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 worldâ€™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 heavenâ€¦ 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 sugarâ€¦
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. Flavors range from the esoteric, like thyme, to superb renditions of classic concoctions like â€œdark chocolateâ€ 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. It 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 mangoâ€¦not quite as good as a warm juicy morsel.
We were rather turned off by the sales associate so we didnâ€™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.