March 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
Fado 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?
March 3, 2014 § 1 Comment
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.
February 24, 2014 § Leave a comment
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.
February 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
Perhaps you found your true love and would like to propose in a romantic, unforgettable way. If, after watching numerous black-and-white movies you still have no ideas, we have a suggestion.
Invite your loved one for a weekend in Lisbon. Without revealing your intentions, drive to the location in the photo in the end of the afternoon, an hour or two before sunset. Take a bouquet of flowers tied with a ribbon that has two pieces of lead (one to use and the other to keep as a memento). Each piece of lead should have your two initials carved.
Find the perfect moment to say: “When ancient Greeks made eternal vows, they threw a piece of lead in the ocean and promised to keep their vows until the lead floated. I want to do the same; I’ll love you until this lead floats.” Throw one of the pieces of lead in the ocean with a dramatic gesture. Take some beautiful photos and celebrate with some great Portuguese espumante.
The gazebo in the photo is part of the Casa do Gato Cinzento estate, located between the Consolação and the São Bernardino beach. It is private property, so please ask the caretaker permission to let you in.
February 9, 2014 § 2 Comments
When you spend a Summer vacation in Portugal, it’s easy to face the Winter. You can brave the polar temperatures, the wind and the snow, because you’re still warm from the Summer. You can remember waking up to the sound of the waves, strolling on the beach, bathing in the salty ocean, dining outdoors at sunset. And Winter is just a reminder that it’s time to plan the next Summer vacation.
February 4, 2014 § 2 Comments
Minho (“meeño) is a region in the north of Portugal where mountains and valleys, rivers and sea join forces to create lush landscapes. It is a land of ancient traditions, influenced by the celtic tribes that once populated the area and by the roman invaders who thought these were the Elysian fields.
No one understood Minho better than the poet Pedro Homem de Mello. His famous poem, “One day we’ll go to Viana,” describes the allure of visiting Viana do Castelo, one of the gems of the region.
If you’re lucky enough to fulfill the poet’s dream and go to Viana, look for the beautiful LRV pottery. Local artisans paint these elegant pieces with the patience and care of an era gone by, when time flowed slowly and it was hard to travel to Viana.
January 26, 2014 § 1 Comment
The Dão is one of the oldest Portuguese wine regions. It is a place where granitic soils force vines to work hard for their sustenance, producing small grapes that are full of flavor. We heard wonders about Julia Kemper, a new Dão producer, and we finally got a chance to try her wines.
We first opened a bottle of red wine made with Touriga Nacional, the queen varietal of the Dão region. The taste took us back to hot Summer days in the Dão valleys, when the sky is indescribably blue and everything is at peace.
We then opened a bottle of white made with Encruzado, another emblematic Dão varietal, and Malvasia Fina. The taste reminded us of cool nights in the Dão plateaus, when all the stars come out to worship the beauty of the Estrela mountain.
What a privilege it is to drink wines that take us on a journey to their terroir!