The iconic French patisserie Ladurée opened its first boutique in the United States on Madison Avenue this summer. A veritable institution in Paris, Ladurée is famous for the macarons, jewel-toned little cookies made with almond paste sandwiched around a cream or jam or caramel filling. Soft and chewy on the inside with a hard thin shell on the outside, they are truly a feat of French gourmandise. Flavors range from the classic vanille and chocolat to fleur d’oranger (orange blossom) and cassis violette (violet cassis). My new favorite is the caramel au beurre salé (salted butter caramel).
I remember going to Ladurée in Paris during my year abroad studying at the Sorbonne. There was always a line out the door–and I usually hate waiting in line–but at Ladurée, it only built up my anticipation. Going with my fellow American students to the boutique in Saint-Germain-des-Près, there was always an air of excitement. It wasn’t just about the macarons; it was the experience. Admiring the displays of pastries piled high in the windows, peeking inside at the beautiful boutique where macarons were displayed in the counters like precious stones, we thought, “This is worth waiting for.” Entering a Ladurée boutique is like stepping back in time to Marie Antoinette’s Paris. I became such a Ladurée fanatic that in the years since my time in Paris, I would purposefully book my flights between other European cities and the States so that I would have a stopover at Charles de Gaulle Airport, where there is a very small Ladurée shop.
So when I read about the boutique opening in New York, I had to go. I called one of the friends with whom I had studied in Paris and we met on 5th Avenue by the park. Turning the corner from 72nd Street onto Madison Avenue, we approached the familiar-looking storefront with the same long line out the door. It looks exactly like the boutiques in Paris. When it came our turn to order, I asked for a little gift box of six macarons: orange blossom, lemon, almond berry, pistachio, salted butter caramel and vanilla. As I was paying, I told the cashier how much I loved Ladurée while I was studying in Paris, and I got a little tidbit of information: they’re planning to open another boutique with a full salon de thé downtown in the coming year.