August 25, 2014 § Leave a comment
If you’re a wine lover traveling in Alentejo, don’t miss the chance to visit a wonderful winery called Adega Mayor. It is located in Campo Maior, a region on Portugal’s border with Spain that was once the stage of fierce battles between the two countries.
Adega Mayor was designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira, a Portuguese architect who received the Pritzker prize. He is famous for his ability to create buildings that are in harmony with their surroundings. At Adega Mayor, he succeeded brilliantly. The winery is a subtle white accent on the Alentejo landscape, toped by a terrace with amazing vistas. It is extraordinary to sit on the terrace at sunset and watch the Alentejo sky painted with colors others skies can only dream of.
The wines of Adega Mayor are produced with immense skill and care. But they offer much more than technical perfection. They carry in them the soul of Alentejo.
We left Adega Mayor with a warm feeling of optimism. We saw ancient battle fields turned into peaceful vineyards that produce extraordinary wines.
Click here for Adega Mayor’s website.
August 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
Our favorite restaurant in Évora, Botequim da Mouraria, seats only eight people and takes no reservations. There are no tables, everybody eats at the counter. Domingos Canelas, the restaurant’s owner, recites the menu, an endless list of delicacies that includes wild asparagus, eggs from blissful chicken, incredible prosciutto from Alentejo, luscious figs, briny clams, succulent fish and meat. In the kitchen, his wife Florbela cooks these ingredients with great skill and refinement. When Domingos brings the food he smiles, anticipating our enjoyment.
We asked him to select a wine from the restaurant’s amazing list. Instead of choosing an expensive bottle, he decided to impress us with a perfectly chilled white wine from Herdade Grande. “In Portugal,” he said, “you don’t need to spend much money to drink great wine.” And we agreed, marveling at the perfect harmony between the wine and the food.
During our leisurely lunch, many customers came to the door and left because there were no seats available. And yet, Domingos didn’t try to rush us. “You need time to enjoy the food of Alentejo,” he said.
We asked whether he planed to expand the size of the restaurant. He answered without hesitation: “I can only maintain this quality if I stay small.” At Botequim da Mouraria small is wonderful.
Botequim da Mouraria is at Rua da Mouraria, 16-A in Evora, tel. 266-746-775, email: email@example.com.
June 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
Older people often complain that food doesn’t taste as good as it once did. Are they right or it is just that everything tastes better when we’re young? We can answer this question thanks to Herdade do Freixo do Meio, an Alentejo estate.
In 2001, the Herdade adopted organic production methods and planted old varieties of fruits and vegetables that were left behind by the industrialization of agriculture. They also started to raise black pigs, Barrosa cows, Alentejo turkeys, and other animals, letting them roam free. You can see and taste the amazing results by visiting their store in Lisbon’s Ribeira market.
When you try their products, you quickly realize that older people are right: food used to taste much better. The good news is that Herdade do Freixo is bringing that taste back!
Click here for the Herdade do Freixo do Meio web site.
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.
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.
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.
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.