Bottled Summer

April 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

QuintaMontedOiro

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.

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.

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.

Traveling with Julia Kemper

January 26, 2014 § 1 Comment

Julia Kemper

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!

Party cookies

December 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

PipaBolacha

We’ve all been there. We’re going to a party and would like to take something special, but we ran out of ideas. There’s an easy solution to this problem: just call Pipa Bolacha, maker of brilliant, handmade cookies! You can personalize your cookies by choosing shapes, colors, and designs.

Dinner with an actor? Take cookies with greek comedy and tragedy masks. Lunch with a pilot? Bring cookies with cloud shapes. Breakfast with a poet? Order cookies with words that can be combined into poems. Date with a chemist? Chose symbols from the periodic table (earth metals if the relationship is serious, helium if your feelings are volatile). These delicious cookies will be the life of the party!

You can contact Pipa Bolacha by phone (962 691 389) or email (pipabolacha@gmail.com). Click here to see photos of her recent cookies.

A magical stew

November 17, 2013 § 1 Comment

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Raia, Rui Barreiros Duarte, ink on paper, 2013.

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.

In the footsteps of the angels

November 10, 2013 § 1 Comment

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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.

Sandman’s and Taylor’s are two of the most popular cellars to visit. Click here and here for information about their tours.     

A toast test

November 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

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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.

The tiniest shrimps are the tastiest

October 17, 2013 § Leave a comment

When it comes to shrimp, bigger is not better. The best shrimp in Portugal is tiny in size but large in flavor. It is caught just off the coast and brings in it the taste of the sea. We call it “camarão da nossa costa” (shrimp from our coast). Seating in a beachside café with a plate of these shrimps and a cold draft beer is one of the simply wonderful pleasures of life.

The fish formerly known as wood face

October 6, 2013 § 7 Comments

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Carapau, Rui Barreiros Duarte, ink on paper, 2013.

The carapau is one of the most delicious fish in the Portuguese coast. Yet, it toils in obscurity while the Portuguese sardine basks in glory.  Why? First, there’s the name. Carapau means “wood face”; who wants to eat a fish called wood face? Second, grilled carapau is often served with Spanish sauce (“molho à espanhola”). How can a Portuguese fish shine drowning in a Spanish sauce?

We propose giving the carapau the recognition it deserves by changing its name to imperial sardine. This new identity will make carapau irresistible. Wouldn’t you prefer an imperial sardine to a regular one?

Please help us spread the word about carapau’s new name; tweet, facebook, text, call. Let’s make the wood face smile!

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