Other than sex, there seems to be no stronger temptation in this world than chocolate. That luscious, dark confection can bring strong men to their knees and make smart women swoon.
“My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace
is to finish what I start. So far today,
I have finished 2 bags of M&M’s and a chocolate cake.
I feel better already.”
— Dave Barry
The Barcelona Quest
The last thing I had on my mind that day was chocolate. We were in Barcelona, thrilled to be seeing Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces of architecture. The Sagrada Familia and Park Güell were first on our checklist. Done!
Now we wanted to see some residential architecture, so we headed to the “Block of Discord” – featuring three adjacent houses on the fashionable boulevard “Passeig de Gràcia” designed by the foremost modernist architects at the turn of the 20th century. They also happened to be rivals with very different styles. Hence the “Block of Discord!”
Our target was the Casa Batlo designed by Gaudi.
I stood there studying the signature “no straight lines” of the Gaudi house and loved it, as I do all things Gaudi. But I found my eyes constantly drawn to the house beside it.
It was gorgeous!
When chocolate baron Antoni Amatller bought the house, he engaged architect Puig i Cadafalch to re-envision the structure and work his magic … so he did. The result: Gothic meets Flemish, becomes Modernist Catalan.
“This playful building is one of Puig i Cadafalch’s finest creations. Inspired by17th-century Dutch townhouses, it has a distinctive stepped Flemish pediment covered in shiny ceramics, while the lower façade and doorway are decorated with lively sculptures by Eusebi Arnau. These include chocolatiers at work, almond trees and blossoms (in reference to the family name) and Sant Jordi slaying the dragon.” –Time Out Barcelona
Although I have encountered beautifully patterned buildings before, Casa Amatller took my breath away. I think the whimsical blue shutters sealed the deal … I was smitten and just stood there smiling.
I was dumbstruck because I’d never seen a building that instantly reminded me of a Flemish tapestry. My first thought was of The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, housed in the Musée de Cluny, with their backgrounds of “mille-fleurs” (thousand flowers) similar to the flower tiles that coat the house. There were also the parallels of mythical beasts, and of course, a heroine.
Back to the Chocolate … What We All Came For!
Chocolates Amatller, founded in 1797, is one of the oldest chocolate brands in Spain. When Antoni Amatller followed in the footsteps of his chocolatier father, he inherited a high-quality product, so he modernized production lines, embraced marketing, and BAM! … increased sales!
One of his best decisions was to commission Czech artist Alphonse Mucha to create a seductive container for his chocolates. From that moment forward, Amatller has used Art Nouveau to heighten the appeal of its chocolates by designing alluring wrappers, gorgeous tins, and eye-catching posters. These branding techniques turned the chocolates into presentation-worthy gifts … a tradition that continues today.
I must admit that after discovering Casa Amatller and its history, we did feel it was important to field test the “product” … you know, to be certain it was safe for consumption and that we could recommend it. We can gleefully report that Amatller Chocolate is delicious … try the chocolate leaves.
“Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that,
as far as chocolate is concerned,
there is no need to involve your brain.”
3. By Elena Stromberger via Wikimedia Commons
4. By Amadalvarez via Wikimedia Commons
5. By Yearofthedragon via Wikimedia Commons
10. Courtesy Chocolates Amatller
11. By Pere López via Wikimedia Commons