Just around the corner from our apartment, less than 50 paces away, was another highly recommended chocolate shop, XOCOA. Donâ€™t you just love the name? The Catalan and Basque penchant for â€œXâ€™sâ€ in their words is extremely intriguing for me. Xocoa and Xocolat sound so much more exotic and extravagant than chocolate, for some inexplicable reason. Heehee, notice all those xâ€™s? At any rate, we decided to check this place out on the way to visiting a nearby church and you can guess which place we spent more time at! Located in a small shop (say 30 m2) on a narrow and appropriately â€œxâ€ named street, Petrixol, in the Gothic district, amongst centuries old galleries and other interesting shops, I knew I was close before I even saw the shopâ€™s signage. The intense aroma of xocoa from 10 meters away was a dead giveaway. Owned by one of the oldest patisserie families in Barcelona, they shifted their focus to chocolate about 10 years ago.
Despite being on a narrow street with so much history, the shop had an incredibly modern interior, perhaps a notch down from Cacao Sampakaâ€™s (see earlier post) cool modern digs. The amount of chocolate in this small shop was actually staggering, given that most of this stuff is extremely perishable. There were glass cases with hand-made chocolates, open cases FILLED with chocolate keys, balls and other delicacies. They also had baked goods such as brownies and delicious looking cakes that were displayed under glass. On the shelves on one wall were at least 30 different kinds of chocolate bars in groovy wrappers so unlike those of the commercial chocolate one finds in Western supermarkets. I figured they must sell between 1-1,500 Euro (PHP65,000-100,000) in chocolate and desserts a day if they were to make any profit!
The store even had several chocolate scented candles in its gift section. CHOCOLATE SCENTED CANDLES! Now, I might normally react to that as being a bit over the top, but in the context of this shop, it just made me smile, shake my head in wonder, and thank the food Gods for another new food related experience. There were tons of different bottled chocolates and spreads which would have made terrific presents for a chocolate lover. They also had chocolate covered almonds with cocoa dust and clusters of nuts and fruits dipped in dark chocolate. What is amazing about these shops is that many locals (and tourists) come in, carefully select ONE or TWO pieces, pay for them, and take them out to savor there and then. It is a treat, a flavor high point, a shot of good stuff. It is, for me, the height of civility in many ways. My wife and I shared about 100 grams of candied orange peel dipped in dark chocolate – they were exquisite – fresh, moist and covered in intensely dark chocolate.
My daughter decided to have a go at one of the chocolate keys, a large antique looking key made of 80% cacao solids and dusted with cacao powder. When I asked the salesperson (a little less snooty than the Cacao Sampaka one) for some assistance, she answered that â€œthat chocolate is extremely fine quality dark chocolate, very bitter, perhaps she should try anotherâ€¦â€ to which my daughter replied, â€œI want the key, thanksâ€ (accompanied with a glint in her eye of slight disdain that only her Dad would catch…). She started to munch on the key as we perused the other offerings in the shop and she finished the large key in under 100 seconds. She had a grin on her face and said it was â€œpretty good, not too bitterâ€¦â€ Heehee. She likes dark chocolate, that one. The sales clerk said no more.
We also purchased a dense looking brownie on another visit to take home and share for dessert after a home-cooked meal but frankly, it was a bit disappointing. It was dense and chocolatey but somewhat dry and lacking other flavors (mostly butter) that make a great moist brownie. This place was also a bit pricey â€“ the key was 3 euro and the brownie perhaps 4 euro, but I can see whyâ€¦a terrific selection of mostly fresh chocolates, a nice store, a terrific locationâ€¦ that all adds up to the cost. This was only one of a dozen shops that Xocoa now has across Spain, and many of them are in Barcelona. For more information, visit their infuriatingly slow but visually interesting website.