Bottled Summer

April 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Tasca do Joel, a great restaurant in Peniche, teamed up with a wonderful wine estate, Quinta do Monte d’Oiro, to make wine that celebrates the joys of the Portuguese Summer. They called it “surf wine” and the label reads:

“To those who didn’t go out last night and those who didn’t sleep, to the tourists and the locals, to the crazy ones who plunge ahead and the ones who hesitate, to the ones who like the right and the others who prefer the left, to lovers of the beach break or the reef break, to those who came out of the barrel wave and those who tasted sand, to all of these, and to the surf in Peniche we make a toast!”

We don’t know what magic went into the production of these wines. But it is impossible to drink them without longing to spend the Summer in Portugal!

Click here for the Tasca do Joel web site and here for the Quinta de Monte d’Oiro web site.

30 tips about Lisbon

April 6, 2014 § 3 Comments

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The best “pastel de nata” in Lisbon?

March 30, 2014 § 5 Comments

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Pastelaria Aloma, a pastry store in the Campo d’Ourique neighborhood, became famous after winning the competition for the best “pastel de nata” in Lisbon in 2012 and 2013. With so many pastry stores and coffee shops vying for this honor, it is a remarkable achievement.

We set out to investigate, on behalf of our readers, whether Aloma’s pastries are indeed a cut above the rest. Our first two visits were in the afternoon and, by the time we arrived, they had run out of pastries! Why don’t they make more? Were they told by a business guru to use scarcity as a marketing tool?

Our third visit was in the morning. We were so eager to try these little pastries that we ate the first pastel very quickly. By the time we noticed the taste, all that was left was a happy hint of lemony sweetness.

We asked for a second specimen. This time we used a scientific approach, taking small bytes and writing detailed notes. Yes, the dough has the perfect crustiness, flakiness, and flavor. Yes, the sweetness of the filling is perfectly balanced by the taste of lemon and the sprinkle of cinnamon.

It was only when we ordered a third pastel that we realized that these pastries have a major flaw: it is hard to stop eating them!

Pastelaria Aloma is located on Rua Francisco Metrass, 67, Lisbon, tel. 21-396-3797.

A magical hotel

March 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

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The new Memmo Alfama hotel in Lisbon is like Ali Baba’s cave. It is located off the beaten path, on a secluded alley in the ancient Alfama neighborhood. And from the simple exterior, it is impossible to guess what’s inside.

When the doors open, you find an elegant space, decorated with great attention to detail. But the real surprise is the spacious terrace with an astonishing view of Lisbon. The Tagus river, the pantheon, the roofs of Alfama, all these treasures are there for the taking.

Memmo Alfama is a magical hotel that will welcome you, even if you forget to say “open sesame.”

Memmo Alfama is at Travessa das Merceeiras, 27, Lisbon, tel 210 495 660, email alfama@memmohotels.com. Click here for the hotel’s web site.

What is Fado?

March 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

Lisboa_890Guitarra PortuguesaFado is a mystery, said the great singer Amália Rodrigues. This musical style emerged in Lisbon’s old neighborhoods in the 19th century. Its unique character comes from the Portuguese guitar, a twelve-string instrument with a haunting, melancholic sound. No one knows who invented it.

Female singers dress in black, as if they are in mourning. When their voices soar, they express ancient sorrows that don’t fit in the 12-tone scale of western music. So, they reach for the microtones of old Arab prayers. How do they remember these sounds?

Fado is Amália Rodrigues, a singer who could express the inexpressible. When she died, in the last year of the 20th century, fado seemed to die with her. But singers like Carminho and Mariza picked up where Amalia left of, singing with voices that have one thousand trills. Where did they learn them?

You can hear Amalia Rodrigues here. Click here and here for Carminho’s and Mariza’s web sites.

The freshest fish

March 3, 2014 § 1 Comment

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Professional cookbooks are full of elaborate fish recipes involving numerous ingredients and complex sauces. In contrast, Portuguese recipes are very simple. There’s a reason for this simplicity. Portugal has fabulous fish that arrives to the market just hours after it is caught. So, local chefs favor preparations that emphasize the natural flavors of the sea’s bounty. 

You can taste the extraordinary quality of our fish in any good Portuguese restaurant. And you can see it for yourself by visiting one of the many fish markets. In Lisbon, our favorite is Rosanamar in Mercado da Ribeira. It offers amazing quality and variety. The fish is so fresh that, given a chance, it will swim back to the sea. 

Mercado da Ribeira is on Avenida 24 de Julho in Lisbon.

Claro!

February 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Claro means “of course” in Portuguese. It is also the family name of Vitor Claro, the chef of a remarkable new restaurant in the seaside town of Paço d’Arcos, 20 km west of Lisbon. Everything about this restaurant is enticing: the gracious service, the location with its expansive ocean view, and, of course, the food.

Some chefs are slaves of the past, others are slaves of the future. Vitor Claro is a free man. He seeks great ingredients and asks: which preparation will make them shine? In some cases, the answer is to follow a traditional recipe with care and refinement. In other cases, the answer is to embrace the thrill of the new, to cook what no one has cooked before. This attitude makes the modestly-priced prix fix an exhilarating ride. Our senses are stimulated by dishes such as codfish brandade with fresh tomatoes, partridge soup with foie gras, cauliflower with parmesan, sole in a chickpea broth, shrimp ravioli with mushrooms, steak with wine reduction sauce, fried dough with chickpea puree.

At the end, when the genial waiter asks: did you enjoy the meal? it’s easy to answer in Portuguese: Claro!

Claro! is located inside the Solar das Palmeiras Hotel in Avenida Marginal, Curva dos Pinheiros, Paço de Arcos, Oeiras. Tel. 21 441 4231. Click here for the restaurant’s web site.

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