In the footsteps of the angels

November 10, 2013 § 1 Comment

Porto-Fixed_135F

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.     

DOC & DOP

June 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

DOP

The rustic food of Portugal is made of elemental aromas and deeply satisfying flavors. It is a cuisine of humble people; fishermen, shepherds, and farmers, who liked food that nourishes the body. In contrast, the French culinary tradition pioneered by Marie-Antoine Carême is all refinement and beauty. It is a cuisine of kings and queens who loved to feast their eyes as much as feed their belly.

Rui Paula, a Portuguese chef, spent two decades marrying these two traditions. At DOP, his restaurant in Oporto, he serves country food cooked with palatial elegance. DOC, his restaurant in Amarante, offers a similar menu. Here, the dining experience is heightened by the serene beauty of the location, on the margins of the Douro river.

If you’re traveling in the north of Portugal, don’t miss the opportunity to try these restaurants. They’ll satisfy your body and soul.

Click here for Rui Paula’s website. DOP is located at Palácio das Artes, Largo de S. Domingos, 18, Porto, tel. 22 20 14 313, email dop@ruipaula.com. DOC is located at Estrada Nacional 222, Folgosa, Armamar, tel. 254 858 123, email doc@ruipaula.com.

Oporto smugness

December 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Oporto residents have been smug since 1933. That’s the year when Arcadia, a wonderful artisanal chocolate maker, opened its doors in that northern city. In France, chocolatiers compete for the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France and the winners receive plenty of fame and recognition. But these are not the ways of Portugal, where we often keep quiet about our great things. So, Arcadia remained under the radar for decades.

In 2010, Arcadia opened a shop in Lisbon and the residents of the capital could finally find out what they’d been missing. There’s a lot to catch up with, from dark chocolate made with São Tomé cocoa, to port wine bonbons, beautiful chocolate roses, and delicious “cat tongues.” No wonder Oporto residents were so smug!

Arcádia, Rua do Almada, 63, Porto, tel. 22 200 15 18, Av. de Roma 14D, Lisboa, tel. 21 840 8670, email online@arcadia.pt. Click here for the Arcadia website. You can also buy Arcadia chocolates at Portfolio, a store in the  Lisbon airport. Click here for their website.

A perfect weekend in Oporto

November 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

Perhaps you need a change of scenery to recharge your batteries, but lack the time and energy to plan a perfect weekend. If that’s the case, we’re here to help!

Book a flight to Oporto, a city in the north of Portugal. Then, reserve a room at the Freixo Palace, an aristocratic hotel where you’ll be treated like royalty. Next, check the program at Casa da Música, a great performance center designed by Rem Koolhaas, and buy tickets if there’s a show that interests you.

After checking into the hotel, relax with a glass of white port while enjoying the panoramic view of the Douro river. Then, walk to Aleixo for a lunch of laminated octopus and roasted veal. In the afternoon, visit Serralves, a modern art museum designed by Siza Vieira, a Portuguese architect who won the Pritzker prize. For dinner, choose Pedro Lemos or DOP, two restaurants that combine traditional inspiration with great artistry.

On the second day, go on a cruise of the Douro river. You’ll see many Oporto landmarks, such as the Dona Maria bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel. Enjoy a “cimbalino” (that’s what Oporto residents call an espresso) at the Majestic Café. After coffee, the obvious next stop is Arcadia, an artisan chocolate maker.  Don’t leave Oporto without seeing the Lello bookstore, the place where J.K. Rowling found the gothic inspiration for Hogwarts.  Enjoy a lunch of simply great food at Adega S. Nicolau and spend the afternoon visiting one of the port-wine houses.  For dinner, go to Paparico, a restaurant that always surprises and delights.

You’ll go back ready for a fresh start with sweet memories of a wonderful weekend.

Click here for Freixo Palace’s website and here for Casa da Música’s website.
Casa Aleixo, Rua Estação 216, Tel. 225 370 462.
Serralves, Rua Dom João de Castro, 210, click here for website.
Pedro Lemos, Rua Padre Luis Cabral, 974, click here for the website.
DOP, Palácio das Artes Largo de S. Domingos, 18, click here for website.
Majestic Café, Rua Santa Catarina, 112, click here for the web site.
Arcadia, Rua do Almada, 63, click here for website
Lello bookstore, Rua das Carmelitas 144 , Porto.
Adega S. Nicolau, R. São Nicolau, 1, Ribeira. Tel. 222-008-232.
O Paparico, Rua de Costa Cabral, 2343, click here for web site.

Refining tradition in Oporto

October 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Paparico, in Oporto, looks like the kind of restaurant that uses recipes passed from a shepherd’s mouth to a shepherd’s ear.  Any lingering doubts about the rustic nature of this eatery are assuaged as you enter and see the granite walls and heavy decor.

But, when the food arrives, it becomes clear that the chef has traveled the world to learn the art of cooking. We take a bite and our taste buds scintillate with the certainty that no shepherd ever cooked food that tastes this good.

Paparico does not try to redefine traditional Portuguese cuisine. It seeks to refines it in discrete, clever, wonderfully delicious ways.

O Paparico, Rua de Costa Cabral, 2343 Oporto, tel. 225400548. Click here for Paparico’s website.

Great traditional cuisine in Oporto

July 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

Looks can be deceiving. Adega S. Nicolau, a restaurant in the Ribeira area of Oporto, has no celebrity chef or design furniture. But it serves amazing food: grilled fish, fried sardines, roasted codfish, fried octopus, and much more. The star of the menu is the “posta de vitela arouquesa” a steak of veal from Arouca seared to perfection, the best we have ever had.

Everything on the menu follows traditional recipes, but the food is hard to imitate. It takes enormous confidence to trust the quality of the ingredients and let them shine through simple preparations. It is this confidence that Adega S. Nicolau has been building since 1930.

Adega S. Nicolau, R. São Nicolau, 1, Ribeira, Oporto. Tel. 222-008-232.

Everybody knows Aleixo in Oporto

July 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

Casa Aleixo, Rui Barreiros Duarte, ink on paper, 2012.

Casa Aleixo’s granite walls have welcomed diners for over one hundred years. This restaurant was first a “tasca,” a place that serves cheap wine and snacks. When it changed hands, in the 1950s, the new owners perfected a small menu of dishes prepared with the best ingredients they could find in the Póvoa do Varzim market. The quality and consistency of the food quickly attracted a loyal following.

Aleixo’s owners use whimsical names to describe different parts of the restaurant: lab for the kitchen, surgery room for the dining room, pharmacy for the wine cellar, and torture chamber for the cashier.

At Aleixo you can eat perfect laminated octopus, tender whitefish fillets, and succulent roasted veal. And, since prices are reasonable, you can go through the torture chamber without enduring much pain.

Casa Aleixo, Rua Estação 216,  Oporto, Tel.  225 370 462.


An enchanted bookstore

June 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Lello, a bookstore in Oporto founded in 1906, is famous for its exuberant neogothic architecture. In the early 1990s an English teacher called Joanne Rowling spent many hours here, in the small coffee shop on the second floor, working on a book about wizards. The book’s hero, a boy called Harry Potter, goes to Hogwarths, a school of witchcraft and wizardry whose revolving staircase and gothic motifs are likely to have been inspired by Lello’s interior.

If you visit Oporto, don’t miss the chance to visit Lello. And, if you do, please buy a book. In a world where bookstores are becoming extinct, we need to preserve places where we can still find magic.

Lello bookstore, Rua das Carmelitas 144, Porto.

The most elegant palace in Oporto

June 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

 

It took two architects to create this incredible hotel on the margins of the Douro river. The first, the Italian Nicolau Nasoni, designed the Freixo Palace in the 18th century for the family of a rich cleric, Jerónimo de Távora. The second, the Portuguese Fernando de Távora, a relative of the original owner, transformed it into a luxury hotel.

Built in 1750, Freixo became the most elegant palace in Oporto. It was here that king Luis I stayed when he visited the city in 1872. But the century that followed the royal visit was one of decline and decay. A soap factory was built on the grounds. Later, this factory was converted into a distillery. Later still, the palace became the headquarters of the Harmonia flour factory. A flour mill was built on the palace gardens and many of the palace rooms were used for storage. When the city of Oporto bought the palace in 1986, it was little more than a romantic ruin.

In 1995 the restoration project led by Fernando Távora and his son brought the palace to its original glory. The elegant rooms were restored to create a spacious dining area and beautiful meeting spaces. The old flour mill was reconfigured to accommodate comfortable guest rooms that have stunning views of the Douro river. Freixo is, once again, the most elegant palace in Oporto.

Palacio do Freixo, Estrada Nacional 108, Porto, tel. 225-311-000, email: guest@pousadas.pt. Click here for the hotel’s website.

Reinventing Portuguese cuisine

July 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

You need to study before eating at Pedro Lemos’ wonderful restaurant in Oporto. You have to learn the taste of roasted suckling pig, the smell of codfish and chickpeas, the texture of veal from Miranda, the saltiness of sardines, the sweetness of rocha pears. Only then will you understand that Lemos is reinventing these traditional Portuguese flavors with imagination and soul.

Pedro Lemos, Rua Padre Luis Cabral, 974, Foz do Douro, Porto, Tel. 220115986, email reservas@pedrolemos.net

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