We Americans have borrowed a few things from the French—the Statue of Liberty, the word “rendezvous,” jaunty berets (aptly showcased by Rushmore)—and may be guilty of bastardizing a few others (cronut, anyone?). But no other French invention is riper for American reinvention than the macaron. Two crispy-chewy almond flour cookies sandwich ganache or butter cream, and are lightly flavored to resemble pistachio, raspberry or…Cheetos dust? Macaron Parlour, which first started slinging its riffs on the French favorite at Hester Street Fair and later from its East Village storefront, is now bringing its inventive sweets to the Upper West Side—Cheetos dust, bacon, Thai chili, and all.
Husband-and-wife team Christina Ha and Simon Tung, who met a fateful Halloween night, first started Macaron Parlour in 2010 with no express intention of focusing on untraditional flavors. But one Halloween experimentation (see a theme here?) with the remnants of a Cheetos bag in 2012, and word spread that the East Village sweets purveyor was the place to hit when you wanted to take your taste buds off the beaten path. They began pumping out flavors that varied from candied bacon with maple cream cheese to the Elvis (a combination of peanut butter and caramelized bananas), and garnered the attention of the blogosphere with a decidedly non-macaron menu item: a s’mores donut stuffed with marshmallow and chocolate, topped with graham cracker crumbs.
With the success of their offbeat offerings, the couple has now opened a second location on the Upper West Side’s Columbus Avenue, and they still intend to keep shaking things up. On any visit you’ll find a rotating lineup of more than 20 macarons, varying from rosemary to Thai chili to Earl Grey to the peanut butter–laden Giggity, an ode to Family Guy’s Quagmire. And a successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than $15,000, a large chunk going to a new espresso machine (name after one of the top donor’s dogs) to expand coffee offerings and draw in the morning crowd. Expect coffee from Blue Bottle, plus new breakfast options such as bacon-gruyere-scallion scones and moist gluten-free and vegan muffins.
Other exciting treats veer from the shop’s namesake pastry. There’s the aforementioned s’mores donut, available only on weekends, riffs on universal favorites Thin Mints and Oreos, plus an invention called the Goodbit Bar: a brownie base topped with a layer of caramel, followed by a creamy combination of white chocolate, peanut butter, and feuilletine flakes. If the inspired concoctions have you itching to bake, Macaron Parlour offers macaron-making classes, where you receive hands-on instruction on borth the French and Italian method, plus the opportunity to bring home your spoils.
Ha and Tung also use their penchant for sweets to give back to the surrounding community. Friendly pooches from neighboring animal hospitals can enjoy handmade dog treats outside, and a portion of proceeds from each lemon macaron sold benefits Alex’s Lemonade Stand, an organization that supports pediatric cancer research. So go ahead, order a dozen macarons, a slice of cake, or a blondie. Calories don’t count when they go to a good cause—or when you need to know what a Cheetos macaron tastes like.