Tell Me More! is a new series at Kosher Like Me. I’ll be sharing interviews and tidbits with you about Chefs, Cooks and other fascinating folks in the food world. These are people and stories I want to know more about. I think you will, too.
I completely ignored the macaron craze for a few years, even snubbing a certain French biggie when they opened a shop in my neighborhood and the throngs of meringue lovers wound around the block.
So I was caught off guard last spring when I found myself falling for these brightly colored treats. We converged on Paris with a carefully researched eating/tasting/shopping plan. Unbeknownst to me, a certain macaron-loving member of my family made it her business to craft a well researched list of the most notable macaron options in Paris.
How could I not oblige and taste along with her?
I realized I was hooked.
So when E suggested that I meet her at Macaron Cafe on Third Avenue between 46/47 (NYC), a few weeks ago, I took my time reminiscing as I inhaled the flowery and herbal scents and rejoiced in the neatly stacked rows of vibrant colors.
I knew that this cafe was owned by a French couple who bake their macarons here in NYC. Cecile and Arnaud Cannone opened their first location and dream venture four years ago, only one year after arriving in the USA.
Today, they have three locations and a thriving special order and delivery business. They continue to bake all of their own product in the second floor bakery above their original location.
I wanted to know more.
I met Cecile Cannone, French pastry chef and owner of Macaron Cafe, last week over cafe au lait, many delectable bites of heavenly macarons, and her story.
Kosher Like Me: Why are Americans so crazy about French macarons and is there a reverse trend of something traveling from the U.S.A. to Paris?
Cecile Cannone: Our cultures have been fascinated by each other for many years. We will always be linked and we love to explore trends from each other’s countries. While Americans love macarons, the French are very into American cupcakes at the moment. And I suspect that if I shared peanut butter macarons with my French friends in Paris they would love them.
KLM: You received accolades from the Wall Street Journal soon after you opened your first location. And a few months later, Food and Wine Magazine labeled your macarons “Champion Cookie” in 2011. Was that a surprise for you and your partner/husband Arnaud?
CC: We were so busy baking and setting up the business, that we never anticipated any attention being paid to us. As new immigrants, every contract, every bit of business we conducted in English, required more effort. So, when we arrived at our cafe, one morning, to see a line down the street waiting for us to open, we wondered what could have caused the crowd to gather. We were completely surprised and thrilled to find that the crowd had read the WSJ review and wanted to taste our macarons. New Yorkers have been very , very welcoming and kind to us.
KLM: I was surprised to see that you have a kosher certification. What prompted you to seek that?
CC: Our first location is in the garment district and many of our customers are kosher. They wanted a certified product and asked for it. It was not difficult to find kosher ingredients and to honor the requirements.
KLM: What is your most frequently requested flavor?
CC: Pistachio, without a doubt! For pistachio lovers they get intense flavor three ways: the cookie, the filling and the bits of pistachio pressed around the edge.
KLM: What are the most unusual flavors you offer?
CC: all of the flower based flavors! In the south of France, we are accustomed to eating lavender flavored items, for example. Here, our most exotic flavors are honey lavender and rose lichee.
KLM: What makes your macarons stand out among your competitors?
CC: Well, all ingredients are American and we are very proud of that. I bake with my team in NYC. We make all of our own jams and fillings. Our fillings are abundant and the almond: sugar ratio in the cookie is equal, making the cookie very flavorful.
KLM: What is the most unusual event you ever baked for?
CC: We baked 28,000 macarons and wrapped each one individually before sending them off to 280 Ann Taylor retail locations for Mother’s Day last spring. They handed them out to customers, who were totally delighted. Now, that was a lot of work in our small bakery!
KLM: What kinds of desserts do you bake at home?
CC: I bake simple crepes and top them with honey or sugar. For my two boys I bake lemon tarte for one and pear honey tarte for the other.
KLM: Do you order dessert when you eat out in restaurants?
CC: If there is a pastry chef, definitely! I look at the menu backwards and order my dessert before my meal, so I am not disappointed if they run out. Recently, I ordered dessert and ate it with our cocktails at the bar, before dinner.
Many thanks to Cecile for sharing a recipe from her book: Macarons, Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the Macaron Cafe. Watch for it later this week.
Macaron Cafe has three locations in NYC. Their macarons are certified kosher (some are parve), gluten free, and free of trans fats. They are available for delivery in NYC, and may be shipped nationwide. They welcome special orders for events of all sizes.