December 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Georg Friedrich Hegel described the evolution of human ideas as involving a thesis, followed by an antithesis, and then by a synthesis that reconciles the two. Believe it or not, these concepts are useful to explain the cuisine of Belcanto, a fantastic Lisbon restaurant owned by chef José Avillez.
The modernist cuisine of restaurants like elBulli is the antithesis of traditional Portuguese cooking. Avillez combines the two in a delicious synthesis that is both familiar and surprising. He serves olives bursting with flavor, golden eggs, seafood immersed in the smell of the sea, manta rays transformed into Pollock paintings.
The Michelin inspectors were so impressed with Avillez’s culinary dialectic that they awarded Belcanto a star. We suspect Hegel would agree.
Belcanto is located at Largo do São Carlos in Lisbon, tel. 21-342-0607.
November 28, 2013 § 5 Comments
It’s very easy to have fun in Lisbon. But, to have an unforgettable vacation, you have to make this city your own. All it takes is a little effort: choose a window and write a story about it. Suddenly, Lisbon will be more than just another tourist destination. It will become your city, a place where you have a window.
The photo shows our window. Our story is about a couple that can live anywhere in the world, for their talents are many. He and she came to Lisbon for a short stay and rented this apartment in the Campo d’Ourique neighborhood.
One late afternoon, they were enjoying the view of the Tagus river, when he said: I think we should move to Lisbon; this place should be our home. She smiled tenderly at his impractical idea. Then, she noticed that his eyes had the same color as the Tagus river. And, from that day on, she called him river.
She began to notice the same blue color everywhere, in the ancient tiles, in the hydrangeas sold by florists, in the old pottery on the windows of antique shops. And she began to wonder. Isn’t blue the color of heaven? Can you keep a river from flowing to the sea?
November 24, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Normally, we dread the arrival of Winter, but this year we look forward to the cold and rainy months. It’s all because of Loja do Burel, a marvelous new store in the Chiado neighborhood. Burel (pronounced “bhoorhel”) is a beautiful wool felt produced in the Estrela mountain to make capes for shepherds. Loja do Burel turns this wonderful felt into the prettiest blankets we have ever seen. We can’t wait to cosy up with them by the fire drinking a glass of port. So, Winter, we welcome you!
November 17, 2013 § 1 Comment
All southern European countries have their own fisherman’s stew. In Portugal, this classic dish is called caldeirada (pronounced “qaldeirahda”). It’s an appropriate name, since caldeira means caldron, a pot used in alchemy. When you combine fish, vegetables, and white wine, the result is indeed magical.
You can use different fish varieties, but the star of the caldeirada is the manta ray. Its delicious white flesh combines perfectly with the rich stock.
The best places to eat caldeirada are near the ocean because this dish requires the freshest fish. According to Marcel Pagnol, the French writer born in Marseille, the secret of the fisherman’s stew is to put the fish in the pot while their tails are still moving. If you’re near the Portuguese coast, don’t miss a chance to eat a memorable caldeirada.
November 14, 2013 § 2 Comments
Peter Mayle, a British advertising executive, moved in the 1980s to Ménerbes, a tiny village in Provence. There, he wrote “A Year in Provence,” an entertaining account of his experiences that became a global bestseller.
Frances Mayes, an American writer, moved in the 1990s to the Tuscan country side to renovate Bramasole, an old villa. She told her story in the inspiring, bestselling “Under the Tuscan Sun.”
The success of these writers reflects their ability to put the reader on location, feeling the thrill of living in a place where every day is a new adventure.
There are currently so many Portuguese houses in great locations selling at very affordable prices. These beautiful homes are waiting for the right person to come along and make them part of their story. Hurry up!
November 10, 2013 § 1 Comment
If you keep a list of ideas for fun activities, we would like to suggest a new entry: visiting a port-wine cellar.
Port wine is made in the Douro region where Summers can be very hot. So, the wine is shipped to Vila Nova de Gaia, a town adjacent to Oporto, to be stored away from the heat. There, the wine is kept in dark, cool cellars until it trades the brashness of youth for the refinement that comes with maturity.
Most port-wine houses offer tours of their cellars. The tour guides teach you to distinguish between tawny, ruby, late-bottled vintage, and vintage port. They also regale you with interesting stories and facts about port-wine production. You’ll learn, for example, that the “share of the angels” is the fraction of the wine stored that is lost to evaporation. At the end of the tour you are invited to a port-wine tasting, so you’ll also get a share of this precious nectar.
November 8, 2013 § 1 Comment
One of Portugal’s simple pleasures is to sit in an esplanade drinking coffee and eating a “torrada” (toorrahdah). Torradas are buttered toasts made from “pão de forma,” a bread with a soft texture perfect to absorb melted butter.
Each torrada has two bread slices and each slice is cut into three neat rectangular tranches. The best tranches are the middle ones, which have almost no crust. So, you have to decide: which tranche will you eat first?
Just so you know, there are three schools of thought on this topic. According to the first school, you should start with the two middle tranches, so you’ll enjoy them while they’re hot. The second school recommends that you leave the best for last and eat the prized middle tranches at the end. The third school, advises you to avoid difficult choices and ask for a “torrada aparada.” This torrada has no crust, so all the tranches look the same.
Torradas are a personality test in disguise: the Portuguese can read you like a book by the way you eat your toast.