I’ve worked hard this year so I thought I’d treat myself to a box of Pierre Marcolini chocolates but what I didn’t realise is that I’d give myself a huge job of reviewing them. The problem I’ve got is that the whole experience from the opening of the delivery box to placing the first of its contents into my mouth was fantastic. The outer packaging is wonderful as your chocolates will arrive in a very well protected box with stiff foam surrounding it and a block of “ice” below to keep the contents cool. Obviously in this weather it’s not needed, but they couldn’t have known the temperature in the various DHL courier depots were? It is this attention to detail that I found so pleasing.
As you open the box you’ll get an envelope with your gift message in plus a “welcome” note about the temperature controlling packaging he uses and his focus on quality. Every single detail was thought of. It’s as if you’re metaphorically walking into one of his chocolate shops, had your shopping bags taken from you, sat down with a glass of Champagne and given a soft neck rub. You are so put in the mood to enjoy the finest chocolates money could buy. And that’s my next point – the price. The fifty carré and “gourmet pieces of the world” cost £40 and then an additional £23 for the packaging. But to send these chocolates in a jiffy bag would be like getting Del Boy to deliver a Maserati. The experience of having these Palets Fins arriving in peak condition is worth the hefty delivery cost.
The actual presentation box is sensational too. It reminds me (like I know!?) of one very expensive jewellery shops on New Bond Street in London and how they would present a £200,000 diamond necklace. And as you open the top you will see five lines of five Palets Fins which include Caramel Fleur D’Oranger, Caramel Mangue, Caramel Passion, Praliné Pistache Noisette, Caramel au Beurre Salé. And for those of you who don’t understand French, I’ve found out that means you get caramel with orange blossom, Mango caramel, mango, praline and pistachio and salted butter caramel.
So I started at the front of the tray with the caramel with orange blossom. The aroma here was dominated by the dark chocolate that contained the comfit, I couldn’t pinpoint which couverture he used, and to be honest, I didn’t expect to. So it was good to find out that this one used a house blend of various different ones. The orange blossoms came from Algeria and offered a very light introductory flavour that had a touch of a dusty experience, but the experience was so short-lived and ever-changing that it was difficult to describe. In fact, it was much like the northern lights where the colours change so quickly and it’d be difficult to pin-point exactly what they are – you can only describe the experience. That being said, there is a delightful after-taste that is light on the orange but has a good length. I really did love this one.
Next we had the Mangue fondant with the mangos coming from Brazil which offered another delightful experience. With this one the mango delivered a more subdued flavour that managed to hold back behind the dark chocolate notes and ended up walking hand in hand within my mouth. Understated indeed, but still immensely pleasing. Too many mass-produced fruit chocolates purposely over-power the quality because of its poor quality. Here, because Pierre Marcolini uses very good quality couverture, he has the opportunity to present the true flavour of the fruit without pumping it full of sugar.
The aroma of the passion fruit caramel reminded me of play-dough, but the flavour was sharp, sweet and as natural as you would expect if you actually just got a passion fruit and ate it – unadulterated by any cacao. The chocolate casing here was much lighter and probably at the 50% level but didn’t actually appear in the flavour range because the passion fruit offered a stronger experience. That’s not to say it was bitter, just sharper than the others.
I then approached the Praliné with Iranian pistachio which also had a beautiful, well-rounded aroma and a flavour that was rich and creamy. There was no dryness as was the case with the Patchi pralines, instead it was rich, velvety and sensual. If all pralines were like this I’d be their biggest fan! …… OK, so either I’ve left the window open or this one has given me goose bumps?!
And finally from the Palets Fins I have the caramel with salted butter which, to me, had an almost minty backdrop but must actually be the incredibly mild saltiness that accompanies the butter. Flavourwise it’s like trying to get a thread through a needle with fifty-foot tweezers – and he manages it. The flavours are so finely balanced, so acute and so calculated that it made me wonder how good the other selection boxes I’ve reviewed in the past actually were.
I don’t know why but I was drawn to the Java (Indonesia) carré first, most probably because it was much lighter than the others. And the aroma was sensational – very sweet with a great honey overtone which was carried through into the flavour which was complimented with a delicious creaminess that was divine.
The ‘Pierre Marcolini’ I would expect is a blend of couverture from various nation growers. It wasn’t as aromatic or as unique as the Java but soft and gentle and more like a square of Chapon Cuba. The problem I have with these carré is that they’re so petit that it’s difficult for any flavour to really take hold unless it is in actual fact robust. There was a touch of an earthy tone but it would seem that as it is a blend, any “idiosyncrasies” of the individual couvertures were contradicted by the others.
The aroma of the Trinidad carré was fruity with this sweet, marmalade tone which was also represented in the flavour which offered an acidity that was very welcome after the earthy one before. Here, there was a lasting bitterness that made it stand out from the previous.
The Bresil had a mango aroma but with a stark, concentrated orange juice type flavour – it seems the bitterness is being ratcheted up as I proceed along them. The bitterness with this one can be felt at the back of the throat – but it isn’t unpleasant, just one more for the dark chocolate lovers.
The Équateur comes from Ecuador and also had a very fragrant aroma but a flavour which reminds me of apricot Danishes. Gorgeous!