Top Pick Of The Week

November 29, 2005

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chocolate heart

If you haven’t had time to buy the diamond, this heart with gold leaf should elicit a “yes”—at least, it would work with us! Plan ahead for Valentine’s Day!

Pierre Marcolini:
The Greatest Belgian Chocolate

CAPSULE REPORT: A few weeks ago, THE NIBBLE rejoiced—for the great Belgian chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini, finally launched his U.S. website, giving those who pursue the best gourmet chocolate access to his stunning wares.

At the age of thirty, in 1995, Marcolini won the World Champion of Pastry competition and world fame. Chocolate artistry followed; and while fresh pastries can’t travel successfully beyond Belgium, Marcolini now has chocolate salons in London, Moscow, New York City, Paris, and Tokyo.

We rejoiced for the first time last April when Pierre Marcolini Chocolatier opened its New York salon; but these days, a business without a website may as well not exist. While we extolled the magnificence of the chocolate to many, the likelihood of any one person getting to Park Avenue and 58th Street is small. Tell people to head over to, and the odds of introducing them to the great chocolatier increase substantially.



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!

Pierre Marcolini Collection

chocolate boxSo, 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 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.

Truffle Paradise

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:

  • Truffe du Jour, a classic chocolate truffle, i.e., ganache rolled in cocoa powder. Here, it’s a Venezuelan cacao ganache center rolled in a bitter cocoa powder to balance the flavor.
  • Truffe Brésilienne, a Caraïbe ganache center (66% blend of beans from Ghana and Venezuela) dressed in gianduja almond praline, enrobed in milk chocolate and coated with caramelized almonds.
  • Truffe Whisky, a dark and milk chocolate center blended with 12-year-old Glenmorangie single malt Scotch, then rolled in cocoa.
  • Truffe Champagne, a milk chocolate ganache infused with Champagne from Saint Martin D’Ablois, covered in chocolate and rolled in powdered sugar.
  • There are two truffles enrobed in dark chocolate. Truffe Verveine is a dark chocolate ganache infused with lemon verbena, a citrusy herb; the couverture has gold leaf accents. Truffe Tonka has a cream caramel center infused with the spicy vanilla flavor of the South American tonka bean. The top has a sprinkling of crunchy roasted cocoa nibs.

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.

Champagne Truffles
Pierre Marcolini truffles, clockwise from top: Truffe Champagne, Truffe Whisky, Truffe du Jour, Truffe Brésilienne.

Bar None

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.

We have eschewed most milk chocolate for most of our life—we find much of it too cloyingly sweet and one-dimensional. Then we tried Marcolini’s milk bar. What was a milk chocolate revelation has become almost an addiction.

Butterscotch is a flavor that will often arise naturally in the production of fine milk chocolate. Marcolini’s milk bar tastes like a chocolate-butterscotch marriage (it’s pure chocolate, of course). If that combination appeals to you as much as it does to us, you’ll know why we ended up battling over the limited supply with another customer (well, more like hovering, waiting for the next shipment to arrive—all merchandise is on a first come, first served basis, and when you buy a dozen bars at a time...). There was a period of time when there was no more milk chocolate to be had—even headquarters in Belgium had run out; and until the next batch of beans was roasted and the couverture was made, the milk chocolate groupies were up the Rio Caribe without a paddle. During the milk drought, perhaps our fellow enthusiast sought sweet comfort in the white chocolate, as we did.

milk chocolatea bar
We fought a fellow customer over the limited supply of Marcolini’s milk chocolate bars.

Marvelous Marshmallows


We are mindful of your time, and won’t take too much more of it to wax poetic. But we must tell you about Marcolini’s marshmallows with chocolate bits—ethereal handmade puffs accented with sprinkle-size chocolate. The French word is guimauve. These should not be missed. They have not much in common with American-style marshmallows—they’re not spongy, they’re not sugary sweet, they are a sophisticated confection. You can serve them with coffee after the most elegant dinner, plate them with the most intricate dessert...or of course, eat them from the bag like the exquisite morsels they are.  They are also available sans chocolate bits.

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

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to your chocolate-loving friends and anyone who needs to give an impressive gift to a chocolate connoisseur.


Chocolate Assortments, Truffles, Chocolate Bars, Marshmallows (Guimauves)

  • Boxed Chocolates and Truffles
    A variety of sizes from
    $21.00 to $280.00
  • Ephemeral Winter Collection
    (limited edition through January)
  • Chocolate Bars (10 flavors)
    3 ounces
    $9 and $10
  • Guimauve (Marshmallows)
    4 ounces
    $ 15.00
  • Special holiday gift assortments are
    available. Call for details or e-mail

To purchase, visit

Or telephone 1.212.755.5150 Monday through
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

There is no e-commerce on the site, but you can see the products and download an order form to fax to 1.212.755.5175.

Travel Box
A box of chocolate jewels.

Coeur Framboise
Coeur Framboise, white chocolate hearts filled with
raspberry-infused dark chocolate ganache, are also available in a box alternating with Truffes
the Champagne truffles.


Wine Lover's Cookbook Tapas Plates Chocolate The Sweet History
The Wine Lover's Dessert Cookbook: Recipes And Pairings for the Perfect Glass of Wine,
by Mary Cech and Jennie Schacht. Learn to match wines to your favorite chocolate desserts with the helpful guidance of the authors. Click here for more information.
Tapas Plates for Chocolate Tastings. When pairing wine with chocolates, why use these tapas plates for your pairings. The presentation is stunning and they’ll serve many other uses. Click here for more information. To read our article on pairing wine and chocolate, click here.
Chocolate The Sweet History, by Beth Kimmerle. For those just beginning to learn about chocolate, or those with a fundamental knowledge who want to solidify their learning, Kimmerle has put together a terrific primer. A NIBBLE Editors favorite gift book. Click here for more information.

Books from Great Chocolatiers:

chocolate obsession La Maison du Chocolat Great Chocolate
Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor, by Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage. Even amateurs can achieve professional results with the guidance of Michael Recchiuti, the “Picasso of chocolatiers.” Click here for more information.
La Maison du Chocolat: Transcendent Desserts by the Legendary Chocolatier,
by Robert Linxe. Linxe takes the mystery out of building confectionary masterpieces. All of the recipes can be prepared by home cooks using his easy to follow recipes and techniques. Click here for more information.
Fine Chocolates Great Experience, by Jean-Pierre Wybauw. This extensive guide by the famous Master Chocolatier explains everything about chocolate and sugar processing. More than 100 mouth-watering original recipes are beautifully photographed. A standard handbook for professionals and experienced amateurs. Click here for more information.

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