The Guilty Pleasure: Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches Where to Get It: Pho 43, 43rd Ave and Thomas Price: $3.75 What it Really Costs: Somehow, regular macarons weren't unhealthy enough yet.
I'm a little dismayed that macaron mania seems to have come and gone. I'm not exactly surprised, though. They are a pain in the ass to make. Still, I'd rather have a macaron or two instead of those over-frosted cupcakes that I'm somewhat glad to see are on the wane.
While macarons may not be quite as chic as they once were, there are still a number of places around town that serve up some mighty fine ones. Eugenia Theodosopoulous and the rest of the gang at Essence Bakery still crank out some of the best in town.
But there's more to macaron life than Essence. There's a place out on the west side of town that has been quietly serving up some killer macarons, and then putting a very fun twist on the whole idea.
The place in question is Pho 43, a small mom-n-pop Vietnamese restaurant out on the west side of Phoenix in the middle of Maryvale. While the food there is outstanding (to the point that I now drive past the cluster of phở around 19th Avenue and Camelback to get my fix at Pho 43), the main draw for me at Pho 43 is their outstanding macarons.
Part of the fun is that since it's a Vietnamese restaurant, a number of the flavors are right out of Southeast Asian cuisine. When was the last time you saw a Thai tea or pandan macaron? Or a bright purple taro macaron, for that matter?
As if the exotic range of flavors wasn't enough, Pho 43 manages to one-up everyone else in town by offering outsize ice cream sandwich macarons. The way they do the ice cream macarons is pretty fun. They keep the ice cream and macaron shells separate until you order them, so you can mix and match to your heart's content.
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More timid diners may stick to something familiar such as red velvet macaron shells with vanilla ice cream, but it's much more fun to dive in and get the Asian flavors. I went with taro shells surrounding Thai tea ice cream. It tasted every bit as good as it looked, between the earthy taro and lightly spiced tea.
While these are great macarons, these are also some of my favorite ice cream sandwiches in town. The structure is flawless; the delicate macaron shells don't squish any ice cream out the sides of the sandwich. And the flavor is nothing short of sublime, especially after a fragrant bowl of pho.
If you do go for macarons, be warned that they can be hard to come by. The regular macarons are available only on weekends, and even then only as long as they last. The time I went, I was there on Saturday morning and ravenous diners had already torn through half of a huge macaron cache. The macaron ice cream sandwiches are more readily available, but I'd call ahead to make sure they're available if you have your heart set on one.