Local Spotlight: Maison Burdisso

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WHAT: The best French macarons in town -- and proof that good taste is hereditary. In Houston, the word "macaroon" typically inspires visions of lightly sweet, chewy mounds of shredded coconut tenaciously held together by egg whites. But a "macaron" -- minus one O -- is a delicate French sandwich cookie, filled with flavorific cream joy. Four years ago Jackie Burdisso became infatuated with the gorgeous macarons that graced the pages of her favorite French cooking magazines. She sought them out, tasted a few, and just knew that she had to learn how to make them for herself.

When she casually mentioned her desire to her father, a retired master French patissier, the elder Burdisso just laughed. Turns out, it was precisely the right time for him to hand over the double-secret family recipe. Jackie returned to France, home of the Maison Burdisso bakery, which was started by her grandparents and passed down to her father. And that is where father sculpted daughter into a pastry chef.

Lightly sweet and just a little chewy, Maison Burdisso macarons let the flavors shine -- pistachio, pink grapefruit, lavender, fig, kiwi, and dozens more. And others have taken note... Last year, Burdisso collaborated with chef Monica Pope on the dessert for the Outstanding in the Field dinner, creating a sage-flavored macaron shell filled with a local butternut squash white chocolate ganache; in the center was a fitting chunk of Texas Bosque Blue Cheese along with a piece of spiced local pecan. She counts experiences like this as some of her greatest joys: "When you use local products, it really keeps the community going," she says.

Although the macarons are her bestseller, Burdisso also makes caramels with fleur de sel, spiced almonds, organic pecan sandies, and canales (small cakes flavored with vanilla beans and rum, a specialty of the Bourdeaux region of France). You may bristle at the price per piece, but Burdisso's desserts are handmade with the finest elements. She works tirelessly to source premium ingredients, using local sugars and pecans as much as possible. These are not a-handful-in-one-sitting Oreo special, but rather a special occasion treat, divinity incarnate.

WHERE: You can find Maison Burdisso macarons and wares at the t'afia and Rice University farmers' markets. Kuhl-Linscomb carries the macarons and the spiced almonds. And the Thompson + Hanson nursery carries the caramels and almonds, and soon will have the macarons, too.

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