Passion Points: Family
One of the things I have learned from traveling with my kids is that when sight-seeing is disguised as an adventure—surf lessons in Hawaii, Gladiator School in Rome, a tidal pool swim at California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium —they become totally absorbed in discovery and learning.
A favorite twist on this theory is using food to understand a destination. In many places, a celebration of eating is ingrained in the culture, opening a fascinating window into a country. I was reminded of this when my daughter, my niece and I were in Barcelona this summer. We indulged in a chocolate tasting, sampling melted chocolate, traditional cacoa tablets and avant-garde bonbons (among our favorites: chocolate with curry and white chocolate with strawberries and roses). As we nibbled, we heard about how beans first arrived in Europe via Barcelona’s port in the mid-1500s and how the sweet treat was kept a secret among Spanish royals for almost a century before Spanish princesses brought it to France as part of their dowry. We learned how to test freshness and to savor taste, as well as the difference between truffles and pralines and cacao regions.
We did an abbreviated chocolate tour; the full-length one begins at the port and includes stops and tastings at one of the city’s oldest chocolate shops, which opened in 1827 and is still run by descendants of the founders. From there, you head to a modern bakery that is known for its sculptural cakes and cutting-edge bonbons (one in the shape of a pair of lips in shocking red). The final stop is the chocolate house where we had our tasting, Cacao Sampaka. Behind the sleek bonbonerie is a minimalist granja, or cacao bar. Chocolate master Miguel Manzano explained the process of cacao drying, creating powder, adding sugar and merging flavors. Our tasting started with the one-hundred percent pure (bitter) chocolate and continued to bonbons, some with dried fruit, spices, herbs, flowers (like lavender and jasmine), fruits and liquers (calvados and tequila). Particularly some of the more surprising pairings, like chocolate infused with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, black wild truffle or parmesan, taught us how closely taste and smell work together. We also learned that chocolate’s snap means that it is the right temperature and that the smooth glossy texture of a piece showcases the unity of the ingredients. When the three of us emerged from Cacao Sampaka, we were armed with more than a few goodie bags filled with our newly sampled favorite gourmet finds. We also carried a wealth of new knowledge and appreciation for Barcelona’s history, able to appreciate the city in a whole new, and sweet, light.
Indagare specialists can set up a variety of culinary tours, including pizza or gelato making in Rome, market or bakery visits in Paris, sushi or dim sum sessions in Tokyo, Hong Kong or San Francisco, and many more, including cooking classes. For details and help with your next trip, contact our Bookings Team.
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