Macaron Madness, Round 2 – Thomas Haas

So, today BeyondYVR will be reviewing macarons again! First was Thierry, and now we’re on to another of Vancouver’s iconic chocolatiers, Thomas Haas.

Thomas Haas Storefront

First opening in 2000, the shop was the culinary vision of its titular chef, who wanted to finally start up independently and promote his own vision of sweets. Thomas, who comes from a family line of pastry chefs from the Black Forest in Germany, has been named one of the top ten pastry chefs in North America by Chocolatier and Pastry Art and Design magazines, and won first prize at the Valhrona National (North American) Pastry Team Championships in all available categories.

After having been a culinary globetrotter for the better part of two decades, Thomas, whose experience includes tenures at Michelin starred restaurants including Daniel in New York, decided to settle in Vancouver. Along with his wife Lisa he set up his chocolatier, and, as is the norm for Thomas’s trajectory, success followed: in 2010 Thomas Haas Fine Chocolates and Patisseries was named as one of the top 10 chocolatiers in North America by the publication Pastry Arts and Design.

Thomas Haas Counter

Thomas Haas sources many of their raw ingredients directly from producers with a strong emphasis on localities. As such, ingredients in their confections include BC wine, Tahitian vanilla beans and liqueurs from Alsace figure, with no preservatives or artificial flavours added. Thomas Haas’s quality and skill has become famous around the Lower Mainland.

So, then, how do the macarons fare?

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Thomas Haas has its own special box for macarons, which are presented in a clean, elegant manner. What I appreciate most is that unlike many other shops, Thomas Haas attaches a booklet with all the macaron flavors. This is useful because usually the coloring of a macaron is the only hint one gets as to its flavour. Even when I’ve tried my hardest to remember what I ordered, I am often confused when I bite into a macaron as I mix up the various flavors.

Macarons: (L-R) hazelnut, raspberry, vanilla (front), passionfruit (back), pistachio, champgane

Macarons: (L-R) hazelnut, raspberry, vanilla (front), passionfruit (back), pistachio, champgane

Now, on to the tasting. The raspberry macaron was quite a nice surprise. The fruit’s tartness shone through, making this treat feel much less sugary. There wasn’t too much of the fruit’s other berry flavors that shone through, though, which made this feel a little more like a citrus fruit macaroon. Nevertheless, this was a pleasant start.

Fruit seems to be a fairly strong flavor element for Thomas Haas, as the passionfruit was also quite good. Unlike the raspberry, many traits of the fruit were quite easy to detect, with a bright, vibrant, tropical flavor to the confection. Again, the tart citrus character was allowed to run its course, tamping down the sweetness, rounding out the flavor nicely.

Champagne was an inventive and intriguing flavor. Using a dark chocolate ganache as the filling, there was a light, slightly sour alcohol flavor to the macaron that accented the slight cacao bitterness and the sweet meringue. It also had a unique appearance, as most macarons almost look like three disks of monocolor – this being a disc of chocolate between two white meringues, it looked kind of like a confectioner’s hamburger. Surprisingly enough, the bitter chocolate give the macaron a deeper flavor, which made me think of a dark beer rather than champagne. As such, while the components were distinctive, they combined in a way that did not leave an impression of the titular flavor. I didn’t have a problem with such, as I enjoyed the macaron overall, but perhaps the ingredients weren’t balanced ideally to present champagne.

If there was a potential imbalance in flavors in the champagne macaron, such imbalance may also be present with the vanilla. Having a potent, slightly earthy taste that really gave the sense that vanilla beans were used (though I am not sure of such, since the filling was not speckled), I found that the macaron was a bit too bitter. If they used an extract, they applied it a little too liberally for my taste, but it was very much in step with how they let the fruity macarons express themselves.

On to the last two macarons, both with a nut flavor. The pistachio had that lovely greenness that one associates with the taste, but that flavor quickly evaporated, as the filling was made with such a light touch that it melted upon contact with my tongue. Hazelnut was a great way to round out the tasting – nutty and toasty, it had a gravitas that the pistachio did not, giving more of a lingering aftertaste. I think it may have been just a touch too sweet, though, as the dark tones of the hazelnut did not immediately shine through.

Most Thomas Haas macarons have a buttercream filling and it’s very noticeable, as a glossy, almost unctuous feeling befalls the palate upon tasting. The butter is quite rich and thick and so there is a very noticeable feeling of fat when one takes a bite. This is not necessarily a bad thing with macarons, as it can contrast with the solidity of the meringues. It occurred in this instance, as the meringues had quite a firmness to them, requiring a bit firmer of a bite to be chewed through.

There was not as much of a gloss as with other macarons, which leads me to think that these were made in the French style. The meringues were also not overly sweet, reflecting a style I have seen in a lot of chocolates from this establishment, where the flavors, being not so rich nor overly sweet, match well with palates that are used to lighter desserts. This is confirmed by what a friend once confided in me, that Thomas Haas chocolates are the treats his Hong Kong relatives ask for. Not for the artistry, nor innovative flavors, but because of this lighter balance of flavors, meaning that the products are naturally oriented towards Asians in general.

Interestingly, I previously visited in the summer and found the macarons really sweet at that time, my teeth even aching slightly from eating a pair. I’m also pretty sensitive to overly sweet flavors, having grown up with my standard desserts being fruit or red bean soup. I was slightly dreading the prospect of reviewing Thomas Haas given my past experience with their macarons, but am glad I did!

Macarons are priced at $10 for 6, and $19 for 12, tax included. This makes them among the cheapest in the city, and they are a good deal for the price, as the size is slightly larger than the average offering. A large number of flavors (approximately 10) are often available, making for a good variety one can choose from. Personally, I favor the fruit macarons, but everything tasted was a delight.

Thomas Haas has two locations:

North Vancouver – Unit 128, 998 Harbourside Drive

Kitsilano – 2539 West Broadway

Find Thomas Haas online at https://www.thomashaas.com/.

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