The Guilty Pleasure: Raspberry Rose Macaron Where to Get It: Essence Bakery, Tempe or Arcadia Price: $1.40 for the small, $3.25 for the large What it Really Costs: There are nuts in the shell, and raspberries in the filling. Convince yourself it's good for you.
It's hardly a secret that if you want an amazing macaron in this town, you head for one place: Essence Bakery. I'm glad that its macarons have endured through the cupcake fad (thank the gods it seems to be waning) of the past few years. Truly, these macarons are masterpieces of confection. Now that the new Arcadia-area Essence location is open, my waistline quakes with fear at the mere thought of easy CenPho-ite access.
You've probably been to Essence by now, and you probably already have a favorite macaron flavor. More than a few people I know go right for a caramel one every time they go. I adore the citrus flavors, and will inhale a hazelnut macaron in seconds. Somehow, in the times that I've been to Essence, I've missed one that's a little out there compared to the rest: raspberry accented with rose. With my luck, Essence has been serving it for ages, and I just kept missing it. That is, until recently.
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Last week, a friend went to Essence, and brought back an assortment of treats. In there was a raspberry rose macaron. I'm glad my friend was kind enough to share; it was pure food lust at first bite. That macaron skyrocketed close to the top of the list of the best things I've eaten all year. I've told practically everyone I bump into that they have got to go to Essence and try one. I'm surprised I haven't had dreams involving them yet.
Rose is a tricky flavor to work with. There's a narrow zone of acceptable rose flavor. Not enough (like a macaron I got at a chichi grocer) is boring. Too much (bad baklava, anyone?) is worse, leaving you feeling like you just ate perfume. Essence's rose level is exactly right. The raspberry jam filling (in lieu of a macaron's traditional buttercream) provides a tangy note to offset the rose's floral sweetness. Overall, the pairing is like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; raspberry takes the lead, but subtly lets the rose shine that much more.
I know rose-flavored goods are a hard sell to American palates, largely because of past abuses. If you're even remotely on the fence about the thought of a rose macaron, for goodness' sake get in the car right now and go have one. You'll thank me later. Probably shortly after you have a second one.