Spain for Chocolate?

When asked about the best chocolatiers in the world, many people think of northern Europe: France, Switzerland, and Belgium. But enter Spain, whose Cacao Sampaka has redefined the traditional gastronomic experience of cacao. Owned by Albert Adrià, the former pastry chef at El Bulli and brother of Ferran of Tickets & 4 fame, its whimsical chocolatiers have made traditional, handcrafted chocolates cosmopolitan. They have redesigned ingredient pairings to create unique flavor experiences; gone are the ganaches and nougats in place of unorthodox, almost schismatic, ingredients. From curry to parmesan to wasabi to balsamic vinegar, these Spanish chocolates exhibit the infinite creativity in the art of chocolate making. Creations of single bean origin – Tanzania, Ecuador, and Madagascar – sit aside those with ingredients of Indonesian origin – clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg – in a display of chocolates that would please the exquisite palate of even the most discerning of chocolate lovers. While many would call this a gourmet chocolate shop, gourmet is too mediocre. It is simply sublime.

The Best Bacalao in Madrid

Casa Labra

The best bacalao in Madrid – since 1860 – can be had at Casa Labra, tucked down a side street just off the Puerta del Sol in the center of Madrid. Order your cod just inside the door and then pop over to the bar for a beer to go with it.  Be prepared to stand in line, but you won’t be disappointed!!

You Had Me at Gastro Lounge…

Only You Hotel

“A perfect martini should be made by filling a glass with gin then waving it in the general direction of Italy.”  ~ Noël Coward

When I’m traveling, I’m always looking for boozy little joints with character – in this case, it’s seriously upscale. As far as gin joints go, the bar & lounge at the boutique Only You Hotel in the hip Chueca district in Madrid is on par with the best.  37 gins.  Yep, count them.  37 brands of gin.  Go old school and order a Gimlet or a Sloe Gin Fizz…or three.  After cocktails, be sure to order order some tapas prepared by some of top chefs in Madrid.  If you can still walk afterward, mosey around the Chueca and check out the hip shops dotting the neighborhood. Drink. Eat. Mosey. In that order.

The Hippest Tees in Spain

The Hip Tee

Funky, vintage tees? Absolutely!  I love discovering clothing that jives with my personality, and Hip Tee is the perfect example. Created by Spanish designers, Claudia Hernández & Claudia Fabra, these tees rock a retro 70s look. Hip & eco-friendly, they reflect an urban, yet feminine, street style that makes you want to listen to a little Black Sabbath when you put one on. Trust me on this one…

La Chita Rivera?! Nope…It’s La Tita Rivera

La Tita Rivera

La Tita Rivera. The grooviest little joint in The Chueca neighborhood of Madrid? You better believe it! Boasting an eclectic interior of exposed beer pipes, multicolored chairs, retro wooden tables, and a traditionally-tiled floor, this trendy mix of vintage & modern puts the burger in “burger joint” in Madrid. Known for it’s Galician specialties and tapas casis, somehow this pesky little American cultural icon found its way onto the menu in the form of mini sliders. But the burgers aren’t the best part…that role is reserved for the terrace — known to locals as the hippest terrace in Madrid. Really, who wouldn’t want to sit on a beer barrel and drink an Estrella Galicia?  I for for one would…and did.

Photo credit: Dolce City