Growing up on the East Coast of the United States there was a really catchy commercial for Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars. "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't," was the tagline, and the play on words became a popular phrase for daily life in the 1980s and 1990s.
If you're like me, you probably have days when you really crave carbohydrates and sugar, maybe these are the days you feel like a nut, or simply the days you need that energy boost only sucrose can provide. Why not pair your treats with a Spanish latte, café con leche, the perfect blend for a hearty breakfast- without the bacon and eggs- or a sweet merienda (Spain's answer to the 5pm hunger pains) on those off-diet days.
One thing that has struck me very profoundly during my time and travels through Spain is the amount of light the country receives, whether you are in Málaga, Barcelona, Santander, Valencia, Madrid, Huelva or Alicante, there is almost always sun (although I can't speak for the rainier climates of Galicia or the Basque Country). For example this year in Madrid we had an ola de frío, a severe cold front come through, and the minute the sun was shining again and the weather permitted walking, the city's population could be found on terrazas and patios taking in the warm rays while eating and drinking their tapas, beers, coffees and meriendas- all in February mind you! Although the spots I'm going to mention can be enjoyed throughout the year.
Delic Café in Madrid is tucked behind a large church in a quiet off-the-beaten-track plaza, but widely known by locals as an outstanding spot for delicious mojitos and cakes, which is a dangerous combination for anyone, but could certainly lead some people off the deep end. All joking aside, their sweets are legitimate and abundant, with flavors ranging from dulce de leche, chocolate banana, poppy, pistachio cake with meringue, and sweet hazelnut tart with toasted pistachios (pictured above). Special teas and Colombian coffee, as well as other menu items are offered. As mentioned, the terraza on a sunny day is a great option, although the inside is also pleasant (when not packed with after-work young professionals flirting and chatting revolution) with "country wood", pastels and a welcoming vibe.
Costanilla San Andrés (Plaza de la Paja)
+34 913 64 54 50
Metro: La Latina
Also in Madrid, Harina, a bakery-café located in a newly decorated open and well-lit space just outside of the entrance to El Retiro, Madrid's most famous park. Take in the sun at the tables near the window or outside if the weather is right (supplement charge for the patio). It's a runner-up option if you are in the area, need to rest your feet in a relaxed, airy ambiance, and also need that above mentioned sugar rush.
Plaza de la Independencia 10
Madrid, Spain 28001
+34 915 22 87 85
Latte and Carrot Cake at Olivia. Café con tarta/bizcocho de zanahorias.
I'll stop at Olivia, ask for an Illy coffee with their pastel del día (cake/tart/pie of the day) and relax in their sustainable wooden booths. It's a small and tranquil place with lots of light entering, but I feel safe and calm here, left to enjoy my merienda and read my Spanish phrase book, near to Las Ramblas but hidden from the tourists and hustle and bustle of the taxi-ridden streets. Perhaps you'll also find that you have the whole cafe to yourself; enjoy that moment!
Carrer Pinto Fortuny 22
Metro: Pl. Catalunya L3 L6 L7 or Liceu L3
My final recommendation for Barcelona is conveniently located on the busiest corner of the city, wedged between Las Ramblas and La Boqueria, but despite its foot-traffic Escribà remains a Barcelona cult-classic and continues to deliver outstanding baked goods and sweets, as did their forefathers over 100 years ago. For me however, the most magical element of this shop is its design, displaying a beautifully well-kept tile facade from the height of the Moderisme movement in 1902. Some vote them as having the best croissants in the city. They are also well known for their chocolate craftmanship, and unique edible "candy glam rings" or glass art (but they'll set you back a pretty penny), and their dedication to seasonal Catalan sweets, such as monas.
Passerbyers admire Escribà on Las Ramblas
Goodies viewed from the inside. Sit down at their terrace for a hot chocolate, coffee and pastry, as you watch the crowds go by on Las Ramblas.
Carrer de la Rambla 83
+34 933 01 60 27
Metro: Liceu L3
For a more secluded version of this cafe/dessert hub - also where you can see more of what goes on behind the glass of their workshop/space- visit:
Gran Via Conts de los Catalanes 546
+34 934 54 75 35
Metro: Urgell L1 (red)
As a side-note, it is interesting to note that Christian Escribà, a fourth generation pastry chef has a close relationship for Ferran Adrià, well maybe we aren't suprised being they are both successful Catalans in the gastronomic world. Last July, for the closing celebration of El Bulli, Christian and Patricia Schmidt were comissioned to prepare this ever-memorable cake in the shape of a bulldog. Watch and enjoy their artwork and process! And go ahead and feel like a nut!