Amy Thomas has a self-proclaimed sweet tooth. In fact, when she spent two years living in Paris, she hunted down truffles, cakes and one of her her favorite sweets of all: macarons. Her research resulted in a recently-launched book: Paris, My Sweet: A Year of Living in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate).
Tracey Ceurvels: Tell me about living in Paris. What prompted you to move there?
Amy Thomas: Although I’d always had the fantasy of moving to Paris, I really had nothing to do with the opportunity that came my way. It was 2008 and I was working at an international ad agency in New York (Ogilvy & Mather), and the in-house recruiter approached me one day to ask if I wanted to go to the Paris office to write ad copy for the Louis Vuitton account. What kind of Louboutin-loving, Coco-worshipping, macaron addict wouldn’t? You couldn’t dream up a better scenario if you tried! (I said “yes.”)
Tracey: What do you miss most about living there?
Amy: I miss the constant beauty and inspiration. While I was there, I knew it wasn’t forever, so I really took advantage of everything. I traveled, I took cooking classes, I went to museums―I just opened up and absorbed everything possible. It was such a special time. And since I blogging about it all, I was hyperaware of my own observations and emotions. It was almost an out-of-body experience, but in the most magical and delicious way.
Tracey: Tell me about your love for sweets?
Amy: Some people like salty snacks; I love sweets. Growing up, I was always helpless around candy, cookies, sugary cereals, pastries―you name it, I devoured it. As an adult, the only thing that’s changed is the quality of the sweets I eat. Although I’ll still indulge in the occasional Dairy Queen blizzard or bag of Twizzlers, I prefer things like champagne truffles, salted caramel cupcakes and almond croissants.
Tracey: What are some of your favorite macarons?
Amy: In Paris, there are two kinds of people: those who think Pierre Hermé makes the best macarons, and those who think Ladurée’s macarons are best. Me, I like them both. Pierre Hermé’s macarons are still made by hand and come in really inventive flavors like raspberry and wasabi, white truffle and hazelnut, and olive oil and vanilla―all of which I love. But Ladurée’s macarons are pretty exquisite, too. If you like floral flavors, their rose macaron is pretty special.
Tracey: Do you have any favorite macarons here in the U.S.?
Amy: I recently discovered a tea parlor in the West Village called Bosie, and the pastry chef (Damien Herggott) is French and actually worked for Pierre Hermé for three years. His macarons are excellent. He does classics like chocolate and raspberry, but to have fun with American palates, he also offers fun flavors like maple bacon, peanut butter and jelly, and chai.
Tracey: Do you like to make macarons at home?
Amy: I’ve never tried to make them on my own. I took a macaron-making class in Paris, and learned firsthand just how persnickety they are. You have to whip egg whites into a perfect meringue, grind almonds and sugar into a fine pulp, mix the meringue and dry ingredients ever so gently so you don’t get spiky or flat cookies, pipe them into perfectly uniform circles, and then bake them at a very precise temperature for exactly the right amount of time, and then also create well-balanced, flavorful ganache to hold them together… Well, that’s a lot of work for one girl in the kitchen.
Tracey: What’s next on the horizon?
Amy: I’m having fun promoting my book, Paris, My Sweet. I’ve been doing readings and signings, and I’m returning to Paris in mid-April to celebrate the launch there. After these activities subside a little, I want to really sit down and figure out what’s next. I’d love to write another book, but have to figure out exactly what that would be. I also want to do some more traveling, so maybe something along the way will inspire me.
Tracey Ceurvels has written about food + travel for such publications as The Boston Globe, PAPER, Haute Living among other publications as well as on her blog, The Busy Hedonist. Interested in travel writing? Join Tracey for Fly Away Travel Writing Class, launching May 7th.