Black figs

July 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Figos

When you go to the market buy black figs, recommends the Portuguese writer Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen in her poem The Morning Walk: “but figs are not black, they are blue on the outside and pink on the inside and they all shed a tear made of honey.”

The best of both worlds

June 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

Azeitonas Bel Canto-F

Portugal is a country with century-old traditions. But it is also a place where a new generation is creating the future.

Consider the fruits of the Olea europaea, commonly know as olives. If you visit a Portuguese farmers market, you’ll find delicious olives cured in traditional ways. But if you dine at Belcanto, José Avillez’s wonderful restaurant in Lisbon, you’ll be served three invented olives. The first, a spherical olive that explodes in the mouth, is an homage to Avillez’s apprenticeship at elBulli. The second is a delicious black olive in a light crunchy tempura. The third is an inverted dry martini: the liquid is olive juice and the “olive” is a sphere of gin.

Which do you prefer, tradition or modernity? In Portugal you don’t have to choose.

Belcanto is located at Largo do São Carlos in Lisbon, tel. 21-342-0607.

Making love last

June 26, 2014 § 2 Comments

Mangerico

In Portugal, June is devoted to celebrating the popular saints. In Lisbon we celebrate Santo António on the 13th, in Oporto São João on the 24th, and in Sintra São Pedro on the 29th.

There is an old custom of writing a verse and offering it with a “manjerico” (a pot of miniature basil) to our loved one. According to tradition, if we smell the manjerico with our nose, it dies quickly. We should instead pat it gently with our hand and smell the hand. Then, the manjerico will last and, presumably, so will our love.

Boi-Cavalo

June 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Boi e Cavalo (composit)

One of the best-kept secrets in Lisbon is an amazing new restaurant in Alfama called Boi-Cavalo (wildebeest). In a renovated old butcher shop, two chefs, Hugo Brito and Pedro Duarte, place their prodigious technique at the service of Lisbon’s culinary tradition. The result is a dazzling array of delicious dishes, such as marinated mackerel with Alvarinho gel, clam soup with foie gras and grilled onions, cauliflower soup with requeijão (a Portuguese soft cheese), and peas with eggs in a dashi broth.

Luxury restaurants often employ pompous waiters who make clients feel they are not worthy of the food being served. At Boi-Cavalo, the service is orchestrated with such sympathy and grace that we feel right at home.

It takes great generosity to produce three-star food and serve it with such modesty in attitude and price. When the chefs came to our table, they didn’t brag about complex preparations or rare ingredients. Instead, they asked us: how did you like the food? We loved it!

 

Boi-Cavalo is at Rua Do Vigario, 70B, Lisbon, tel. 21-887-1653, email geral@boi-cavalo.pt.

 

Amazing produce

June 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

DCIM100GOPRO

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.

Wild life in Mafra

June 1, 2014 § Leave a comment

TapadaMafra2

When the Portuguese kings and queens stayed at the Mafra Palace, they enjoyed hunting at a local game reserve called Tapada de Mafra. The Tapada is now a national park that offers many fun activities for kids. There are train rides, donkey rides, archery lessons, and falconry demonstrations. You can see deer, wild boar, foxes, and other animals in their natural habitat.

Our favorite activity at Tapada is taking horse-ridding lessons. A 30-minute lesson costs only 5 euros. But riding an elegant horse in the beautiful Tapada grounds, always makes us feel like royalty.

 

Click here for the Tapada’s web site. Mafra is an easy 40 km drive from Lisbon on the A8 highway. Horse-ridding lessons are offered between 9:30 am and 12:00 pm. It is a good idea to call in advance to make reservations (Tel. 261 81 4240 or reservas@tapadademafra.pt).

The art of seeing

May 29, 2014 § Leave a comment

Pedras na praia

We can be artists without drawing, painting, dancing or playing music. All we need is to see the world with child-like wonder. Here’s how Lourdes de Castro, a great Portuguese artist, demonstrates the art of seeing:

“When the tide is low, I hear the sound of the waves pouring over the stones, rolling them day and night, for years, centuries until pieces of basalt become smooth. A pebble is a work of art!”

Portugal’s landscape is an immense canvas inviting you to become an artist. Come and see!

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