chök: Where dreams of Chocoholics (and Homer S.) come true

Since we moved to Barcelona’s city centre, and especially the Raval district, we have always enjoyed roaming the streets and discovering new curiosities and special cafés, restaurants, shops, etc. whenever possible. One of those discoveries was made a long time ago – around their first opening actually – and we have been going back for more ever since.

chök shop

Step into another century combined with an exclusive modern design while visiting chök located just off La Rambla

‘chök the chocolate kitchen’ (http://www.chokbarcelona.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/ChokBcn) is located just off La Rambla at the beginning of Calle del Carme, and therefore super easy to find & reach (Green L3 Metro Line stop is Liceu) when in need of a delicious chocolate fix for a 2nd breakfast or the Spanish merienda (afternoon tea time), or whenever really. ‘chök’ is what makes the heart of every chocoholic jump with infinite joy: choose between the grand variety of their always changing chöks (a gourmet doughnut with less sugar, less fat & fried for less time), krönuts (the love story between the classical croissant & the well-known doughnut), chocolate glazed marshmallows, chocolate truffles, chocolate muffins, cookies, etc. and have your chocolate fix inside the beautiful old shop that used to be an antique bonbonería (candy and chocolate shop, that also roasted & sold coffee), dating back to 1850, or get your chök & coffee to go while strolling down La Rambla towards the port.

chök selection

A current special is the Apfelstrudel chök (on the left side)

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My fave chök: the dark chocolate glazed, Fleur-de-Sel chök

Marvel at the wooden shelfs and ceiling and it’s beautiful carved ornaments typical of Barcelona’s Modernisme movement, while discovering other chocolate products such as chocolate pasta or chocolate porter.

chök pasta

chök porter

Most important: take your time and enjoy the friendly atmosphere and beautiful space that owner Débora & staff created. They will do their very best to make your visit a delicious experience, and their expertise and loving attention towards customers, products and detail won’t fail your expectations. All their products are being prepared on a daily basis in the visible chocolate kitchen in the back of the shop. Watch how Débora and Marcia fill their berliners or create such delicacies as chocolate chili truffles with the utmost respect for the product, emphasing on quality, detail and supreme ingredients.

crema catalana krönut

Crema Catalana Krönut in the making

chöks

Pick your chök from a great variety

One thing that startled me from the beginning was the rather untypical & creative name ‘chök’. It is actually derived from the Norwegian word ‘kök’ which stands for ‘kitchen’ and combined with ‘chocolate’ it became ‘chök the chocolate kitchen’. Débora & her staff also offer chocolate cooking classes, combining chocolate with typically savoury dishes (see website). You can also challenge your chocolate cooking skills at home with the help of their cookbook ‘Gourmet Chocolate – Reinventing sweet and savoury’, which also makes for a great Barcelona souvenir or gift for the cook/ gourmet in your life.

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One thing is for sure: if you are a chocoholic, an American cop or Homer Simpson, you will definitely love chök and will always come back for more – and honestly, who could resist such a sweet paradise:

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Owner Débora presenting the daily mouth-watering, beautiful selection of chöks & krönuts

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Fleurs Place – or the place where I’d have lunch every day for the rest of my life

This blog post is long overdue and so I am happy & excited I finally found the right moment to write it. After returning from our beautiful, amazing, stunning, marvellous & *nowordscouldeverdescribethatfeeling* honeymoon in New Zealand, I am feeling incomplete. I am sure, I left a big, huge chunk of myself & my heart on the South Island of Aotearoa and now I have to live with this until we are able to return. And one place to return to is Fleurs Place.

Fleur's Place

So it was this gorgeous sunny Saturday morning in Dunedin and after a stroll along Otago Farmers Market (http://www.otagofarmersmarket.org.nz/) including a beautiful latte and pastries, of course!, we made our way to the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Colony (check out the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust http://yellow-eyedpenguin.org.nz/ to find out how you can help this endangered species). With the help of our expert guide, we watched these majestic birds from a safe distance (and I don’t mean safe for us – it’s more about making them feel safe from us) and even discovered a chick (if you should ever go to New Zealand, you shouldn’t miss out on this experience and the staff from 4Nature Tours is super experienced, helpful and keen to provide environmentally friendly tours http://www.4nature.co.nz/).

Yellow-Eyed Penguin

A Yellow-Eyed Penguin watching its chick

After walking up and down the cliffs, trying to avoid death-trap-like rabbit holes, we all felt it was time for a great & tasty lunch and luckily our guide Joanne had recommened Fleurs Place (http://www.fleursplace.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fleurs-Place/283579521839354?fref=ts) much in advance and booked a table accordingly (which is something indispensable to do).

Fleurs Board

When we arrived at the restaurant located just next to the tiny bay of the small village Moeraki, we were immediately enchanted by the peace & beauty that surrounded us. Fleurs Place looks like a charismatic fishermen’s hut and features collectables like old anchors, wooden-framed windows, antique crayfish traps, boats, etc. that its owner, Fleur, collected.

Fleur's Collectables

Fleur Sullivan, a well-known local for her contribution towards NZ tourism & gastronomy, opened Fleurs Place back in 2002 and is serving delicicious dishes made from fresh, local & seasonal ingredients, emphasising on local fish dishes with a personal twist. Not being a seafood/ fish lover myself, I ordered the fish of the day which was Blue Cod (it comes with the freshest, local & seasonal veggies cooked to perfection plus a choice of four different sauces – the Chilli, Coconut & Coriander Sauce was incredibly mouth-watering!!) and it was so delicious (plus it was a stunning piece of art that came on a plate and I am a person that definitely eats with their eyes first) that on from that point I started living on Blue Cod and similar while being in NZ (and I made it through Blue Cod, Elephant Fish, Blue Warehou & Groper). The quality of all the ingredients used for the elaboration of Fleur’s dishes is supreme. You can basically watch them pull up the day’s catch from the Moeraki fishing boats to the restaurant’s own filleting station. Since we came to the conclusion on different occasions, that everything’s the other way around in the Southern Hemisphere, I am pleased to say the oceans in the Northern Hemisphere are safe from me, but Fleurs Place is the place where I’d choose & love to have fish for lunch for the rest of my life if I had the chance to.

Fleurs Food

Kia mākona

And just before losing the interest & attention of all you vegans & vegetarians out there: vegan and vegetarian dishes are created to order! Ah, and not to mention the amazing desserts!!

Fleurs Desserts

On the left: Berry Eton Mess (your taste buds will go crazy); On the right: Crème Brûlée (to die for!!)

If like me you can’t get enough of Fleur’s delicacies, I recommend getting the book ‘fleurs place – simple, fresh, naturally good food’ by Graham Warman and Paul Sorrell, which can be purchased directly in the restaurant or online. Of course, I couldn’t resist and asked most inspiring, charismatic owner Fleur Sullivan to sign my copy which she happily did. And this is the best souvenir a foodie like me could possibly get from beautiful Aotearoa – Fleurs Place’s recipes and my memories will surely help me with my aching, lovesick heart and transport me to the place that owns a big part of it. Kia Ora, Fleurs Place!

Fleur14

Fleur Sullivan signing my copy of ‘fleurs place – simple, fresh, naturally good food’

Moeraki Boulders

After a most satisfying lunch we headed towards the Moeraki Boulders, located up North alongside the coast from Fleurs Place, and enjoyed the magical scenery at one of the world’s most beautiful beaches

La Granja M. Viader

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When living in or going to Barcelona you definitely shouldn’t miss out on this especially delicious & historically very important landmark. Its history began in 1870 when Señora Rafaela Coma first opened the doors to her little dairy shop in Calle Xuclà, 6. Since then one can find the best dairy products, cold cuts & cheeses (which can also be vacuum-packed for you to take home), cakes, desserts and the best and typical thick, hot Spanish Chocolate in Barcelona, Catalonia, I even dare to say in all of Spain, at the small Granja M. Viader (Website: http://granjaviader.cat.mialias.net/?p=201&lang=en – Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GranjaViader/timeline)!

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Watch the staff handle the freshest dairy products

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The supreme cheeses and cold cuts selection for you to purchase

The young Señor Marc Viader started working there in 1895 and since 1910 the Viader family is the rightful and proud owner of this charismatic Granja, that maintained its charm and historic look throughout the centuries. When entering the little shop that is located in the historical part (Ciutat Vella) on one of the Raval’s very small streets, one feels like being transported into another time, far far away from our modern, hectic world. Go in, mix with locals and tourists alike, and marvel at all the awards and medals Mr Viader won during the last century and follow the history of the most important milestones for the little family run business – be it the important invention of the tasty Catalonian drinking chocolate ‘Cacaolat’ (the Catalonian equivalent to the Spanish ColaCao) or the pictures of their most valueable dairy cows displayed on the wall just hanging next to old, antique adverts for their dairy products – you won’t get bored and you can make sure to make the most of a rainy or cold afternoon in Barcelona.

Cacaolat

The Catalonian drinking chocolate ‘Cacaolat’ has been invented at the Granja M. Viader

The most typical thing to order would be a Xocolata Calenta (the thick, hot chocolate) but in order to make it a bit more luscious, I recommend going for the ‘Suis’ which is the thick, hot chocolate topped off with the most delicious freshly whipped cream I have ever tasted (and I come from a Northern country where people know how to treat dairy products!).

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Have your ‘Suis’ with some freshly baked ‘Xurros’

Apart from being able to take the best, typical cold cuts and cheeses home, you can also give their typical thick, hot chocolate as a present. It comes in different sized bags, accompanied by the instructions in Catalan, Spanish, English or French.

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The perfect & most tasty souvenir from the Catalonian Capital

So keep calm and have some hot chocolate!

keep-calm-and-beu-cacaolat

The Story of ‘Le Cül’ – A Wedding Raffle Prize

Once upon a time, in sunny June, on a bright Saturday afternoon (actually the one that should latter also be referred to as the bachelorette party day of Stephanie), I, Le Cül, was born. I emerged from the fantasy of my previous owner and creator Lydia while she was talking about such deep matters as the universe, life and love with Jamie, the master of mosaics.

After gaining the skill of cutting tiles, piles of blue, wine red and black little shiny stones were covering the table. Jamie, still being sceptical about the colour choice, advised Lydia various times not to use that type of darker blue stones and tried to convince her to consider lighter blue ones but I, being a very cunning and clever kind of creature, had already infiltrated her creative consciousness and made very clear to her that I wanted to be born! And that’s how a long and hour consuming process of selecting the right little stones in the right, precise way in order to stick them to a wooden template, began.

The template, well, that was my choice all along! It was the one, as you will see or already have seen, because you are the impatient kind of person that opens the presents before reading the card / letter attached, of a cat. Not just any cat, no! It was the template of ‘El gat del Raval’ (for those who are not acquainted with the Catalan language and Barcelona, it means ‘The Cat of the Raval’ which is the symbol for the Raval district and its local artisan market).

Hours passed and ‘El Gat’, later named ‘Le Cül’ (I am not sure yet if I like that sort of internationalisation of my name!), took form and shape. Sharp, cunning eyes, shiny dark blue and wine red stripes began colouring one by one my shiny, precious fur.

It was a slow birth and we all took our time, because I had to be perfect for you, my new owner. You probably (or maybe not, because you’re either the sporty or the couch potato type of person) ask yourself why it had to be that colouring. In the end they ain’t the most brightest colours which, on the other hand, you expect to see in a mosaic, that should always reflect the sunlight in many colourful ways. No, I wanted to be something typical from Barcelona for you – and not only from Barcelona – I wanted to be something special, representing not only Stephanie’s and Lydia’s district and on a larger scale, Barcelona, but also my name (for the Catalan and French speaking easy to divert and translate from ‘cul’ meaning, well, bum) stands for a special and historically formed expression for the fans of the F. C. Barcelona, which is very important for the city and its inhabitants. Its players are known worldwide. What is not known is why the Catalan term ‘Culés’ describes its fans. So here I will quote some history for you.

In earlier times, the F. C. Barcelona stadium was very small. Before 1909, Barcelona played in various stadiums, none of which were owned by the club. On 14th of March 1909, the club moved to the Camp de la Indústria which had a capacity of 6,000, and was the first ground owned by the club. The supporters sitting on the top-row of what was observed by passers-by from behind as a row of men sitting on the top of a wall while walking through Calle Indústria, was the origin of the nickname ‘cules’ as literally the only thing they could see was a row of bums.

Cules

So for me, Le Cül, this is nothing to be ashamed of – even if you might try to hide your telling smile now! In the end I am not your typical Barcelona souvenir. I am not the Gaudi Dragon or a set of coasters with the image of the Sagrada Familia or other famous places of interest in Barcelona. I am something that comes with a story – a personal souvenir that chose you to be its rightful owner (and believe me, I have my own will power!) – I am something from here. Something that wandered the streets without being discovered, something that lingered in the dark corners or doors in form of street art paintings or posters, something well-known in its Barrio and beyond its borders. Yet I am nothing to be afraid of: I represent the beauty and the diversity of the Raval and Barcelona! And in order to show you that we all mean well, I come with something special from my district: some instant chocolate from the Granja Viader, which since 1910 is located in Calle Xùcla 6 and quite an important landmark to my previous owners Stephanie and Lydia. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as they do and if you have time to visit the Granja, they’d highly recommend you having a ‘Suís petit amb Xurros’ or (as it is probably very hot for you outside) a Lemon or Coffee Granissat.

So as I am most likely leaving my habitat with you, the only thing I ask from you in return, is to cherish me as what I am: ‘Le Cül’ – ‘El Gat del Raval’!

Le Cül

Visit the local Mercat Raval BCN (https://www.facebook.com/MercatRavalBcn) in order to create your own mosaic