French Chef Didier Saba said the first time he tasted a macaron in a patisserie on the Champs Elysées he was pleasantly surprised. The confection looks like a hard cookie, but it is so soft and moist that it melts in your mouth.
Saba moved from his native Aix-en-Provence to Paris to study at the prestigious Lenôtre culinary school, where he learned how to make the meringue based cookies. He now makes them for Le Macaron, 5811 Sunset Drive, a café in South Miami that Quentin and Agnes Garrigou opened late September steps away from Starbucks.
You take a bite and then you find there is a surprise inside, Saba, 36, said. Sometimes it is ganache, buttercream or jam.
Saba created the concept of Le Macaron about a year ago, and recently turned it into a franchise with five other locations in Florida. The contemporary decor includes crystal chandeliers and hot-pink walls with black details such as a sketch of The Eiffel Tower. When costumers walk in, their eyes swing from the gelato to the rainbow of delicate sweets.
Alex Lora, 23, walked in for the second time on Tuesday to get his girlfriend a little something for their two-year and nine month anniversary. He ordered six macarons and one truffle that were placed in a white box and sealed with a hot pink ribbon. The boxes of macarons range from $12.50 to $57.70.
We have been here before and she liked them so much, Lora said. She has been to France. I think it reminds her of it.
The café also delivers striking cone towers of macarons in different sizes for parties. The macarons, not to be confused with the coconut macaroons, are made from vanilla extract, ground almonds, powdered sugar, food coloring and egg whites. Saba has created 18 flavors.
The orange cookies are the Belgian chocolate, the passion fruit dark chocolate, the chestnut and the caramel fleur de sel. The yellow are the lemon cream and the basil white chocolate. The purple and pink are the black currant, crème brûlée and raspberry. The green are the fresh mint white chocolate and Sicilian pistachio. The natural off-white are the candied ginger chocolate, walnut, Colombian coffee, ginger bread, coconut, crunchy praline and Madagascar black vanilla.
Our macaron is a little bit bigger than usual. Everything is made from scratch and we use fresh products, said Chef Quentin Garrigou, owner of the South Miami shop. The black current jam is made out of the fruit and we blend the Belgian chocolate. Nothing comes frozen.
Garrigou, 32, and his wife Agne Garrigou, 31, met years ago in France during a winter job at a restaurant in the mountains of south of Cauteret. About five years ago, the couple moved for work to Sarasota, Fla., where they met Saba. After having a son named Paul, who is now 20 months old, the couple decided that it was time to open their own business. She said they felt welcomed in South Miami because it is family friendly, there is diversity and Sunset Drive is a central location.
Jason Ponte, 28, said it was about time a place like this opened in the area. He loves the handcrafted truffles. Garrigou buys them from Chef Norman Love, a chocolatier trained in France and based in Fort Myers, who was a corporate executive pastry chef for the Ritz Carlton for about a decade and has designed special edition chocolates for Godiva.
Some of the small hand painted pieces look like gem stones, sea shells or glossy miniature art. The flavors vary from dark chocolate with jalapeño pepper to passion fruit with chocolate ganache. The light mint colored boxes with chocolate brown silk ribbons range from $13.50 to $100.
This is the third box of chocolates I buy this month, Ponte said. The last one I bought made me a hero. Now Im getting one for my sisters birthday. She is going to love them.
Corinne Zibi, a Parisian who lives in Pinecrest, said her family is very happy to have the fresh Pain au Chocolat, and almond and raisin croissants for breakfast. The croissants range from $2.50 to $3.50 a piece.
If its not my son, its my husband. We are here three times a week, Zibi said. We love it. Everything is delicious, fresh, and so very, very French.