Michel Cluizel – Noir Infini and Mangaro

When I visited London last year, I made sure to do the standard touristy things, including visiting Harrod’s department store. My second favorite part about Harrod’s was trying on uber-expensive designer shoes – I had no hopes of actually affording them (paying rent, just a tad more important), but hey, they were out in the open (think Macy’s sales racks of shoes), so why not pull on an $800 pair of Jimmy Choos, just for fun?

But my favorite part of Harrod’s was their basement – full of food! Full deli, restaurants, grocery store, ice cream parlor, candy store, and a ginormous chocolatierie with many different brands, each with their own counters. I picked up an assortment of Neuhaus bars and a couple of Michel Cluizel bars: the Noir Infini 99% and a premiere Cru Mangaro. The Cluizel section had beautiful chocolate displays, as seen above.

As best I can tell, the Mangaro (left above; right below) is a single-plantation bar, which is single-origin to the extreme. The beans don’t just come from the same area; they come from the same plantation. From the wrapper: “Located in the north east of the island of Madagascar, in the rich valley of the river Sambirano, this plantation flourishes on the land of a former mango tree forest. Cocoa beans express exotic fruit flavours with gingerbread and acidulated citrus fruit notes.”

I read the bar’s description after I tasted. From my notes: the melt on this 65% bar was smooth without being thick, and it was extremely fruity from start to finish.

I bought the 99% Noir Infini because it’s the base of one of my favorite truffles, Cluizel’s Cacaoforte (I also bought one of those in Harrod’s). Because the bar is so dark, I knew it wouldn’t be a casual chomping bar. It was quite dry, of course, as it’s nearly pure cacao, and it was initially quite bitter. The bitterness gave way to a slightly fruity sweetness as the bar’s super thick melt progressed. The finish lingers for a long time. It was quite intense and super-cocoa-y. Not a starter bar, but quite the experience.

From its wrapper: “This chocolate, with its long kneading process and extremely high content of cocoas, reveals deep and dense strains for the connoisseurs’ palate.”

I wouldn’t buy the Noir Infini bar again, so it gets an O. I think the extremely high percentage bars are more for the novelty of tasting them and aren’t bars for revisiting. The Mangaro bar was tasty, but Cluizel bars are quite expensive – each 1.05 oz bar was 1.75 pounds, about $3.50 when I was there – so it gets an OM. If I ever come across more Cluizel 1re Cru de Plantation bars, I’d like to try them.

If you want to see the rest of my Harrod’s candy pictures, they can be found at my flickr page.

Half off Michel Cluizel!

Last Tuesday, I flew from JFK to Gatwick, London, so of course I had to pop into the JFK duty free shop to look for candy deals. They had Ghirardelli and Godiva and Cadbury and Toblerone and more, but none of it was particularly special or well-priced, so I nearly left without buying anything. But just as I was turning to leave, a display of Michel Cluizel chocolates caught my eye. And at the top, a sign stating that, for a limited time, all Michel Cluizel chocolates were 50% off. Eep!

I bought two boxes of his champignon mushrooms that I so loved in this review. That’s 16 mushrooms for a flat $17. Considering that they’re usually at least $2 per mushroom (if you can find them in the first place) I got a great and delicious candy deal!

One box is already half gone; the other I’m saving to give to my aunt when I visit her in Liverpool. No one tell her I got it on sale! I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know that I candy review, since the last time she called to check up on me, she asked me how I found the food in England before asking if I knew anything about UK candy or if I even ate that much candy in the first place.

Michel Cluizel Truffles from Viva Chocolato

I saw a box of Michel Cluizel’s Champignon truffles at Cafe Moka in the Houston airport but didn’t buy them because they were so pricey. It was a choice I regretted. Thankfully, Viva Chocolato opened in Austin, and they carry lots of truffles by Michel Cluizel, including Les Champignons. Hooray! I bought one of the Champignons and a 99 Cacaoforte (the first and fourth in the lineup).

Les Champignons (French for The Mushrooms, by the way) are gorgeous and adorable. The cap is made of chocolate and filled with a crunchy toffee-like almond nougatine. It’s sweet and delicious. The stem is made of a soft, sticky, and super chewy caramel surrounded by white and dark chocolate. The caramel itself is not terribly sweet and instead tastes strongly of butter. They get an enthusiastic OMG, with a letter off for being so pricey.

I was nervous about trying the 99 Cacaoforte because they are made of 99% cacao. I’ve tasted a 100% cacao bar from La Maison du Chocolat (it was bitter, creamy, and good, but I could only handle a tiny bit at a time), and I’ve eaten raw cacao nibs before. Neither were entirely pleasant tasting adventures, so I was afraid the 99 Cacaoforte would be too much for my palate to handle.

The truffle was super dark, of course, but surprisingly enough, I didn’t find it bitter at all. It certainly wasn’t sweet, but it was far more palatable than the pure cacao I’ve tasted. The ganache was super smooth, thick, and almost paste-like. It had no grain, but it wasn’t exactly creamy, probably because there should be no milk or cream added to the ganache. It tasted of smooth, pure cacao, and it was splendid. I found it sophisticated, intense, and ZOMG!-worthy. Next time I come across one of these, I’m definitely splurging again, as it’s worth every penny.

Edit: According to Sera, I was misinformed about the nature of the Cacaoforte. The enrobing is 99% Cacao, but the filling is a ganache made with the 99%, meaning that there is cream in there.