November 8, 2013 § 1 Comment
One of Portugal’s simple pleasures is to sit in an esplanade drinking coffee and eating a “torrada” (toorrahdah). Torradas are buttered toasts made from “pão de forma,” a bread with a soft texture perfect to absorb melted butter.
Each torrada has two bread slices and each slice is cut into three neat rectangular tranches. The best tranches are the middle ones, which have almost no crust. So, you have to decide: which tranche will you eat first?
Just so you know, there are three schools of thought on this topic. According to the first school, you should start with the two middle tranches, so you’ll enjoy them while they’re hot. The second school recommends that you leave the best for last and eat the prized middle tranches at the end. The third school, advises you to avoid difficult choices and ask for a “torrada aparada.” This torrada has no crust, so all the tranches look the same.
Torradas are a personality test in disguise: the Portuguese can read you like a book by the way you eat your toast.
November 3, 2013 § 2 Comments
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.
November 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Casa dos Bicos is famous for its pyramid-stone facade. Brás de Albuquerque built the house in 1523 with the riches accumulated by his father, the Viceroy of India, Afonso de Albuquerque.
Like so many other homes, Casa dos Bicos was severely damaged by the earthquake that hit Lisbon on November 1, 1775. The house’s first two floors were restored after the quake, but the top two floors were rebuilt only in the 20th century.
In a poetic twist of fate, Casa dos Bicos became the headquarters of the José Saramago Foundation. Saramago received in 1998 the Literature Nobel prize for his brilliantly original novels. So, a house built with the spoils of imperial conquests is now devoted to celebrating a writer’s feats of imagination. Is the pen mightier than the sword?
Casa dos Bicos is on Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, near Terreiro do Paço. Click here for the José Saramago Foundation web site.
October 27, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Agatha Christie, the murder-mystery writer, was married to an archeologist (she joked that “an archeologist is the best husband any woman can have; the older she gets the more interested he is in her”). Her husband wanted to visit the Roman ruins at Conimbriga, so the couple spent some time in Portugal. They chose the Bussaco Palace Hotel as their base and stayed in room number 7.
The romantic surroundings must have appealed to the mystery writer. But the only crime committed in this luxury hotel was the occasional spilling of a few drops of precious Bussaco wine. And there was no need to call Hercule Poirot because it was obvious that the butler did it.
Click here, for the Bussaco Palace web site.
October 17, 2013 § Leave a Comment
When it comes to shrimp, bigger is not better. The best shrimp in Portugal is tiny in size but large in flavor. It is caught just off the coast and brings in it the taste of the sea. We call it “camarão da nossa costa” (shrimp from our coast). Seating in a beachside café with a plate of these shrimps and a cold draft beer is one of the simply wonderful pleasures of life.
October 13, 2013 § 1 Comment
The Hot Club of Portugal is a famous gathering place for lovers of improvised music. The club, founded by Luiz Villas-Boas in 1948, has welcomed many renowned musicians, including Count Basie, Dexter Gordon, Max Roach, and Sarah Vaughan. The Hot continues to thrive, hosting regular performances by a new generation of jazz artists.
If you’re visiting Lisbon and you enjoy live jazz, head to the Hot Club and watch what happens.
The Hot Club is at Praça da Alegria, 48, Lisbon, tel: 213460305. Click here for the club’s web site.