praline and its signature milk & honey. At $2 for a large macaron and $1.50 for a small, you can experiment with flavors and favorites and get a dollar off every order of six macarons. And if you can’t make it over to University City, the Di Bruno Brothers in Rittenhouse sells Sugar Philly macarons, too.
“Miel” is “honey” in French, so of course Miel Patisserie had to have a honey macaron as one of its offerings. Although it’s menu switches on a daily basis, there usually are up to 16 flavors of macarons at $1.50 each on any given day. The bestsellers and main stays are pistachio, lemon poppyseed, salted caramel, and pomegranate walnut, complete with little flakes of walnut on the biscuit sides of the macaron. Fun summery offerings include watermelon, which looks just like the fruit with green biscuits and a pink middle, and margarita, which is actually made with tequila. Miel Patisserie has a macaron chef who makes macarons 90 percent of the time, and he and the owner both brainstorm the flavors and the colors of their specialty treats.
204 South 17th Street
Shhhhh! You can buy a six-pack of macarons at Parc to enjoy at the restaurant or to go, even though you won’t find it listed on the dessert menu. The pastry chef makes all of the consistently changing and always rotating flavors in house, although generally there’s a vanilla macaron, created using real vanilla beans, and a citrus one, like a lemon or orange. Right now there’s a mint chocolate macaron that tastes like a spoonful of mint chocolate chip ice cream, and past flavors include passion fruit caramel, maple butterscotch and blood orange. The macarons are year-round too; Parc gifted its patrons last holiday season with a bag of eggnog, hot cocoa and apple cider macarons that you could buy right from the hostess stand.
227 S 18th St
Garces Trading Company
Garces Trading Company creates a seasonal macaron list. Typical macaron flavors are mixed in with the bizarre in these homemade macarons, as you can try out blood orange, blueberry lemon, rhubarb, hazelnut Nutella, chocolate yuzu and salted caramel flavors in the restaurant or to go. Single macarons are $1.50 each, and a six-pack is $9.
1111 Locust St
Aux Petits Delices
Burgundy, France by way of Wayne, PA—Aux Petits Delices means “the small delights” in French, even though their macarons come in two sizes. Almond raspberry and pistachio macarons are constants for Aux Delices, but lately they’ve been serving up lemon, chocolate and lavender flavors too. At $9 for a quarter pound of macarons (!!!), or 10-12 macarons, or $2.25 each for larger ones, there are plenty of macaron delights available.
162 East Lancaster Avenue, Wayne
Belle Cakery offers macaron flavors based on seasonality, colors and the pastry chef’s whims, which is why the bakery is currently offering pistachio, strawberry-rhubarb, rosemary-lemon and kaffir lime-coconut flavors. If you want to be the belle of the ball (or baby shower or wedding party), you can order a large enough batch of macarons that you could customize for flavor and color.
1437 East Passyunk Avenue