May 19, 2010

macaron taste test | natasha’s mulberry & mott | leawood, kansas

Sometime during the past month, I developed a new obsession: macarons. I don’t know if I was drawn to them because of their petite size, vibrant colors or Parisian sophistication (or maybe because macarons are supposedly the new cupcakes?), but I just knew that I wanted to try these little French treats.

A macaron (pronounced mack-ah-rohn—oh how one less “o” makes a big difference) is a traditional French sandwich-like pastry made of egg whites, almond powder, icing sugar and sugar. It’s filled with cream or ganache and comes in several flavors and colors. Macarons’ claim to fame came at the beginning of the 20th  century, when Pierre Desfontaines, second cousin of Louis Ernest Ladurée of Paris’ famed Ladurée, had the idea to join two meringues and fill them with ganache.

Sometimes the simplest ideas turn into the most brilliant creations.

laduree macarons

{Macarons to covet: the magnificent Ladurée macarons, a Paris original. Photo By Louis Beche/Courtesy Flickr.}

Without any experience with macarons (I’ve never been to France!), it took a little research to understand what I should look for and taste with my first macaron adventure. One of my favorite foodie blogs, Serious Eats, was one of my first sources for macaronducation.

right and wrong macarons

{The perfect amount of filling and a light, crisp shell make the perfect macaron. Photo Courtesy Serious Eats.}

I knew that I was supposed to look for a smooth, thin, light crust that has a bit of a crunch to it, revealing a soft, moist filling. Easy enough. But where could I find macarons in the Midwest?

Because Lawrence lacks many restaurants and bakeries with French influence, I began searching for Kansas City-area bakeries to begin my pastry hunt. Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott caught my eye.

Owned by mother-daughter team Vicki and Natasha Goellner, Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott (named after the parallel streets in New York City) is a beautiful bakery in Leawood’s new, luxurious Mission Farms development. Natasha received her pastry arts education at the French Culinary Institute in New York City and, to my benefit, brought her love for baked goods to my backyard. While I would have preferred to see Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott in a less suburban area (Westport? Plaza?), its pricey pastries fit the area clientele—and I would easily drive back to Mission Farms for more of Natasha’s amazing, well-worth-the-price macarons.

natasha's macarons

{Colorful macarons line the display at Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott in Leawood, Kansas. Photo Courtesy Natasha’s Mulberry & Mott.}

The atmosphere at Natasha’s was warm, cozy and deliciously perfumed with the sweet scent of sugar. I scooped up a baker’s dozen of strawberry macarons at $1.95 a pop (gotta be able to test those babies all weekend, right?), and was only charged for 12 (great incentive to keep buying them by the baker’s dozen!).  The clerk boxed up my goodies in a baby-pink box and advised me on how to care for my new best friends: keep them cool and move them to an airtight container so the filling doesn’t dry out; consume them within two days for freshest taste (like that was difficult!).

I tried the bonus macaron at Natasha’s, and it was just as Serious Eats told me it should be—light, airy shell with a creamy, semi-sweet filling. Until I go to Ladurée, all macarons I try will have to live up to Natasha’s standard—and she set the bar high.

I brought home the dozen macarons for my mom for mother’s day (we had a French-themed celebration) and got her opinion on the sandwich cookies; she loved how light and dainty they were, and they reminded her of the French dinner dates she had with my father in Saigon when they were courting more than 30 years ago. It’s amazing how the taste of a sweet little treat can bring back such beloved memories.

I hope to keep making memories with macarons. Natasha has an amazing flavor lineup, and I have a whole summer to make weekend trips to Kansas City-area bakeries to perform scientific macaron taste tests with my girlfriends. :)

Where in Kansas City should I go next?

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  • Rachel

    Thanks for the review! I’ve been meaning to try Natasha’s M&M since Slow Food KC recommended it for macarons. Eat KC also suggested The Roasterie for chocolate-dipped versions & MacLean’s in Waldo & in OP, although I haven’t tested them myself.

    I’m sorry to report that Bloom Bakery at City Market, while excellent at making bread, fell quite short at their macaron attempt. I’d skip them in your macaron expedition. Looking forward to reading about more places!

    • kimberlyloc

      Thanks for the suggestions, Rachel! Chocolate-dipped macarons sound amazing. I will definitely check out The Roasterie…I’ve just had their coffee :)

      Can’t wait to explore more bakeries in KC…I guess this means I’m going to have to start working out!

  • Stephanie

    I can’t wait for you to visit the Ferry Building in San Francisco. You will die. It’s Disneyworld for foodies. There’s a bakery there called Miette, known for their macarons (and at first I thought you were misspelling macaroons!!). They are probably a million dollars, since it’s SFO, but they’re worth it.

    • kimberlyloc

      OMG Stephanie…I finally got to visit the Ferry Building when I was in San Fran last month….LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! And of course, Miette was on my cupcake/macaron hit list :) Review coming soon <3

  • Megan

    I can’t wait for you to go to France and try the amazing macarons, as well as all the other sweet treats the French do so well! Not only are macarons delectable, but they’re so pleasing to the eye. too. What else does Natasha’s serve up besides macarons? And are the petite goodies best left to the pros, or can they be made at home? If they’re the new cupcake, I hope they can be!

    • kimberlyloc

      Megan, I can’t wait for YOU to be my tour guide in France! Macarons are so delicate and beautiful. Natasha’s has so many goodies…coffee, cakes, cookies, sherbert…it is heaven in Kansas City! Let’s go soon, OK?

  • TP-KC

    I just tried a few macarons from Natasha’s last week, and I wasn’t too impressed. Flavor was great, but that’s only half the battle – they suffered from a common problem of the upper surface rising up and off of the “cakey” bottom part, creating a void. The upper surface was then crumbly and dry, and shattered all over on first nibble.

    Everyone has a bad day, so I’ll be happy to try again – but given the poor selection of product (they offered lots of things, but didn’t have many things available at all, like the eclairs they’re so well-known for), I’m not sure I’ll rush back.

    • kimberlyloc

      Hey TP-KC,

      Thanks for your insight. I haven’t had a chance to go back to Natasha’s to sample any more goodies or to try any more macarons. Do you have any other KC bakery recommendations? Also, where else have you had macarons? I’m eager to find more, either in this area or elsewhere!

  • Laura

    Thank you for this important macaron information! My 12 year old daughter and I just returned from a glorious 9 day trip to Paris, and we are craving our favorite French treats, including Laduree’s macarons, especially the raspberry ones! My daughter fell in love with these tiny treats, and I want to buy her some for her 13th b-day, which is almost here. We literally ate our way through Paris, and I recommend seeing Paris that way.

    • kimberlyloc

      That is awesome, Laura! I want to eat my way through Paris…when can I go with you?! :)

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