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Top Pick Of The Week

September 26, 2006

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Michel Cluizel Chocolate Bar
Made with beans from the Los Anconès plantation on the island of Santo Domingo, this is one of the greatest chocolate bars in the world. Photo by Melody Lan.
WHAT IT IS: Seven chocolate bars from five of the world’s greatest cacao plantations (both dark and milk bars are made from the beans of two of the plantations).
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Each plantation, in far-flung regions of the world, grows beans with unique flavors. These “cream of the crop” beans produce some of the finest chocolate bars money can buy.
WHY WE LOVE IT: If the top chocolate manufacturers in the world can be counted on both hands, Chocolat Michel Cluizel is on the first hand. If great chocolate is an affordable luxury, this experience is a bargain!
WHERE TO BUY IT: ChocolatMichelCluizel-NA.com.
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Michel Cluizel Chocolate:
Bar Master Of The World

CAPSULE REPORT: For the gift of chocolate they have given us, it is unfortunate that the ancient Olmecs, Mayas and Aztecs did not know the pleasures of a great chocolate bar. They drank a bitter, tepid chocolate brew as a tonic. To them it was an invigorating elixir but to the Spanish it was undrinkable. As soon as it was brought back to Spain in 1527 by the Conquistadors, it was sweetened. It was not until 1847 that chocolate was turned into a solid bar, taking a form that still is invigorating, but also provides a depth of delight unknown to the ancients.

One of the greatest makers of chocolate bars in the world is France’s Michel Cluizel. His complex yet joyous chocolate is revered by the most demanding connoisseurs. If you don’t consider yourself an expert, don’t let that stop you from trying it. After a few bites of his 1er [Premier] Cru de Plantation chocolates, made from cacao beans from some of the world’s greatest plantations, you may become a devoted student of origin chocolate. Read the full review below.


Make Your Own (You Can Buy Cluizel’s Couverture*)

The Essence of Chocolate Making Artisan Chocolates The Art of Chocolate
Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate, by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. Featuring more than one hundred spectacular recipes drawn from the Scharffen Berger company files and from two dozen top pastry chefs, this book is filled with helpful tips, sumptuous photographs and the story of how chocolate is made. A must-have book for chocolate aficionados. Click here for more information or to purchase.  Making Artisan Chocolates, by Andrew Garrison Shotts. Andrew Garrison Shotts, former pastry chef for Guittard Chocolate and owner of Garrison Confections (one of our favorite boutique chocolatiers), shows readers how to create extraordinary chocolates at home through the use of herbs, flowers, chiles, spices, vegetables, fruits, dairies and liquors. Click here for more information or to purchase. The Art of Chocolate, by Elaine Gonzalez. A cooking teacher with decades of experience, Elaine Gonzalez has devised innovative techniques to put the art of working with chocolate within everyone’s reach. Even novices will soon be able to roll, curl, twist, coax, and nudge chocolate to incredible heights of fantasy. Beautifully photographed. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Michel Cluizel 1er Cru Chocolates: Bar Master Of The World

There is a Michel Cluizel: you can see him, with an ebullient smile, on his corporate website. In 1947 his parents, pastry chefs Marc and Marcelle Cluizel, decided to venture into the world of fine chocolate. Fascinated by the chocolate business, Michel became an apprentice and has been making chocolates—which soon became exceptional chocolates—since 1948. Today, assisted by his four adult children, the chocolate shop that began in a small town in Normandy is now a global enterprise. More than 6,000 chocolatiers and patissiers use his couverture* and sell his chocolates. Yet, while many shops sell Cluizel products, there are only two Cluizel stores: the original, on the Rue Saint Honoré in Paris, and, since a year ago, in New York City.

Cluizel produces a wide variety of elite chocolates beyond bars, from bonbons to novelties like chocolate sardines, cacao pods and baguettes to chocolate-covered almonds, cacao nibs and coffee beans. Our focus today is the 1er Cru de Plantation chocolates, single origin, single estate bars that come from remarkable plantations. They are revered by chocolate-lovers in the manner of great wines. The analogy is accurate, as we’ll see in a moment.

What’s Different About Cluizel

What sets Cluizel apart from other world-class chocolate manufacturers is his innovative, finely Michel Cluizel -  3 barsnuanced, beautifully balanced, unemulsified chocolate. An enveloping sense of refinement permeates the bars, acknowledging a chocolatier with the highest standards of excellence, who can tease the slightest suggestion of flavor or aroma from his beans. One can taste the loving care invested into the development of each particular bar. Whether in the 1er Cru line, where all beans come from a single plantation, or the blended bars, where the beans come from different points around the globe, the careful selection, roasting, blending and processing of cacao result in flavors so interesting and harmonious, pure and devoid of any trace of bitterness, that the student of chocolate is enraptured.

Flavor Profile. Each chocolate manufacturer has a distinct flavor profile. Valrhona and Scharffen Berger are known for their fruitiness (black fruit and red fruit, respectively). At the other end of the spectrum, Pralus makes chocolate that is excessively dark, serious and profound. Cluizel aims for the center but with flavor nuances that tend not to be found in many other chocolate bars—olives and cherry cordial in Los Anconès, limes and strawberries in Mangaro Lait, for example. In a sense, he could be considered a conservative modernist: one whose principles are based in tradition but whose unique perspective and flavor presentation clearly vault him forward.

No Emulsifier. To enable the purest cacao flavors and their many subtleties to shine through in the manufactured chocolate, Cluizel eschews emulsification. Chocolate manufacturers commonly use soya lecithin during the production process to add smoothness and mouthfeel. Lecithin also puts a layer of smoothness between the papillae of the taste buds and those exciting olive, cherry, lime and strawberry nuances. Cluizel was an early voice in stepping away from lecithin. Instead, he conches his chocolate much longer to add smoothness. No matter how long the conching, the chocolate still will be thicker in the mouth than an emulsified chocolate. But get to know Cluizel chocolate and this argument is specious. Thicker or smoother is irrelevant: this chocolate is incredible. Without lecithin Cluizel chocolate still has a uniquely rich smoothness—even in the 85% and 99% bars. Have enough Cluizel and you will begin to see his smoothness as the new standard.

Innovation. Long before high cacao content milk chocolate was popular, Cluizel was producing Grand Lait Cacao Pur Ile de Java 55%. It was a towering monolith among the period’s sugary milk chocolate, but it was perhaps too grand to be appreciated in its time. Today Cluizel produces only 47% and 50% cacao milk chocolate bars. They are eye-opening, especially to people who think they don’t like milk chocolate. However, perhaps it’s time for Monsieur Cluizel to consider bringing Grand Lait Cacao Pur Ile de Java 55% back from retirement. Now, it has the audience it deserves.

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CHOCOLATE TERMINOLOGY

GRAND CRU CHOCOLATE: Chocolate created with beans from a particular area or region, i.e., single origin chocolate. It can either be a blend (e.g. Criollo and Forastero) or a single variety of beans, as long as the beans come from the one origin. The origin can be closely defined geographically, e.g. the island of Trinidad, or more broadly, e.g. the Caribbean. The term was coined by Valrhona, which launched the first single origin bar in 1986, Guanaja 70%, a mix of Criollo and Trinitario beans, and defined the origin as South America. Their Jivara Lait milk bar is also from South American beans; their other Grand Cru bars come from Caribbean and Madagascan beans. What Cluizel calls 1er [Premier] Cru chocolate, from specific plantations, is called Estate Grown by Valrhona. To add to the confusion, in the wine industry, from which this terminology is taken, a Grand Cru wine is better-quality than a Premier Cru wine. But the reverse is true given these chocolate definitions: Cluizel’s 1er Cru chocolate, which is single estate, is of higher quality than Valrhona’s Grand Cru, which is only single origin.

ESTATE-GROWN or SINGLE ESTATE: Beans from a single plantation or hacienda.

HACIENDA: A plantation or estate.

1er CRU or PREMIER CRU CHOCOLATE (PREH-mee-yay KROO—premier is French for “first,” and 1er is the equivalent of “1st”):The term Chocolat Michel Cluizel uses for its estate-grown chocolate.

SINGLE ORIGIN CHOCOLATE or ORIGIN CHOCOLATE: Chocolate created with beans from one particular area or growing region. It can either be a blend (e.g. Criollo and Forastero) or a single variety of beans. Also called origin cacao and pure origin chocolate. See the larger discussion under Grand Cru, above.

TERROIR: Pronounced tur-WAH, the French word for soil, land or terrain. It has long been used in wine and coffee analysis to denote the special characteristics of geography that give the grape or bean its individuality. The term is now being used, appropriately, for cacao beans.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT CHOCOLATE, INCLUDING ALMOST 200 TERMS & DEFINITIONS, SEE OUR CHOCOLATE GLOSSARY.

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Today, Cluizel still leads the pack in innovation by redefining old origins with new flavors. The 1er Cru de Plantation line of single estate bars shows how many flavors can be found in a cacao from a single origin. Each bar is produced from cacao that was sourced from a single plantation (also called an estate or hacienda), rather than from a variety of growers within a region. This way, Cluizel is able to convey the differences of topography and environment (terroir) more articulately than by diluting the message through blending and mixing the beans of different local growers.

 

The 1er Cru Bars

While all of Michel Cluizel’s chocolates are tops, the top of the tops are his 1er (Premier) Cru de Plantation bars. He makes a separate tasting box of single origin cacao bars, where one can compare the differences in flavor among premium cacaos grown in the regions of the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Grenada, Java, Madagascar and Venezuela. He also makes delicious blended bars (more about these products below). But the 1er Cru bars are his finest product, made from the beans of the finest cacao plantations in three of these locations and two others.

To better understand single origin, single estate and blended bars, let’s look at a wine analogy. Take the town of Puligny-Montrachet, in the Côte de Beaune region of Burgundy, a designated appellation or growing region. In the chart at the right, you can compare:

  • A blended product
  • A single origin product
  • A specific estate (vineyard or
    plantation)

 

Wine Label
Cluizel Chocolate
Blended Wine/Bar
White Burgundy
Blended Bar, e.g. Noir 60%
Single Origin
(Growing Region)
Puligny-Montrachet
Single Origin, e.g. Le Nuancier Pure Origins Tasting Box with tasting disks from Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Grenada, Java, Madagascar and Venezuela
Premier Cru
(Vineyard, Plantation)
Les Pucelles [1]

1er Cru de Plantations Bar, e.g. Mangaro, one of Cluizel’s 7 1er Cru bars (shown in the photo below)

[1] Les Pucelles is one of 14 Premier Cru vineyards in the village of Puligny-Montrachet. Others include Clavaillon, Le Cailleret, Les Combettes, Les Folatières and Les Perrières. There are 4 Grand Cru vineyards, which are higher-ranked than Premiers Crus: Bâtard-Montrachet, Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Montrachet.

The 1er Cru de Plantation bars offer an amazing array of flavor complexities. The cacao contents themselves vary slightly: 47% and 50% for the milk and 64%, 65%, 66%, 67% and 70% for the dark bars. This is not for the sake of diversity: each bar has the perfect percentage to bring out even the slightest traces of terroir and flavor overtones of the beans, and that happens even if the variance is only one percent.

The 1er Cru de Plantation line consists of seven bars: Concepcion 66% (Venezuela), Los Anconès 67% (Dominican Republic), Mangaro 65% (Madagascar), Maralumi 64% (Papua New Guinea), Tamarina 70% (São Tomé); and two milk chocolate bars: Mangaro Lait 50% and Maralumi Lait 47%. Each is completely distinct from the others and teems with a variety of flavors specific to its terroir. The bars are made of cacao beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter and bourbon vanilla (the milk chocolates have whole milk powder).

Should you start your introduction to Cluizel by tasting all seven 1er Cru bars? Absolutely. The dark bars are mostly semisweet, as opposed to bittersweet chocolate: all but one lie below 70% in cacao content. In other words, the cacao concentration isn’t too intense, so everyone can appreciate the complexities of flavor without concern that the chocolate is “too bittersweet” for them. (See our guide to The Flavors And Aromas Of Chocolate as a reference when tasting fine chocolate.)

Michel Cluizel Mangaro Bar
Mangaro, a 65% cacao semisweet bar made from beans from an hacienda in Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa.

When tasting these bars, leave behind all references from years of eating chocolate that tastes like chocolate and sugar. With Cluizel, each bar is an orchestration of flavors that come from the bean and its terroir. Some bars are a mixed fruit plate, some are exotic smokiness. Enjoy each piece slowly: let the palate savor the flavors that come welling up. It’s O.K. if you can’t identify them at first—some people can pinpoint all of the flavors immediately, others learn to recognize them over time.

Here are our tasting notes, combined with some production notes from the manufacturer:

Concepcion

  • Cacao: 66% semisweet
  • Origin: Venezuela (South America)
  • History: Hacienda Concepcion is in the Barlovento Valley of Venezuela, a country renowned for producing some of the best cacao in the world. In the Barlovento Valley, east of Caracas, Hacienda Concepcion has been growing cacao since 1902.
  • Character: This bar is a roller coaster of aromas and fruity flavors, starting with honey spice cake, then lemon, then orange, all of which build up with anticipation. Meanwhile, the intensity of the chocolate increases on the palate, hits an apex and then slowly descends into a long finale of dried fruits.

Los Anconès

  • Cacao: 67% semisweet
  • Origin: The island of Santo Domingo in the Caribbean
  • History: Hacienda Los Anconès is a remarkable plantation surrounded by a verdant palm grove. Here, west of San Francisco de Marcoris, the Rizek family has been producing exquisite cocoa beans since 1903.
  • Character: Los Anconès is probably one of the best chocolates in the world. The unusual flavor might require minor acclimation, but it quickly impresses with its remarkable collection of flavors. After an initial note of licorice, there are flavors of cherry cordial, then currants and green olives, with an unexpected hit of apricots on the finish. Los Anconès is also more intense than might be expected for a 67% cacao, and thus surprises with strength as well as flavor.
Michel Cluizel - Loa Ancones Chocolate Bar
Los Anconès is 67% cacao semisweet bar made
from beans from an hacienda in Santo Domingo.

Mangaro

  • Cacao: 65% bittersweet 
  • Origin: Madagascar, Indian Ocean
  • History: On the island of Madagascar in the heart of the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, in the rich valley of the river Sambirano, the Mangaro plantation flourishes on the land of a former mango tree forest.
  • Character: Mangaro delivers a very traditional flavor encountered in many Madagascans. What is new in this bar is a distinct caramel tone throughout to the finish, along with exotic fruits, spice cake and honey, with sultana raisins at the end. Touches of raspberry give a mild acidity to the character, while vodka notes add a splash of depth and curiosity. It is like eating chocolate-dipped fruit, and it is exciting.

Mangaro Lait

  • Cacao: 50% milk
  • Origin/History: See above. This bar is made only from the very characteristic, light-colored beans produced by the Mangaro plantation.
  • Character: Mangaro goes milk—and how ironic it is for Mangaro’s milk chocolate to actually be more exciting than its dark counterpart! The world’s first single estate milk chocolate, this is a stunning bar of impressive complexity that achieves the flavor depth of a great bittersweet. The unique flavors of the Mangaro cacao present in the dark bar shine through here, as well as a prevailing and totally unexpected theme of limes and supporting roles of strawberries. It’s definitely one of the better milk chocolate bars on the market.
Mangaro Lait
Mangaro Lait 50% cacao milk chocolate made with beans from Madagascar is an extraordinary milk chocolate experience.

Maralumi

  • Cacao: 64% bittersweet
  • Origin: The island of Papua New Guinea, South Pacific
  • History: Papua New Guinea, off the northern coast of Australia, is the other half of the land mass that includes Indonesia. It is an unusual origin for cacao. The Maralumi plantation, on the northwest of the island, lies close to the coast. It produces refined beans that yield a chocolate with slightly roasted and spicy flavors.
  • Character: This is a bright chocolate, and wonderfully complex with charming aromas and an awe-inspiring mix of flavors. Maralumi starts with blueberries, cream and spice, à la lebkuchen, then shifts to red fruits and bananas and finishes with raisins. All the while, the brownness of Havana tobacco leaves looms overhead, adding a sense of mystery (it can distract one from studying the complex flavors). The chocolate is acidulated with the flavor of red currants, but not overly so, and thus comes off as bright and rambunctious.

Maralumi Lait

  • Cacao: 47% milk
  • Origin/History: See above.
  • Character: Maralumi Lait sees a mild transfer of the dark bar’s natural flavors, as blueberries, cream, bananas and dates coyly unfold on the palate with a somewhat high level of acidity. It’s also strongly caramel-like, more so than Mangaro Lait, and therefore the more milk-chocolaty of the two.

Tamarina*

  • Cacao: 70% bittersweet
  • Origin: São Tomé (West Africa)
  • History: São Tomé (known as Ilha Toma in French) is an island republic in the Atlantic Ocean, on the Equator off the coast of central West Africa. The Tamarina plantation is on the northern part of the island, near a beautiful beach lined with coconut and tamarind trees. The cacao expresses notes of a fertile, volcanic, marine soil, which blends, in a superbly lingering delight, with subtle, grassy and licorice aromas.
  • Character: Tamarina is veiled in smoke—think Lapsang Souchong tea—with raspberries and peaches underneath. Cedar then brings up the finish, in the usual fashion of cacao from São Tomé. It is interesting to note how Tamarina has evolved in the years since its introduction. Initially, Tamarina wasn’t the least bit smoky. But this is a welcome evolution—aside from the fact that we love the smoky flavor—because it signifies that this origin and the chocolatier still have new and interesting twists in store for us.
Michel Cluizel Tamarina Bar
Tamarina, the highest percentage cacao of the 1er Cru bars at 70%, is made from beans from the island republic of São Tomé, off the coast of West Africa.

*NOTE: Due to sourcing problems, in 2007 Cluizel replaced Tamarina with another São Tomé bar, Vila Gracinda 67%. Vila Gracinda has earthy and licorice notes along with the characteristic smokiness of fine São Tomé chocolate.

Pursuant to this last point, Cluizel has worked on all of the bars since their inception, as he becomes more familiar with what the cacaos can do, and brings them to his vision of perfection. It’s the measure of the chocolatier-artisan, that no matter how good something is, it can be that much better to serve both the cacao and those who love it. It’s another feature that distinguishes a family-owned concern like Cluizel from larger producers who produce a great product, but aren’t necessarily driven to the same heights of perfectionism.

All 1er Cru bars come in 3.5-ounce (100g) bars as well as in individually wrapped, 5g tasting squares. Mangaro Noir 65% is available in 1.5 ounce (30g) bars, as are the 45%, 72%, 85% and 99% blended bars. Roughly 2-1/2 x 3-1/2 inches, they are the perfect portion size, in our opinion.

The bite-size squares make it easy to enjoy small amounts more frequently, and to compare different 1er Crus and origin cacaos. Squares are traditionally served with an espresso, and also are the size used in chocolate tastings. While the New York store does not carry them, the tasting squares are available in 50-count bags of a single flavor and in 200-count boxes for larger tastings (or for people who enjoy a few pieces a day).

 


Formally Tasting The Chocolates Of Michel Cluizel: The NYC Salon

For one of the most memorable chocolate experiences imaginable, a trip to Michel Cluizel’s U.S. store, in New York City, is de rigueur.

Chocolat Michel Cluizel’s New York store is the only Michel Cluizel retail store outside of Paris, and the only retail location in North America where one can find the entire collection of Michel Cluizel bonbons. In a charming space on the first floor of New York’s luxury home store, ABC Carpet & Home, the retail shop and chocolate café features the full selection of chocolate bars, a vast array of bonbons, exciting hot and cold chocolate drinks and chocolate desserts.

Most wonderful are the guided tasting menus, private sessions that run from 30 to 55 minutes with an extremely knowledgeable “chocolate sommelier” who turns something exceedingly delicious into something exceptionally educational as well. Currently there are four tastings† each so worthy of attention such that visitors with only two days in New York should plan two tastings a day, in-between any other necessary activities.

 

Michel Cluizel Store
If you can’t get to the tastings at Chocolat Michel Cluizel in New York City, you can order the bars and conduct tastings at home. You won’t have an expert Cluizel chocolate sommelier to guide you, but the experience will be eye-opening (and delicious) nevertheless.

†Five are listed below, but the Introductory Tasting Paired With Three Fine Spirits can be skipped if taking the Full Spirit Tasting—highly recommended.

  • Introductory Tasting. This tasting focuses on the basics of chocolate: how to appreciate a fine piece of chocolate, the history and health benefits of chocolate, its transformation from bean to bonbon and the differences between various beans and cacao percentages. It features seven chocolates, including blended and single plantation varieties and a superlative bonbon. [30 minutes, $35 per person]
  • Introductory Tasting Paired With Three Fine Spirits. An engaging and informative introduction to pairing fine chocolate with fine spirits. Three spirits are specifically chosen to harmonize with, and accentuate, the chocolates. [40 minutes $44 per person]
  • Full Spirit Tasting. A more extended and thorough journey into the basics and depth of chocolate enjoyment, with emphasis on how chocolates pair with specially selected fine spirits. This tasting features eight chocolates, including blended and single plantation varieties, as well as two exquisite bonbons, paired with eight fine spirits ranging from Cognac and muscat to single-malt Scotch and tequila. [55 minutes, $100 per person]
  • Champagne & Bonbon Tasting. While it sounds like Jean Harlow in “Dinner At Eight,” this serious tasting focuses on heightening one’s appreciation of fine chocolates, the art of making extraordinary bonbons and the intriguing and sensual history of chocolate. A full range of bonbons is tasted, including blended cacao and single plantation ganaches, pralines, gianduja and alcohol- and fruit-filled bonbons. Seven bonbons are paired with three varieties of French sparkling wine. [35 minutes, $60 per person, 4-person minimum]
  • Cocoa‡ Across The Globe. For chocolate-lovers who want to deepen their knowledge and ability to detect subtle differences between varying cocoa beans and growing regions, this tasting compares seven 72% cacao chocolates from different countries—Ecuador, Ghana, Grenada, Java, Madagascar, Sumatra and Venezuela—along with two ganache bonbons from single plantations in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. [30 minutes, $40 per person, $5 supplement for a glass of Muscat or Sherry]

‡THE NIBBLE uses the more accurate term cacao instead of cocoa in its writings about chocolate. But since the term cocoa is more commonly used by Americans, Cluizel has chosen that term and we have not changed it in their program description. For an extended discussion, see the terms in our Chocolate Glossary—Terms and Definitions.

 

While it is possible to drop in, reservations are recommended. The facility is also available for private tastings and parties. From our very first tasting, where our group of jaded food writers sat enraptured, we knew that we wanted to hold private tastings for every special occasion: birthday parties, bachelor(ette) parties, college reunions—we’d look for occasions to celebrate. Not every situation requires closing down the place for privacy. We’ve been back in choco-gaggles of two, three and four, just to introduce our friends to the fabulous “Choctails” (like nothing you’ve ever had before—trust us).

Chocolat Michel Cluizel is the first fine chocolate store in New York to hold a full liquor license, in order to serve not only bonbons that contain liquor, but the brandy, Champagne, Cognac, Port, Scotch, tequila and wine that are paired with the chocolates and included in some of the specialty chocolate beverages. For all the times that you have read that alcohol and chocolate don’t pair well, this is an exceptional opportunity to see how beautifully they do match: you just have to know how to do it the right way.

 

Have A Tasting At Home

You won’t have the invaluable tutelage of your chocolate sommelier, but you can conduct your own chocolate/alcohol pairing (and perhaps invite us—we’ve had it so many times, we’re almost qualified to be an assistant chocolate sommelier). This is one of the menus served at Cluizel, with spirits that specifically match the unique flavor profile of Cluizel chocolates. The chocolates can be purchased from the Michel Cluizel website.

Tasting Chocolates With Spirits

Chocolat Michel Cluizel
Spirit
Grand Lait 45% Blended Milk Chocolate
Seguinot VSOP Cognac With 50% Water
1er Cru de Plantation “Mangaro Lait” (50% Cacao), Single Origin Milk Chocolate From Madagascar
Trimbach Grand Reserve William
Pear Brandy (Poire William)
Noir 60% Blended Dark Chocolate
Redbreast Irish Whiskey With 20% Water
1er Cru de Plantation “Maralumi Noir” (64% Cacao), Single Origin Dark Chocolate From Papua New Guinea
Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Champagne
1er Cru de Plantation “Mangaro Noir” (65% Cacao), Single Origin Dark Chocolate, Madagascar
Dios Baco Oloroso Sherry
1er Cru de Plantation “Concepcion” (66% Cacao), Single Origin Dark Chocolate from Venezuela
Loubere Napoleon Armagnac With 20% Water
1er Cru de Plantation “Los Anconès” (67% Cacao), Single Origin Dark Chocolate from Santo Domingo
Mallo Cuvee Saint-Jacques 2002
Gewürtztraminer
1er Cru de Plantation “Tamarina” (70% Cacao), Single Origin Dark Chocolate from São Tomé
Petit Grain, Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois
Noir 72%, Blended Dark Chocolate
Caol Ila 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch, With 20% Water
Grand Noir 85%, Blended Dark Chocolate
J Vidal-Fleury Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2003
Noir Infini 99%, Blended Dark Chocolate
El Tesoro Paradiso Tequila
   

In general, Cluizel finds that El Tesoro Paradiso Tequila and J Vidal-Fleury Muscat de Beaumes de Venise pair well with all of the chocolates.

Cacao Around The Globe Tasting

You can taste the 1er Cru bars for their differences in geographical influences upon the bean: how a great cacao will taste in New Guinea versus the Caribbean versus Venezuela, e.g. 

Cluizel Nuancier Pure OriginLe Nuancier Pure Origins Tasting Box. Another way to do this is to purchase the collection of 72% cacao single origin chocolate tasting discs, representing seven cacao growing regions of the world: Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Grenada, Java, Madagascar and Venezuela. The presentation box is perfect for a party or for gift-giving. Michel Cluizel has included tasting notes for a self-guided chocolate tasting experience.

The Intensity of Cacao Tasting. Cluizel makes wonderful blended bars, combining beans from more than one origin. They allow you to taste the differences in increasing concentrations of cacao:

  • Grand Lait, 45% milk chocolate
    (most milk bars are only 30% to 35% cacao,
    so Grand Lait is a grand milk chocolate
    experience)
  • Noir 60% semisweet
  • Noir 72% bittersweet
  • Grand Noir 85% bittersweet
  • Noir Infini 99% bittersweet

We are huge fans of these bars, and enjoy the Grand Noir 85% almost daily. With coconut overtones, it offers flavor excitement with just 15% sugar (compare that to Cluizel’s 45% milk chocolate bar which has 25% sugar and 30% milk powder, or to a standard commercial milk chocolate bar that’s 30% chocolate, which has even more sugar).

Not to be missed is Noir Infini, a 99% cacao bar with just .5% sugar and .5% ground vanilla. It’s essentially pure chocolate, and we encourage lovers of bittersweet chocolate to experience it. An extraordinary blend that provides a mouthful of intense bitter chocolate with creamy cocoa butter, it is intense, powerful and makes a chocolate-lover understand what is truly at the root of all this dark magic. You can buy the bars and taste them informally, but as with the origin cacaos, Cluizel has a formal solution, whether for parties or individual scholarship:

Nuancier-CacaoLe Nuancier Cocoa Percentages Tasting Box. As with the Nuancier tasting box of pure origin chocolates, here is a turnkey kit of tasting disks of 33%, 45% and 50% cacao milk chocolates and the 60%, 72%, 85% and 99% cacao dark chocolates. Le Nuancier Grandes Teneurs en Cacao is a beautiful presentation of 70 tasting disks that allow you to study, compare and discover your own preferred level of cacao content (you can have more than one favorite, of course!).

 

Once Upon A BeanOnce Upon A Bean. Il était une fève... translates to “Once Upon A Bean...,” no fairy tale but another magnificent tasting box that combines the cacao percentages disks from the previous tasting box with even more cacao fun and learning. There are also samples of cacao nibs, which are edible; and the cocoa butter and cocoa mass which are separated from the nibs and then processed into the disks (and bars, bonbons and truffles) we eat. An excellent starting-off point for beginners and experts alike.

Each tasting box makes a perfect gift for any chocolate-lover, beginning with yourself.

Developing expertise is largely an exercise of repeatedly tasting and comparing. These tasting boxes, and the notes that come with them, are a great help in pursuing chocolate connoisseurship.

Chocolat Michel Cluizel ~ Paris

Since 1987 Chocolat Michel Cluizel, the flagship Paris store, has been one of the landmark chocolate establishments in the city. Managed personally by Catherine Cluizel, one of Michel Cluizel’s daughters, it was originally called “La Fontaine au Chocolat” after its cascading chocolate fountain. Due to perishability, certain products are only available in the Paris store. Be sure to make it a stop on your next trip:

  • 201, rue Saint-Honoré
    75001 PARIS
    Phone: +33 (0)1 42 44 11 66
    E-mail: Paris@ChocolatMichelCluizel-NA.com
  • Hours of Operation:
    Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
    The store is closed during the month of August.

Cacao Finale

How to sum up the chocolates of Michel Cluizel? To borrow some emotion from Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?”: After you taste through the line of 1er Cru de Plantation bars, you will hear the trumpets and the violins. You will be experienced.

—Karen Hochman and Peter Rot

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves chocolate or is looking for a sophisticated new concept for entertaining—a chocolate tasting.

 

MICHEL CLUIZEL 1ER cru de plantation chocolate bars

Concepcion 66% (Venezuela), Los Anconès 67% (Dominican Republic), Mangaro 65% and Mangaro Lait 50% (Madagascar), Maralumi 64% and Maralumi Lait 47% (Papua New Guinea) and Tamarina 70% (São Tomé)

  • 1er Cru Bars, Any Flavor
    100g/3.5 ounces
    $6.00
  • 1er Cru Bars, Small Size**
    30g/1.5 ounces
    $2.29
    **Mangaro Noir and Blended Bars
  • 5g Tasting Square Boxes By Origin
    The Five Dark Flavors
    Etui 1er Cru de Plantation
    16 Pieces, $16.00
    Coffret 1er Cru de Plantation
    28 Pieces, $26.50
    Note: Larger box and bag sizes of 50 and 200 tasting squares, individual flavors only, are available at WorldwideChocolate.com for $21.99; 2.2 lb boxes of couverture pastilles are $37.95.
  • Tasting Boxes
    Nuancier Grandes Teneurs en Cacao
    70 Pieces Of Blended Cacao
    $40.00
    “Once upon a Bean”

    $40.00

Buy online at
ChocolatMichelCluizel-NA.com
or telephone 1.212.477.7335.
E-mail: nyc@chocolatmichelcluizel.com

Michel Cluizel 1er Cru Bars
Photo by Melody Lan.

The bars are also available at fine retailers nationwide and at the U.S. store:

Chocolat Michel Cluizel
@ ABC Carpet & Home
888 Broadway (at 19th Street)
First floor
New York, NY 10003
Phone: 1.212.477.7335
Fax: 1.917.591.9485

Read more about our other
favorite chocolates and sweets
in THE NIBBLE online magazine
(links at right) and don’t miss
these great articles about
chocolate:

 

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Have A Favorite Chocolate?

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ABOUT THE NIBBLE. THE NIBBLE, Great Food Finds, is an online magazine plus newsletters about specialty foods and the gourmet life. It is the only consumer publication and website that focuses on reviewing the best specialty foods and beverages, in every category. The magazine also covers tabletop items, gourmet housewares, and other areas of interest to people who love fine food.

© Copyright 2004-2014 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All information contained herein is subject to change at any time without notice. All details must be directly confirmed with manufacturers, service establishments and other third parties. The material in this newsletter may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached, or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Lifestyle Direct, Inc.

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