Petit Bourgeois Volume 5: The Paris Macaron Mystery (Part 2)

The Paris Macaron Mystery (Part 1) | Contents | The Paris Macaron Mystery (Part 3)


Patisserie Kogi Annex Ruriko was constructed at a location about ten minutes’ walk south of Nagoya station. It was not as bustling as the area in front of the station, but it had a cluster of commercial buildings, and we entered one such building facing the intersection. The walls were made of bricks, or tiles that had a brick-like texture, and were covered in lush ivy. Signs were embedded into the sides of the white double doors. They were seemingly made out of brass and had some letters of the alphabet written on them, but I couldn’t make heads or tails about it as I had never encountered the words they formed. Well, it was probably the name of the shop.

Under the eaves was an easel which had a blackboard propped up on it, with the words, “Thank you for your patronage. We are still preparing for the takeout service. Takeout sales will begin on September 20.” So Osanai-san not being able to get the four types of macaron to go was not due to some serious reasons, but because the store was simply not ready for it.

While the shop was only a short distance away from the station, it was still a little far from the hustle and bustle, and was thus in not a very good location, but the interior was quite crowded at this time, which was about five o’clock. Sweet aromas wafted up into the high, spacious ceiling, and while the floor space seemed to be quite wide, a large L-shaped showcase took up a lot of space, so there weren’t a lot of tables. It seemed that they were conjoining two-seater tables as necessary. A waiter in a pocketless black apron approached us.

“Welcome. Table for how many?”

Osanai-san’s eyes were glued to the showcase, so I answered.

“Two.”

“Table for two.”

A nameplate was attached to the waiter’s chest, and on it was written his name, Saeki, and in red letters that he was still in training. Since the shop had just opened, it made sense that the waiters were lacking in experience.

The waiter indicated the only empty table with his hand.

“Please use that table by the window. You can make your order here.”

It seemed that we were supposed to order before going to our table. As we faced the showcase, the waiter placed on our table a token with the number 6 written on it, probably a mark to show that the table was taken.

Since Osanai-san was talking about macarons, I’d assumed this to be a macaron specialty store, but all sorts of cakes were on display in the showcase. Besides cakes I recognized like Fraisier1, Opera2, and Mont Blanc3, there were also many other cakes I knew by name but had only seen once or twice. Macarons took up a third of the showcase. There were some in pastel colors, others closer to the primary colors, and even a few with marbled patterns. With a quick glance, I noticed that Osanai-san was staring at the macarons, a relaxed grin from ear to ear.

Clearing her throat, she emphatically knitted her eyebrows.

“As I said earlier, we’ll order the Tea & Macaron Set. I want you to order the persimmon macaron, and you can choose whatever you like for the other two.”

“Alright.”

After studying the macarons in the showcase, I gave my order to the attendant behind the counter, whose nameplate mentioned that they were also in training.

“A tea and macaron set, please. For the macarons, I would like the persimmon, banane4 and cacao.”

As I was told to wait at my seat, I headed for the table.

The table we were led to was by a window. The walls of the store facing the four-lane road had all been turned into windows. Across the road stood a building with a gigantic clock fitted on it, with its needles pointing to just before five o’clock. I slid back into the comfortable seat and took a short breath. I’d never thought that I would end up eating macarons in Nagoya on the way home from school. With Osanai-san, all sorts of things could happen.

With us entering the store, it became full. With my eyes, I counted twelve tables. From listening to Osanai-san’s lecture, I’d assumed that it was targeted more towards a young clientele, but the customer base was actually more diverse than I thought. There were many parties of two, but also a lively table of six, as well as a few single customers here and there. One woman broke into a beaming smile, all propriety forgotten as soon as a macaron entered her mouth, while another furiously demolished her Mont Blanc with a spoon using her right hand while fiddling with their mobile phones using their left. There were even a uniformed girl touching up her hair, with her compact open and her desserts neglected.

Also, the customers were almost all female. Including me, there were only two male customers. The other person was a bespectacled man in a suit, a thin laptop open on his table. He must have quite some guts to do work in a shop where sweet scents swirled freely around. But perhaps he was a die-hard fan of sweets who wanted to record what he had eaten on his laptop.

I calmly looked around the shop to find that compared to the somehow Märchen-esque5 exterior with its monotone base and lack of adornments, the interior gave off a chic feel. On the other side of the showcase was a glass wall, through which you could see the kitchen, where a man in a chef’s coat and hat was stretching dough. Perhaps he would be there for the entire day, continuously stretching dough for no reason other than to let the customers watch.

There were two white doors on the wall opposite the entrance. One of them led to the toilet, while the other had a sign with the English words “STAFF ONLY” written on it, so it probably led to some space exclusively for employees.

Osanai-san was still lingering in front of the showcase. Strange, hadn’t she already decided what she wanted to order? What was she agonizing about now? I was just about to get up and ask her if something had happened, but at that exact timing, she struck up a conversation with a waiter, and she seemed to be done.

Osanai-san was wearing a strangely serious face when she came over to the table. She looked dazed and was looking down, as if she was at a troubling crossroads of her life, and didn’t know what to do.

“What’s the matter?”

I reflexively asked, and was met with a weak smile.

“Give me a moment.”

She sat back down and turned her head, looking around the store as I’d done earlier, and her face clouded over. She must have noticed something, but I couldn’t find anything that would make her feel uneasy. Wondering if I’d missed something out, I looked around again.

Based on the height and angle of Osanai-san’s eyes, the thing that made her expression change was not part of the interior, but probably another customer. For example, surrounding the table closest to us were three elderly women laughing and chatting with each other. That group seemed to have macaron and black tea set, for each one had in front of them a teapot, teacup, teaspoon, a small pot that probably contained sugar, a milk pitcher, as well as a colorful macaron on a small plate. There was nothing out of place… or was there?

“There’s really none.”

Osanai-san’s muttering served as a hint. Right, that table of three was missing something it should have. As I felt a tinge of frustration for not getting it without the hint, I spoke.

“Indeed, there’s nothing to wipe your hands with.”

Osanai-san wordlessly nodded.

There was no sight of any wet towels, wet tissues, or napkins.

“I wonder if the staff here forgot.”

Upon hearing my words, she lightly shook her head.

“There are many shops like this. High-end shops and those that want to give off the impression of one don’t put out wet towels. That is too Japanese, so they don’t do it to create a more authentic atmosphere.”

Hmm…

“A more authentic atmosphere, huh…”

As I thought that it was unavoidable if that was the reason, Osanai-san clearly declared her thoughts on the matter.

“In that regard, I prefer Japanese-style.”

I could understand why she was concerned, as while cakes and drinks were fine, macarons are eaten by hand. Osanai-san abruptly stood up.

“I’ll go wash my hands.”

“Sure. I’ll want to wash my hands too, so let’s take it in turns. We can look after each other’s things.”

“Thanks.”

However, the washroom seemed to be already occupied, so Osanai-san stood completely motionless opposite the door. Her back was straightened, and it was probably meant to be an exquisite standing posture, but her short stature unfortunately made it seem like she was a small child standing at ceremony in a shop she was unfamiliar with.

A waiter-in-training came over to the table, tray in hand, and bowed.

“Thank you for waiting. Here is the Tea & Macaron Set.”

I thought that he should have understood that there were two of us since Osanai’s things were in her seat, but without hesitation, he arranged the tea set in front of me, then rotated the small plate containing macarons by a few degrees before setting it down on the table.

Of course, I had heard of macarons and seen photographs of them, but this was my first time seeing them in person. It was scary to imagine what Osanai-san would say if she knew about this, but the images I’d seen were close-ups which didn’t tell me anything about size, so I’d always held the impression that macarons looked like colorful hamburgers. The shape formed by two flat hemispherical baked sweets holding some paste in between did bear some resemblance to hamburgers, but having finally seen the real thing, the size was completely different. Three was impossible, but I could probably fit two macarons in each palm.

The orange-colored one with strong hints of red was likely the persimmon. Fresh yellow would be the banana, and dark brown would be the cacao. The macarons formed an upside-down triangle from where I was seated. The one closest to me was persimmon, while the banana and the cacao were lined up at the back. For the persimmon macaron, was persimmon used for the paste, or was it included in the outer cookies? Perhaps it was both.

I wanted to touch it, but hesitated, since I hadn’t washed my hands yet. First, let’s fill my cup with black tea. Thinking of pouring it high from the cup6, I raised my arm, when the waiter approached again.

“Thank you for waiting.”

This time, he brought over Osanai-san’s set, and once again rotated the small plate a little before setting it onto the table. For a person who adores sweets like Osanai-san, having sweets brought before her should make her heart flutter, but unfortunately she was away from her seat. I took a glimpse towards the direction of the washroom to see that there was now no one standing outside. Meanwhile, the waiter had retreated, and I could see him patrolling on the other side of the showcase.

I filled my cup with black tea. I wanted to add sugar, but not being able to determine how sweet a macaron was, I decided to make a judgment after one bite. I was not that partial to sweet things, but I felt an exalting feeling of expectation. If Osanai-san held Patisserie Kogi Annex Ruriko to such a high regard, just how would their macarons taste like?

At that moment, some music suddenly rang out.

It was the sound of some high-pitched brass instrument. This melody… it was Oh, The Meadows Are Green7. Wondering what was going on, I turned around to notice that on the wall of the building facing us from the opposite side of the road, some puppets decorating the giant clock were starting to move. The clock’s needles were pointing to five o’clock, and the gnome-like puppets sporting white beards were moving in a sluggish manner as dictated by their mechanism to bring an axe down onto firewood. While there was a window between the shop and the road, the music was surprisingly loud. After calming down a little and taking a look around, none of the other customers were perturbed, so it seemed to be just the usual time signal in this area.

With the understanding that nothing out of the ordinary was happening, I turned to face forward with a mix of relief and a tinge of embarrassment. The door to the washroom opened, and I could see Osanai-san emerge from within. Based on that timing, she probably hadn’t seen me being surprised by the clock.

As if unable to prevent her joy and anticipation from rising to the top, and perhaps because she was trying and failing to contain her smile, her lips were twitching. Thinking that I would switch with her and go wash my hands after she returned, I waited for her.

However, Osanai-san stopped moving when she was one step away from the table. She stared at the top of the table, looked at me, then eyed the table again.

“What’s this, Kobato-kun?”

Not knowing what she was referring to, I followed her gaze. Her side of the table had a Tea & Macaron Set just like mine, with a teapot, teacup, teaspoon, sugar jar, milk pitcher, small plate with macarons…

“Hm?”

The macarons were different from mine. A green macaron, a brown macaron, a yellow macaron with white marbling, as well as a two-tone macaron, with peach and white as its colors. Of course, the flavors were different, but that was not the point.

“There’s four of them.”

“Yup, there’s four.”

“How many did you order?”

“Three.”

“But here, there’s…”

“Four.”

…Oh, my.



The Paris Macaron Mystery (Part 1) | Contents | The Paris Macaron Mystery (Part 3)


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  1. French strawberry cake that consists of two layers of sponge cake and whipped cream.
  2. A French cake made with layers of almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup, layered with ganache and coffee French buttercream, and covered in a chocolate glaze.
  3. A dessert of sweetened chestnut purée in the form of vermicelli, topped with whipped cream
  4. French for banana.
  5. Fairy-tale-like
  6. Apparently, pouring tea from high up can lower temperature and introduce oxygen to the liquid, which can change the taste of the tea.
  7. The Japanese version of a Slovakian folk song, Horela lipka, lipka.

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