|praline hot chocolate at escriba|
the italian operatic tenor pavarotti once said - "one of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." it is as if this was written for o, whose love for sightseeing must be tempered with ample breaks along side the customary three meals of the day. my tourist map therefore always includes circles around streets with cafes and patisseries. in barcelona these assume the form of granja’s, xurrerias’ and turrón boutiques.
we had espresso cups of hot chocolate stained with praline and crushed nuts at escriba, a fourth generation pastry shop founded in 1906. spanish hot chocolate is thick like french hot chocolate but with a mellower richness, as it is made with cocoa and thickened with cornstarch. escriba’s façade is done up with tiles in candy colours with gold writing. there is a display of delicate and refined patisserie along with bags of powdered hot chocolate, one of which travelled home with us.
|hot chocolate scrapped with a spoon|
granja is the spanish word for a place that is traditionally authorised to produce and distribute milk products. they are similar to athenian milk bars and are typically old fashioned with simple and functional décor. o and i took shelter at granja la pallaresa one rainy afternoon after walking through the barri gòtic (gothic quarter). established in 1947, granja la pallaresa has not changed much. the tables are draped with plastic covers and tube lighting to illuminate. notwithstanding it is a popular place with a long queue outside its door. service is swift and efficient. o had churros, crenelated curls of fried dough dusted in powdered sugar eaten dipped in hot chocolate. i had the traditional crema catalana, delicate custard infused with citrus zest and the warmth of cinnamon. like crème brulee it has a veneer of hard caramel on its surface that gives a lovely contrast to the soft custard. there is also a shallow plate of arroz con leche (rice pudding) dusted with cinnamon that reminded me of stani’s in athens. the rice grains were fat with diary and yet retained a bite when eaten.
barcelona’s turrón boutiques were busy as hives with custom queuing patiently to buy the classic sweet for christmas. turrón is a type of nougat made with almonds, egg whites and honey. there are several varieties with variable textures – soft, chewy or hard and brittle. hard turrón originated in alicante and features whole almonds suspended in a brittle honey and egg white mixture. it needs to be broken with a kitchen mallet. soft turrón comes from jijona and is made with toasted almonds ground into a paste and combined with honey and egg white. our favourite though was the turrón de yema tostada, a catalonian speciality made with egg yolk and a caramelized crust. its texture and taste is that of marzipan and the italian egg based liqueur vov. i bought turrónes for my family from planelles donat, one of barcelona’s most popular turrón boutiques. they have have been trading since 1850.
i do regret not having bought la campana’s turrón as theirs was exceptional. we stumbled upon the pretty little shop after an afternoon at museu picasso de barcelona. o bought a large nugget of their yema as a late teatime snack. the honey in it had herb like sweetness. i discovered later that they use marcona almonds and a local rosemary honey in their nougat. they also add pieces of caramelised sugar to the yema for added texture. we also missed oriol balaguer’s saffron and olive oil truffles for which we walked half an hour, only to find that we had missed the opening time of the boutique by several minutes.
i guess we will just have to go back.