When Angie Niles went in search of a travel book outlining the different Parisian neighbourhoods—and the unique types and styles of women found in each—she discovered that such a book had not yet been written, and decided to write it herself. Her new glossy hardcover, Bright Lights Paris (Berkley Books), outlines where to shop, dine and explore in each of Paris’ equally vibrant neighbourhoods.
“I dreamt one day of writing my own book about Paris, and as my list of favorite Parisian hidden gems grew into a very long word document (one I shared only with friends), I felt it was the perfect time to write Bright Lights Paris,” she says. “I hope that people enjoy reading it whether they are home on their couch dreaming of a trip to Paris or using it as a guide to find a new favourite place in the city of lights.”
While the fact that everyone seems to be fond of the beautiful French city isn’t new—who doesn’t dream of walks down the River Seine or of witnessing the Haute Couture shows—Niles takes this fondness to a whole new level. “Paris is definitely my one true love, which my boyfriend is well aware of, and has come to terms with,” she says. “No matter how often I return or for how long, the city still surprises me in new and magical ways. Its beauty and charm, mixed with the Parisian way of life, is addicting.”
When Niles cited macarons as the one thing she can’t leave Paris without enjoying, we asked that she share her wisdom on the art of macaron tasting, and let us know where to find the best of the best when it comes to these popular treats.
S/: How did macarons become such an “It” dessert?
Angie Niles: When you see rows of sweetly scented pastel coloured macarons you can’t help but be hooked. For years, heading to Ladurée to pick up a box of macarons was my first stop upon arrival in Paris. Now that Ladurée flies macaroons from Paris to NY (and will soon be shipping via Ladurée’s new e-com website), they’re a treat I can enjoy even when I’m missing Paris from afar.
So, Ladurée vs. Pierre Hermé: for those who aren’t familiar, can you tell us about these two “rival” macaron makers?
Ladurée was founded in 1862 and when visiting one of the company’s famous tea salons, you can enjoy traditional flavours like chocolate, pistachio, and raspberry in a beautiful Belle Epoque tea room. Pierre Hermé comes from four generations of French pastry chefs and became an apprentice at the age of 14. He trained with some of France’s most acclaimed pastry chefs and even worked for Ladurée before opening his own pastry shop. Hermé is known for dreaming up unique flavour combinations like olive oil and mandarin and chocolate and foie gras. The debate on who makes the best macaroons is still ongoing.
How does one taste a macaron like a connoisseur?
There’s really no right or wrong way to taste macarons, but my friend Belinda of BelleAboutTown opened up a new world to me by sharing her method of tasting the multi-flavored macarons at Pierre Hermé. Similar to a perfume, Hermé’s macaroons have distinct ‘notes.’ As you bite in, you’ll notice three distinct flavours—a top note, middle note, and end note of flavour. So, as you’re biting into his chocolate and foie gras or passion fruit and rose, the flavors will ignite your taste buds in different ways.
What do you look for when searching for the perfect macaron?
The perfect macaron has a crispy and smooth outer shell (with no cracks) and it is surprisingly soft once you take a bite. The centre is filled with a creamy ganache filling that’s full of flavour. The best macarons are flaky and gooey all in one bite.
We can’t wait to taste Ladurée’s new “Religieuse Mademoiselle” pastry coming in October. Can you tell us anything about it?
The Religieuse Mademoiselle is my favorite new pastry. It’s gorgeous to look at, and it’s made of a perfect cream puff pastry with verbena custard cream, strawberry jam, and topped with a pretty sugar rose petal.
What are your favourite spots to indulge in macarons?
When I’m home in NYC, you can find me at Ladurée in Soho almost once a week. In Paris, I enjoy stopping into both Ladurée and Pierre Hermé.