Friday, July 14, 2006

Pierre Marcolini: Pure Origin Chocolate Gringo

Pierre Marcolini is one of the few chocolatiers to make his own couverture chocolate, using a blend of personally-selected beans. (Most others simply buy premade building blocks from factory chocolate makers like Callebaut, Valrhona, and El Rey.) Marcolini has a maverick streak, traveling from his native land of Belgium to the likes of Mexico, Madagascar, and Trinity Island to source out ingredients for each small batch of chocolate behind his signature line of bars.

The Marcolini Pepite de Cacao bar was one of the highlights of my just-completed round-the-world trip. This 72%-cacao blend with caramelized nibs had a flawless flavor that was at once strong, smooth, and perfectly-balanced. I've never crunched on more delicious bits of cacao bean, and the chocolate itself had an alluringly sensual texture that experts describe using the term "mouth feel." I have no doubt that great artistry, incredible craftsmanship, and of course a remarkable set of taste buds lie behind the high prices that Marcolini attaches to his products. I was lucky enough to discover Marcolini's Paris boutique at 89 rue de Siene, and to find myself in the neighborhood of his midtown Manhattan store just a week later. Anyone passing through either of those cities, Tokyo, or anywhere in Belgium should save up a few extra dollars for Marcolini's new Summer 2006 Collection of bon-bons accented with balsamic vinegar, star anise, and ylang-ylang.

Expensive chocolate often comes with a touch of pomposity, and Marcolini's outfit is no exception. His website makes grandiose proclamations, written in the kind of verb-less sentences that one expects from a Japanese-English translation ("A meteoric success that is the result of this passionate chocolate enthusiast'’s total faith"), with a selection of unforgivable words (alchemist,leitmotiv, the Absolute). Still, all of this promo material is written with great excitement, sometimes even with a refreshing bit of levity. Reading the website's description of the chocolatier as an "indefatigable chocolate 'gringo'" made me want to sign up for the Marcolini newsletter.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pierre Marcolini have now accepted that marketing and PR statements to the effect that they 'make their own couverture' and not entirely correct. Various figures in the industry are aware that Marcolini buy a significant proportion of their chocolate from the Belgian industrial company Callebaut and others. This has been documented publicly in the press, for example in Forbes magazine, 14 March 2005.

It is accepted that they have the ability to make some chocolate - probably for their origin bars only – but it is unlikely they can produce anything like the quantity required for all of their bon bons. There is nothing wrong this, many great chocolatiers produce fantastic products from bought in couverture, and there is no doubting the quality of Marcolini's offerings.

I have to point out though, that your opening sentence is incorrect, and gives the impression that Marcolini is somehow better that all the others because they make their own couverture. Except for some show production, they don't. I just wanted to clear that up and help make sure that over-enthusiastic marketing is not too widely repeated. I hope that is helpful.

5:55 AM GMT-5  

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