If you know me, or even if you’ve met me briefly, chances are you know that I’m equally torn between a love of eating healthfully and satisfying a strong sweet tooth. Case in point: When I started job searching in Sydney, I was immediately offered trials at two locations…one an organic food store and the other a cupcake bakery. I chose the former and am happily employed.
Since accepting the job, however, I’ve been indulging the sweet tooth more than ever (no exaggeration…), perhaps to balance the ultra healthy and wholesome environment I live in for half of the week. It’s like some Star Wars character is sitting on my shoulder, encouraging me to bring balance to the Force.
Thanks to living in the Inner West (♥), several new friends and coworkers excitedly asked if I’d paid a visit to Adriano Zumbo for his tasty breads, tarts, cakes, pastries, and macarons.
“Adriano Zumbo…who’s that?”
It wasn’t long before I learned the answer to that question. By the time I walked out of the door after my first visit, I was the newest member of the macaron fan club — so much so that I decided I would try every flavor before I leave Australia. Ambitious perhaps, but a goal worth pursuing I think. At $2 a macaron, the venture won’t be cheap, and I remain blissfully unaware of a macaron’s nutrition facts (and I’m too scared to ask).
Every good challenge needs a name. Inspired by a conversation I had with one of my best friends, who joined me for an AZ visit, I have dubbed this venture “No Macaron Left Behind”.
I will attempt to document each macaron with a photo and description. Feel free to drool, lick your screen, or buy a flight to Sydney so you can join me in one of the many visits to come.
My first Adriano Zumbo visit
No one I know loves cakes, pastries, and desserts more than Adam. When he learned that I was new to the area and (heaven forbid) didn’t know who or what Adriano Zumbo was, he simply said, “We’re going.”
So on a Sunday afternoon we caught a bus to the Rozelle location, hopped in the queue, and eagerly waited to catch a glimpse of a little magic. When it was finally our turn, I was so overwhelmed by our options that I gave Adam full power of dessert selection. It’s rare that I relinquish such control when it comes to sweets, but I knew he was fully qualified to make a snappy and quality decision.
As we sat down to enjoy our treats, I admitted that I’d never been a macaroon fan. See, when I thought of macaroons, I had this image of rather plain, crunchy coconut balls with perhaps a bit of chocolate. I didn’t know that French macarons weren’t crispy but soft, melt-in-your-mouth morsels of joy. We don’t have these sorts of things where I’m from, and even with my wicked sweet tooth, there are many things I’ve simply never been exposed to. It took just one bite and I was a happy macaron convert.
While there’s a photo to document the occasion, I didn’t jot notes to record my response to the day’s selections. Only general impressions of “I *really* liked them!” remain.
Strawberry mint: We split this one — light and refreshing.
Citrus & mustard: Since one of he macarons had cracked, we received a second “replacement” at no charge. I was slightly skeptical of this one but the flavor combination won me over with one bite.
Shortly thereafter, AZ visit #2
Chocolate: A few friends were surprised at this selection. “Really Heather? All of those interesting combinations and you picked chocolate?” I know, I know. But I was curious how one simple flavor would rate. WOW. This was simply chocolate at its best. With every bite I thought “THIS is what chocolate should taste like.” Smooth. Fudgey. Perfect.
Pineapple & coconut: What I wrote word-for-word — “Oh my gosh. Pina colada heaven.” The flavors were spot on in this one. Would be a perfect treat on a warm, sunny day at the beach. I’ll have to remember that.
Pear, pistachio & fennel: I confess…I’ve heard of fennel. I’ve seen it on TV. But I’m not really sure if I’ve had fennel before. So with this macaron, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My notes? “Meh, not my thing. Proof I don’t like *everything* O:-).” At present, I can’t even recall what it tastes like, so I’d be up for giving it another go.
Forest berries (top): One of my favorites. This is *exactly* what you think “mixed berries” should taste like. Reminded me of drinking a berry smoothie! And oh, the velvety, beautiful filling!!! Yuuuuum.
Beetroot & raspberry: With the first bite, my eyes actually got bigger — has strong, tangy taste! Not sure about this one (not a beetroot fan) but the flavors are quite robust and I’m sure nice for some (i.e., people who like/don’t mind beetroot).
Oatmeal ylang ylang: A complete 180 from the beetroot & raspberry. Very mild/mellow — well, it is oatmeal, so shouldn’t come as a surprise! Not sure what ylang ylang is supposed to taste like but, but this is most subtle creation yet.
I enjoyed this visit with one of my best friends in the entire world. Between enjoying her presence and another AZ moment-o-goodness, I failed to jot down more than one or two words as notes.
Strawberry & balsamic: I simply wrote “FTW”. At this stage, this, the chocolate, and forest berries are my favorites.
Finger bun: Nicole picked this one out of curiosity. Neither one of us knew what a “finger bun” was but were quickly filled in. The raisins in the filling were a welcome addition — nice to see unexpected texture! Pleasant but not in the knock-my-socks-off ranks.
Pistachio & apricot: The actual bits of apricot in the filling were a nice touch (like the raisins for the finger bun). A nice macaron but not a standout for me.
Blueberry lavender: Shared this with my flatmate’s girlfriend when I got home from work, and thereby introduced her to AZ love. I taste the blueberry first, and it slowly fades as the lavender comes in. Really nice and creative, but not a fan of the lavender. Done with one on this one I’m afraid.
Strawberry bubblegum (also purchased on this visit but consumed immediately): I had to select this one out of sheer curiosity. Definitely one of the most unique flavors I’d seen on display, and my inner child was begging for a taste. WOW. I shouldn’t be surprised at this stage of the challenge, but it tasted *exactly* like strawberry bubblegum…the really big, fat pieces you’d pop in your mouth as a kid and try to blow massive bubbles with. I was only going to try a bite on the way to work and save the rest for a photo when I got home. Instead, I found I was SMILING to myself as I walked to work. So I had to eat the rest of it.
INSERT IMAGINARY PHOTO HERE
On the next AZ visit, I did what I promised myself I would never do again — eat the macarons before taking a photo. The flavors sounded too delicious to wait, and it would be hours until I returned to the flat where my camera was safely stored. So in the break room at work, just before starting my shift, I took a nibble of both. I melted into a little puddle. Then I regained composure and polished them off.
Milo: As soon as I took the first bite I closed my eyes and probably let out an audible “mmm”! It had been chilly for days leading up to this tasting and I’d been craving a hot chocolate. This was heaps better than any hot chocolate I could have had. I sat there in a beat-up break room chair, envisioning I was sitting by a fire in my PJs instead. Seriously! Milo wins for transporting me to another place with it’s hot chocolately-goodness.
Raspberry dark chocolate: I love raspberries. I LOVE dark chocolate. But sometimes the combination of the two in desserts hasn’t worked for me. I hoped this one would wouldn’t let me down as the Milo had already been nothing short of magic. I took a timid bite and first tasted a nondescript sweetness, quickly followed by a BURST of raspberry, and then it finished on a nice blend of raspberry and chocolate. With each of the remaining bites, the flavor experience changed slightly in intensity. It was a treat to try and felt the most indulgent of any AZ macaron thus far.
So now what?!
6 visits, 15 macarons, $30, and untold calories later, the “No Macaron Left Behind” challenge is in full swing. Lucky for me, tomorrow (November 6 as I write this) is Macaron Day at AZ, where 65 flavors will be available. Not sure how I’m going to pick and choose, but I’m sure the most unique flavors will win…either that or whatever is left over, as there will be a massive queue.
It’s too bad I’m not experienced enough to be a food blogger, because for the last two months I’ve been eating like it’s my job. I’m carrying weight in places I typically don’t, and my pants are starting to tell me that the end should be in sight. Perhaps I’ll take a mini-break for a few weeks and then round up some friends to help me tackle the next wave of macarons. I’m not ready to give up yet — I’m just getting started.
Want to learn more about the man behind the macaron? Read food blogger Not Quite Nigella’s interview with Zumbo.
After starting my challenge, I learned fellow travel blogger Christine had a self-imposed challenge to sample every flavor of ice cream from the most popular store in Nice. She said she’d end the challenge when she could no longer zip up her pants. Not a bad idea.