Man, truffles! I have had them on the brain ever since you made them for The Supper Club holiday party a couple of weeks ago. (The chocolate peanut butter with fleur de sel was absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth! So salty, so sensual…) Then, there was Bittman’s article in The Times, and the recipe challenge you issued in response. And I watched the film, Chocolat, with Juliette Binoche, a couple of days ago while I was wrapping Christmas presents.
Yesterday, I stopped by Chocolat Michel Cluizel, the boutique attached to the dessert bar at ABC Carpet & Home. I was really in need of a late afternoon pick-me-up because of the exhaustion of holiday shopping, and a dark, bittersweet truffle with a kick of caffeine seemed just the thing. I perused all the beautiful display cases and then enjoyed five minutes of the partner/chocolate sommelier, Richard Perl’s, time, as he guided me to the selection of a few pieces to take home. I tried to concentrate on what he was saying, but it was difficult because I was so distracted by the creamy deliciousness of what I was given to sample: a caramel “chocoroon,” which is a chocolate bonbon shaped and colored like a macaroon. They are beautiful because of the colors and look stunning in a gift box, but the caramel flavor was too subtle for me; I was looking for something with a kick.
Now, Kimberly, I know you can and do make your own, but I can’t (meaning, I wouldn’t attempt it), so I was compelled to buy a few yesterday because of the appeal of Mr. Perl’s expertise as sommelier. And because of my curiosity about truffles so good they cost $85/lb! What I tasted was, in fact, outstanding in quality and the experience of talking chocolate like you’d talk wine with someone, tasting your way through single-origin varietals, hearing how one crafts a 99% cacao truffle (delicious!) to be delightfully sharp, rather than bitterly dull and chalky, is special. Also special is a chocolate shop that requires a liquor license to sell bonbons so boozy they can make your head fuzzy, along with your tongue! Right up my alley. My absolute favorite bonbon, along with that 99% signature one, was a bonbon called the “Icare” which is filled with dark roasted hazelnut and pralinee, and has an almost burnt flavor component, contrasting with the sweetness of the sugar in the chocolate. Such a sophisticated flavor profile. I was in love.
Michel Cluizel is better, by the way, than La Maison du Chocolat; that celebrated UES chocolatier has never truly impressed me, despite its French import status and my devotion to artisinally-produced chocolate. Kimberly, you and I share an affinity for Jacques Torres (chocolate chip cookies, Wicked hot chocolate, key lime lovebug bonbons…) but his concept is more fun and straightforward; he’s doing something different in this market than Cluizel.
The service at Michel Cluizel was unfailingly friendly, despite the harried nature of these last shopping days before Christmas. And I can’t wait to try Will Goldfarb’s desserts at the Dessert Studio attached to the boutique. The first one listed on the menu is a white chocolate gelato finished with olive oil and smoked sea salt from Brittany! You know I love salt in my dolce as much as you do, Ms. Belle! I’m also intrigued by the “choctails” served at the bar. The name reminds me of T.G.I. Fridays, but they looked extraordinary and the patrons drinking them were clearly delighted with the fancy, frozen concoctions.
Here’s to days of chocolate and nights of champagne, during this sparkly season!