Gypsy Grub

A fine food enthusiast travels the world, and her own backyard in search of the best eats.

Month: April, 2013

Museu de la Xocolata

 

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When I read about the Chocolate Museum of Barcelona in a book I really had no idea what to expect. A museum of chocolate could be anything really; chocolate taste testing, how to make chocolate, demonstrations of chocolate artists, chocolate taste testing or what I was really hoping for – chocolate taste testing.

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I was enchanted by the ticket to get into the expo, it was a sweet little treat to nibble on while you walked through the museum.

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The museum is a mix of wonderful chocolate art, and the history of chocolate throughout the years. Here is a representation from the adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha which I found to be expressive, but also very playful because of the use of chocolate. It seemed to fit the story well seeing as Don Quixote himself may have enjoyed the chocolate scene.

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This was my favorite sculpture of the museum. Unlike many of the others it was truly a great piece of art, so much so that you forgot it was chocolate. You can feel what the characters are feeling in the work, and then you remember it is a piece in chocolate and it allows you to appreciate it even more.

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If you have a little extra cash, and want a break from museums that make you think too hard pop by this museum for a bit of childish amusement.

Find them online at;

http://www.museuxocolata.cat/

Or visit at;

Carrer Comerç, 36, 08003 Barcelona, Espagne

Téléphone :+34 932 68 78 78

Visiting Bakeries with the Best Reputations

I once had a dream, a wish, a goal of finding the absolute most perfect bread in all of France. If you are a loyal reader you will know that bread of all things is the only carbohydrate, only “guilty” food item in the world that to me is heaven. There is nothing better than a perfectly crafted warm loaf. After living here for almost three months I have finally realized that that task is an impossible one. Not only is it absolutely impossible to visit all the bakeries in Paris in all of your life, but there are endless different varieties du pain, et aussi one would forget how the bread tasted from the bakery you ate a week ago and could therefore not compare all of them accurately.

So after hours of research and a lot of wandering around the streets of Paris completely lost, I have compiled a list of the supposed “best” most well respected bakeries in Paris. In a sense researching in this way is completely going against my philosophies of food. From experience I know the best foods are found not in well known and rated Michelin restaurants, but in small restaurants that no one knows about, not even the locals. This idea follows the philosophy that the greatest eateries can not be talked about, but only wandered upon coincidentally.

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Never whilst living here have I ever felt in danger or even a little uncomfortable in a place. However for the first time while searching for this bakery it was necessary to wander a neighborhood I would not be in at night. Thankfully I had my companions at my side and a strong drive to find 34 Rue Yves Toudic, also known as Du Pain et des Idées.

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After waiting in a line out the door, I selected a collection of Mini Paves (recommended by Anthony Bourdain).My favorite was the olive, but the others included chunks of ham, bacon and cheese. The bread was very good, and they make a perfect “on the go” meal.

The “on the go” meal however is very un-French. Snacking, or eating in a hurried fashion is something that is frowned upon in France, and slowly I have become accustomed to only eat when I have a minimum of half an hour to enjoy the food.

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I also selected the Mouna; a sweeter bread perfumed with orange flower water. It was my favorite of the day and reminded me of the perfect cheese Danish in bread form. Orange flower is a a very popular flavor in French cuisine and fragrance at the moment.

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Du Pain et des Idees does not offer a variety of tables to enjoy your selections at, so my recommendation would be to pick lunch up here and then go have a picnic in the park or along the Seine. However if you do wish to stay close to the boulangerie there is a small table that seats about six people right outside the door.

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The bakery’s specialty bread is one qui s’appelle ‘Pain des Amis’ translated as the bread of friends. At first I found the bread to be tasteless. But as I really started to search and examine the flavor I found it to be a complex yet subtle flavor combination with hints of chestnut and barley. The exterior is very hard and almost burnt tasting, this is due to its very long and tedious (but precise!) cooking process which has been mastered after many years.

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There was a time when I questioned whether it was even possible to make a bad pain au chocolat. Now, I know that if you go to a chain boulangerie or the super market and buy one from the cheapest brand you can find such a pastry that is not worth eating. But if you walk into almost any artisan boulangerie they have to be idiots to get it wrong. Honestly its layers of butter dough wrapped around a piece of chocolate. This specific pain au chocolat avec banane has a very good reputation, and is made with Valrhona chocolate. It was a good sweet treat but I was not blown away; if something is easy to make well, I don’t give it much praise.

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Next stop the famous Poilâne. Everyone in Paris is familiar with the name and dreams of the wonders this old bakery holds. Most known for their Punitions cookies and original Poilâne sourdough adorned with a cursive ‘P’ I went in quivering with excitement.

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Each time I visit (which is every time I happen to be in the 6th arrondissement) there is a line out the door and smells waft down the street like vendors alluring the passerby’s.

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Poilâne bread has the distinct rustic flavor of a good sourdough. The bakery has been passed down the generations since it was opened in 1932 by Pierre Poilâne. Like every loved bread in France it has a thick hard crust that counters the fluffy soft interior. 

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Poilâne Bakery also offers a tour of their kitchens and history which I recommend. I had a chance to try some Punitions which have a huge following around the world. They are small sugar cookies that are barely sweet and have a hint of cinnamon. “The story goes that Pierre’s grandmother in Normandy would call the children, seemingly to punish them, but instead pull from her apron a handful of butter cookies” (from Markets of Paris by Dixon Long and Marjorie R. Williams). The tale made me rêve of a different time, and brought a cozy feeling to my mouth. When I tried a Punitions I was unfortunately unimpressed, but the memories of such tales are good enough for me.

For more information visit their websites, or go to the boulangerie’s themselves!

Du Pain et des Idees

http://dupainetdesidees.com/

34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris

01 42 40 44 52

Poilâne

http://www.poilane.com/index.php?

8 rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris

01 45 48 42 59

Barcelona: The Land of Tapas

In America I was never enthralled with the tapas craze. Truth be told, I was never quite sure what tapas were, but I knew people I didn’t like (pretentious Orange County-ers) who talked about them as if they were a fad. Because of this I grew to dislike them, yes its wrong I judged them before I knew what power they held.

In Barcelona, I had the pleasure of encountering my first Catalonian tapas. Once the time arrived to try them, I was eager although I still was not quite sure what they were, I looked for around an hour for the tapas spot Taverna Basca Irati. One thing I liked about this eatery is that the majority of it was stand up which I think is a new and upcoming food trend in Europe at least.

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There were a variety of tapas to try from, all lined up with toothpicks stuck in them to hold them together. For payment they went with the honesty system; simply counting how many toothpicks were on your plate when you were done, and charging you for them.

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Here is a plate with my favorite tapas of the night (the one furthest from the camera). It was simple, a “tortilla” (omelet) with potatoes, and a lovely sauce on top! The other was also a favorite; a fish cake hugged by a thin layer of zucchini.

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There was a lot of variety with the tapas; beautiful presentations and lots of color. Another one of my favorites was the fish with a tangy yellow sauce drizzle, it was visually appealing and oh so delicious.

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There were two dessert tapas I had the pleasure of tasting. This was a custard tapas with blackberry glaze. The custard was one of the best I have had, and it was piled high on the crust of bread. The blackberry glaze was perfectly tart like eating a fresh blackberry. It was garnished with some spicy ginger crumble.

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The other dessert tapas was the most surprising thing I have ever eaten. I have eaten many strange things, but this one took me completely by surprise. It repulsed and then delighted me. It looked like a tapas topped with praline crème, but when I smelled it, it smelled fishy so my brain and senses told me it was a savory tapas. After I put it in my mouth I knew immediately I was wrong, it was wrong, the world was upside down… but oddly not. The more the fish-dessert was in my mouth the more I liked, it even enjoyed it. I understand a person cannot believe such a dessert could ever be enjoyable, but that’s

even more reason to visit Taverna Basca Irati and see for yourself.

Visit them (if you dare) at

Carrer Cardenal Casañas, 17 08002 Barcelona, Espagne
+34 902 52 05 22

or online at

http://www.iratitavernabasca.com/fr/