zoo_music_girl: (chocolate pearl)
Last night I went to my long awaited chocolate tasting at Artisan du Chocolat. A lot of this is for my own tasting notes, if you want to read more about the format and content of the evening you'd be better off reading Alasdair's post. (Worth reading if you like any kind of chocolate at all.)

I've been enjoying the Artisan chocolates for over a year now, gradually working my way through the whole range of ganaches. I've been getting such a kick out of the amazing flavours that I've just about entirely neglected the single bean ganaches and bars. I shall be rectifying that.

Coleman talked for about an hour before we actually got to taste anything. I hadn't realised how well I've already educated myself, but quite a lot of what he told me was not news to me and I regret not doing the tasting about a year ago, before I started experimenting and reading up on the stuff myself, I think I'd have got a lot more out of it then.

The first sample he brought out was a roasted cocoa bean. We broke open the skin around it, a bit like the skin on a nut after you've shelled it, and tasted the dark solids inside. It was very hard and actually didn't taste of much to me, a bit earthy maybe. Then we got a piece of the 100% cocoa mass, which is sold in his shop as Carenero 100%. This was surprisingly much more edible than the 99% Michel Cluizel (who is a French chocolatier, and one I believe to be very good) that Simon got for Christmas, but that may have been affected by eating a bean beforehand!

Next up was a piece of chocolate with what he described as 30% sugar, or 70% cocoa as we're more used to seeing it. It was stunning, I had floral notes erupting in my mouth, with touches of honey. I asked what it was as I wanted to buy some later but he wouldn't tell me just then saying he wanted to demonstrate something. On the next bite it calmed down into a more smoky flavour and he told us it was "the Marmite of chocolate". I laughed at myself as I realised it was the bar I already buy most often from Artisan, Madong. This is a single estate chocolate from New Guinea with notes of smoke, leather and hay. The mass we'd tasted was the same chocolate without sugar. I couldn't believe how light and sweet it had tasted after the mass.

He got us to hold our noses while we tasted it, then release and see how much of the flavours come from the aroma. Even the powerful Madong was tasteless without scent.

Next up was a fruitier chocolate, Madagascar 64%, which I don't like as much and won't be buying. It has notes of red wine and sharp berry fruits and is a bit too sharp for my taste. After that we tried a milk Madagascar and at first I quite liked it but the creamy aftertaste was too much for me. I shall stick to the dark chocolate bars. Then it was on to the filled chocolates, which was a slight disappointment as I had hoped to spend more time exploring the flavours of the different plantations, but I shall just have to do that myself. I actually came away regretting my purchase of many different ganaches and just one bar (a black cardamom flavoured Brazilian bar). Next time I think I'll forego the flavoured ganaches in favour of bars of San Juan (jasmine notes), Carupano (nuts and coffee) and Samanan (liquorice and tobacco) and single bean ganaches.

The ganaches we tried were liquid salted caramel, champagne, Earl Grey tea, wine and a spiced praline layered with wafers (Feuillantine).

One thing that really caught my attention was when Coleman said that he prefers to eat chocolate first thing in the morning when his taste buds are fresh. I've always saved my chocolate eating for the evening when I'm relaxing after dinner and would possibly have dismissed eating quality chocolate first thing in the morning as a bit decadent. I may have to change my whole approach! Artisan for breakfast!

Artisan run tastings monthly and they cost £35. You can book online.


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March 2009

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