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Chantal Guillon 1

Life may be like a box of chocolates but heaven is like a box of macarons…

The saga of my macaron obsession continues.  My husband had a job interview in the city yesterday.  Since I rarely visit the city these days, I asked my husband to pay a visit to Chantal Guillon in Hayes Valley for a box of macarons.

Chantal Guillon opened just three years ago.  She is a French transplant and restauranteur. She decided to open a shop in San Francisco specializing macarons.  Specialization seems to be the key to her success.  She believes that in producing one product, you get the highest and best quality. This is the way they do things in France so why not bring this Parisian mindset to San Franciscans?

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My husband was really impressed with the layout and decor.  He said it was like walking into an upscale boutique instead of a bakery.  The decor was stark and minimal, everything was white while macarons took center stage providing the only color contrast.  In his own words, “It was like an Apple store for macarons with that nice, crisp white feel about it. Uncluttered, calm, serene.” They were all displayed behind glass jewelry cases and were obsessively compulsively lined up by flavor and color. My husband appreciated this since he is neurotic himself.  He expected the service to be snooty but it wasn’t like that at all.  The guy behind the counter, who had a French accent, was very friendly and patient.  Apparently, my husband had a hard time making his selection.  He had ten flavors to choose from.

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He chose 4 flavors himself and the shop assistant made two other suggestions.  The price also seems very reasonable compared to Bouchon Bakery.  A box of 6 macarons was only $10.50. Although, Chantal Guillon macarons are certainly more the traditional size rather than the gluttonous American version at Bouchon.  I prefer my macarons petite anyway, they are much more civilized and make me feel less guilty. I think Guillon macarons are more aesthetically pleasing, they make Bouchon macarons look like plain janes.  Chantal takes them up a notch.  They are not just a macaron but bite-sized works of art.

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While Bouchon Bakery uses the French method, Chantal Guillon uses the Italian meringue method which adds an extra step of cooking the sugar into a hot syrup before adding it to the egg whites.  I’m not sure if this makes any technical difference to the texture of the macarons but when I bit into Chantal Guillon’s macaron it was soft all the way through.  It didn’t have the crisp outer shell I was expecting like at Bouchon.  I was a bit disappointed in this respect but the flavors more than made up for the lack of texture.  Each flavor was varying in intensity and sweetness.  It also wasn’t overstuffed with filling and each had the right amount of chewiness.

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My husband did a good job in his selection.  I love all the flavors he chose. Some I loved more than others…

Tahitian Vanilla: My first bite was the Tahitian vanilla.  If you are a vanillaholic like I am you will love, love, love this one.  You can taste the intensity of the vanilla.  It’s not too intense that it is boozy but it is a strong, creamy flavor.  Intense vanilla bean and subtle sweetness. This one was my husband’s favorite. Very good.

Passionfruit: This one is very fruity and very sweet. It was ok but too sweet for my taste. I liked Bouchon’s passionfruit better because the sweetness was subtle.

Almond Amaretto:  Tasted like toasted almonds. This one isn’t as sweet. I thought this was just ok.

Salted Caramel: Nothing short of orgasmic.  This was my favorite of the bunch. No wonder it is their most popular flavor.  It’s like eating candy caramel.  Buttery, and the hint of salt and sweet don’t overpower each other. Amazing!

Dark Chocolate Yuzu:  Creative and interesting flavor.  I love how the sharp citrus of the yuzu counterbalances the bittersweet chocolate. If you’re an orange chocolate fan, you will love this. I’m not a fan of orange chocolate though.

Jasmine Green Tea:  This is my second best favorite, next to salted caramel.  I can taste the grassy green tea, a perfumed whisper of jasmine, a cool center, and a pinch of sweetness.  It is a bite of serenity. My husband loved this one as much as I did.  Excellent!

If I had to rank each flavor, #1 being the best to #6 my least favorite:

  1. Salted Caramel
  2. Jasmine Green Tea
  3. Tahitian Vanilla
  4. Almond Amaretto
  5. Dark Chocolate Yuzu
  6. Passionfruit

I want to go to Chantal Guillon and try more flavors…like today! But I will refrain.  I don’t want to spend 4 hours at the gym to make up for my indulgence. I think I will wait until next week.

Chantal Guillon Macarons & Teas
437 Hayes Street
Suite A
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 864-2400

Acknowledgements: All photos by Olfactory Obsessed