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.