What makes the chocolates of Pierre Marcolini so worth running to the website...or, if you possibly can, to any of the shops? A combination of simply spectacular flavor, concept, artistry, and craftsmanship. Nobody on earth does it better.
Whether Marcolini’s pronounced flavor profile and contemporary concepts are to your liking over, say, the similar yet more assertive style and different, patterned design style
of Michel Richart at Richart Design et Chocolat, or the more delicate, classic flavors and styles of Robert Linxe at La Maison du Chocolat, you will only know by tasting several different forms of Marcolini, over a year or so.*
*This is not a coy suggestion to eat chocolate. One thing we have discovered in tasting thousands of products a year, year after year, is never to rely universally on our first impressions of anything. That which delights us at first may possibly turn out to be less distinctive the more we taste it; and that which we felt was good-but-not-great can subsequently reveal its charms and become a product we recommend. Environment, energy level, what one has already tasted that day, and of course, anything external affecting smell and taste all play their part.
Marcolini is not the typical Belgian chocolatier in that he enrobes his chocolates by hand (dips the centers in chocolate) instead of shell-molding them. His flavors are full-forward (i.e., pronounced and flavorful), but at the same time beautifully refined and elegant. He uses a minimum amount of sugar so the pure flavors of the chocolate and other ingredients show through—even the milk and white chocolates are never cloying. In these respects, Marcolini is French rather than Belgian in style; and even among French chocolatiers, his level of flavor complexity and finesse is achieved only by a handful of greats. As an added wonderment, Marcolini fuses his job as pastry chef into his job as chocolatier, utilizing puff pastry and cookies as surprise bases under some of the enrobed chocolates—and the results are dazzling!
So, what’s in store for you at Pierre Marcolini Chocolatier? As with any fine chocolatier, there are dozens of items to turn your head. But first focus on the beautiful pralines, the word Belgians use for what we would call assorted chocolates. About these we need say no more than: get the largest box you can afford and enjoy it, piece by luscious piece. Invite your friends who appreciate chocolate to join you, and serve some French or Italian Roast coffee or espresso. If you’ve been looking for a reason to get to know some people better, or pay back an invitation, this is the chocolate-lover’s equivalent of cracking open a bottle of Yquem.
There are thirty pralines in the house collection: infused chocolates (Thym Orange, Violette, Java Fondant), nuts in chocolate (ground sugared almond and nougatine, marzipan, a wonderful, wafer-like Pavé de Tours, or crispy almond-flour mix), and a variety of caramels including our favorite piece, the Câlin (almond-flour crisps topped with cream caramel and then enrobed in chocolate). Mr. Marcolini is a golfer, and two of the caramels are golf balls in both white and dark chocolate (a sugared almond and walnut surrounded by cream caramel, then enrobed). We may have to take up golf to explain why we are eating boxes of chocolate golf balls, and refusing to share (“it helps us focus on our game”).
The assortments also contain Marcolini’s single origin chocolates, which, like his other chocolates, are made from beans he personally sources, roasts, and turns into couverture. You can sensitize your palate to the differences in cacao flavors from the Caribbean, Ecuador, Madagascar, Venezuela; and enjoy Mr. Marcolini’s “house blend,” which combines beans from Java and Venezuela. (See our article in TheNibble.com online magazine, The Flavors and Aromas of Chocolate, and particularly Part II: Regional Differences—The Varying Flavors of Great Cacao Around The World, for a detailed explanation.)
In addition to the house collection, there are seasonal collections that enable Mr. Marcolini to offer his most demanding customers chocolates with flair and adventure. He must be as excited to create them as we are to have them. Even as we focus on the Ephemeral Winter Collection (a limited edition available through January), we cannot forget the celestial basil and olive oil ganaches, enrobed in white chocolate, from the Ephemeral Summer Collection. Which among the intoxicating winter flavors—chestnut and nutmeg, apple and cinnamon, melon and sandal, pear and oak, blackberry and szechuan pepper, and tonka and patchouli—will we be wistfully remembering in June?
All of Marcolini’s chocolates are packaged in elegant black boxes made of beautiful paper, created by the Belgian luxury leather goods designer, Delvaux. They’re too lovely to discard when the chocolate is gone. Aesthetes will think of ways to repurpose them.
We’d like to comment separately on Pierre Marcolini’s truffles. European truffles haven’t turned our head for a couple of decades: even among the best chocolatiers, they often have a certain rich-but-bland sameness, as with chocolate mousse at fine French restaurants. Marcolini’s truffles, like most of his oeuvre, are truly noteworthy. The selection includes:
The Champagne and whiskey truffles definitely assert the presence of alcohol—as they should. That’s why they’re head-turners. Too often, confections called “Champagne truffles” provide not much more than sweet romantic illusion. If we were re-enacting the Jean Harlow scene from “Dinner at Eight,” lounging in bed in a white satin negligee with a box of bonbons, they’d be Marcolini Truffes Champagne—perhaps the best Champagne truffle we’ll ever eat.
THE NIBBLE has already written extensively about Pierre Marcolini’s exceptional chocolate bars. We admire the bars of perhaps a dozen great chocolatiers, but these are among our favorites. Again employing that yin-and-yang balance of assertiveness and refinement that is Pierre Marcolini, they have all of the flavor rush, nuance and complexity without being an intellectual exercise that is as much thought and focus as pleasure eating—“library chocolate,” as many of the great bars are called.
Even when you don’t feel like you should be eating chocolates...surely, you deserve a guimauve. Buy at least two bags, because if you don’t, we bet you two bags that you will say, “I should have bought more.”
We do not worship false gods, but we worship the talent, passion, and confections of Pierre Marcolini.
— Karen Hochman
Books from Great Chocolatiers:
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