In these straightened times and after the Euro Summit in particular, I would have expected to hear more people in the media exclaiming that we should be “buying British”. That might work when you have a choice of apples or pears but what about chocolate?
In my round up of my favourite chocolate of the year I offered the opinion that the Pierre Marcolini selection box was the best of the year. That review just served to confirm my belief that you should always try and buy the best you can afford. Chocolate is about luxuriousness, it’s about the passion and satisfying one’s urges. The shops may be full of cheap chocolate that make you feel that you’re having a wonderful experience. However, that just satisfies a chemical urge – your soul is left untouched. You can often have an emphatic, satisfying chocolate experience if you explore what the wider world has to offer.
We’re all busy people and we don’t have time to search the internet for the rare or the refined, we’re more inclined to wonder down the confectionery aisle and select what’s on offer or what we “know” we like rather than venturing out of our comfort zone and trying something original. The Channel 4 programme Food Hospital regularly profile people whose entire diet consists of peanut butter sandwiches and pancakes – it does nothing for your soul. Chemical imbalances and the fear of the unknown serve to restrict one’s experiences. Life is about living. I live vicariously via the cocoa bean and the hard work of those talented enough to turn that into awe-inspiring chocolate, and I just wish more would explore the fantastic chocolate being made outside of the multinational organisations.
And this is where Pierre Marcolini steps in. Although he has major financial backing, but not only do we have a passion for chocolate but we also a belief that every facet of an experience is worth giving one’s all to. How chocolate is packaged is just as important as the flavour, which is as important as the visual appearance of the chocolate, which in turn is as important the condition the chocolate arrives at your door in. If any one of those elements is not 100% then the chocolate itself must, therefore, be less enjoyable.
Quality doesn’t come cheap. Who manages to buy an Aston Martin for the price of a Lotus? We’re talking about at least £70 for a four layer box of these chocolates – and up to £120 if you wish to really treat yourself. But to my mind it’s worth it. Of course I didn’t buy these chocolates, but I’m not the wealthiest person I know. But saying that, if I really, truly had to impress somebody then I could find no more fitting gesture than to buy them some of Pierre Marcolini’s chocolates, given the holistic experience.
The top collection in this box was the Malline Découverte which was a superbly presented selection of ganaches – all perfectly secured in the container to prevent damage in transit. I simply cannot review them all in an evening as it just wouldn’t be possible to enjoy them all. These bon bons are meant to be savoured, enjoyed and savoured as unique, individual experiences. They’re not a box of Matchmakers which are perfect to consume en masse, they each an la petite mort. And I don’t say that lightly – the only other time I have felt this emotional about chocolate was with the Geert Vercruysse Selection.
The red, shiny heart where aroma led me into believing it was a praline, although the centre was radically different – an utterly sensational fruit ganache with a white chocolate layer. The flavours swirled around in my mouth like the shudders accompanying the end scene of coitus. Part of that comes from the how the visual and taste senses work in tandem and provide such a rich sensation.
Trying each ganache in turn was lucky dip of epic proportions. When you’re consuming average quality chocolates having a menu is supremely important, but when you’re consuming such fantastic quality chocolates a great deal of the enjoyment is the surprise, and there’s certainly something for everyone. Some are single origin ganaches, some fruit-based, some made with herbs and spices (perhaps my favourite was the four spices?). This is a true selection box.
To fully deliver a Christmas theme there was flat Father Christmas figure labelled “Le Surprise” which was comprised of a 42% milk chocolate (I’m not sure which origin or if it’s just his house blend) with a utterly tremendous surprise (hence the name) of a praline and nougat filling which filled Santa’s head. These sort of large, festive treats are traditionally made for children – but I wouldn’t let any child anywhere near this, or any other human being to be honest. It was just simply gorgeous. Sweet, but divine.
The third collection was that of the Truffles du Jour which in this case I expect where pink Champagne truffles. And they were quite simply out of this world. By the time I had actually lined them up in front of the camera I had consumed seven – they’re just the perfect size to pop own in your mouth and unleash the sex in your mouth. They’re sweet, intoxicating, playful and my ultimate downfall.
The fourth layer, I believe should have been “the Fancy Christmas Tree’ which is a triangular collection of ‘little Christmas balls’ which in reality are deep red chocolate shells filled with praline of various different kinds including pistachio nuts, nougat chips and other kinds. Alas I got another tray of Malline Découverte which is I suppose like dropping four £5 notes and picking up a £20. I’ll just have some more of these other ganaches then.
It’s difficult to detach oneself from the care and packaging aspect when reviewing chocolate as the attention to detail with this selection certainly does make one more receptive to the chocolate. If I consider the work of Geert with that of Pierre I do feel that Geert does exceedingly well with very few resources in comparison. It’s hence a balance of perfection with the fantastic support Pierre has against the almost solitary artisanal excellence of Geert – David v. Goliath if you will. I’d hate to have to choose.