Sea pebbles


All the seas work hard to please Neptune. They take large rocks and polish them for years, decades, sometimes centuries, to make shiny round pebbles of different colors and shapes. They deposit these treasures on the beach sand as a gift from Neptune to those who venerate the majesty of the oceans. When beach goers ignore these offerings, Neptune goes into a rage and the seas shake with furious storms. When we are on the beach we always collect sea pebbles. Later, in the dark days of Winter, we touch them to remember the Summer warmth and to appease Neptune.

Mãe d’ Água

There is so much about this restaurant that is out of a fairy tale: two brothers, an ancient spring, a magical landscape, food and wine fit for a king. In 2004 the brothers Artur and Carlos Lopes found a late 19th century barn in Sobral do Parelhão, a small village near Bombarral, 70 km north of Lisbon. There, they built a restaurant perfectly in tune with its surroundings. They called it Mãe d’Água (water source) because water from a nearby spring runs through the building. They cut the ancient brick walls to open large windows that frame the handsome landscape of Estremadura. They filled elegant wood cabinets with wines from the region. They chose a menu full of delicacies, briny shrimp in garlic sauce, fragrant lingueirão rice, tender lamb chops, and so much more. Mãe d’Água is a fairy tale come true.

Sobral do Parelhão, Bombarral, Rua 13 de Maio 26, 2540-467 Carvalhal, tel.262 605 408, email geral@restaurantemaedagua.com, click here for their website.

The best Portuguese pears


In August farmers markets overflow with pera rocha (rocha pear), a delicious pear variety unique to Portugal. In 1836 António Rocha, a horse dealer from Sintra, noticed a tree that produced unusual pears. These pears had a crusty texture, a sweet aroma, and a refreshing taste. He shared grafts from this wonder tree with his neighbors, who shared them with their neighbors, spreading pera rocha throughout the west of Portugal.

Paul Cézanne, born in 1839, loved to paint pears. He painted them as overlapping abstract shapes, with warm colors and cool shadows, with flat brush strokes, with thin washes of pure pigment. All his life he searched for the perfect pear. He did not know that António Rocha had found it.

Millenary honey


Archaeologists discovered 2,000 year-old Egyptian honey that is still in good condition. This longevity stems from the honey’s remarkable purity. There are a number of Portuguese beekeepers that strive for this purity. They spurn the industrialized processes that sacrifice the bees to extract the honey. They shun the additives used to keep the honey from crystalizing during Winter.  Some produce honey from the nectar and pollen of a single flower species, such as eucalyptus, lavender, or rosemary. Others produce multifloral honey, extracted only after the bees feasted on flowers from all seasons, from the wild flowers that bloom after the Winter rains to the fleeting pumpkin flowers that bloom only for a day. It takes a little effort to find this superior artisan honey. It is mostly sold in farmers markets (one of our favorite producers, Miguel Evaristo, sells his honey at the Lourinhã fair on the last Saturday of each month). But, once you buy it, you can take your time enjoying it. It is good for 2,000 years.

Areias do Seixo

You ring the bell as if you were visiting a friend’s house. The large weathered wood door opens to reveal a magical place overlooking the sea. Everything feels right: the driftwood benches, the pebble walls, the bare swimming pool, the wood fire burning outside. You can walk to the beach through sandy dunes and fragrant pine trees to see blue waves crashing on white sand. Or you can drink a glass of wine while the sun and the moon exchange duties. The restaurant staff make you feel at home while you choose from a small menu that changes daily. The food is wonderfully simple, prepared with great local ingredients: fresh fish, tender vegetables, succulent meat, briny seafood. We hear that people in heaven like to return to this world to stay for a few days in this boutique hotel near Praia de Santa Cruz.  We have not been able to confirm this rumor. But one thing we know: Areias do Seixo is a little piece of heaven on earth.

Praceta do Atlântico, Póvoa de Penafirme, 2560-046 A-dos-Cunhados, tel. 261 936 340, email info@areiasdoseixo.com, click here for website.

Portuguese razor clams

We know nothing about the biology of the lingueirão (Portuguese razor clam). All we know is that, when steamed, it releases the scent of the ocean and we feel we are on the high seas. Use the cooking water to make lingeirão rice and the result is a dish with complex flavor. Guests will think you have been cooking for hours, reducing sauces, combining delicate infusions. And all you did was take advantage of the amazing biology of the lingueirão.