Of Craquers and Serendipity

I’ve always taken pride at the fact that I have a cast iron stomach; that I could eat any street food from any vendor from any corner in the world and not have to worry about being sick. Growing up in the Philippines has ingrained in me a love for food that is made from animal parts that are considered exotic everywhere else, but normal and ordinary to me. Delicacies such as chicken feet, head, liver, and gizzard are nothing but after school snacks for me and my friends. Fried chitterlings and sweetbreads are nothing but bar food to us. A soup lovingly made out of bull’s testicles is what we crave for after a long night of drinking or studying.

So imagine my dismay and horror while walking down the Barri Gotic neighborhood of Barcelona with my sister on our first day, when I felt my stomach rumbling. Not hungry rumbling, but the other more nefarious kind. We paused for a bit so I can take one of the emergency Immodiums that I always have stashed in my purse. The rumbling settled and we continued exploring Barcelona’s historic neighborhood. Half an hour later, the rumbling came back, and this time it was louder than ever. I needed a bathroom and I needed one stat!!

IMG_7945We walked towards the main avenue and ducked into the first coffee shop we saw. My sister sat down and ordered coffee and snacks for us, while I made a beeline for the bathroom. Five minutes later, relieved and finally blissfully drugged, I rejoined her in the café’s main salon. On the table in front of her is the most mouth watering collection of cookies and chocolates I’ve ever seen. Unable to decide which one to get from the Willy Wonka-esque display up front, she decided to order one of everything instead. The cookies and pastries were delicious, but it was the chocolates which they called craquers that had me thanking the gods for leading us to this café. The chocolate was sweet but not overly sugary, and the hazelnuts embedded in the chocolate provided a crunchy and salty counterpoint that made it even more heavenly. The craquer was about the size of my palm, and one should have been enough for a normal person. We weren’t normal people. We ordered 3 more, each!

Knowing that we’ve made an amazing discovery, my sister and I made copious notes on our map to make sure that we would be able to find the café again. We took pictures of the storefront, the signs on the side of the building, and for good measure, took one of their business cards. Once satisfied that we have enough information to be able to come back to this temple of heavenly delights, we continued exploring the rest of Barri Gotic.

IMG_7951Three days later, we were scheduled to take the 6PM flight back to Madrid. We had plans to see Casa Batlo that morning, but we also knew that the café will be closed by 2PM. We moved heaven and earth that afternoon to make sure that we make it to the café before it closes. We each bought enough chocolates to send a person in a diabetic coma. In addition to the legendary craquers, we also bought turon and huge blocks of pure Catalan chocolates.

In the three days we were in Barcelona, we’ve encountered at least a dozen of other stores selling craquers, a lot of which are more convenient to get to that the one in Barri Gotic, but nothing that we tried after even came close to the ones we first tried. It’s amazing how a café when went into out of convenience and necessity ended up being the highlight of our trip. If my stomach didn’t act up that day, we would have passed by that café and not have given it a second look. Their nondescript exteriors looked like any other shop in Spain. There was nothing special or out of the ordinary about the place even when you go in. It wasn’t until we came back three days later that we noticed the attached store that was accessed from the café through the bar. We would have to be walking from the other direction for us to even see it. The store’s spectacular display of chocolates and pastries on their windows would have made Willy Wonka green with envy.IMG_7949

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