Barcelona is crazy about a few things: FCBarcelona, mixing red wine with pop (vino+lemon Faygo/tonic/limonada=tinto de verano, vino+Coke=kalimotxo), and wearing lots of viscose jersey. They’re also crazy about xocolata; at least four artisan chocolate shops pepper each neighborhood. Naturally, I made it my mission to visit all of them.
The Museu de la Xocolata is in la Ribera, right near la Ciutadella–the big city park–and super close to where I’m staying. It seemed like a nice, official place to start. Admission was 3 euros and change, thanks to my handy university ID I regularly exploit since graduating four years ago.
While there was a little walk-through about the history of chocolate, how chocolate is made, how it became popular, etc., the museu was largely taken up by chocolate sculptures.
Some sculptures were really beautiful:
But most were frightening:
This was a combination of both:
The museu was less of a museu and more a room full of chocolate sculptures. I did, however, learn via the placards that when the ancient Mayans used cocoa beans as currency, a rabbit cost the same amount as a prostitute: 10 beans…which you can’t even make chocolate with.
My appetite whet by bizarre chocolate art, I headed to the cafe, where they had coffee, pastries, bars and chocolate golf balls for sale. I opted for espresso and a couple pieces.
They use Valrhona, for all those dying to know. It was tasty…not the best ever, but worth the trip for the whole confectionery experience.
Brunells has been around for a while and along with selling no-nonsense, really tasty and traditional cookies and cakes, they also have chocolate.
Next up, I walked my little self to L’Eixample to Cacao Sampaka.
It was really quite tragic I wasn’t able to take pictures in the store. There was a wall of chocolate bars of varying percentages of cacao, from white chocolate to a deep, sexy 90%. They also had yummy-yet-predictable flavors: chocolate with chile, fleur de sel, hazelnuts, and the like. They also had both orange blossom and bergamot, and I vaguely mused and what the difference in taste would be.
What was really gorgeous, though, was their glass case of bonbons. Now, I’m intimately familiar with counters full of mix-and-match chocolate, but this was truly a site to behold; about fifty truffles organized by flavor groups: herbs and florals, fruits, single origin, spices, booze and others. A little something called their Gastronomic Innovations collection tickled my fancy, too. Flavors like lavender and rose caught my attention regardless of their recent popularity with chocolate, along with saffron and cardamom, pear and vanilla, whiskey and cognac–oh gosh, I’ve begun to actually salivate while I’m writing this. Flavors in the Gastronomic Innovations collection ranged from the surprisingly tame chocolate with peanut (racy!) to borderline icky anchovies and hazelnut. There’s also a little cafe in the back that has expensive espresso and chocolate drinks.
So I picked up a couple bars as gifts for my gracious hosts (and myself) and a little box of four chocolates. Unfortunately, they were devoured before I could document how cute they were.
The four little bonbons were quite tasty, of course. I got dark chocolate and passionfruit, whisky rolled in cocoa powder, dark chocolate with parmesan cheese and one with cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. While the chocolate itself was very good quality, the flavors didn’t come out so much. The passionfruit was fine–it tasted fruity. The paramesan was cheesy and the whisky was more subtle than I would’ve liked. The bars, however, are very good. I kept the Bergamot and one that’s 90%–the bergamot is milk chocolate with subtle orangey-ness and the dark chocolate is smooth and meaty with a bite. Lots of coffee and smoke.
Headed back southeast through Raval and Gotic, I saw this little guy:
El Magnifico is an institution in Barcelona, so much so that their webpage doesn’t even have an option to view it in English. The espresso was very, very good, and the staff was super friendly and very helpful (something rare in the BCN). I also bought some artisan chocolate here along with a bit of ground coffee, but the main reason I’m including this is because I had my first function conversation in Spanish with the store clerk here. I had questions, she gave me answers, I responded, she responded; it was so beautiful. I left feeling exhilarated, caffeinated, and with a bellyful of oh-so-delicious chocolate.
Now these are just a few of my favorites. Since my little chocolate outing, I’ve come across countless other chocolate shops and pastelerias, Bubo, Escriba and lots others–this city is filled with them! And don’t even get me started Churros y Chocolate–it’s everywhere here and I haven’t had it yet. Somehow. Maybe another tour is in store. Let me just put my eating dress on.