Someday sociologists will look back at the Great Macaron Craze of 2010 and wonder how a French treat that existed in semiobscurity for centuries suddenly seemed to be everywhere in the food world. Part of the answer surely has to do with affordable luxury in an economic downturn; for not much more than a buck, you can nosh on something that combines the delicate sophistication of an Alinea amuse-bouche with the sugar rush of a Krispy Kreme doughnut. But while Chicago foodies debate which local macarons most perfectly approach the Parisian ideal (meringue crust, chewy interior, and gooey filling), the fact is that, like a lot of French things, they’re hard, but not that hard, to get right. The real question is, once you’ve mastered the form, what do you do with it? That’s where Beth Jacob’s Macaron Chicago wowed us.
Jacob, a laid-off architect turned macaroniste, makes four kinds each month, which she sells at Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand, the Logan Square Farmers’ Market, Provenance (2528 N. California, 773-384-0699 and 2312 N. Leland, 773-784-2314, provenancefoodandwine.com), and online. Some, like the caramel fleur de sel, are delicate studies in contrast, salty and sweet. Others, like a cassis macaron as purple as Violet Beauregarde, explode with fruit flavor. In a town suddenly (and somewhat surprisingly) full of good macarons, Macaron Chicago stands out for showing that technique is only the canvas for flavor.