March 14, 2002
Not Your Grandmother’s Macaroons
Two enterprising West L.A. women take the traditional Passover treat to new sublime heights.
You knew this was bound to happen.
Just this past Purim, The Journal reported about how hamantashen were becoming a hot food delicacy outside of Jewish circles. Now, two enterprising Los Angeles-area women are bent on doing the same for yet another holiday dessert staple -- the macaroon.
"They're not just for Passover anymore!" is the official slogan of Melfer's Macaroons, the West Los Angeles-based gourmet macaroon business founded by Melissa Sanders and Jennifer Klein. And we have Sanders' uncle Sid to thank for the original chocolate macaroon family recipe.
"I was the only third-generation person baking," recalls Sanders, 32, of her childhood. She was only 8 years old when she began baking batches of the delicious family treats.
Before long, Sanders was making the magical macaroons every holiday season and beyond. By the time she was attending McGill University in Montreal, Sanders was sending batches of her family holiday confection to friends at other colleges.
Sanders, who studied sociology at school, recently entered the gourmet macaroon business as "kind of a fluke." One day, Klein, 36, asked Sanders for the macaroon recipe, and Sanders told Klein to come over and bake some. "I said OK, and we baked a few hundred," Klein says.
Last December, Sanders and Klein tested the market waters by selling the macaroons at a Wyndham Bel Age charity event. The baked morsels went over well, and the women decided to enter into business together. The friends, who are both single, now spend a lot of time together baking up batches of 50 macaroons at a time, usually in five-hour spurts.
"I don't think our friends realize the work that goes into it," says Klein, whose day job is working as a freelance producer on commercials and shows, such as "America's Most Wanted." "They'll say, 'Oh, you're baking today.' But, we're also packaging and marketing."
There's marketing and then there's taste: The freshly baked treats live up to their promise -- far superior to anything one might find on the supermarket shelves around Passover. Consider the exotic flavors Melfer's offers: original chocolate, chocolate chip, white chocolate chip, chocolate truffle, chocolate cappuccino, chocolate orange, white chocolate pina colada.
There are also monthly novelty flavors. February's was white chocolate raspberry, which capitalized on Valentine's Day. Sanders and Klein even whipped up a batch of candy cane-flavored macaroons just this past Christmas.
These macaroons even look different -- far more textured and attractive to the eye. Call it a Passover makeover.
Currently, Melfer's Macaroons are only available through Vicente Foods and through the official Melfer's Macaroons Web site. And if you're allergic to chocolate, you need not apply. Melfer's Macaroons' gourmet flavors are all chocolate-based. However, the pair are working on a sugarless recipe for diabetics.
Melfer's also produces gift baskets, which run in the $50-$83 range and contain a dozen macaroons packaged with an assortment of items, such as bubble bath, bath soaps and salts, champagne flutes, hot fudge and hot cocoa mix, gourmet coffee, herbal teas and salmon paté.
Although the macaroons are already made with only natural, kosher ingredients, the ladies are presently pursuing official kashrut certification for their mouthwatering morsels, so that they can get Melfer's Macaroons into Los Angeles' kosher stores.
Judging by the current word-of-mouth on their product, Sanders and Klein should be spending a lot more time together in the months to come.
"Thank God we haven't become bored of each other yet," Sanders says.
For more info visit www.melfersmacaroons.com
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