Meandering through an arrondissement (aka neighborhood) in Paris, you will inevitably stumble upon a la patisserie or bakery. With its aroma of fresh pastries laden with buttery goodness greeting you as you push open the door, you walk past the display case of croissants. Your destination is the counter piled high with trays of colorful cookies.
These are macarons, and quintessentially French.
Now, you can wander the neighborhood of 18th Avenue and Union in Seattle's Central District to stumble upon a small, woman-owned bakery specializing in these bite-size treats. Alexandra's Macarons, located at 1410 18th Avenue, fits the bill of a French neighborhood bakery. A gem on this local block and the sweet spot in Seattle.
Alexandra Greenwald began her culinary explorations as a young child, surrounded by three sisters in a home of foodies. Cooking and baking became a central theme in her life - forming a passion at a young age as she came to see food as an expression and art form. It was during her middle school years when she stumbled upon macarons. Their bright, colorful, and whimsical appearance captivated her imagination. She describes it as "being hooked from the start". Her baking canvas opened up to a world of possibilities.
Made from the simple ingredients of egg whites, almond flour and sugar, these treats become a palette in which chefs like Greenwald can create artistic and flavorful combinations. Inside her glass case, Greenwald displays flavors like Earl Grey, Lavender, and Rose side by side with traditional flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and espresso.
"Macarons are just simply elegant," she said. "With simple ingredients, creating a versatility which is ongoing and boundless".
They are a small bite of sweetness that is fashionable, fun, delicious, and photo-worthy! A perfect finish to complement a savory meal or accompany a cup of coffee.
The birth of Alexandra's Macarons came about as a pop-up shop back in 2013. As word-of-mouth grew, Greenwald found herself catering weddings and events, and eventually taking her colorful cookies to farmers markets, and wholesaling to other local coffee shops. The pillowy, delicate dessert became her trademark, along with another iconic symbol synonymous with Greenwald: "Gertrude" the hot pink 1973 Volkswagon bus.
Greenwald and Gertrude were sighted all over town delivering batches of baked goodies.
"People cannot help but smile when they see her," said Greenwald of her trusty VW bus. "Gertrude is a catch!"
As Greenwald and Gertrude maneuvered through the city streets, the following for their French macarons grew. So much so that this past summer Greenwald took a leap of faith and transformed her pastry truck business into a brick-and-mortar cafe.
"It's a dream come true," says Greenwald looking around her shop, where she and her partner labored with hammers, saws, and paintbrushes breathing new life into this cozy spot on 18th Avenue. "I could not have done any of this without the support of my community."
During this time, with the pandemic lurking in the background of people's minds, finding joy seems more relevant than ever. Greenwald's mission "is to spark joy, and cultivate connections through authentic, colorful, hand piped French macarons". Like so many restaurateurs, she and her crew pivoted, especially when farmers markets became limited and events canceled. They re-grouped, upping their game with take-out menus and deliveries. In fact, she expanded her delivery to encompass the greater Seattle area and Eastside. And not just macarons either. She now creates vegetarian soups, salads, and even a daily tartine (which is heavenly)! She has a full breakfast, lunch, and happy hour menu to choose from, all online at Alexandra's Macarons. Gertrude is more than happy to show up at your door with a little joy wrapped inside a bag.
Right now the future can seem unclear - but around Alexandra's Macarons, the clouds of uncertainty seem to be lifting. Greenwald desires to give back by creating a space that will bring people together over good food and have good conversations. A place for connecting with one another and build community, one macaron at a time.
This sweet spot in the Central District hopes to host future evening events filled with music and poetry, offer a variety of cooking classes, and even a guest chef dinner series.
For now, do as the French do and find a little joie de vivre in the shape of a macaron.
Alexandra's Macarons is located at 1410 18th Avenue and is open from 7:00 am - 7:00 pm, 7 days a week. They are currently offering curbside pick-up and delivery due to recent Covid-19 restrictions. While some of the products, services, and/or accommodations in this post were provided without charge, all of the opinions within are those of the author and the Seattle Refined editorial board.