You know what tastes really good? Yeah . . . chocolate. You know what tastes even better? Yeah . . . a thin crousstillant base topped with chocolate ganache layered with chocolate cake that’s been slathered in caramel, covered with yet more ganache, and then coated in a finely tempered chocolate and cocao nib shell. So when I passed by Michel Cluizel’s shop window the other day, on my way back from Pouchkine and the mustard shop, the little lady above caught my eye.
There she was, huddled together with her other chocolate patisserie friends. So I brashly tapped on the glass and said, “Hey, wanna come home with me?” Her answer? “I can’t right now. I’m at work. But if you go inside and ask the nice lady behind the counter, she’ll send one of my 8 identical twin sisters home with you.” So that’s just what I did. Now, I can’t say I’ve ever met a pastry more enthusiastic about having her picture taken or one more into herself. No sooner did I have her out of the box than she’d laid herself out in front of me and exclaimed, “I’m a chocolate Goddess! Immortalize me in film.” Said and done.
Definitely no stranger to chocolate pastries, even I was not quite prepared for the Cara here. It is heavy. Were it not for that fine layer of gateau in the middle of the piece, I would be forced to classify it as a confection and publish it in the “Other Goodies” section of the site. Not that I’m complaining. Monsieur Cluizel is one of my favorite chocolate gods, and every bit of this is a treat. I only wish I had more info on the chocolate origins of the various layers; it tasted like a virtual Benetton ad of chocolate from around the world.
The outer layer and the cacao nibs were warm and nutty with a smoky autumnal insouciance. I’d peg them as being Central American. And the ganache layers within were smooth as silk and had this cool, amer and slightly floral quality. Southeast Asian? Though I couldn’t quite tease apart the gateau’s flavors from the sticky-sweet caramel oozing from it, it was a rich and full-bodied biscuit with decidedly obvious cacao tones. Mexican? Rounding it all out was that faint layer of croustillant at the base – very crispy, very tasty and just the right touch to a pastry that was otherwise a celebration of meltingly smooth preparations of brown stuff
Usually, I just eat my pastries in a few bites, after tasting each of the layers separately. With our dear Cara, I had to break my degustation into 3 sittings; that’s how rich it was. I’m actually a little nervous to go back to the shop and sample some of the other works. Not only does work so rich make it hard to eat much else in the course of the day (though I somehow manage), but the undoubted 1000+ calorie awesomeness of it all is pretty intense.
Perhaps a much smarter move is to purchase some filled pieces and small chocolate confections on my inevitable next trip to Monsieur Cluizel’s. Instead of gaining 2lbs. that day, I’ll just pack on 1lb. that way. It’s all about pacing myself.
So, yes, if you find yourself in the mood for one of the more over-the-top concentrations of chocolate ever conceived by mortal man, grab a Cara at Michel Cluizel’s Rue Saint-Honoré boutique. Better yet, bring 2 or 3 friends, and split it. I’d hate to send you off on a pastry expedition in the city and sideline you after this as your first indulgence.