Oh, little macaron. So many people love you, but refuse to admit it in public, now that pie curries today’s culinary favor. Well, guess what — I still love you and am not afraid to profess my love. You charm me with your many colors, your dainty, crumbly form, and your sweet, nutty taste. So when Mille-Feuille (552 LaGuardia Place, 212-533-4698), a new pastry shop peddling the cookies along with a range of croissants and other baked goods, opened up on LaGuardia Place recently, there was only one course of action: Pit it against nearby Francois Payard Bakery (116 West Houston Street, 212-995-0888) for a Battle of the Greenwich Village Macarons.
We stopped by Mille-Feuille first, and were immediately enraptured by the scent of butter and baked goods permeating the tiny storefront. The marcarons were up at the front counter, with about six varieties available. Which then prompted the notion — why not make this a double-header? After all, two cookies are always better than one.
We opted for pistachio and chocolate, figuring that these were popular flavors and available at our next stop, too. The cookies, about two inches in diameter, were priced at $1.90, which seems to be the going rate in the city.
The cookie part of the pistachio one was a vibrant green (probably from food coloring), but the filling was that muddy army green you want when searching for pistachio-flavored things. The filling was amply nutty, meaning they didn’t skimp on the pricey pistachios, using butter as filler, and the cookie was soft with just a tiny bit of flake. All in all this was one of the best macarons we’ve had in a while. In many ways, this shouldn’t be surprising — chef/owner Olivier Dessyn trained with Pierre Hermé in Paris, who is basically God of the Macarons. It’s like learning to play tennis with Andre Agassi.
Up next, chocolate. The first thing that hit us while eating this macaron was the intensity of the chocolate flavor. Dessyn ain’t messing around here with some janky-ass cocoa powder. The chocolate cream was pure and rich and decadent — it makes you forgive the notion that France can’t make a brownie for shit.
Our follow-up act took us to nearby Francois Payard Bakery from the namesake French chocolatier and pastry chef. The bakery and café offers a pleasant faux-rustic setting for a quick sandwich-and-fruit-tart lunch. Of course, the macarons were front and center (where else?), though these were much larger (about double the size), and priced at $4. Really, about the same price per volume as Mille-Feuille’s, but a cookie still seems pricey at $4, no?
In any event, we opted for the pistachio and chocolate and sat down to compare. These cookies were airier, and more crumbly. The pistachio was colored a mintier green, and was very sweet, though the filling was quite buttery and not as pistachio-heavy as desired.
The chocolate version was better, with a filling that was quite reminiscent of brownie batter — that classic American chocolate taste. But compared with its predecessor, which was a wallop of chocolate, this was a bit of a letdown, especially given Payard’s chocolate pedigree.
So who wins?
If you couldn’t have guessed by now, theirs were the obvious winners. No need to expand upon the justification of their win. Simply put, go out and see for yourself. Like, right now.