March 12, 2008
In this lead-up to Easter Sunday, pastry chefs in Catalonia and Valencia are tempering chocolate like mad and sculpting it into eggs and other shapes to adorn the traditional Easter sweet, the mona de pascua. A classic gift from godparents to godchildren, monas are meant to be enjoyed at family gatherings on the Monday after Easter, though with hardly anyone fasting through lent anymore, they are given and gobbled throughout this holiday week. The confections can be beautiful: a cake, coated in a ganache and topped with chocolate figurines evocative of spring -- flowers, eggs, and feathery chicks is the classic form. If you're in Barcelona this week, be sure to check out the windows in fancy pastry shops like Escribà on the Ramblas for the best versions (the one in the picture above is by Oriol Balaguer who has his own elite pastry studio). Garish models abound and yesterday El Pais reported that the Barcelona Confectioners' Guild estimates that of the 660,000 monas sold in Catalonia this week the favorites will include the now "traditional" Smurfs, the vacant Hello Kitty, and chocolates crafted into likenesses of Barça soccer stars. The Guild organizes Barcelona's annual mona competition and great chocolatiers join in. So although the permanent exhibition at the Guild's Museu de la Xocolata is lackluster, now is a good time to visit. The monas will range from weird to spectacular, but the hot chocolate at the museum's bar is reliably good. Also, maybe fun for kids: painting with chocolate and other activities are planned for their annual spring celebration, Saturday, March 15 starting at 6pm (call or e-mail to reserve tickets). Museu de la Xocolata, C/ Comerç 36, Tel: 93-268-78-78.