03 Jun2006

cacao1

Barcelona appears to have this incredible reverence for chocolate (perhaps including chocolate covered Filipinos, see previous post)… I am not sure if this observation applies across Spain, but the respect accorded this ingredient was palpable in Barcelona. On our first day walking about, we came across at least three spectacular shops, small gems in prime locations with a wide selection of unusual and delicious chocolates. My daughter may be only 10, but she is unconsciously positioning to be the world’s consumer expert on fine chocolate (and ice cream) by the time she enters college. As such, she has had some of the finest commercial chocolate money, or more likely, indulgent relatives and friends, can buy. She has had an impressive selection of different artisans/purveyors/ manufacturers, and on a trip to Paris a few years ago, her goal/desire to try several chocolates from every single La Maison du Chocolat outlet that we passed was simply incredible. We had lots of chocolate, several cups of hot chocolate and lots of chocolate macaroons and to this day I think she dreams about that week of chocolate heaven… So when we go on trips, I make it a point NOT to resist any chocolate, ice cream or pastry shop we come across as I am certain her memories of particular cities will be heavily influenced by these snippets of cacao, cream and sugar…

Barcelona was chocolate and ice cream nirvana for the Kid. First up, this stunning shop called Cacao Sampaka which we stumbled upon by chance. Apparently owned by the older brother of Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame, this modern, streamlined and incredibly chic shop now has several branches in Barcelona. The chocolates are displayed like jewelry in pristine glass cases. cacao3 Flavors range from the esoteric, like thyme, to superb renditions of classic concoctions like “dark chocolate” but in 60, 70 or even 80% cacao solids. They had several pre-packaged bars, a few carefully selected baked desserts, chocolate sold by the piece or by weight and a small ice cream case with perhaps just 10 flavors (a modest selection given that most ice cream places in Spain and Italy had 20-30 flavors).

This shop also had the snootiest of sales associates. I was not allowed to take a photo inside the shop (only found that out after I snuck a picture of the ice cream case) even though I could, and did, buy their ice cream and photographed it a foot outside their main door to her obvious displeasure. My daughter opted to try a rich looking Ecuadorian chocolate ice cream with flecks of dark chocolate. cacao2It was superb. I say that again, superb. I opted to try a scoop of raspberry infused chocolate and that was very good as well. Of all the ice creams we tried in Barcelona, this was served the coldest. I say that because if I learned anything from this recent trip, it is that the best way to serve good ice cream is somewhat soft so that the flavor really comes through. Serving rock hard ice cream is like eating a frozen cube of mango…not quite as good as a warm juicy morsel.

We were rather turned off by the sales associate so we didn’t buy any actual chocolate. Besides, with so many other shops to try, we had to pace ourselves. Nevertheless, this shop comes well recommended and when I later checked our guidebooks and blackbooks for Barcelona, it was mentioned in every single one of them as having superior chocolate. The ice cream was enough of an introduction and despite the whopping 5 Euro or PHP350 I paid for two tiny scoops in ONE cup and three plastic spoons, it was worth the experience. Inhaling the incredible aroma inside the shop for about 3 minutes, for three people, was free of charge.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. fried-neurons says:

    I have never understood (and never will) sales associates who are snooty. I mean, unless a person look and smell like a hobo who will drive paying customers away, that person doesn’t deserve to be subjected to “katarayan”. Lalo na if the person is actually a paying customer.

    Whenever I encounter snooty salespeople I can’t help but think, “Hello? You work in retail. As a salesclerk. Get over yourself.” tee hee. *evil grin*

    Anyway, with regards to chocolate: I don’t think I’ve ever tasted chocolates from Spain. How are they? Are they sweet like American, creamy like English, rich like Swiss, complex like Belgian, or smoky like French? Super sarap ba? Maybe I’ll try to find some here…

    Jun 3, 2006 | 2:21 pm

     
  2. renee says:

    has the kid tried the parisian chocolate 1848? its the best one i’ve ever had, but sadly i don’t enjoy some of my old favorites as much after I tasted this (im no longer excited by cadbury hazelnut) hehehehe, oh well, the price we pay for a bit of heaven =P

    Jun 3, 2006 | 4:19 pm

     
  3. sister says:

    Just remember what Mom said to a snooty salesgirl at Bloomingdales: “Don’t forget which side of the counter you’re at”.

    Jun 3, 2006 | 11:40 pm

     
  4. Marketman says:

    fried neurons, the Spanish chocolates we tried were best described as being seriously INTENSE, very cacao-ey, nice and bitter, evocative of the cacao bean, not too sweet, not too creamy, screamed CHO-CO-LATE flavor. Not the best we have had on the planet, but incredibly interesting, if you ask me. They get kudos for presentation and merchandising, however.

    renee, yes, I think a few years ago we tried the 1848 bars of chocolate, they are okay though the shops I list in Barcelona had more of the artisanal made by hand chocolates in addition to more transport friendly bars. But SURPRISE, SURPRISE, 1848 and all its Frenchness has a dirty secret…it’s actually owned by CADBURY and they don’t put their brand name on the wrapper as it could negatively affect their sales. But yes, any high cacao content chocolates (60-80%) are significantly more flavorful than the low concentration cousins. Despite our preference for darker chocolates (my wife and daughter in particular), I personally also like milk chocolates big time. I can go from really pricey stuff to my long-time favorite, CADBURY FRUIT & NUT any day… And milk chocolate covered raisins are another weakness…

    sister, heeheehee, I have to remember that line the next time I run into a snooty salesperson…there were a FEW in Barcelona.

    Jun 4, 2006 | 10:20 am

     
  5. MGR says:

    Hey, you made it there after all. I recomended this place to you from a previous post. Forget the snooty salesclerk. Probably having a bad day..I still have some CS chocolate in my cupboard chocolate stash. I also have some Amedei from Tuscany.

    Jun 4, 2006 | 1:37 pm

     
  6. MGR says:

    And Godiva is owned by….Campbell’s (the same soup company). Surprise!

    Jun 4, 2006 | 1:42 pm

     
  7. Marketman says:

    MGR, yes, and I think I got to other things you mentioned earlier as well…will have to speed up the posts.

    Jun 4, 2006 | 1:49 pm

     
  8. mayumi says:

    MGR, i have to ask… have you tried the amedei yet? i read an article about the chocolate war between amedei and valrhona. the italian owned amedei sourced the same cacao from .. was it venezuela (?) from the french.

    replaced it as the world’s BEST chocolate.

    so, what do you think?

    Jun 5, 2006 | 10:33 am

     
  9. mgr says:

    Mayumi, yes. Amedei actually helped cacao bean cooperativas in Venezuelas Chuao region…which is the most prized beans. As opposed to Valrhona that did nothing of the sort. Amedei even paid the debts of the farmers in the never-ending debt ridden situations between the farmers and landowners. Same thing that happens in the Philippines. Only difference is Venezuela produces the best chocolate beans in the world. Their chocolate specially the Chuao and porcelana brands are smooth as silk..and very “intense” as according to MM’s own words. Their milk chocolate though is of the swiss style of manufacturing…super deadly creamy and smooth. Try some if you can.

    Jun 5, 2006 | 11:10 am

     
  10. Jade186 says:

    I was in Barcelona last week, tried this little shop and I must say that the chocolate and ice cream were delicious! The fruit sorbets were really flavoursome and the chocolate was, as described above by MM, quite intense and rich. My Italian foodie friend who was travelling with me did like it as well, and gave me an informative little lecture on how to discern between excellent, good and mediocre ice cream. The salesclerk did not allow photos to be taken inside, yes, but was not as snooty as I expected her to be (well she was cordial with me atleast). Thanks for this post MM!

    Jul 3, 2007 | 11:49 pm

     
 

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