Saturday, May 9, 2009

Macaron Madness

Wanting to spice up the most banal of errands, I naturally gravitated towards the gustatory. What was I in the mood for? I finished the errand earlier than expected and had several languid hours ahead -at just the right time for an afternoon tea. A yen for macarons arose -not unusual, as I am besotted with these creatures- and I found myself heading towards the only place in town I knew of which makes them. Rushing in pell-mell near closing time, I was relieved to see the macarons in the corner of the display case. Neon pink and lime green, those puffy meringues enticed me and I ended up getting both flavors.

With the loot safe in my satchel, I was off to have tea. I could have stayed put in that unprepossessing lobby and chosen a cup of the Assam as the bakery really does have a decent selection of loose-leaf teas. But it would have meant wrangling with a large paper cup -the plastic lid invariably snapping open when you least expected it, scorching your fingers with the too-hot water. The leaves, likewise, cossetted in a paper infuser, would have had to be bailed out when the tea finished brewing -a second opportunity for scalding those fingers. So out of a desire for self-preservation, I carried off my quarry.

Now seated in a nook at this most congenial of coffeehouses (which carries a respectable number of Rishi teas) with my macarons now unwrapped, a cup of pu-errh steaming in my hands, I was content.

The sun streamed in through large windows as I sipped the pu-errh- a Chinese tea truly in a class of its own. Always fermented, pu-errhs are left to age in storerooms for as long as a decade before they are sold for use.

The liquor had a rich dark brown hue and the scent was heady -a deep inhalation causing any dormant cells in my nostrils to awaken from slumber, akin to what a waft of horseradish could do. The taste was brisk and equally potent. Earthy and at the same time slightly sweet, it was not unpleasant. I bit into a macaron: delightfully chewy, the raspberry flavor melded with the silky soft buttercream.

With the light of the day ebbing, holding the china cup between sips - and nary a tea-stain nor a wounded fingertip in sight- I felt strongly a marriage of practicality and aesthetics.

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