Quinta das Lágrimas

July 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s a plot worthy of Shakespeare. Pedro, the crown prince, falls madly in love with a noble lady called Inês de Castro.  His father, King Afonso VI, opposes this liaison. Pedro ignores the king’s will and has four children with the captivating Inês. In 1355, King Afonso VI orders that Inês be put to death. According to legend, a fountain sprang from the last tears that Inês shed in Quinta das Lágrimas (the quinta of tears).  In the 18th century an elegant palace was constructed on the quinta. This palace has recently been converted into an exquisite small hotel. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself writing a novel during your stay.

Rua António Augusto Gonçalves, P-3041-901 Coimbra, tel. (239) 802 380, email: comercial@quintadaslagrimas.pt, click here for website.

Portuguese cutlery

July 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

The Portuguese are obsessed with cutlery. They use a bewildering array of specialized tools to eat their food. Serving snails? You need a snail fork. Eating oysters? You need an oyster fork. The soup is a consomée? A normal soup spoon won’t do. You need a consomée spoon. Cake for dessert? Don’t even think of using a desert fork! You need a cake fork. And, of course, you can only eat fish with proper fish forks and knifes. You can see all this cutlery bravado on display at a Cutipol store. It’s more fun than many museums.

Portuguese wine

July 25, 2011 § Leave a comment


After World War II Mateus Rosé, a sweet rosé wine, brought precious export revenues to a poor country. But it branded Portugal as a producer of cheap, easy-to-drink wine. Virgil famously wrote that “Bacchus amat colles,” (Bacchus loves the hills), implying that grapes cultivated on slopes are especially blessed. Portugal’s rolling hills going down to the sea are ideal for wine production. Large investments in technology and a new generation of enologists are making sure that the blessings of the ancient god of wine do not go to waste.

Reinventing Portuguese cuisine

July 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

You need to study before eating at Pedro Lemos’ wonderful restaurant in Oporto. You have to learn the taste of roasted suckling pig, the smell of codfish and chickpeas, the texture of veal from Miranda, the saltiness of sardines, the sweetness of rocha pears. Only then will you understand that Lemos is reinventing these traditional Portuguese flavors with imagination and soul.

Pedro Lemos, Rua Padre Luis Cabral, 974, Foz do Douro, Porto, Tel. 220115986, email reservas@pedrolemos.net

America discovers Portugal

July 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Americans discovered France, Italy, and more recently,
Spain, as vacation destinations.  But Portugal has remained terra incognita. That is changing. The New York Times has written a steady stream of articles about Portugal. Most are about Lisbon; about the places to go, the culinary renaissance, the new restaurants, the new museums, the relaxed atmosphere, and the art scene. But the Times has also discovered Cascais and Évora. The Wall Street Journal tells its readers that “In Portugal you can pack seven days worth of castles, clubbing, seafood, shopping and luxury hotels into one perfectly affordable long weekend.” Now, perhaps Woody Allen will consider directing a movie about a writer who comes to Lisbon and discovers that the secret to eternal youth is a daily bath of piri-piri sauce.

Piri piri

July 17, 2011 § 2 Comments

piri-piri

The Portuguese brought from Africa a small red pepper called bird’s-eye chilli that they use to make a popular hot sauce. In Portuguese both the pepper and the sauce are called piri piri (pronounced peeree peeree). Restaurants that serve grilled chicken often make their own piri-piri sauce. What happens if you ask for their recipe? Here are some sample answers: “My Engleesh is not bery good, sory,” “We get it from Spain, you have to ask there.” After years of undercover work, we gathered some piri-piri intelligence to share with you. The base of the sauce is usually vegetable oil, although a few restaurants use olive oil. Often, the piri-piri peppers are simply combined with the oil and left alone for a few days. In some cases, the oil is warmed to absorb more quickly the taste of the piri-piri pepper. Some recipes use vinegar, whisky, cognac, salt, parsley, coriander, cilantro, or garlic. No matter which version you try, piri piri will spice up your life.

The first Portuguese hero

July 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Viriato was the first Portuguese hero. As a leader of the Lusitanos, he resisted the Roman invasion between 147 BC and 139 BC by waging a clever guerrilla war. He died in bed, assassinated by members of his tribe bribed by the Romans. In 1940s the city of Viseu erected an impressive monument to Viriato. But the most popular homage to the great warrior is not carved in marble or cast in bronze. It is made of eggs, coconut, and sugar. The V-shaped pastries called Viriatos are very popular in the Viseu region. And, thanks to them, all the little kids know the name of Portugal’s first hero.

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