“Spain is obsessed with chocolate.” – Annie Sibonney
You’d have a hard time finding somebody, especially a woman, who doesn’t like chocolate. I love chocolate and in the episode of From Spain With Love, Annie Sibonney showed us how the Spaniards manipulate chocolate in the most interesting and delightful ways. The first stop was the capital of Madrid, at Chocolateria San Gines, where Annie had Churros and Chocolate with its manager, Borja Rubio. This isn’t regulation hot drinking chocolate. It was smooth, thick and almost viscous in consistency. However, it’s chocolate presented in its simplest form.
The scene then took us to Catalonia (Catalunya), at Pastelería Escriba on Las Ramblas Boulevard. There we saw a tour of master chocolatier Cristian Escriba’s chocolate boutique of mind blowing confections. He showed Annie how they put together Mona(s), which are chocolate Easter cakes. She tried her hand at air spraying a very elaborate Mona. It was not only large, but embellished with other desserts like candied trees, leaves, brioches and macaroons. Hopefully, the child who received it not only appreciated its beauty but enjoyed it immensely.
Still in Catalonia, Annie’s next destination was Girona. In this beautiful medieval city, Annie introduced viewers to two generations of exceptional Catalan cuisine – the Roca family. Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca are three brothers who have garnered attention and acclaim from the international culinary community. Their restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca has three Michelin stars and in 2011 was recognised as the second best restaurant in the world. However, we’ll get to them in a bit. First, we met the family’s matriarch, Señora Montse Roca at the Can Roca Restaurant. She greeted Annie warmly and they set to work on Snails and Crab in a Chocolate Sauce. It’s always fascinating to see a typically sweet ingredient like chocolate, used in a savoury dish. Señora Montse’s years of experience showed, while Annie explained important details to the English-speaking viewers. There was a brief appearance by Jordi Roca, who helped his Mom in the kitchen and as the ladies sat to eat together. Their interactions were warm and lovable, as well as humorous. Annie seemed a bit nervous and seemed to giggle uncontrollably. Then again, this is an amazing privilege. I don’t know how many people could have kept their cool.
After visiting the mother, it was time to visit the children at their restaurant. This place is a must for any foodie visiting Spain. That is, if a reservation can be secured, of course. Master Chef Joan takes care of the savoury main dishes; Josep is one of the world’s best sommelier, while Jordi is an incredibly gifted Pastry Chef. They’re not just good at what they do. These brothers are true masters of their disciplines and were featured in an episode of the BBC’s Masterchef: The Professionals (2011). We started out with Joan’s Hare A La Royale (Rabbit with Chocolate Sauce). It was not only carefully made but carefully plated. It was designed to give eaters a complete taste experience. Jordi’s Gran Bombón de Chocolate was put together with such precision that Annie hesitated to crack it open. Consider that the chef himself was cooing as he partook of his own creation, and called it a chocolate dream.
The next part was a real treat for the audience, as Josep, Jordi and Annie gave us a quick lesson in pairing wine with chocolates. Our last taste of the Roca brothers was a dessert inspired by football (soccer) virtuoso, Lionel Messi; and in commemoration of Spain’s 2010 World Cup victory. We only barely scratched the surface of their talent but it was more than enough to blow our collective minds. The episode concluded at Barcelona’s La Boqueria market. Annie with food and travel writer, George Semler, shows us the traditional Turrón candy. It’s very popular and often bought or given as souvenirs of Spain. With the chocolate odyssey at its end, we had seen chocolate in various forms. In addition, we saw masters at work with humility and warmth. Beautifully shot and edited, this episode was a credit to the series. It also gave chocolate lovers a taste of titillating food porn. Am I crazy for chocolate? ¡Sí, estoy loca!