I walked up the steps from Montreal’s metro station, disappointed to see the rain falling but not surprised in the least. As I opened up my black-and-white polka dot umbrella, I realized that this umbrella has seen all the cities I have this year :: it shielded me from pouring rain in New York City as I puddle-jumped down Fifth Avenue and kept me (mostly) dry as I wandered through the gardens of Nijo Castle in Kyoto, trying to snap photos with one hand and hold the umbrella in the other.
And now, in Montreal, it was doing its best to keep me dry as I hunted down the famous macaron shop, Point G. I was determined to find the shop (regardless of the rain) so I could try a foie gras macaron. Yes, a duck-liver flavored cookie.
I don’t actually remember the first time I ate a macaron. It may have been during my first trip to Seattle while wandering around Pike Place Market, when I snuck into a French bakery to escape the chill of the early morning northwest wind.
Bakeries have always been a bit of a heaven-on-earth place to me, with their warm, calming interiors and luscious smells of bread and pastries wafting through the air. Once in my safe-haven that was Le Panier in Seattle, I ordered nearly one of everything, including a really cute-looking cake-like cookie :: my first macaron.
Needless to say, a love affair blossomed with the chewy, delicately-sweet cookies and it soon evolved into a foodie focal point whenever I am traveling. (And whenever I can have them in Salt Lake City.) I am so infatuated with this love that the last time I was in New York City, I researched the best macarons in the city and tracked down two shops to compare them. I even found them in Japan! And now, in a city so heavily influenced by the French, I couldn’t wait to track down a few macaron shops.
Birks Jewelry Store
The first stop on my macaron hunt was Birks Jewelry Store. Birks is Montreal’s equivalent to Tiffany’s Jewelry Store, except without the turquoise. The famous jewelry store happens to have a little cafe in it that is actually headed by a reputable chef.
I’ve never been high-end jewelry shopping, but apparently it’s a vigorous activity that might require a mid-shopping re-fueling. Or perhaps the cafe is there so that you can toast with Champagne after buying that fancy diamond. (Again, I wouldn’t know.) Either way, I read that Birks also has a decent selection of macarons. Champagne… macarons… and pretty sparkly things? Count me in!
I stopped at Birks after walking around most of Montreal (or so it felt). The cafe was crowded with ladies having afternoon tea and tiny sandwiches. I will admit I was a little shocked that people actually do that. My order, on the other hand, was simple :: a few macarons and a glass of Champagne. The macarons were good, the bubbly was delicious and to say that I had the two at a jewelry store, well I guess you could say that it was priceless. :)
And then, a day later, I found myself in the rain, searching for an address way out of the way, just to try a duck-liver flavored macaron. I arrived at Point G (which has to be the most random name for a bakery ever) and nearly fainted from the 30+ flavors of macarons. They had cookies in every flavor imaginable–and some that I never could have dreamed up. The brightly-colored cookies looked almost fake, shining in a rainbow of hues in their little glass case.
I picked lemon, Japanese lime (called “yuzu”), lavender, maple (seemed like a must since I was in Canada), lime basil (pictured below on lefthand row, from left to right), poppy flower, balsamic vinegar, vodka cranberry, regular basil and foie gras (pictured on the right and row below).
I may have gone a bit overboard buying 10 cookies for myself, but for the record, I ended up bringing a few home with me to share. In the meantime, I ate one or two whenever I was in my hotel room, each bite transporting me to a euphoric place that had to be some form of heaven. Ok, so maybe they weren’t that transcending, but they were easily the best macarons I’ve ever tasted.
And the foie gras flavored macaron? It was incredibly rich, like foie gras, but surprisingly delicious. Although I doubt I could eat more than one in one sitting. I think my favorite would have to be the lavender, or the lime basil… or the Japanese lime. Ok, they were all good! I love having a tradition when I travel to each city and being able to compare how each place interprets the same treat—even if it means hunting them down in the rain.