Restaurant: Bel Cafe
Last Visited: March 20, 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: 801 West Georgia Street (at Rosewood Hotel Georgia)
Train: Vancouver City Ctr Stn Southbound
Price Range: $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 4 (based on macarons)
- Pastry Chef Wayne Kozinko
- Chef David Hawksworth
- Sister to Hawksworth Restaurant
- Single origin specialty coffee (49th Parallel)
- Artisan teas
- Seasonal menus
- Freshly baked goods/pastries
- Gourmet sandwiches/soups
- Full table service/take-out
- 6:30am – 7:00pm Monday to Friday
- 7:00am – 7:00pm Saturdays, Sundays & holidays
**Recommendations: Cookies n’ Cream Macaron
What? More macarons!? Yes, more macarons. It was Vancouver’s first year celebrating International Macaron Day on March 20 and my friend @mightyvanilla surprised me with these! It was a beautiful box of pastel coloured macarons from Chef David Hawksworth’s Bel Cafe, which is sister restaurant to Hawksworth Restaurant both at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. It’s one of the “major macaron players” left on my list to try, so that I did.
Although Bel Cafe offers a selection of gourmet soups, sandwiches and salads with West Coast flare, it is equally known for its freshly baked goods and of course macarons. It opened in November last year and their Parisian Macarons are one of the most sought over in the city.
Part of the reason is because Vancouver has been obsessed with this “dessert trend” for the last 2 years and counting, and the other reason is because it’s attached to the famous “Hawksworth” name. Coming from an award wining chef I think it’s natural for most people to have high expectations. Personally I did have high expectations, however I was reassured by trusted “foodie” friends that these macarons were quite good. Now I just want to try the rest of the menu.
To put things into perspective to show where I’m coming from, I’m going to reiterate my blog post The Perfect Parisian Macarons. Here’s a quick recap of what I personally look for in a macaron.
What I look for in a Parisian Macaron:
1) Smooth shells with no cracks or bumps
2) Macarons that hold their shape and don’t fall apart when you pick them up
3) Feet (the rim or edges of a macaron)
4) A gap between the shell and the inside of the cookie (if no gap, should be still crisp)
5) A crisp thin shell that cracks like an egg shell
6) Moist, soft, tender and smooth inside with slight chew
7) Sweetness (flavour of ground almonds and not just sugar)
8 ) Filling (ratio, chocolate/buttercream/jam)
9) Quality of ingredients (natural, local, fresh or extracts)
10) Freshness/shelf life (best eaten 1.5-3 days after it’s made, not fresh or stale)
11) Size (authentic ones are bite sized, but I’m not picky about this)
I tried them all without knowing their flavours to see if I could guess them. Most of them were obvious if the colours didn’t give them away already, but I still prefer Soirette Macarons & Tea, which is the newest macron player to hit the Vancouver scene. I found these ones very good, but I question the consistency because some were crisp and then some had little filling, but on the whole they were enjoyed. The flavours were unique and they looked quite nice, and I would say they are one of the better ones the city has to offer.
Other (but not all) Parisian macarons in Metro Vancouver include: Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie & Cafe, French Made Baking, Kitchening with Carly, Soirette Macarons & Tea, Thomas Haas, Faubourg, The Urban Tea Merchant, Ganache Patisserie, Kreation Artisan Cake, Saint Germain Bakery, Meinhardt Fine Foods, Stuart’s Bakery, La Baguette et L’Echalot, Urban Fare, Paul Croteau Confections, J’adore les Macarons, Say See Bon Patisserie, Boulangerie Chopain, Chicco Cafe, CinCin Ristorante, Leonida’s Waterfront, Well Seasoned, Chef Kev, OrganicLives, and many others! If I missed one please leave a comment and I’ll add it.
On the table:
- $2 each
- Macarons are tricky subjects because just like many desserts even a “bad” one isn’t that bad and it’s still a delicious sugary cookie in the end, unless it’s stale. However there are things I look for which are listed in my blog post The Perfect Parisian Macarons.
- They had smooth shells, verticle feet (rim around the edge), a tender, moist and slightly chewy inside, but perhaps a touch on the sweet side. They naturally are very sweet, but I likes ones that aren’t as sweet.
- The amount of filling was shy sometimes and most of them were crisp except for maybe 3 out of the 8 which isn’t too bad.
- Dark Chocolate Macaron – 3/6 (Good)
- This tasted like dark chocolate and espresso to me.
- I’m guessing it was 65-70% and it wasn’t super rich, but rather light and that slight bitterness seemed like it was coming from espresso more so than dark chocolate.
- The filling was creamy and it was good, but also quite ordinary for chocolate.
- Pistachio Macaron – 4/6 (Very good)
- It’s one of my favourite flavours in general and this one was obvious as pistachio.
- It was nutty with a good amount of pistachio paste in the buttercream, although I could have used more.
- I could taste actual pistachios and not just pistachio extract which I like.
- I personally liked the natural pistachio flavour at Soirette Macarons & Tea better.
- Point G in Montreal was the best pistachio macaron I’ve had so far and I still think about it.
- Vanilla Bean Macaron – 3/6 (Good)
- It didn’t have many vanilla bean seeds, but I did like that it had white chocolate ganache filling as opposed to buttercream. That’s always more valued since chocolate is pricier and classic with macarons.
- Since it was white chocolate it came off quite sweet compared to the rest.
- I would love more vanilla flavour because it was slightly plain yet not strong enough to be “natural almond” flavour either.
- Some almond extract might have helped bring out that vanilla too.
- Rose & Raspberry Macaron – 3/6 (Good)
- I could taste rose before raspberry and I thought it was just rose and maybe strawberry instead since I didn’t know the flavour.
- It was sweet more than tart and it only had a bit of buttercream so I could really only taste the rose.
- There wasn’t any actual raspberry fruit in the buttercream and it just tasted like rose water buttercream.
- This flavour might come off as soapy as rose can sometimes be.
- It was very floral and I would have loved either a lychee contrast, pistachio white chocolate contrast or some other flavour since the raspberry was so mild.
- Passion Fruit Macaron – 4/6 (Very good)
- This was one of the most obvious in flavour and it also had a tangy white chocolate ganache with perhaps the help of lemon.
- It kind of reminded me of lemon curd and it tasted similar to the yuzu filling (see Black Sesame & Yuzu macaron below).
- Maple Bacon Macaron – 2.5/6 (Okay-Good)
- I assumed it was salted caramel from how it looked.
- It was a bit salty, not too sweet, but also not really caramel like in flavour.
- I didn’t think bacon and it wasn’t that salty or smoky.
- If anything the buttercream was a bit less sweet than the others and perhaps even slightly greasy so I’m not sure if that was from just the butter or bacon grease.
- I didn’t even find it salty enough to be salted caramel so I definitely could have used a stronger bacon flavour.
- I would have loved little crispy bits of candied maple bacon in the filling as it would have been too heavy for the delicate macaron as a garnish.
- **Cookies n’ Cream Macaron – 6/6 (FMF Must try!)
- This was easily my favourite. It looked like cookies n’ cream and definitely tasted like it.
- There was a good amount of vanilla flavour and it was crisp, moist, and tender with a slight chew and the buttercream made it almost like a gourmet Oreo.
- I feel like this had more of a vanilla scent than the vanilla macaron.
- Black Sesame, Yuzu Macaron – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- It was a creative Euro-Asian “Vancouver flavour” and I’ve actually tried a similar flavoured macaron from Edmonton before.
- I thought black sesame when I saw the colour, but when I took a bite it tasted sweeter rather than nutty so I assumed blueberry even though it didn’t taste really like blueberry. It just didn’t taste quite like black sesame either and the aftertaste was a bit artificial.
- The yuzu buttercream was very apparent, bright, citrusy and lemony, and that stood out more than the macaron flavour. It was one of the better tasting buttercreams.
- I just wish it was nuttier and more aromatic with black sesame flavour.