The Perfect Cookie: St. Augustine
French confections are sweeping the South (in the form of madeleines, financiers, and canneles) but we were still surprised and completely charmed to discover a contender that can hold its own with La Duree (aka, the Parisian birthplace of the double decker macaroon.)
Opened in St. Augustine just two weeks ago, Bon Ami Confections specializes in macaroons as the French make them: with almond flour, egg whites, and sugar -- and just a little food coloring.
The result: a cheery palette of colors that stops you in your track, and flavors like Earl Gray, Salted Caramel, and Lemon -- the perfect snack to nibble on while walking the alleys of the historic town.
Owner Stephen DiMare, who also owns the popular Hyppo Popsicles just across the street, got the idea after visiting confectionary shops across Europe. Like the Hyppo, his vision for Bon Ami was a place where tourists and locals could get a break from the chain restaurants and fudge shops often owned by out-of-towners. He says buying local ingredients, employing local workers, and keeping money in his hometown of St. Augustine is just as important as the creation of the delicate treats.
That's right. Though the ingredient list is short, traditional French macaroons are what you might call "high-maintence treats," fickle, difficult to make confections.
Enter baker Channie Higgins, who spent months perfecting the technique, taking into account factors like Florida's humidity (a macaroon killer) and creating a shell that would allow the filling to properly saturate, but not overpower the sensitive baked goods. Then, when the macaroons are two to four days old, they are ready for sale and consumption -- prime time for the ingredients to form a mouthwatering masterpiece.
"The best compliment we've received so far was from a woman who used to work at La Duree," Stephen says. "She was visiting town and stopped by the shop, where she proceeded to eat one after the next, saying they were just as good as the ones at La Duree."
Can't get a much better compliment than that.
In addition to the macaroons, made daily, Bon Ami also serves handmade marshmallows (think: flavors like rose, cookies and cream) and a selection of cookies (lavender shortbread anyone?) The treats are best enjoyed with a cup of their cold brew coffee -- delicious.
Adieux fudge shops -- we're gonna choose the macaroons.
Bon Ami is located at 15 Hypolita Street. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; (904)342-5627. Follow Bon Ami on Facebook