As a professional eater, I consider it my duty to at least taste every dish put before me. Even when it's dessert — one of four desserts — after I've sampled nearly every item on the menu. Even after four days of trying nearly everything on the menu everywhere I've been. That's where I found myself on a recent Thursday night in Portland, Ore., at the new Spanish tapas place Ataula.
Chef Jose Chesa of Barcelona leaned into our table with a smile and in his enchanting accent told my cohorts and I about the dish his mother used to make him for breakfast when he was a boy. Pa amb Xocolata i Oli d'Oliva is simply toasted bread and chocolate ganache in a pool of olive oil, and salted — a combination I've never considered, but was certainly game to try. Try — ha!
My poor, overworked stomach forgotten, I snatched the dish after taking my obligatory sample taste, and whipped it to my place at the table, hoping against hope nobody else would want more. No such luck. The sublime combination of crunch and creamy and the contrast of decadent, sweet chocolate and sharp, grassy olive oil proved utterly irresistible. I narrowed my eyes as one of my fellow diners casually grabbed the last bite, but was restored to good spirits when we decided to order another serving. Unfortunately I discovered this gem on my last night in Portland, but happily I've already tracked down a local Spanish place that will make it for me. I just hope it's as perfect.
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