When I was still working in Makati and felt that the world was with me too much and too soon, I would trudge wearily down Ayala Avenue at the end of the day and haul myself over to a small, French-style pastry shop at the Glorietta for a sugary pick-me-up. There would be cream cheese brownies, strawberry shortcake, and a glorious assortment of artisanal chocolates to choose from. However, the only things that could brighten my day were these pastel-colored discs sandwiching what appeared to be an assortment of cremes and ganaches in a variety of flavors. These were macarons de Paris and, if you’re from the Philippines, you know that the only place you can get them here is Bizu.
Stepping into Bizu’s Greenbelt 2 shop is like stepping into the set of a film like Chocolat or something out of a chapter of Marcel Proust’s Remembrances of Things Past. The scene is set with marble-topped tables flanked by comfy purple-upholstered chairs or purple couches, the walls painted / papered in a pleasant combination of purple and lemon-yellow stripes. While the refrigerated cases are so-too modern, the loaded shelves and the apothecary jars filled with pretty macarons are all reminiscent of an old-school patisserie in France at the turn of the last century.
Truth be told, there is just something exquisitely more-ish about macarons. Unflavored, these are ethereal little discs made with ground almonds folded into meringue and sandwiched together with freshly whipped cream. However, when flavors are mixed into the basic structure of the macaron, it becomes utterly sublime. Whether it be coffee or lemon or even blueberry-flavored, the various extracts combine with the sweetened almonds to make a pleasing whole. These are best enjoyed at room temperature, but this usually sends me into a minor fit of panic as the delicate biscuits shatter and crumble when held even in the most precarious manner. Still, the second the meringue melts on your tongue and the cream fills your mouth in the most sensual manner, you, dear reader, become a lost cause. You will be completely, utterly seduced by the richness you have just consumed and it will leave you craving for more.
As far as macarons are concerned, my three favorites are the ones on the chilled plate at the top of this post. Rose, which I reviewed here, adds a fragrant floral twist to the recipe; I would sincerely appreciate a dozen of these more than a dozen long-stemmed blossoms. (Yes, Mr. W. Edible roses, s’il vous plait!)
The bluish-green Mint (also known as Wind when it was part of Bizu’s Elemental Macarons series a while back.), doesn’t taste like toothpaste but tastes more like the Andes Mint Parfait wafers I enjoyed in high school. The mint flavor is not, as Nigella Lawson would put it, sinus-clearing but it tastes remarkably fresh and works very well with the dark chocolate ganache.
And there’s the Cherry-Chocolate macaron: a darker pink than the rose but a shade lighter than the also-popular raspberry variant. One usually expects cherry-flavored foods to taste like artificially flavored cherry candy, but this one tastes more like cherry juice or puree was actually folded into the meringue. It’s quite fruity and the chocolate ganache between the biscuits makes eating this like nibbling chocolate cherry liqueurs – sans the alcohol, of course.
Apart from the macarons and as mentioned at the beginning of this post, Bizu offers classic Parisian cakes and pastries. (Their take on the traditional L’Opera is quite good, and I am addicted to their dark chocolate mendiants.) You can come in for filling breakfasts or stop by for English-style high tea in the afternoon where an epergne is loaded with scones, Eccles cakes, little sandwiches, and chocolate truffles and served with a pot of mild tea. Their warm mushroom salad is a personal favorite of mine and I have, alas, become addicted to their tangy and creamy Blueberry Yogurt Ice Velvet drink.
While Bizu is pricier than most places, I have found time and again to my satisfaction that it is always worth going there.
Now you know that life is unfair when you can find macarons, and really good ones at that, in the Philippines but NOT IN ITALY! Or at least I don’t know of any place in Italy that makes them.
On another note, a cowgirl getup huh? I never did get the hang of spinning the gun around my forefinger. Damn all those spaghetti westerns and the influence that they had on me!!