Macaroons at Gatineau.

Fashions come and go in food, but one of the most enduring trends of late has surely been the macaroon. Just to clarify here, by ‘macaroon’ I don’t mean the large and comforting biscuit-type doo-dahs that bakers like Honeybuns make so well, but those tiny multicoloured meringue sandwiches that rich people buy for their afternoon teas. Considering their size they sure ain’t cheap.

For a while, I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. I tried one at last year’s Southbank Chocolate Festival, and found it quite dry and unsatisfying: two short bites and all I had left was a dusty mouth (and a considerably lighter wallet).

But then I went to Gatineau.

Ah, Gatineau. Oxford’s best kept secret. A small French-style patisserie in Summertown, with a drool-inducing selection of conserves, confectionery and pastries made fresh on the premises. Apricot pebbles with a white chocolate filling? Pain au chocolat et amandes? Esprit de Carmague jam, made out of apples and butterscotch? My jaw drops every time I pay a visit. The smell of it all is incredible.

But the macaroons… now they were a revelation.

At £1.50 a piece (a piece being about an inch across), we’d probably never have bought them if it weren’t for a tray of samples that was left on the counter one day. Now both the Man and I are converts – so much so that we can no longer go to Oxford without bringing macaroons home.

These, I suspect, are what macaroons are supposed to be like: not dry and dusty, but crisp, chewy, thick and meltingly soft – more like truffles than biscuits, bound together with a substantial – almost caramel-like – filling. The flavours are incredible too: strong and distinctive (exactly what I was championing yesterday, in fact).Anyway, I’m sure you can imagine my delight when, at the weekend – no longer able to restrain himself – the Man bought a wide selection from Gatineau for an Easter tasting session. Into our mouths went morsels of pistachio, salt caramel, raspberry, lemon, chocolate, strawberry, and raspberry/chocolate. It was, quite frankly, intense (and so bright that I should have worn sunglasses). The only thing we really missed was passion fruit: a favourite from trips past, which was accidentally replaced by the salt caramel. Hardly a mishap to cry about… and reason, if any were needed, to return.

Of course, my original macaroon-misgivings still hold true: as puddings go, they’re among the smallest and priciest of the bunch. Still, on the tasty scale they’re a five-star hit. And if someone else is buying… well, how is a Hog to say no?



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