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French food focus - January 2019

A focus on food in France. Includes meeting producers, artisan cheese and a local speciality...

Meet the producers

Marc Cluizel and his sisters Sylvie and Catherine are the third generation to run Manufacture Cluizel, the family chocolate business.

“My grandparents created the company, my grandfather was a pâtissier from Lyon,” says Marc. “His wife Marcelle ran a sweet shop, and together they set up a combined pâtisserie, chocolaterie and delicatessen in Rambouillet.

“After the First World War, they moved to Paris but in the currency crash and subsequent inflation, they lost most of their money. Then suddenly my grandmother inherited a house in Damville, in Normandy. So he decided to make his filled chocolates there, and supply them wholesale to other shops. Gradually, the business grew and by 1964 the company had 50 employees.”

The company was eventually taken over by Marc’s father, and in time by Marc and his sisters and today, fulfilling their grandparents’ dream, they have five shops in Paris. “We own the company together. We all live in the shops and own them. Sylvie does the finance, Catherine manages the shops in Paris, I deal with the manufacturing side.”

The family have established two ‘chocolatriums’; one in Damville and one in Berlin, USA (just south of New York). “They are like a cross between a museum and a workshop where people can come and learn about chocolate tasting and about the difference between the chocolates we make and others. We explain the difference between Cluizel chocolate and other chocolate.”

One of the company’s particularities is that Marc Cluizel buys directly from the cocoa farmers, cutting out the middlemen. “Cocoa growers get around €1-2 per kilo from a negotiator, but I buy direct and pay them around €5-7 per kilo. I pay a fair price because I know the work involved. And, of course, it means we use sustainably farmed beans and I can demand the best quality. We’re the only family company in the world which makes chocolate from beans bought direct from planters selected by word of mouth, and sealed by a handshake.” 

Cluizel’s chocolatrium and boutique in Damville, Eure, is open all year round (Tuesday-Saturday) and makes a fascinating visit for all the family. See www.cluizel.com for addresses and opening hours of their Paris shops.

Artisan cheese of the month

With production techniques dating back to the 17th century, this goat’s cheese from the Alps is made from the milk produced by a single herd of goats, 80% of which must be from the same breed of alpine chèvre.

It is formed into a convex disk shape not dissimilar to its more famous winter counterpart Reblochon – the staple of skier’s favourite tartiflette made with cow’s milk.

Unusually for a goat’s cheese, Chevrotin is an uncooked, pressed cheese. It is designated an AOP – Appellation d’Origine Protégée.

You can buy in situ throughout Savoie, such as from husband and wife producers Gérard et Caroline Cruz-Mermy at La Chèvrerie des Thoules.

Local speciality: Rillons confits

Rillons confits from Vouvray in the Loire are made from deboned pork shoulder which is cooked low and slow, resulting in melt-in-the-mouth tenderness. Two added twists: the meat is given yet more flavour from the caramelised cooking juices and further enhanced by the addition of local wine.

To serve, it can be gently reheated in a bain-marie and eaten with mashed potatoes. Available in 450g jars from www.bienmanger.com

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