I am in a temporary state of heaven: I have just taken my first bite of a lavender macaron. I am being transported back to an August day in Provence where the lavender fields lie in bloom, the mistral wrapping me like a sheet in a heavy, late summer aroma. The meringue is both crunchy and chewy, substantial and yet airy; the buttercream center is potent in flavour and yet melts in such a way that your taste buds cry out for more.
For fear of becoming too erotic in my description of this gastronomical experience, it is perhaps time that I explained to you, instead, why I am discussing these miraculous, rainbow-hued gems. In the past few years, I have noticed a certain trend emerging on the West Coast: the specialized eatery, as I like to call it. A plethora of new businesses have sprung up, offering a single, specialized item in all of its varied forms. I was out for a jaunt a few months ago with my lovely grandmother and we happened upon such a place, Bon Macaron. It is difficult to miss, this continental little store. Sitting in the heart of downtown Victoria, it lights up the street with its primary coloured sign and Eiffel Tower of macarons, colour-coordinated to pay tribute to the French national flag. As you walk past, a sweet scent of slow-baked meringue comes wafting out of their kitchen to beckon unwary passersby inside.
Macarons, not to be confused with American macaroons, are a European confection consisting of two meringue biscuits filled, most commonly, with butter cream, ganache or jam. The name is derived from the Italian word for meringue, maccarone. The origins of the macaron are cause for debate; it is considered to be a predominantly French confection, but various accounts trace it back to both France and Italy. The owners of Bon Macaron, for their part, hail from France: Yann Fougere from Paris, and David Boetti from Cannes. This fact, alone, gives them ample justification for trying their hand at making the best macarons on the West Coast, a feat which I have little doubt they will accomplish, if they haven’t already. As David explained to me, while I clumsily attempted to capture the spectrum of meringue delicacies on camera, they decided upon the idea of a specialized store — a macaron store — because quite simply, they wanted to be the best, and they felt that this goal was most possible by making one delicacy really well, rather than trying to make several in a potentially mediocre way. Besides, the possibilities for macarons in terms of changing flavours is almost limitless, as evidenced by Bon Macaron’s wide range of ever-rotating creations.
David takes me through the various flavours currently on offer, and my mouth is watering as we discuss the savory side versus the sweet. The savory macarons are still a bit sweet, David explains, because the meringue biscuit recipe is the same for both, but the fillings are distinct. Popular picks like blue cheese pear, bacon cream cheese and truffle sea salt, to name just a few, have a perfect balance of sugar and salt. I asked David what prompted them to offer a savory selection and he said, in what I consider to be an inimitably French way, that sometimes at the end of the day, you want to have your macarons with a glass of wine. In other words, macarons aren’t just for morning coffee dates or fancy luncheons. In fact, Bon Macaron takes orders for special events as well, offering towering platters of multi-colored macarons that look better suited to an installation at an art museum than someone’s meagre baby shower.
Yann and David, despite being transplants from across the Atlantic, both feel tied to the community of Victoria, and playing an active role among the business community is important to them. They make an effort to cooperate with other businesses who have shared interests. For example, the cafe down the street. Bon Macaron doesn’t offer coffee or seating, so the cafe welcomes macaron buyers with open arms, providing them a place to eat their delicacies, latte in hand. The French duo also like to support local growers as much as possible; their rose, lavender, basil and lemon verbena macarons are all flavored using herbs grown by Lynda Dowling of Happy Valley Lavender Farm in Metchosin.
This little French gem is certainly a business to keep your eye on. Both have lengthy customer service and food industry experience, so they have their business formula down to tee: high quality product and efficiency combine with a community-loyal, homey atmosphere to result in an already wildly successful venture, and they don’t plan on stopping here.
What’s on the menu this weekend? A Father’s day special: five flavours, four of them brand new, all packaged in a brown craft box as the perfect gift for dad. Bacon, Tequila Lime, Rum and Coke, Whiskey Dark Chocolate, and Guinness — head down first thing tomorrow if this post has suddenly made you realize that you’ve forgotten the big day.