guest post: the journey to macaron perfection

As you read this, I’m either (a) relaxing by the pool at a fabulous hotel in Las Vegas, (b) window shopping for incredibly expensive shoes,  (c) trying to extract my husband from the craps table, or (d) recovering from a way-too-expensive but incredibly delicious meal. So, while I’m doing one or all of those things (and if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll probably know what I’m up to)  I’m happy to introduce you to a friend of mine from Twitter and the food blogging world – Mardi from  If you don’t know Mardi already, here’s your opportunity to learn a bit. And please, go visit her blog,, sometime – you’ll be very happy you did!

I have a confession to make that regular readers of my blog, eat. live. travel. write. will not be surprised to read. My name is Mardi and I am obsessed with macarons. The quest for the perfect macaron began before I even knew it. When I lived in Paris, I would quite often go to Storher and buy one of these for my afternoon tea:

This was in the mid 1990s, long before the macaron was en vogue outside France. I guess I got used to them being available so it was kind of a shock to me when I moved to Canada in 2000 where they were nowhere to be found. I took advantage of our yearly trips to France to indulge my obsession and it never really crossed my mind to attempt to make them at home. Until last year.

My first attempts were not so promising (though the second batch at least had feet):

And of course there was the famous cimtière des macarons:

Desperate measures were required because all these attempts were only serving to frustrate me more and more. I took myself along to the Pavillion Elysée Lenôtre for a workshop last Christmas to learn from the masters.

With that knowledge under my belt, I returned “motivée” as they say in France, to succeed. I even bought some reading matter home with me:

My next two rounds were a success:

The third time was not quite the charm. In fact it took me FIVE batches to get them right…

But after that, I figured out the proportions/ ratios that work for me. And started to experiment with colours and flavors as my confidence grew.

I am by no means an expert and am about to tackle macarons as per Pierre Hermé’s method this summer so am expecting a LOT of trial and error there. But it’s been such rewarding journey so far. For no matter how finicky and temperamental they are, the feeling you get when you peek in the oven at the 6 minute mark just before you turn them around, when you see the little feet forming it is priceless. As they say, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again (and maybe again!). Here is the recipe that finally worked for me – it’s from Hélène of Tartelette but is actually very similar in quantities to the one I used at Lenôtre. My notes are included there also.

Never tried making macarons? Intimidated? Go on – you know you want to. And let’s face it – they can’t be worse than some of my attempts!

the wedding gift and a recipe: pomegranate gelato

Long, long ago, my soon-to-be-husband and I wandered through the housewares section of a local department store, searching for things to place on our wedding gift registry for our upcoming wedding. We registered for practical things – like dishes, Pyrex, pots, and pans – and for some frivolous things too. Like an ice cream maker. We had never made ice cream from scratch in our lives, but doesn’t every newly married couple need an ice cream maker?

The wedding happened in June of 1997. We went on our honeymoon, came home and unpacked gifts, wrote thank you notes, and placed the unopened ice cream maker on a shelf. And there it sat, untouched, for about 12 years. Turns out, being married doesn’t necessarily entail making lots of homemade ice cream.

Sometime last year, I pulled out the Cuisinart ice cream maker box, dusted it off, and pulled out the brand-new but decade-old appliance. And I made my first batch of vanilla ice cream.

I can’t recall who gave us that ice cream maker almost 13 years ago, but I’m really happy they did. It was a silly thing for the previous version of me (the I-hate-to-cook-and-can-barely-boil-water version) to register for, but this current version of me is pretty darn happy with it.

I made some pomegranate gelato that I want to share with  you. It was my first try at gelato, and it was spectacular. The recipe came from a 2006 issue of Gourmet magazine (recipe here). The color was just beautiful – a lovely blush pink – and it was incredibly creamy and refreshing. It’s really a perfect summer dessert.

In the interest of full disclosure: I was sent samples of Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice by the good folks at Pom Wonderful. I accepted because I loved the product long before they offered to send me some, and I always have a bottle in my refrigerator.

Yield: 1 quart

Pomegranate Gelato

The recipe called for 1/3 cup pomegranate liqueur, but I used a smaller amount - 1 tablespoon - of citrus vodka instead. The alcohol gives the gelato a creamier texture, so I think it's important to use it.


1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/3 cup Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon citrus vodka
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


Whisk together cream, milk, sugar, cornstarch, and Kosher salt in a 3-quart heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally, and boil while whisking for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in remaining ingredients.

Transfer mixture to a metal bowl and refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Then cover and refrigerate until very cold, 3 to 6 hours.

Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer gelato to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours. Prior to serving, soften gelato slightly in the refrigerator, for about 20 minutes.

Slightly adapted from this recipe in Gourmet magazine, September 2006.

beautiful things: teuscher chocolates

Two years ago, while in Chicago on a business trip, I managed to squeeze in some shopping time. I mean, it is Chicago, right? The home of the Magnificent Mile? Shopping is inevitable in Chicago. On that trip, though, I only bought one thing. Chocolates. Teuscher chocolates, to be specific.

I discovered the Teuscher Chocolates store quite by accident, and my taste for specialty chocolates has not been the same since.

Their specialty is the champagne truffle, and it is seriously the most decadent and luxurious truffle I have ever tasted.

The champagne truffle is one that you’ll want to sit and savor. It is not a chocolate that you pop in your mouth while carrying on a conversation or watching television. This truffle demands focus.

If you’re ever in the neighborhood of a Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland store, I highly recommend stopping in and buying some. And then sit for a while and enjoy.