One Sweet Day in Barcelona
With less than 24 hours in Barcelona and a list of upwards of 20 sweet addresses (not to mention another list for savory), I clearly needed a plan. Luckily, Barcelona’s shop hours couldn’t be any more opposite than those in Zürich. I was photographing (and tasting) desserts at one pastry shop until they closed… at midnight ! And when I left, I went for gelato.
And gelato galore there was. This city is not for the indecisive. With an abundance of Italian style gelaterias seemingly at every corner, which one to go to is only the beginning. Then there’s the actual selection of flavors, often from several display cases of smoothly molded mountains of gelato. I say, why choose just one ? Which was also my approach to chocolate bars. And meringues. And breakfasts.
Without further ado, my three favorite discoveries from one very sweet day in Barcelona, hopefully only one of many more to come…
When I announced I was heading to Barcelona, the social media world replied, “churros con chocolate !” And churros con chocolate we had. Simply strolling the streets after breakfast at the famous Boqueria market (nothing wrong with calamari à la plancha before 9am, right ?!), the fantastic and tempting painting above (top left) caught our eyes. Taking fun pictures in front of it with our baby girl sparked a lively discussion with a local, who passionately told us we just had to have churros con chocolate there. There being Granja la Pallaresa, which was unfortunately closed for the summer. So she directed us around the block to Granja Dulcinea, one of the oldest and most traditional xocolaterias in the city, serving of course… Xurros amb Xocolata. A dark, rich cup of hot chocolate was accompanied by a plate of crispy fried dough to dunk or eat on their own. Either way, quite irresistible.
Even with all that gelato, turron, chocolate and churros, my favorite sweet was actually… a meringue ! Merenga de Xocolata, de Café and de Maduixa (strawberry) called out to me from the window of La Colmena, Spain’s oldest handmade candy shop. Hard candies (don’t be misled by the name “caramels”) individually wrapped in white papers, came in such flavors as pomegranate, redcurrant, mint, honey, eucalyptus, pineapple, coffee and marshmallow (the latter referring to the root, not the jet-puffed variety). There were also chocolate bars in wrappers with beautiful artwork, assorted chocolates, pâtes de fruit, pastries and bolados (above, top left), neon blocks of sugar to mix with water for an eye-catching (and ultra sweet) drink.
Back to that meringue… An extraordinary confection, of apparently nothing more than egg whites and sugar as is usually the case, but with a texture I had never tasted before. A tall meringue sitting atop a cake paper, served with a little plastic spoon. A spoon ?! Meringues in Switzerland crumble to dust when you bite them; oversized ones in the windows of French boulangeries have hard shells and can even be chewy in the center, my ideal texture. But a meringue you eat with a spoon ? This I had never seen. I had my Spanish translator (husband) ask numerous times if there was some sort of filling. No. I had him ask again. No. I’ll admit, I doubted his Spanish skills at this point (lo siento, chéri). But after my first bite, when I saw the soft, mousse-like interior, reminiscent of a meringue or marshmallow *before* baking, I understood. Wow. So much wow that we went back the next morning to try the other flavors before leaving town. Super soft, yet somehow holding its shape, it had the lightest crisp exterior, almost as if it were rolled in baked meringue crumbs. It was extraordinary. Anyone familiar with this style of Spanish merenga ?
Last of the sweet trio is none other than Bubó, high on many foodies’ lists in Barcelona, and with good reason. Wildly creative and talented Catalan pastry chef Carles Mampel has been receiving rave reviews for his confections, pastries and chocolates (including a chocolate called “pá amb tomàquet”) since 2005. Chocolate lollipops, brightly colored macarons and marshmallows (below, top right), stunning pastries and cans of cookies, including Diamant, chocolate sablés with fleur de sel, reminiscent of Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookie, will all tempt you.
As you can see by the goodies I schlepped back to Zürich below (bottom right), I may have given in to those temptations. My only regret is not getting more.
What are your three favorite sweets or sweet addresses in Barcelona ?
Kerrin’s Sweet Barcelona Address Book:
Gocce di Latte
Gelateria artigianale (my favorite flavor: date with cardamom and orange)
Granja La Pallaresa
Granja M. Viader
Horchateria Turroneria Sirvent