We're moving back down the ladder, closer to more respectable levels of cacao. After hiding my chocolate bag from Paris in the basement for a while, I have crept back down, reached inside and, voila, I have retrieved the Marcolini bar. Pierre Marcolini is actually Belgian, but in my opinion Belgium is close enough to France so Marcolini made it on to the chocolate tour. I also happen to have an affinity for Belgium, and those little dark-chocolate-covered caramels from Cote d'Or that are seemingly impossible to find outside of Belgium!
This Alto Piura 85% is one of those "Limited Edition" bars you may have come across in fancy chocolate shops. It usually means the beans come from a small, independent plantation and therefore are in limited supply. These are "criolo blanco" cacao beans. Criollo are the rarer beans, due to the delicacy of a plant that does not travel well or handle hurricanes with grace. So most criollo bars are considered special and rare, which of course is reflected in the price of the finished product. I was not able to find out what exactly "criolo blanco" is, and whether it is any different from just plain criollo. In general, Criollo is supposed to have a wonderful, low acid flavor, however this particular bar I would describe as "bright and acidic". The first flavor I catch is almond, the actual cocoa flavor receding into the background. As much as I love almond, I can't say that I adore this bar. I find the acidity is what really stands out, and I'm not a fan of bright and acidic where chocolate is concerned. Perhaps criollo is better in lower percentages. Or without the blanco attached! Or maybe it has to do with the fact that the beans are sourced from Peru, which seems like an unusual place for cacao these days. Or maybe, the French would say, it's because it is Belgian. Or perhaps I just don't like criollo that much. After all, I am not a big fan of Chuao bars, which are from criollo beans. Many possibilities. I'll discuss this with Mike at the chocolate shop and see what he thinks.
While I've rarely thought I wasted money on a chocolate I ended up not liking, I can say with certainty that this pricey little bar did have something of value to offer after all: it appears from the packaging that French-speakers write the word criollo with one "L", not two. This strongly suggests that we are meant to pronounce the word with the "L" firmly in tact. I have been pronouncing it the Spanish way, turning that double "L" into a "Y". Dang. These are the kinds of things that keep this former linguist up at night!
As for the rest of this bar, it just might need to be melted down and swirled into my next batch of espresso custard. There is always a good way to use those "not so great" bars!