Memories of a lost cheese

October 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Marcel Proust could vividly recall the taste and smell of his aunt’s madeleines. Those memories inspired his masterpiece, Remembrance of Things Past.

Joana Garcia remembered the taste and smell of the cheese she ate as a child with her grandmother in Alentejo. Those memories inspired her to recreate that long-lost flavor. She quit her job as a lawyer, moved to Alentejo and bought 500 sheep. After trying endless combinations of milk, salt and cardoon, she found the taste of her youth. Garcia’s masterpiece is called Queijo Monte da Vinha. It is a delicious, soft, buttery cheese with the precious taste of a distant past.

You can try Queijo Monte da Vinha at the wonderful Tasca da Esquina restaurant in Lisbon. You can buy it at Mercearia Creativa, a gourmet grocery store where you’ll find many other great Portuguese products (Av. Guerra Junqueiro, 4A, Lisbon, tel. 218-485-198). Click here for the Monte da Vinha website.

A place of serenity

August 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

You can have an unforgettable vacation at Casas da Areia, a beautiful retreat on the margins of the Sado river, one hour south of Lisbon. Here, you can rent one of four fisherman huts built from local materials. They have striking African-inspired thatched roofs and impeccable minimalist design.

There are many pristine beaches close by. But, once you settle at Casas da Areia, you’ll probably just want to enjoy the magnificent vistas and bike around the gorgeous Sado estuary. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself talking to Christian Louboutin about the serenity of this place; he has a house nearby.

After staying at Casas de Areia, it’s hard to stop asking your friends “did I tell you about my unforgettable vacation in Portugal?”

You can find more information about Casas na Areia here.

An eternal river

August 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

The small town of Carrasqueira, close to Alcácer do Sal, has one of the most unusual monuments in Portugal: a primitive wharf made with sticks and planks, know as “cais palafítico.” Fishermen built the wharf in the 1950s and 60s to gain easier access to the riches of the Sado river: clams, oysters, octopus and fish.

Sitting on this wharf, it is easy to imagine the past, when Phoenicians sailed the Sado carrying the precious salt harvested from the river marshes.  It is also easy to imagine the future, since the majestic Sado will continue to flow for as long as time flows.

Pêra Manca

January 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Pêra Manca is a cult wine produced near Évora, in Alentejo. It has a long pedigree that is intertwined with the history of Portugal. Pedro Álvares Cabral took bottles of Pêra Manca in the voyage that resulted in the discovery of Brazil, in 1500. The wine continued to gather fame, wining gold medals in Bordeaux in 1879 and 1898, but its production ended with the death of the vineyard’s owner in 1920. In 1990 the Eugénio de Almeida Foundation resumed the production of Pêra Manca, aging the wine in the cellar of a 1580 Jesuit monastery. The white Pêra Manca is made with Antão Vaz and Arinto grapes. The red Pêra Manca is made with Trincadeira and Aragonês grapes and it is produced only in exceptional years. It is a wonderful wine for a special occasion. After all, it was good enough to celebrate the discovery of Brazil.

Click here for the Eugénio de Almeida Foundation Cartuxa winery website.

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