I’m on a business trip to New York City, which happens to be home to the only US outlet for Pierre Marcolini chocolate. Pierre Marcolini is one of the top Belgian chocolate makers, and one of the only makers that produces chocolate from the bean, as opposed to using premade couverture to create confections. Marcolini has jumped into the artisan chocolate movement with both feet, to the point that he has his own exclusive Mexican plantation growing the the very rare Porcelana subtype of the rare Criollo bean type. Marcolini is definitely playing to a very high-end market, as you can tell by his rather fetching Park Avenue storefront:
The store carries a range of truffles and other chocolate candies, but he also sells bars of chocolate, some of them single origin. In the middle of these bars, in a silver package that sets it apart from the dark packaging of the other more “ordinary” Marcolini bars is the Limited Edition, made from his own private stash of Mexican Porcelana Criollo. And, it’s a $15 for 2.5 oz of chocolate. Yikes.
Being a complete chocolate fanatic, and admitted sucker for status items, this (and an assortment of the other single origin specialities) was a clear must-have. (In the most effective sales pitch ever, the clerk explained that they only had 9 bars left, and would not be getting any more for a year.) Got to give Marcolini points for designing a great retail experience!
Outside of the theatrics, this is one monumental chocolate. The Porcelana bean is known for being a very light, fruity bean. Latin American beans, in general, have a chocolate taste that builds more slowly and is less powerful than the more monochromatic, more directly “chocolatey” African beans. In Marcolini’s Limited Edition, he’s roasted and conched these sophisticated little seeds into a baroque wonder. One of my favorite things about tasting really quality chocolate is how the taste can play out and elaborate over time. Different cocoa butter fractions will melt at different points, and cocoa solids will release different flavors as the chocolate melts on the tongue. In a good Venezuelan or Madagascar chocolate, this shows up as a pleasant fruit or floral note that typically plays out after the initial chocolate and nutty flavors. This chocolate is sophisticated enough that it carries at least three distinct fruit notes that play out sequentially on the tongue. It’s full of pineapple, apple, and banana notes that blend seamlessly into the bready and nutty lower flavors. There is very little bitterness or astringency to distract from this little taste melody. The Limited is clean and light enough that the middle flavors actually are quite similar to the softness of a milk chocolate. The typical punchiness of a lower end dark chocolate is almost entirely absent. The Marcolini has a complexity evident in very few dark chocolates, with a gentle character that makes milk chocolate seem redundant. Extraordinary.
For those that want to do a taste comparison, Amedei and Domori also produce chocolate using the Porcelana bean.