THUNDER BAY -- When Braden and Christine Pintar moved to Thunder Bay from southern Ontario last summer, they brought with them their macaron business, A Taste of France.
Macarons (not to be confused with macaroons, which are cookies made with coconuts) stump most home-bakers. However, Christine is not like most people. Her husband calls her “tenacious” with both wryness and admiration. Being French, she was determined to master the chic confection, and master it she did. Before the Pintars moved here, they supplied an Oakville bakery with macarons for two years.
When the family came to Thunder Bay to check out the city and shop for a house, they stopped by the Thunder Bay Country Market - and kept on coming back. “Just looking around, we saw tremendous opportunity and potential,” Braden recalls. “People love local. And they absolutely adore and crave macarons.”
While it seems like a slightly odd product for Thunder Bay, many people travel and have tried macarons in France or other cities and like it enough to try to find them when they get back home, he explains.
A Taste of France opened a stall upstairs at the market last November and customers keep coming back. Every month, the Pintars change up the flavours, offering 12 varieties. Several flavours such as salted caramel, strawberry and hazelnut are on regular rotation, while others such as tropical cocktail and champagne appear seasonally.
Each macaron is $2.25, and a box of 6 costs $13. You can collect a stamp for each box of 6 you buy, and you get a free box after your 10th one. You can also get a dollar off if you bring back the box for a refill.
The couple makes close to 500 every week (not counting special events such as weddings) but it’s not always smooth sailing.
“Even Christine sometimes has batches that go in the garbage,” Braden says. There are numerous things that can go wrong - “the feet don’t turn out, the meringue is over-whipped or not whipped enough. A new box of almond flour is enough to upset the recipe. A new mixer. New cooking sheets. A new oven. The humidity in the air. Fresh egg whites vs. liquid egg whites vs. powder. Once you get your method down, don’t change it!”
Chocolate raspberry is on the menu now, but the chocolate shells took five years to perfect. Some of the almond flour is replaced with cocoa, which made it tricky. While they experiment with some novel combinations (such as the vanilla basil) there are certain things that A Taste of France will not make, because it wouldn’t be a taste of France anymore. “We won’t do froot loops or candy cane,” Braden says. “And no, no pumpkin spice.”