Olive oil tastings

May 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

Azeite Gallo

Olive oil bottles make great gifts. We recently tasted two interesting, delicious, affordable olive oils. The first is Gallo Azeite Novo. It is made from olives that are still green, giving the oil a spicy, fresh taste. The second is Gallo’s Moonlight Harvest. It is made from olives harvested at night and pressed while they are still cold. It has a smooth, fruity taste.

The quality of olive oil can vary greatly from crop to crop, depending on rainfall and temperature throughout the year. That is why, to ensure consistency of quality and taste, Gallo blends olive oil from different regions.

Each year, Portuguese farmers wait nervously to taste the new olive oil in a ritual called “tiborna.” They dip warm country bread into the oil and, to bring out the flavors, season it with a pinch of salt or a pinch of sugar and cinnamon.

You can invite some friends and enact the same ritual at home. Which olive oil do they prefer? The freshness of young oil or the smoothness of midnight oil? You can peer into their souls by observing their choices.

 

It is generally a good idea to buy the olive oil at the airport’s free shop and take the bottles inside the airplane as a carry on.

Time travel

April 20, 2014 § 2 Comments

A vida Portuguesa

Physicists think that traveling to the past is impossible, but Catarina Portas, a Portuguese entrepreneur, proved them wrong. Through painstaking work, she brought back to life many Portuguese products and brands that had disappeared: beautiful baskets, blankets, ceramics, glassware, pottery, toys, and much more. In her wonderful stores we can be archeologists without dealing with dust and visit the past without giving up our smartphone.

Catarina Porta’s stores are called A Vida Portuguesa (the Portuguese life). There are two in Lisbon, one in Chiado (Rua Anchieta, 11, tel.  213-465-073) and the other in Intendente (Largo do Intendente Pina Manique, 23, tel.  211-974-512). There is also one store in Oporto (Rua Galeria de Paris, 20, tel. 222-0220105). Click here for A Vida Portuguesa’s web site. 

One day we’ll go to Viana

February 4, 2014 § 2 Comments

Loiça de Viana

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.

“Havemos de Ir a Viana” was set to music and became a hit in the voice of the great fado singer Amália Rodrigues. Our version of this song features Cecília Fontes on voice, Evandra Gonçalves and Teresa Mascarenhas on violin, and Sergio Rebelo on guitar. The piece was mixed and produced by Pedro Rebelo. It was recorded in Chicago, at a time when violinist Evandra Gonçalves was missing her hometown, Viana do Castelo.

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.

10 original gifts from Portugal

December 12, 2013 § 7 Comments

We live in an unusual world. On one hand, we have access to a seemingly endless variety of goods. On the other hand, everybody has access to the same things. So, it is difficult to come up with exciting, unexpected gifts that show the receivers that we thought about them.

Well, we’re here to help. Here are ten gifts that will surprise and delight even those who already have everything. Just click on the bold words to see more information about these items before you contact Santa!

10 best things

1) A vacation in Portugal!
2) Cozy felt blankets from Loja do Burel in Lisbon.
3) A bottle of a delicious cherry liquor called ginginha.
4) Rare, fragrant tea from the Azores.
5) Original t-shirts and sweaters from Perdição de Maria.
6) Amazing olive oil.
7) Amazing vinegar to go with the olive oil.
8) Perfect cutlery from Cutipol.
9) Perfect espresso and tea cups from Vista Alegre.
10) Elegant jewelry from Reverso.

Welcoming Winter

November 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

Lisboa_83Cobertores Manteca-1

Normally, we dread the arrival of Winter, but this year we look forward to the cold and rainy months.  It’s all because of Loja do Burel, a marvelous new store in the Chiado neighborhood. Burel (pronounced “bhoorhel”) is a beautiful wool felt produced in the Estrela mountain to make capes for shepherds. Loja do Burel turns this wonderful felt into the prettiest blankets we have ever seen. We can’t wait to cosy up with them by the fire drinking a glass of port. So, Winter, we welcome you!

Loja do Burel is located on Rua Serpa Pinto, 15 B, Chiado – Lisboa, tel. 21 245 69 10. Click here for their web site.

Ancient tea

November 3, 2013 § 2 Comments

8-4 Tea

When Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess, married King Charles II in 1662, her fabulous dowry included the city of Bombay. But her most enduring gift to the British people was the habit of drinking tea. This drink, once reserved for Buddhist monks, was quickly adopted by the royal court. Later, tea houses became popular, serving as gathering places that helped disseminate the ideas of the age of enlightenment.

Most tea consumed around the world comes from large industrial plantations. One of the last surviving artisanal tea estates is Gorreana, in the island of S. Miguel in the Azores. Their tea plants were brought from China in 1874.  They pick, select, and dry the leaves by hand to produce wonderfully fragrant organic green and black tea.

If you’re seeking the inner peace of a buddhist monk, the wisdom of the age of enlightenment, or a unique gift for a friend, give this delicious tea a try.

You can order Gorreana tea from A Vida Portuguesa, an online store that sells many other great Portuguese products. Click here for their web site.

Romantic candles

September 26, 2013 § 2 Comments

Velas Loreto

In 1789, Domingos Pereira opened Velas Loreto, an elegant candle store near Chiado. Candles were an essential commodity, so the store prospered despite the Napoleonic invasions.

Initially, Velas Loreto produced only white candles. That all changed in 1845, when the great Hungarian pianist Franz Liszt arrived in Lisbon to play at the São Carlos opera house. Liszt ordered red candles from Velas Loreto to decorate São Carlos. His brilliant performance and the novelty candles were the event of the year.

There are those who say that offering a loved one candles from Velas Loreto makes love endure. We cannot vouch for the veracity of this claim. All we know, is that there’s something magical about this store that outlasted Napoleon’s empire and continues to illuminate Lisbon.

Velas Loreto is located on Rua do Loreto 53-59 in Lisbon. Their telephone number is 213425387.

Vintage vinegar

July 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Moura-AlvesIf you’re looking for a present for a gourmet friend, look no further: buy a bottle of Moura Alves vinegar. While most vinegar is made with the artificial addition of acetic acid, Moura Alves is produced naturally.

Wine from the Bairrada region is combined with acetic bacteria and left in oak barrels while the bacteria converts alcohol into acetic acid. It’s a very slow process: it takes ten years to reach the ideal level of acidity. But, if you try this vinegar, you’ll see it’s worth the wait.

Moura Alves vinegar is available in many gourmet stores and at El Corte Inglés, at the crossing of Avenidas António Augusto de Aguiar, Marquês de Fronteira e Sidónio Pais in Lisbon, tel 213 711 700. You can also order it from the web site A Vida Portuguesa, click here.

The cure for the vacation blues

May 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

PerdiçãodeMaria

Much of a vacation’s pleasure comes from anticipation. The joy of saying: my holiday in Portugal starts next week! The vacation begins and you relax, enjoying the food and scenery. Then, someone up there presses the remote control and puts time on fast forward. Soon, you’re counting how many days are left, feeling the vacation blues.

Luckily, a cure for this malaise is right at hand: simply go shopping for some great souvenirs! No, we’re not talking about useless knick knacks. Buy items you can wear, like the T-shirts produced by the brand Perdição de Maria (Maria’s perdition). They feature local motifs: sardines, lamp posts, trams, Portuguese guitars, etc. You can’t buy these clothes anywhere else, they’re a piece of vacation you can take home. Because every time you wear them they’ll remind you of the fun you had in Portugal.

You can buy Perdição de Maria’s clothes in many stores in Lisbon. One convenient shop is Portfolio at the airport.

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