The last time that I bought a box of macarons from Ladurée was at its original branch on the Rue Royale in Paris. There was a party at my flat and we had foie gras and fresh cheese, and consumed nearly the whole box of macarons. There were two left, which I put in my freezer.
That was in 2002. Since then I’ve lived abroad for six years, found a girl, settled down and had a family, then we came back and the macarons were still there in my freezer along with a stash of now-discontinued film: Polaroid 55, Kodak Technical Pan, Kodachrome 64.
Thirteen years ago macarons were known, but rare, in the country. Since then they’ve become something of a fad, and numerous local bakers began to make them, with varying levels of success.
In the intervening years I’ve had a brief dalliance with Pierre Hermé, both from its boutique in Paris and the outlet in Hong Kong, before realizing that I preferred the texture of the “original” Ladurée macaron (which was also created by Hermé before he left and struck out on his own), despite the comparatively less exotic flavors.
It was the London branch of Ladurée that supplied the tower of macarons for our wedding.
I never imagined that it would open a branch in Manila, complete with gilded cornices, a painted ceiling, and macarons air-flown from France.
I decided it was time to complete the circle, eat the 13-year-old macaron (it tasted of silver halide), and get a fresh supply.
Macarons have to age for 12-36 hours, during which they attain the perfect ratio of crisp exterior and chewy, gooey inside. I guess that’s ample time to make their way from their temperature- and humidity-controlled kitchen in France to the doorstep of 8 Rockwell.
For some, the price of P150 per macaron is bordering on a social sin; for others, it’s a bargain.
I myself think that the price is justified for the airfare (they sell in Paris for a little less than 2 euros each), but I’m not exactly going to be having them every day, perhaps once a year, for a special occasion. Or once every 13 years.
But, as I said about The Tasting Room at City of Dreams Manila, guys who are a-courting will have to level up: If you buy a box of anything less than Ladurée, you’re scrimping. (Though the macarons at Café Macaron at Raffles Makati are pretty good at P60 each.)
There’s no seating at the moment, as is usual in most Parisian patisseries, so it’s as good a time as any to haul out the good china at home and have it with cup of a gentle, not too overpowering tea.
Disappointing lamb kebab
My wallet was feeling fairly flat after last week’s extravaganza, so I decided on a more modest outing. I was hoping that Sultan, at a back alley in Salcedo Village, would turn out to be a more accessible version of Arya or Hossein, which is very nice but far too expensive for what is not really very complicated fare.
Once in a while I want nothing more than a well-seasoned kebab of minced lamb grilled over a charcoal fire. It goes by many names; in Turkish cuisine it is an adana kebab, also sometimes called an Aleppo kebab, and most often known by its Persian name as a kabab koobideh.
Sometimes there’s parsley in the mince mixture; other times there’s sumac. But there are almost always a lot of aromatics and there should be a generous amount of fat, traditionally from the intestines (caul), or the tail.
The koobideh failed at achieving the brown char-grilled exterior enclosing a juicy inside with bite to it, and instead resembled a flayed sausage. The kebab, shorthand for the grilled cubes of meat on a skewer, was a little better; the meat was well-seasoned, but not as tender as it could be.
The beef korma was a generic curry with lots of underdone potatoes. The best value for money is the souvlaki platter (we are using the Greek terms, apparently), which is basically the kebab but on a skewer with vegetables, which contribute some flavor to the otherwise “underwhelming” chunks of meat.
In all there was a general lack of smoky flavor from a hot charcoal pit that makes this kind of simple grilled food so good.
What the restaurant has going for it are its prices, and a location that would make it a convenient alternative to something more uppity such as Apartment 1B, which is just down the street.
It’s a pity, really, because an authentic Mediterranean grill with a short menu but a deft hand with the coals is just what the neighborhood needs.
Ladurée, 8 Rockwell, Makati City
Sultan Mediterranean Grill, Valero Plaza Condominium, San Agustin St., Makati; tel. 8945909