Round 4 of Macaron Madness is here! Apologies for the wait, but I promise it’ll be worth your while!
Today, we go to Faubourg, one of the many new bakeries that have recently taken root around Vancovuer. Subtitled Paris, I originally mistook it as a chain from the titular city, in the vein of Ladurée or Pierre Hermé, but this is apparently not the case. Ladurée actually served as the inspiration for owner Franck Point, who started up his line of stores in 2011. Having expanded from one to three locations in the Lower Mainland over the last three years, he quite clearly has found a following, and success, in the Pacific Northwest.
Arriving in Vancouevr with French techniques from the Institut National de la Boulangerie-Pâtisserie, Point had to retool his approach slightly upon landing. He realized early on that the gluten content of flour from this continent tended to be higher than that in France, resulting in pastries that would have more cohesion, and if baked for long enough more of a hard, crunchy shell, quite at odds with many of the light flourishes that Parisians are known for in their confections. Working with his bakers in Vancouver for a few months prior to opening the first Faubourg, he brought them to a level of familiarity with our inputs that is fleeting even for homegrown artisans. It shows in the results – freshly baked baguettes have that lightness in the interior crumb (the sort interior of the loaf). Croissants have that harmony matching the thin, flaky layers of dough with the luscious texture of butter. These products, and others, have that distinct balance of substance and air that makes French pastry world-renowned.
Faubourg’s macarons start at $1.79 per individual, but there are progressive discounts as you go further, be it $16 for 9, $31 for 18, and so forth. You might wonder about whether such large numbers are needed, but as you can see, the selection is simply huge!
On average, anywhere between ten and fifteen flavors are available for purchase, meaning that one could skip dinner and just have a tasting party of the little delights, teeth and cavities be damned. Being reasonably priced and are quite large in size relative to most of their counterparts in Vancouver also adds to their attractiveness. The packaging is neat and streamlined, adding to the clean, elegant presentation.
But now for the most important question: how are the macarons themselves? Well, they are cute, with a coloring that is attractive but isn’t so bleached-out that you’re wondering if you’re stuffing radioactive dye into your face with every bite. These macarons also have well-formed pieds, another presentational component. Translating to “feet” (don’t ask me why this is the chosen word), the slightly pocked finish on the sides of the macarons that sandwich the filling is actually another detail that is fussed over by pastry chefs. Giving the macarons that slightly ruffled appearance on the bottom, while still making them neat and presentable, is considered to be ideal.
I’m not utterly sure why the pied is so crucial, because I don’t think its preparation would affect the taste of the treat, nor would people make a fuss if someone didn’t decide it was important. I suppose, then, it’s more of a measure of the skill of the baker – if they can do this on top of make a great tasting treat, more power to them. As it is, this is French cuisine – would it really be French if they didn’t make it absurdly difficult for no apparent reason?
Now, on to tasting them! We weren’t really enamored with the first, lychee rose. The aroma was just slightly sugary, and the taste only imparted that same bland sweetness. Trying to get rose to express itself is hard enough in confections – typically, rose jam is used in the baking (which would interfere with the texture of macarons), or the confection is dipped in some kind of rose syrup so that the aroma doesn’t evaporate (which can’t be done with a dry macaron, either), but since the filling was a cream instead of a jam, it would be even harder to impart the flavor. This is even harder with lychee, because simple reduction of lychee is very sugary on the tongue, and even on tropical-flavored gewürztraminers, this fruit is thought of in the same vein as honeysuckle.
The other macarons, however, were very good. The coffee flavor was of a milder sort – definitely not the dark, bitter nuttiness of espresso – but the sweetness was also tamped down, giving it more of a café au lait feel. It was a very smooth, light-tasting macaron as a result. Hazelnut, on the other hand, had that dark, almost vanilla extract flavor, which was a great contrast. The flavor profile, being that of a clean nuttiness, made it sparkle and was easily our favorite. Again, pistachio had the same kind of clean expression of the nut, which made it supremely enjoyable.
Overall, I think Faubourg’s classic flavors are much better than their experiments, but everything was enjoyable. The texture of the macarons was also very light and fluffy, and the meringues almost melted in the mouth, allowing the flavors to dance on the palate for just that extra split second. The sweetness was well-balanced, even in the lychee rose, and these are definitely macarons I would line up to buy again.
Round 5 will be coming soon! So tune in for more sweet treats!
Faubourg has three locations, in Kerrisdale, West Vancouver and downtown. Their website can be found at http://www.faubourg.com/.