Few people may know this, but Barcelona is a great town for chocolate lovers! Not only is there a Chocolate Museum (Carrer Commerç 36), with all kinds of mouth-watering exhibits (unfortunately only in Catalan), but there are several world-renowned artisan chocolate makers. I felt it was my duty to visit them all and sample as much as I could, solely of course for the benefit of you, the reader.
I start off my chocolate tour with a visit to one of the half dozen Xocoa shops scattered throughout the city. The chocolates here have clever packaging, including a chocolate CD and Birracao, a chocolate beer (take a look at their great website to get an inkling of what they're about). Unfortunately, in my opinion, the quality of the product doesn't live up to the promise of its appearance. It's just OK, which when you're talking about chocolate, doesn't mean it's bad (and it's great compared to Hershey's).
Next stop is to one of the three locations of Escribà. I visited the flagship store (Gran Vía 546), but they also have a shop in a tiled modernista building built in 1820 (Rambla de les Flors 83, near la Boqueria market) and a beach side Xiringuito (Ronda Litoral 42) with tapas and paella in addition to their own desserts. Everything at Escribà is as delicious as it looks, which is impressive when you see how gorgeous the chocolates are. Besides the meltingly smooth chocolate creations and a fun collection of candy glam rings, come here for the lovely (and, again, absolutely stunning) pastries. Christian Escribà is famous for his wedding and birthday cake creations, made to the specifications of his discerning and creative customers.
After a visit to Escribà, you must head over to Cacao Sampaka (C/Consell de Cent 292), my favorite stop on the chocolate tour, for a cup of their incomparable thick, bittersweet hot chocolate. They have two styles of hot chocolate, classic and dark, that they dispense from these brilliant machines (that are at the top of my wish list of most coveted kitchen objects). You can't go wrong, as both of them are unbelievably rich, thick and positively orgasmic (I know, because I had a cup of each!), like dipping a ladle into the chocolate river of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The hot chocolate is just one treat in a store full of goodies to satisfy the most discerning chocoholic (even pastry chef/author/blogger David Lebovitz thoroughly enjoyed one of Sampaka's many chocolate bars, or tabletas). I stocked up on tabletas and boxes of Sampaka's collections, including "grandes origenes" (chocolate bombones divided according to source of the cocoa beans), "frutos scecos y crujientes" (bombones with nuts), "cacaos y especias de América" (bombones with spices, including curry, saffron, and ginger).
The only place I unfortunately missed is reputedly the most brilliant of the Barcelona artisan chocolatiers, Oriol Balaguer (C/Morales 21-27, baixos B, tel. 933-632-298). According to his website, created a dessert in 2001 that was named Best Dessert in the World. I will leave it up to you to visit his shop on my behalf!