Sweets (desserts, chocolate, pastries) in Barcelona?
I'm going to visit Barcelona for three nights in mid-October with two friends. I'm in the flux of planning and mapping where to dine (at restaurants), I would like to ask you all where are good or great ice cream shops, chocolate shops, and bakeries in Barcelona are?
The only chocolate place I know of in Barcelona is Oriol Balaguer and that would be one of my stops during my trip.
Thanks in advance!
We just got back from a wonderful visit to Barcelona and I have two suggestions: Espai Sucre for "dessert tapas" and a specific dessert at Bar Mut.
My husband and I signed up for the Barcelona Gourmet Tour with Spanish Trails and our incredible evening ended with three tapas-sized desserts at Espai Sucre. The first offering was a confection that used combined elements of lime, coffee, and coconut. The second combined raspberry and goat cheese. And the finale -- my favorite -- combined cocoa, ginger, and spice bread. This place is very small and it has a unique identity as a cross between being practice kitchen for students of a famous pastry cooking school and a conventional dessert café.
I recommend you explore how to get reservations -- or better yet -- I highly recommend you investigate taking the Gourmet Tour with Spanish Trails. I can't say enough good things about our experience with this company. The places we visited and the dishes we ate combined to make a memorable evening.
Danny, one of the principals, in Spanish Trails arranged and led the evening. The dishes we ate that night included some of the best of our multi-day stay in Barcelona. The tour was well thought out to provide both outstanding eating and a glimpse of some typical Barcelona experiences that revolve around food and wine (e.g. trying to drink wine from a porron accompanied by pimentos del Padron) The description on the web site doesn't even begin to give a hint of the treat in store.
I don't know if you can go into Bar Mut just for dessert, but we ate two meals there and loved everything. I'll focus first on the dessert since that's the topic of your question and then I'll mention other highlights.
Yogurt gelato with tomato marmalade and sweet basil sauce. In a word: incredible. I don't like overly sweet desserts and this dish absolutely nailed that balance of the tang of the yogurt, with a thick, home-made tomato marmalade. My husband, who does like very sweet desserts, surprisingly ordered the same thing and could not stop talking about the tomato marmalade.
Other fabulous dishes: tiny clams in basil, steamed mussels, and -- the star of the savory dishes -- Octopus Andalusian style. (At least I think it was Andalusian style) The octopus sat atop a few slices of potatoes in an incendiary hot casserole. The thick octopus slices were tender and the exteriors were vaguely caramelized.
We went to Bar Mut at the recommendation of our hotel. After coming home, I read about Bar Mut in Time Out and the rap is that its prices are somewhat high ("Parisian-high" was the exact label) but I thought the food was worth the price except for an over-salted suckling pig dish. The meat was moist and tender, so if you like suckling pig and want to splurge on Bar Mut's version, just ask for less salt.
My friends whom we often stay with live about 5 minutes way from their Sarria location. We've pick up breakfast pastries and breads on occasions. It is ok but I wouldn't make a special trip up there or their other outlets. It is a small chain, therefore my guess is probably a lot of industrial production. For a short visit, I would concentrate on some of the bakeries and pastry shops in the old part of the city; lots of ambience and soul such as Escriba, Brunells, La Colmena. For bread, the above mentioned Baluard; also Turris, Crusto. These are run by people who are dedicated to bread making.
The best chocolatier and pastry chef in Barcelona is Oriol Balaguer, Plaça de Sant Gregori Taumaturg 2, just beyond the Diagonal. Another chocolatier is Enric Rovira at Sant Geroni 17. Not quite as high-brow, try Valor on Rambla de Catalyuna 46 and Blanxart is one of the oldest chocolate maker is on Tambor de Bruc 17.
Pastries shops: Bubo in Born, cafe and take out. Escriba on the Rambla. Pasteleria Brunnells on Princeesa 22 for classic Catalan cookies and pastries. I like Forn de Sant Jaume on the Rambla de Catalunya and Hofmann in El Born, especially for breakfast.
Ice creams: Helados Fratello, Delacrem, Vioko, Acrobaleno, Cremeria Toscana
I'll be there at the same time and since my wife and I love chocolate I've kept an eye out for recommendations. I found these two in a Michelin guide.
Fargas ... from Ramblas walking from Placa de Cataluyna, left on Carrer de la Portaferrissa (main road above Boqueria), right on Carrer del Pi.
Cacao Sampaka ... up Gracia 2 blocks from Gran Via, left on carrer del Consell de Cent 1.5 blocks, on left
Some other suggestions at this link:
LQQking forward to other suggestions in this thread now :)
A little too late for the OP but I'll add some opinions from a chocolate-obsessive.
Chocolate shops: Fargas is very good. In a traditional idiom, so don't expect things that are ground-breaking, just nice versions of old favourites. Lovely shop too and the help is very friendly.
Enric Rovira is the best in the modern idiom. Very high-concept, some pieces that work, others that don't quite, but you can't argue with the execution or vision.
Sampaka is worth going to for chocolate bars but otherwise don't waste your time there. The boxed chocolates aren't particularly good. The plain chocolate bars are OK; some of them are good (the 2 top ones, La Joya and Xoconusco are genuinely excellent). But the rest of the line is hardly a step up from consumer chocolates. Also the service is definitively brusque.
Oriol Balaguer is a place to go to mostly for the pastries. Good, although it might not be the experience of a lifetime. Competing with it is Escriba, which has the advantage of unbeatable location on the Rambla next to the Boqueria, in a nice building.
Another pastry shop to visit if you're into chocolate, which you'd never know about unless you'd been, is Xacolata. It's in Poblenou just off the northern end of the Rambla de Poblenou, near Av. Diagonal. They also have very impressive morning pastries.
Second the vote for Hofmann; the pastries here are more in the French style but they're lovely. Slightly intimidating/fussy/formal shop though.
Blanxart bars you can find in several locations. A good selection in a central location can be found at the Veritas natural market on Via Laietana. In terms of quality though they tend to be hit-and-miss: I've had some great bars from them and some not-so-great bars. Generally stay with the dark bars, the milk bars tend to be misses.
For ice cream, easily the best IMHO is Tomo II on C/Argenteria. Very close to Santa Maria del Mar. Avoid the other numerous ice-cream shops in the area, all of which are tourist traps. However on C/Princesa there's another one worth trying in the Cremeria Toscana. A lot of people rave about it, although personally I think it's decent but unexceptional. Nonetheless to do a truly comprehensive sweep through the ice cream shops would take a lifetime of summers.
I also won't leave without giving a recommendation for a bread bakery: Forn Mistral. Infinitely better than Baluard, and they have the Pa de Pages, one of the truly authentic and typical Catalan breads, which Baluard doesn't have. Easy access, right outside Universitat metro station.
Baluard absolutely does have Pa de Pages (here's a link to a photo on someone's blog showing as much: http://natashayoung.files.wordpress.c...
)It's also one of the recipes in the owner's cookbook.
If anyone has ever enjoyed the bread at La Cova Fumada they've had Baluard's Pa de Pages.
For breakfast there are few things I like more than Baluard's dried fruit and nut bread - and I have to quibble with your conclusions on "overall quality," I think you're really talking about your preference not quality.
Few bakeries anywhere use higher quality ingredients than Baluard - with flours only from small mills in Spain and France, nuts and dried fruits from Casa Gispert I don't think quality is the issue. Personal preferences are up for grabs but I really don't agree that Mistral bakes bread of higher quality.
There are a few places that are known to bake very good bread in Barcelona - Mistral, Turris, Baluard, Rekjavik and others. I think talk of any being "infinitely better" than another is hyperbolic.
Most definitely, anything I say with respect to quality or other ultimately subjective matters (here or in any other post) should be taken as opinion and not fact. That's fundamental.
At the same time, however, I think that there's an aspect of quality that transcends personal preference; it's not just a matter of "what you like". For example, sourdough is a style of bread I personally don't like very much. Yet I will assert without qualification that the sourdough from Acme Bakery in San Francisco is utterly masterful. A world-class bread.
But, I believe strongly that the most obsessive effort, even by a skilled person, using the best possible ingredients, is no guarantee of a successful result. It's not just the dedication and commitment that went into the process that confers quality - the proof is in the output, and it's possible even for an expert to just not get it right.
In this case the things that I would criticise, at least from my own personal experience, of Baluard are:
1) The flavour of the bread tends to be dominated by the leaven rather than the flour.
2) Crusts tend towards the overbrowned side, yet seemingly paradoxically are somewhat thin and underdeveloped. (This suggests an oven with a high temperature but relatively low heat)
3) The crumb tends to be marginally gummy, relative to ideal. This is a subtle distinction - I'm not at all talking about gummy in the supermarket-underbaked style or anything that obvious. (This would be consistent with the same oven issue already described)
Do not be mistaken here - all these are *slight* imperfections. Baluard is by any absolute standard a quality bread. I don't hesitate to get it when in the Barceloneta area.
What I mean by "infinitely better" is this: Assuming logistical issues such as distance from your current location or cost are ignored, what is the ratio of the number of times you'd choose shop A over shop B? If you would effectively ALWAYS choose shop A - thus shop B would be chosen 0 times, then shop A can in some sense be considered "infinitely better" - you'd choose it every time, whereas "finitely better" would correspond to a situation where you'd choose A more often than B but not invariably.
It could be though that our slightly different quality impressions have to do with different priorities. I tend to evaluate places based on their simplest, plainest, most basic products. Thus in the case of a bakery I'll usually try a basic white bread (which is what makes Pa de Pages such a good test), a basic whole-wheat bread of some sort, and a basic non-wheat bread (such as rye), where this is regionally appropriate. I note by contrast you talk about the dried fruit and nut bread - something that even if I bought I probably wouldn't weight especially high in an evaluation - and it may really be a matter of what bakeries specialise in what types of things. Nor in the case of Baluard or anywhere else in Barcelona can my opinions in any case be considered definitive, simply because not being a local, I've not been enough times to have an authoritative view.