Queen of sweets brings French treats to La Jolla
By Ashley Mackin
La Reine des Macarons
(The Queen of Macaroons), has begun selling her homemade French macaroons to La Jollans via her catering company. La reine, aka Grace Abdo, seems to have found a niche in the dessert world.
“Most places are not going to serve macaroons because they are so expensive to make,” Abdo said. “[They are] not using regular flour and eggs ... to make them really gourmet, the way they should be, it costs a lot of money and you need to have someone really train you to do it ... and it takes hours. It’s not the favorite as far as value if you’re counting pennies.”
In addition to being expensive, Abdo said the technique takes skill and practice to master. Her skills came from an intense two-month study at the Paul Bocuse Institute in France, Abdo’s home. There, she learned how to tell when ingredients and textures were just right.
“If you look at a macaroon recipe, it’s going to call for almond flour, sugar and egg whites to make the shell, and that’s all, you don’t need anything else,” she said. “So when you’re reading the recipe, you go ‘well I can do this. What could be easier, right?’ No.”
She said the almond flour used must have a powdery consistency. “If it’s not like powder, you have to make it like powder. You have to sift it and sift it and blend it and sift and blend it and resift it.” She added that once the mixture is made, only feeling will tell when it’s ready.
“You have to do it by hand and that is tricky because you cannot say mix for 3 minutes or 8 minutes; there is no time, it’s all about feeling,” she said.
So why do it?
“I really think San Diego needed good French macaroons,” she said. She also said there is a curiosity in La Jolla, where most of her business is. “Most people have never tasted them and there are still some people who don’t know what they are, so there is a lot of curiosity to try them.”
Other local pastry chefs agree they are difficult and laborious to make, which is why many local restaurants only sell them on occasion.
Didier Pellerud, pastry chef at Aroma Café, said they take 2-3 hours to make, so he does not make or sell them on a regular basis.
Jojo Rossi of Whisknladle said they are hard to make when it’s humid and they are very temperamental. Rossi said Whisknladle is selling them more now because the weather is not humid or rainy, but she could see how they are “too labor intensive for some people to do (on a regular basis).”