Chicagoans: Are you ready to be won over by gourmet macaroons?

I admit it. I am usually partial to macarons - the French cookies made with egg whites, sugar and ground almonds, and filled with ganache, buttercream or jam. I love the unique flavor combinations you can find at Chicago bakeries and patisseries. When I want a small, gourmet, flavorful treat, it's usually a macaron - not a macaroon. That was until I sampled a Salted Caramel macaroon from Danny Macaroons.

Danny Macaroons lands in the Windy City

Courtesy of Molly Bett Kovler

Courtesy of Molly Bett Kovler

Just over a year ago, Dan Cohen of Danny Macaroons brought his first batch of macaroons to the JP Graziano in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood. Today, you can find his gourmet macaroons at more than 20 stores, cafes and restaurants across the city, including Belly Q, Goddess and The Grocer, Lincoln Park Zoo and Southport Grocery.

The New York-born entrepreneur has since made Chicago his home, moving here from New York City about 10 months ago, and now whips up new flavor inspirations from his kitchen right here in the Windy City.

Dan, who first started selling Danny Macaroons in New York City in 2010, is also looking to open a new production facility in Chicago, helping him to continue to offer his gourmet macaroons in even more locations throughout the Chicago area and in his next two markets - Washington, D.C., and Ohio.

It's time to give macaroons another try

Danny MacaroonsIf you had asked me why I didn't tend to reach for a macaroon - with an extra "o" - instead of a macaron, I probably would have said something about the round cookies, chock full of coconut, reminding me of the ones my mom always doled out to us on Passover.

The small, dense, slightly greasy cookies were big on coconut, but short on creativity. While I always looked forward to my mom opening the can each holiday, once it was over, we never looked at, or thought of, macaroons again.

For anyone who equates macaroons to the ones that come packed into a can, ripe with a strong coconut flavor, you should think outside the can and give Danny Macaroons a try.

As Dan recalled to me, coconut in its natural state is an ideal canvas for layering other flavors on top. Coconut takes on the strong, often polarizing flavor we've come to associate with Almond Joy candy bars and canned macaroons which have coconut extract added to it. Without the extra artificial flavoring overpowering our tastebuds, we're free to taste the flavors combined with the natural coconut.

And, trust me, when I sampled that first Salted Caramel macaroon those were the flavors that grabbed my tastebuds - not the coconut.

Danny Macaroons are sold individually or in multi-packs - with no cans in sight.

45 macaroon flavors - and counting

Package of Danny MacaroonsDanny Macaroons come in more than 45 flavors like Chocolate Almond, Chocolate-Caramel, Black Chocolate Stout and Red Velvet. When I spoke to Dan, he had just made Carrot Cake macaroons and was going to head into the kitchen to create a new flavor using a liqueur produced by Chicago-based distillery, Koval.

Dan said he finds his flavor inspirations from daily life, restaurant and bakery menus, and his own palate - making a Chocolate Banana Nut macaroon simply because he always loved chocolate banana milkshakes as a kid.

For the holiday season, you expect to be able to indulge in seasonal flavors like Maple Pecan Pie, Rice Pudding, Spiced Pumpkin, and Gingerbread - perfect for any holiday table.

Macaroons in five ingredients or less

The Macaroon BibleMacaroons fans will be glad to know that Dan Cohen recently released his first cookbook, The Macaroon Bible. The cookbook shares more of the Danny Macaroons story, and includes more than loads recipes for creative, handcrafted macaroons.

Most recipes only include a handful of ingredients, making it easy to whip up a batch of the gourmet, gluten-free delights for you - or your friends.

Dan even assured me that someone with limited baking skills - like moi - could easily bake up some macaroons. The secret is in lots of mixing and scooping, which I think I can handle.

Adding the cookie with the extra "o" to my list of favorites

Now whenever I'm asked if I prefer macarons or macaroons, I'll have a tough time making a decision. And, that's okay to me. Why just go with one when you can enjoy both of the small, flavorful, handcrafted creations readily available right here in Chicago.

Do you like macaroons and have you tried Danny Macaroons? If you're not a coconut fan, would you be willing to give gourmet macaroons from Danny Macaroons a try? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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