Chantal Guillon (San Francisco, CA)

8:00:00 AM

Enchanté Chantal Guillon

For one reason or another, I always considered the macaron a sinful indulgence.

Why? I can’t give you a definite answer, but perhaps it’s a mixture of the fact that macarons are French. Pricy. Hard to obtain. Usually in exquisite boutiques. Bright and colorful hidden behind glass displays. And they beckon to you in a tempting ‘je ne sais quoi’ manner and you’re attracted. Attracted in an odd ‘you can look, but can’t touch’ sort of appeal.

And even after I stare long and hard at the displays and justify the cost to myself, I feel a little guilty. Like I did something bad.

Which is silly, but macarons just come across that way for me. They’re finicky and volatile and generally hard for the novice baker (a.k.a myself) to bake without messing something up in the process.

Not to mention all the steps. And the debate: Italian meringue vs. French meringue?

So instead of attempting and risking disaster (unless you guys are a fan of seeing the aftermath), I rather go out and purchase them at a store.

And out of all the ones I’ve tried, Chantal Guillon does macarons the best.

PC and I dropped by the Chantal Guillon in Hayes Valley back in August after escaping the room trapped with a zombie. It was a Sunday afternoon and San Francisco was having one of those rare summer days where it was pleasant and sunny. Hayes Street was filled with people eating a late lunch and hanging around the park. We strolled into Chantal Guillon, which had a small party (possibly a bridal shower) doing a “tasting” of a sort. I got momentarily confused because they were asking the girls behind the counters for macarons and eating them right there.

Part of me was wondering, are they really so generous that they’re giving out free samples?

Sadly, I was wrong.

The storefront is very pretty, delicate and minimalistic. The walls are painted white to allow the colorful macaron displays pop and shine. And that’s exactly what they do. When you walk in, the first thing you notice are the colorful sweets hanging out behind the glass displays just waiting for you to choose them and take them home.  

It's $1.85 per macaron and $11 for half a dozen. I went ahead and got a Green Tea (on the regular line) and Earl Grey macaron (seasonal flavor), but now looking back, I wished I had something fruity instead because the Earl Grey and Green Tea flavors were very strong. The Green Tea being the milder of the two. But both of them had a nice balance between bitter and sweet.  The macaron was chewy with a nice shiny shell, but the ganache in the center was strong and fragrant.

Earl Grey (Left) & Green Tea (Right)
PC bought half a dozen and went for another half a dozen after we sat around and lingered in one of the two tables inside the shop. I feel like the shop layout was well thought out because the tables were facing the window so that allowed you to nibble on your macaron while watch people stroll by outside. It also gave you a good view of the macarons-- still tempting and luring you to repurchase even after devouring the ones in your hand.

We had some time to kill before it was time for dinner, so it was nice to sit back and relax. They get a steady stream of customers who come in and out for macarons and this is a great place if you’re in a pinch and have to grab a gift for a birthday or dinner party.

The packaging is simple and gorgeous. There’s something inherently beautiful about the sleek lines contrasted against the bright colors and uniformity of the macaron.

It’s beautiful. Wistful sigh~

Despite it all, Chantal Guillon remains the elusive mistress.

Devouring a box of macarons ≠ Drinking a large milk tea

They’re simply incomparable. In price. In quality. In accessibility.

Especially the accessibility bit.

San Francisco is a hour long drive away and their next closest location is in Palo Alto. And while that won’t take me an hour, it’ll still take a good 25 - 30 minutes. So, for all of you guys lucky enough to live in the neighborhood, I recommend making a visit… or two.

After all Valentine’s Day is around the corner. And if your valentine is anything like me, I’ll take a box of macarons over a box of chocolates any day.

What tried and true macaron methods are there? Italian vs. French method? Or better yet, do you have an easy recipe because I always wanted to try-- but the recipes and youtube videos look daunting. Are there any local Bay Area places or online shops that make a better macaron than Chantal Guillon? If so, please leave me a comment because I love to pay them a visit.

437 Hayes St.
Ste A
San Francisco, CA 94102

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  1. The earl grey one is excellent. I also quite like their pistachio. Heard Bottega Louie Restaurant and Gourmet Market has some delicious macarons.

    1. I've heard of Bottega Louie, but I haven't heard of Gourmet Market. We should make a visit when we're in the neighborhood.