Made with Love: A Macaron Story

Made with Love: A Macaron Story

Love can be sweet.

For Christina Ha and Simon Tung, co-founders and owners of the East Village’s Macaron Parlour, love can also be infused with lemon tartness, subtle Earl gray tea and even peanut butter and caramelized bananas.

This St. Marks patisserie—which celebrated its one year anniversary earlier this month—has been luring in foodies with the largest selection of macaron flavors in New York City, from classics like chocolate and strawberry to oddballs like the Cheetos macaron.

In fact, this cheesy-American-chip-inspired dessert, first created as a joke by the creative duo last Halloween, is said to be making a comeback this year just in time for October 31st.

After all, it was Halloween that brought the couple together.

The two first met at a Halloween party in 2009. Ha, originally from New Jersey, was 23 at the time and working in the fashion industry while New York native and then 28-year-old Tung was an attorney recruiter. After discovering that they both shared a soft spot for the tiny, colorful meringue, the two decided to start a macaron business together.

Ha, who previously studied at La Haute Pâtisserie Pierre Hermé in Paris, become prime baker while Tung, who worked alongside famous French pastry chef, Stephane Glacier, took charge of everything else. By 2010, what started off as a booth at the Hester Street Fair had grown quickly in popularity and spread throughout the city’s food fairs. Finally, in 2012, the Macaron Parlour was born and, sweeter yet, Tung and Ha tied the knot.

Since opening the bakery, the couple has quickly expanded beyond the shop, selling to various cafés and Chelsea Market as well as catering for weddings and birthdays. “They’re just cute. Everyone loves them,” says Tung. “They’re small and you don’t have to feel guilty about buying a lot of them. They also come in a lot of flavors.”

No kidding.

Not only does the Macaron Parlour carry 20 classic choices—including pistachio, dark chocolate, and chocolate raspberry—but it also features four specialty flavors rotated every couple of weeks like the spice-and-peanut Thai chili, the maple-candied bacon with cream cheese and, of course, the Cheetos.

“People talked about the Cheetos macaron a lot,” says Tung, whose favorites are the staples: lemon, caramel and hazelnut. “But when they order, they usually end up choosing something else. I think so far it’s been more popular in theory.”

The shop also seasonally carries its own over-the-top ice cream sandwiches—an indulgent scoop of ice cream, with flavors like salted caramel, served between two large, color-swirled macaron cookies—alongside house pastries like chocolate-filled croissants, cookies, blondies and a mean crème brûlée doughnut complete with caramelized glaze and a flan-filled center.

“We have a laid-back vibe here,” says Tung, sitting at the back of the bakery, a collection of hand-drawn artwork taped on the wall behind him and the delicate nutty aroma swirling through the kitchen archway. “I don’t think we’re as uppity as other places, you know? You could come in with a hangover if you just wanted a macaron.”

 

During the busiest times—weekends and end-of-the-year holidays—Tung says Christina and her baking team round off more than 3000 macarons a day. For all pastry fans and aspiring bakers, Tung says they also host how-to classes in the shop’s own kitchen.

Taught by the store’s pastry staff, participants can learn the tricks of mastering the delicate process and patience of macaron making. And of course, after the three hour class, participants can take their buttercream and ganache-filled batches home to enjoy.

Being married and running a business together may seem like a double-feat to some but that isn’t quite the case for this power team. “It’s great,” says Tung. “I feel like the business has actually helped keep our relationship working.” And though starting the shop was very stressful, Tung admits it has been “extremely rewarding at the same time.”

As for a forecast of upcoming flavors? Tung says, “We always come out with a few holiday flavors so you can look forward to those!” But until then, the next featured macaron will be kept a secret. The inspiration is, after all, as unpredictable as it is simple: “Christina likes Cheetos. We get ideas from things we like to eat.”

 

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