Sun, sand and sea hold not much motivation for me, but if great food is on the cards, my ears perk up and tongue salivates awaiting promised pleasures. Having eaten at Restaurante Monastrell and having had an enlightening food experience there, I made a promise to Chef Maria Jose that I would return to eat at her tapas bar next door. Return I did, twice.
Monastrell, the name of the Spanish grape variety grown in this region as well as the name for what was the best meal I had during my time in Spain. Ok, Restaurante Monastrell and La Taberna del Gourmet next to it were responsible for 2 of my best meals, but they are both owned by Chef Maria Jose, who is renown for her usage of saffron. It is here that she sat with us and gave us a little lesson on saffron and its magical qualities that have changed how I use and approach saffron.
Villayoooo-what? Its pronounced ‘Veeya-hoyo-sa’, a beautiful seaside town on the Costa Blanca in Alicante whose claim to fame is CHOCOLATES. It was here that cacao first landed on Spanish shores from the Americas and it once boasted many chocolate factories, of which, only Chocolates Perez and another outfit remain. Oh, this place is also home to Chocolates Valor, a big Spanish chocolate brand that churns out generic chocolate.
My quest for experiencing the bean to bar journey of chocolates brought me here, to Chocolates Perez, where Paco Torreblanca told me they use old school machinery to make chocolates. Having never seen old chocolate machines at work before, this was a welcome break from Pasteleria Totel and a perfect way to spend a day by the coast.