Thursday, October 8, 2009

Alliance Bakery

Alliance Bakery is equal parts bakery, study hall, and a coffee house. And somehow it manages to stand out in an eclectic neighborhood like Wicker Park. It's certainly an impressive place - or collection of places (there's the bakery/coffee room, a front patio, and a lounge next door) - and one that feels homey, clean, and slightly modern all at once.

The numerous attractive displays distracted me and it took me a while to settle on two macarons (not to be confused with macaroons) and a chocolate chip cookie. I think it's safe to say that a truly great bakery will do both of the aforementioned items well...

The cookie, which I felt to be fairly priced at $1.10, was okay. That's it. It was nothing special, it wasn't especially tasty, it wasn't especially sweet, it wasn't especially chewy, and it wasn't especially crunchy. It was mealy and bland and its golden brown look was the best thing about it. In fact, the appearance of the cookie is what misled me. It built my hopes up and led me to crushing disappointment. Okay, well, maybe I wasn't let down that much, but I still expected something better than homemade at a high-end bakery.

The macarons were small, refrigerated, and $1.50 each. Yes, that's right, $1.50 each for a two-bite, cold macaron. I actually did some research on macarons because I had never been served them refrigerated before and I wondered if I had been having them improperly all my life. Rest assured, I haven't been. I just got off the phone with Pierre Hermé and he told me they're supposed to be served at room temp.

The one on the left is the chocolate with salted caramel, which makes the one on the right the pistachio with brandied cherry. Neither macaron was as delicate as I would've liked, but it seems like the obvious answer to that is the low temperature at which they were served. I cannot though, hate on the unique taste of each macaron.

The chocolate with salted caramel had a chocolate powder dusted top shell and a silky buttercream filling that delivered just the right amount of sweetness. It lacked the salt that its title led me to anticipate, but I didn't mind. Now, if it weren't hard and cold, it would've been nearly perfect.

The pistachio with brandied cherry was a more complex and more successful creation in my eyes. It's delicate, crackly pistachio shell oozed with a jam and buttercream combo with such vibrant flavor harmonies that danced on my tongue like the paint on a Pollock canvas.

Knowing that I can get 5 room temperature macarons at Whole Foods for less than $1.50 makes it hard to give a glowing recommendation to the macarons at Alliance Bakery. I mean, $1.50 for a big macaron wouldn't be outrageous, but $1.50 for the size that they're selling? Yeah, it's a bit crazy. That said, Alliance Bakery didn't go 0 for 2 and it has a lot more to offer than chocolate chip cookies and macarons.

Back or Forth? I will be back.

Alliance Bakery - Wicker Park - (773)278-0366 - 1736 W. Division Street, Chicago, IL 60622 - Public transportation: Division stop of the Blue Line or bus 70.

chocolate chip cookie - $1.10
chocolate with salted caramel macaron - $1.50
pistachio with brandied cherry macaron - $1.50

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