Ever since we sampled the macarons at the Taste the Future event we attended a couple of weeks ago, my husband I and have been meaning to stop by the Short North storefront of Pistachio Sweets. One glance at their online menu, and it was a sure bet. Since their hours are fairly short (closed by 6pm, closed Sunday and Monday) I armed my husband with a list of things to get on his way to work yesterday and sent him on his merry way. He gave a call to the shop yesterday afternoon, and they promised to set aside the items he wanted. He came home last night with three beautiful boxes.
I opened the big box first:
Yum! Macarons! I didn’t know that there was a difference between macarons and macaroons until recently: The Traveler’s Lunchbox has a great entry on the subject that explains it better than I can. Parisian style macarons are not the coconut mounds of your youth. They’re difficult to explain because the cookie themselves are complex – a thin crispy outside, a little chewy inside, overwhelmingly (sometimes) sweet filling. It’s all about the levels of texture and flavor, at least to me. I’d already tried the Lemon Pistachio flavor at Taste the Future, so I decided to try a few other flavors: (from left to right) Chocolate Mint, Espresso Gianduja, Amaretto, Rosewater Raspberry ($1 each). My opinions (and bear in mind, taste is purely subjective – something that isn’t my cup of tea may be the best thing you’ve ever tasted)? I didn’t even get to try the Chocolate Mint – husband scarfed it before I had a nibble. The Espresso Gianduja was subtle, but very good. The Amaretto was overwhelmingly cloying – the almond flavor reached up and smacked you in the face, which made me unable to take more than a nibble (this coming from someone who LOVES amaretto). The Rosewater Raspberry was the most interesting of the bunch – nice raspberry flavor with a fleeting taste of what you would imagine the smell of roses would taste like (it kind of reminded me of the Rose Milk lotion my grandmother used when I was younger). Not bad, just different. Not a flavor I’m used to, but one I could learn to really like.
The second row has a couple of canelés ($1 each). They sounded very interesting. And I really wanted to like them, very much so, especially after this post at Chocolate and Zucchini and the rave reviews of Pistachio’s canelés from Lisa at Restaurant Widow. I loved the texture – chewy outside, moist inside, but something was off about the taste of them. I didn’t mind that they weren’t very sweet (as I prefer my desserts less sweet). I don’t know if it was the mace that they sprinkle in the pans, or the fact that they’re so dark (because of the caramelizing), but they just tasted burnt to me. Maybe if I ever make it to Paris I’ll give it another try. My husband tried it and agreed, but he liked his a bit more than I liked mine.
We got three cookies. The one on top is a Chocolate Chunk Crispies cookie ($1), which I didn’t get to try, once again due to the scarfing of aforementioned husband. The middle one, a Fig Oat cookie ($1), reminded me of a cross between a really good oatmeal cookie and really good fig preserves. The hidden one, Double Chocolate Pistachio ($1), was also very good as well.
My favorite dessert of the whole batch is next to the cookies: Chewy Caramel with Salted Cashews ($1.50). Before I rave about them, let me make a little admission first: my favorite desserts in the whole world, and probably my favorite flavor combination ever is that of sweet and salty. It’s why Jeni’s Salty Caramel will always be my favorite ice cream. It’s why even those most Hershey’s chocolates are dreck, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It’s why I loved Butter Pecan ice cream growing up. It’s why I love Kettle Corn. Yum. And this confection is one of the best I’ve had, ever – hands down. It’s like taking a pint of Jeni’s Salty Caramel and compressing it down to a 2×2 square. Fantastic. Chewy as heck, but fantastic. The Belgian Chocolate Brownie ($2) (below the caramel) hasn’t been tasted yet.
Now, to the second box:
Clockwise, from the top: Caramelized Pineapple Bay Leaf Vanilla Bean Eclair ($3). I’m sorry, this just wasn’t my cup of tea. Too many flavors going on at once, and really hard to eat (and finish). Of course, I’ve never been a huge eclair person to begin with.
Next, a Bittersweet Chambord truffle ($1.50). I didn’t really taste much Chambord, but it was so chocolatey, and so rich that I couldn’t finish it in one sitting. I love my chocolate dark and bittersweet, and it delivered on that count.
My favorite in this box was the Caramel Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch ($4), for the same reasons that I liked the Caramel – salty. Very dense, very rich, very good.
The final box contained a Milk Chocolate Caramel with Fleur de Sel Terrine ($20). I don’t have a picture of the whole thing, but here’s a couple of slices:
Now, what really surprised me is that I thought that this would be my favorite (because of the salt thing), but I was wrong – it was good, but not outstanding. I wouldn’t walk away from it if someone else was serving it, but I’ll probably not buy it again.
If you’re over in the Short North, stop by there and pick up a few things and conduct your own taste test. The concept is really unique to the Columbus market, and the prices are reasonable.
If you’d like to go: Pistachio Sweets, 680 North Pearl Street, Columbus 43215. 614-220-9070.
— UPDATE —
As of Labor Day 2007, Pistachio has changed its name to Pistacia Vera, and moved its locale from the Short North to German Village. They still make all the great stuff they made before, plus some new items. Here’s the new information:
Pistacia Vera, 541 S. Third St, Columbus (German Village). 614.220.9070