December 3, 2012 § 4 Comments
Bacalhau (cod) is a fish with a bland taste. But, once it is salted and dried in the sun, it becomes the perfect foil for garlic and olive oil. The Portuguese have enjoyed salted cod for more than two centuries. Lucas Rigaud, chef at the court of D. Maria I, included two cod recipes in his 1780 cookbook.
In 1778, Queen D. Maria eliminated the cod sales tax to help the fisherman and the poor. When the Queen returned from a boat ride on the Tagus river, she was greeted by ships decorated with garlands, overflowing with people cheering to the sound of music and fireworks. D. Maria was so touched, that she did the unthinkable. With tears in her eyes, the Queen sent away her coach and walked unguarded amid the crowd to the royal palace in Terreiro do Paço.
If you’re visiting Portugal, give salted cod a try. There’s something truly unique about food that can bring a distant queen so close to her people.
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.
November 12, 2012 § 2 Comments
November 11 is the day dedicated to S. Martinho (St. Martin), a Roman soldier who gave half of his cape to a beggar during a heavy snow storm. Impressed by this gesture, the sun came out and melted the snow. Centuries later, the star still remembers the saint’s generosity and shines with gusto to give us a taste of Summer in Autumn.
The Portuguese celebrate these warm days with a feast called magusto (magoostoo). We gather outdoors to eat roasted chestnuts and drink a small glass of jeropiga, a fortified wine. It’s an ancient tradition that reminds us that there’s no place like Portugal.
June 22, 2012 § 2 Comments
But some pigs are more equal than others. There is a clear hierarchy among Portuguese pigs. The black pig is at the top of the heap. This aristocratic swine feasts on acorns and is often exported to Spain to be turned into Iberian ham. Restaurants use fanciful names to describe cuts from this animal: secretos (secrets), presas (prey), and plumas (feathers).
Next on the social scale, we have the “leitão,” the famous suckling pig that is roasted to perfection in the Bairrada region and served with sparkling wine.
The rank below is occupied by the “porco bísaro,” a pig with big ears that is a cousin of the wild boar. Its tasty meat has made it all the rage in the north of the country.
The normal pig is at the bottom of the snout ladder. But the meat from this humble animal is essential to sublime preparations, such as pork with clams and presunto (Portugal’s version of prosciutto) with melon. It just goes to show that we should ignore social conventions and treat all pigs as equal.
May 25, 2012 § 2 Comments
Queijo da ilha is a wonderful cheese that has been produced in the Azores archipelago since the 16th century. The most famous variety comes from the island of St. Jorge. It is hard and has a sharp, spicy taste. What makes queijo da ilha so unique is that it is produced with the milk of cows that roam freely on the pastures of Azores. Farmers spend their days following their cows in order to milk them. It is not unknown for cows to wander into a bookstore or a museum, perhaps looking for the famous Andy Warhol cow paintings. It is a privilege to taste cheese that comes from animals who are such free spirits.
May 10, 2012 § Leave a Comment
When you eat octopus in a Portuguese restaurant, it is always tender and delicious. But, when you buy fresh octopus and cook it at home, it often turns into a rubbery disappointment. Portuguese chefs stage an elaborate disinformation campaign to keep secret their cooking technique. They tell you to cook the octopus with an onion, a cork, or a nail; or leave it in the pot until the water is cold; or cook it in red wine or in red vinegar; or beat it three times on the kitchen counter; or “scare” it by raising it from the boiling water. All these tricks produce inedible, chewy octopus. So, how do you tenderize this eight-armed mollusk? You freeze the fresh octopus before you cook it! That’s all. But please don’t tell anyone; it’s a secret.
April 9, 2012 § 3 Comments
In 1949 an Italian called Attilio Santini opened a gelato store in Estoril, an idyllic beach resort near Lisbon. There was a tradition of gelato making in his family; his great grandfather had a gelato store in Vienna. Santini’s approach was simple: make the gelato fresh every day using only the very best cream and fruit. Word of mouth quickly made Santini famous in the 1950s. It helped that many of Europe’s dethroned kings and queens lived in Estoril and became loyal customers. One of these customers, Juanito, is now better known as King Juan Carlos of Spain.
There was a feeling of elegance, of relaxed optimism about the 1950s that you can see in the lines of the Fiat cinquecento or hear in Miles Davis’ recording of ‘Round Midnight. It is this sweet feeling that you can still taste today in a Santini gelato.
Santini has currently three locations, one in Lisbon, near Chiado (Rua do Carmo, 9) and two others in beach resorts near Lisbon (S. João do Estoril, Rua Nova da Estação, 5, and Cascais, Av. Valbom, 28F). There can be long lines in the Summer. The wait is an opportunity to consider which of the more than 50 varieties we are going to try. We don’t want to rush into this decision! Click here for Santini’s website.
March 12, 2012 § 2 Comments
Clouds also deserve a break and, on their day off, they occasionally travel to Lisbon. Mostly, it’s the cirrus and stratus, the pretty, socialite clouds that come looking for a good time. But, sometimes, they let the nimbus clouds tag along and then it rains.
These rainy days are a blessing to the ancient trees scattered throughout the city, fruits of the seeds that Portuguese sailors brought from all over the world. For the tourist, a rainy day is an opportunity to try some of the best tea and scones in Lisbon. These have been served for more than 30 years at the Vicentinas, a tea shop in Rua de São Bento. The proceeds go to charity, which makes these wonderful scones taste even better.
As Vicentinas, Rua de São Bento, 700 , Lisboa , Tel: 213 887040.
February 12, 2012 § 3 Comments
Who created the world’s best chocolate cake? Gaston Lenôtre? Pierre Hermé? Jacques Torres? Guess again. The cake is made with French chocolate but the name of the chef is Portuguese: Carlos Braz Lopes. His cake has three chocolate merengue disks layered with chocolate mousse and toped with a chocolate ganache. He started selling it in a tiny store located in an obscure corner of Lisbon’s Campo d’Ourique neighborhood. But the cake is so good that word of mouth attracted chocolate lovers from all over the world. The French gourmet Brillat-Savarin wrote that the discovery of a new recipe brings more happiness than the discovery of a new star. There is no better way to savor the truth in this aphorism than to taste a slice of Carlos Braz Lopes’ wondrous cake.
O Melhor Bolo de Chocolate do Mundo by Carlos Braz Lopes, Rua Coelho da Rocha 99, Campo de Ourique, Lisboa, tel. 21 396 53 72, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for the website.
November 11, 2011 § Leave a Comment
It is always pleasant to have lunch at a beach side restaurant, with sea and sky as backdrop and the sound of waves as soundtrack. And, when you find a restaurant like António Tá Certo that serves freshly caught fish, just off the boat, the experience can be idyllic. Tá Certo is located on the beach of Vale do Garrão, close to Faro in the Algarve. It offers an impressive assortment of robalos (sea bass), douradas (sea bream), garoupas (grouper), and pargos (red snapper). If you ask the staff why their fish tastes so great, they smile and answer: our fish slept in the sea. There is only one problem with enjoying these simple moments on the seashore: you might never want to leave.
Rua Maria Etelvina Teodósio, M21, Praia Vale de Garrão, Almancil, Loulé, 8135-012, tel. (289) 396-456. GPS: N’ 37.03815 / W’ 8.04699.