After La Waffletz chef-owner Roger Martinho began making his French macarons, they became so popular that he added the name Macaron Station to the waffle and pastry business he operates in the food court at Freighthouse Square.
La Waffletz and Macaron Station is not the only bakery in town offering the pastries, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bakery with a better selection. Each day, find more than a dozen macaron flavors with straightforward pairings and fanciful mishmashes. They’re priced $1.75 each.
Macarons are shaped like a cookie, but taste far closer to a pastry than a standard cookie. They’re made from batter of almond flour and egg whites, which is why some might describe the pastry as a pliable meringue. The first bite is all crackle and air, but the inside is always sticky, buttery or gooey, with sweet fillings ranging from ganache to sticky fruit to buttercream frosting.
Stroll by the small food stand and you’ll be taken by the rainbow of macarons in two layers inside the bakery case.
And, yes, they do look like cookies.
“They love the macarons, but they think they’re cookies,” said Martinho. His customers commonly mistake them for the similarly spelled macaroon coconut cookie, which is why a cheat sheet above the display case describes the difference between a coconut cookie and the Parisian pastry.
Martinho gives specific directions for enjoying his macarons. Keep them refrigerated up to seven days, but be careful because they’ll pick up funky odors in the fridge (keep them out of your cheese bin). Before eating, leave them at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.
His flavors sometimes skew unexpectedly. Like that time he made a wasabi macaron. “One customer said it was disgusting,” said Martinho with a laugh. But in the pastry chef’s hands, spicy and sweet are some of his most successful flavor pairings.
His macaron called Tajimango combines the Mexican pepper-lime-salt spice blend Tajin with mango. One bite tasted like a Mangonada drink translated into a pastry. The spicy-salty blend accentuated the sweet mango finish.
The rose-raspberry was another try-it-before-you-dismiss-it pastry. Dried rose petals flickered on the pale pink surface. The first bite tasted of raspberry air, then rose, then an infusion of raspberry puree smack in the center of the lightly sweet frosting. None of the pastries are overly sweet.
Salted caramel was another that offered a surprise center: a squiggle of salted caramel oozed from the creamy frosting.
I coveted the chocolate-filled versions. A double chocolate sandwiched dark ganache, as did a pale green pistachio macaron and a vivid red raspberry with a surprise filing of more raspberry puree nestled within the ganache. The Nutella held a chocolate center flavored with hazelnut.
My favorite was the cinnamon roll, which tasted like a French pastry chef’s interpretation of the most delicious Red Hots candy you’ve ever eaten. The center tasted of buttercream. The almond macaron was as tasty as an almond tart. A coffee macaron was like a cup of espresso distilled into a dessert, with a rich, creamy center.
Assertive fruit flavors were memorable, such as the bright orange passion fruit and neon green key lime, made with tart buttercream frosting centers.
Find Martinho behind the bakery case 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays. He previously worked as a corporate chef and a pastry chef, but he and his wife Mirtha Sanchez, who co-owns the business, wanted to venture out with their own food business. They started selling macarons at Seattle-based farmers markets, but fell in love with Tacoma after their first market experience here.
“The customers are more open, more friendly. There’s more interchange and talking. We love the people in Tacoma,” he said.