Simply put, I'm not a dessert person. Put some bacon in some dessert, the right way, and then, I'm a dessert person. That's exactly what happened last weekend when I tried my very first bacon macaron at a friend's wedding (Congrats Myung and Mikey!). At first bite, I thought what a delectable consistency of macaron, the crumbly outer shell, the chewy layer underneath, the creamy sweet filling with a hint of smoky and salty essence from the sliver of bacon… wait, what? Yes, the candied bacon & maple cream cheese macaron is delightful, satisfying both the sweet and salty tooth. After eating four, I knew I had to talk to owners of Macaron Parlour, a business started by Christina Ha and Simon Tung, who are also engaged to get married next spring! Christina tells us a little bit about what they call their baby, my newest obsession, also known as Macaron Parlour.
How did you two start making macarons, and later, turned it into a business?
We started because the Hester Street Fair started in our neighborhood. We saw it as an opportunity to take an idea and turn it into a business and grow with a new outdoor market. We pitched our idea to one of the founders, SuChin Pak, and she told us that she would love it if we focused on macarons, so we did!
As for how the macaron-making began, I was always fascinated with it since first coming across them in Paris four years ago. Three years ago, I decided to get into pastry (making) and the macaron was my greatest challenge. I worked on them every day for months before I finally decided that I had to go to Paris and take the macaron class offered by Pierre Herme at Ecole Gregoire Ferrandi. After finally mastering this challenging feat, it was time to share that sense of accomplishment with others. Once I met Simon, for some reason, I felt like the right way to go was to make it fun (he’s a lot of fun!).
How did you come up with the idea for the bacon maple cream cheese macaron?
Well, I came into the relationship with a bunch of macaron flavors, but one day, we sat down and started talking about bacon, and then we started eating candied bacon. I told Simon I was going to go to work, but when I come home, there better be some candied bacon left. I came back to a candied bacon and mayonnaise macaron. We decided that it wasn’t quite right, and we started thinking about all the things that go with candied bacon, so we went about recreating the breakfast experience in a macaron. Simon describes it as what happens when maple syrup gets all over your bacon and pancakes.
What is this Thai chili macaron I read about? How did that come about?
That’s actually inspired by a recipe from Chef Kathryn Gordon. She recently came out with the book “Les Petits Macarons.” She teaches classes at the Institute of Culinary Education and she had a thai chili peanut butter macaron. It was great and we adapted it to suit our own palate. We don’t offer this flavor very often anymore, but we still get requests from it from friends who like the spicier side of life.
Any other unique creations in the works?
We’re trying to go after flavors that we really enjoy, whether it be something we enjoyed growing up, or something we would like to eat now. We just made a Snickers-inspired macaron over the weekend and we are so pleased with it. We made our own “nougat” to emulate that chewy-stickiness you get when you bite into the candy bar--that is really the key to nailing the flavor. We also use dulce de leche for the caramel, honey roasted salted peanuts, and a dark chocolate ganache. This is a two-tone macaron, using one of our brown sugar shells (we’re the only ones to make macarons with brown sugar) and a white shell.
We had this other flavor very briefly last year, but we’re bringing it back with a little bit of bourbon this time. It’s a banana caramel macaron with chopped candied pecan pieces inside. We make a caramel and sauté bananas in it, and whip it up with some bourbon, and butter. Then, we toast the pecans and candy it with some caramel, butter, brown sugar, and sugar in the raw.
What’s the taste-testing process like when coming up with new flavors?
We eat a lot of candy and a lot of restaurant desserts. We just eat as much as we can, and let that sort of inspire us. We’re like, how can we make this into a macaron? Simon will tell me about what he ate growing up, and I’ll think about what the distinctive characteristics are. Since we have a lot of friends in the food business, we get a chance to ask them for their feedback as soon as we make new flavors. We’ve been lucky enough to nail the recipe within the first few tries, but there are a lot of things we still miss. Like when we did a crème brulee flavor last year, everything went well until two days later when we noticed how soft the macarons were getting. They tasted great, but they were not holding up as well as we thought. It is a constant adjustment process, but it’s fun.
Parisian patisserie Laduree recently opened it’s first stateside store here in NYC. Have you had a chance to visit?
We got to visit during its first week open. It’s nice that the opening of a macaron shop has brought so much hype into NY. We have a lot of people coming up to us now and telling us about how they heard about macarons from the opening of Laduree, but they still haven’t had a macaron before. It’s a real conversation starter and we get to tell them a little about macarons, and a little about our macarons. We ate all the flavors from Laduree, and there were a lot of nice ones, but after eating 16 in a row, I’m not sure we can pick a favorite.
What’s the most unique dessert you’ve ever eaten?
It’s hard to say. We really eat out a lot and there is a lot of great stuff out there that is amazing for different reasons. I love ice cream, but that’s totally different from a fantastic brioche. It’s really hard to compare and say that, “This is it.” Simon eats everything, so sometimes it seems like everything is his favorite dessert.
Any favorite dessert spots in the city?
My first job out of school was at Locanda Verde. I have a lot of love and respect for Karen DeMasco. She makes fantastic desserts, but she’s also a great teacher and one of the nicest people in the industry. I loved the place before I worked there, and I introduced Simon to it, so now it’s one of our favorite spots. The food there is great, but really, we’re in it for the desserts. Plus, it’s always a perk to see her again.
Tune in to our "unique desserts" episode of 1st Look this Saturday after Saturday Night Live on NBC.