Viewing entries in
Food & Wine

Is Portugal the Most Exciting Wine Place?

Comment

Is Portugal the Most Exciting Wine Place?

Matt Kramer is putting down roots in what he considers the world's most exciting wine region at the moment: Portugal.

oporto-porto-wine_0.jpg

PORTO, Portugal—If you’ve read my stuff over the years, you may recall that I like to dive into places that grip my wine imagination. So in the past I, and my wife, Karen, have lived in Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Venice and Piedmont for varying lengths of time, our minimum residence three months. If there’s a privilege to being a wine writer, this is it.

Deciding where to go is not an entirely rational thing. Although all sorts of places appeal, the decision to set up house elsewhere is fundamentally emotional. Something about the culture, the landscape, the people and, not least, the wine, has to exert a siren call, an irresistible pull.

That, in the proverbial nutshell, is what happened with Portugal. For all the time I’ve spent in Europe over the decades—we’ve bicycled for months at a time in France alone, never mind living for long stretches in Italy—I have to confess that we never bothered with Portugal. The wines, apart from Port, for so long seemed lackluster. You could taste the lack of ambition.

But in the course of tasting, I began to receive different messages in the bottle, as it were. Something seemed to be stirring, or so the wines suggested. So in the past year or so, we visited Portugal twice. I loved what we saw, who we met, what we ate and, above all, what I tasted.

So I began to investigate Portuguese wines more closely. What at first appeared promising—and extremely enjoyable—turned out to be nothing less than revolutionary. I came to what I freely confess is an emotional conclusion: Portugal is arguably the most exciting wine place on the planet today.

Now, whether that’s demonstrably, provably so is beside the point. It’s how I as a wine lover, a wine taster, a wine drinker, felt. And that’s all that matters for any of us, isn’t it?

“Let’s live in Portugal for a few months,” I proposed to my wife.

“Why not?” she agreeably replied.

So now, as I write this, we’re newly settled into pretty nice digs in the Ribeira district of Porto. (And, yes, everything about this jaunt is on my own dime, just in case you were wondering.)

Much as we enjoyed Lisbon, there was no question that for us Porto would be “home.” It’s just the right size (1.3 million people in the larger urban area); it’s an ancient city that has retained much of its architecture intact (the Ribeira zone where we live is a UNESCO World Heritage site); and not least, it’s the closest city to the great Douro wine region.

That last fact is not insignificant. In the same way that you’ve really got to see the Grand Canyon sometime before you die, the same—for wine lovers, anyway—applies to the Douro wine zone. It is, in a word, boggling. Really, I’ve never seen anything quite like it: more vast than I had imagined, more forbidding in its endless stone vineyard terraces, and just plain more improbable than any other wine area I’ve seen. I mean, what kind of a wine area has growers using dynamite just to create a hole in which to plant a grapevine? It’s scary beautiful.

And now it’s changing. The Douro has famously been consecrated for more than three centuries to just one wine: Port. But the past few decades have not been kind to the Port business. The modern mass palate turned away from it, although there’s still a sizable number of drinkers who enjoy at least a sip from time to time. Make no mistake: Port is hardly about to disappear.

That noted, there’s no question that the Douro zone is changing. One (rough) fact tells all: In the past 15 years or so, about half of the wine production from the larger Douro zone—an area that extends beyond the boundaries designated for Port production—is now table wine. That’s really incredible. I know of no other historically significant wine zone that has transformed to anywhere near that degree.

So I wanted to be close to the Douro action. The table wines emerging from the Douro can be thrilling. Many—most even—are still works in progress. After all, nobody knew how to make table wine in the Douro. But they’re learning mighty fast. The best wines are stunners, truly world-class in their originality, flavor distinction, character, depth and finesse.

The dry white Douro wines can be surprisingly compelling. It’s surprising because the place is take-your-breath-away hot in the summer. (One winegrower said to me: “The Douro is eight months of paradise and four months of hell.”) So how can the white wines be so crisply good? Elevation. The best whites come from old vines grown in elevations upwards of 2,000 feet.

So the Douro is mighty interesting. But it’s not the real reason why I’ve chosen to take time to live in Portugal. It’s because of the grapes. Portugal is home to a dazzling number of indigenous grape varieties that create wines of supreme originality. You’re looking at red grapes such as Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz, Baga and hundreds of others, and white grapes such as Arinto, Viosinho, Rabigato, Códega do Larinho and Gouveio, among many others.

Until very recently, the Portuguese did a pretty poor job with this patrimony. Too often the wines were dirty-tasting, from old, unclean barrels. The winemaking was crude, the ambition for greatness non-existent.

No more. Portugal is now gushing with stunning wines—and yes, stunning deals. Call me a value hound, but except for a tiny handful of reach-for-the-sky wines (and every wine nation needs those, too), Portugal very likely now offers some of the greatest wine values on the market today. The reason is easily grasped: Portugal’s achievement is still recent, and the word hasn’t quite made the rounds.

That’s why I’m here. And that’s why you’ll be hearing yet more. (And no, we don’t have a guest room.)

Source: Winespectator

Comment

10 Best Wine Region to Visit

Comment

10 Best Wine Region to Visit

The corks are pulled, the votes are in, and readers of USA TODAY and 10Best have passionately voted Portugal's Alentejo the #1 'Best Wine Region to Visit,' from among 20 worthy nominees.  

Our well-travelled expert nomination panel - a wine educator and a wine buyer - made the original selections and then readers voted daily during the contest's four-week run.  While British Columbia's Okananagan Valley enjoyed an early lead, fans of Portugal's appealing Alentejo region eventually assured it took top honors.

Photo of Ronald Isarin

Photo of Ronald Isarin

"When most people think of Portugal, they immediately think of Douro," says Kerry, "but head a little further south to Alentejo and you won’t be disappointed. Boutique wineries, full service hotels, great restaurants and of course terrific wines (mostly known for hardy red wines) make for a great wine travel experience."

The vast Alentejo, stretching to Portugal's southwestern coast, is still off the radar for many travelers.  This intriguing rural region is like a trip back in time.  The diverse terrain holds olive groves and vineyards, quaint villages, flower-filled meadows and forests. 

"The Alentejo is best known for its hardy red wines made from a unique combination of indigenous varietals," says Kerry Woolard, who served on the expert panel.  "Now, more familiar vinifera such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot are being produced there too."

The food in Alentejo is rustic and authentic, taking full advantage of the agrarian lifestyle in the area.  You won't find a developed coastline of hotels;  instead Alentejo's beaches - considered some of the most dramatic and beautiful in Europe - require visitors to seek out lodging in independent guest houses.  The Alentejo is like a trip back in time for wine lovers.  The Faro and Lisbon airports are each less than two hours away.  

The full list of winners in the USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice contest for 'Best Wine Region to Visit' contest category is as follows:

  1. Alentejo, Portugal
  2. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
  3. Maipo, Chile
  4. Marlborough, New Zealand
  5. Croatia
  6. Napa Valley, Calif.
  7. Tuscany, Italy
  8. Oregon
  9. Hunter Valley, Australia
  10. Virginia

Source: 10 best

Comment

As 40 fotos de Lisboa para ser feliz

Comment

As 40 fotos de Lisboa para ser feliz

LIS_01.jpg

A edição espanhola da prestigiada revista de viagens Condé Nast Traveler acaba de apresentar ao mundo aquelas que considera serem as mais bonitas fotografias de Lisboa.

As imagens "para sermos felizes" foram, todas elas, captadas por turistas e partilhadas na aplicação móvel Instagram.

"Lisboa sabe a mar, a cultura, a bacalhau e a bons vinhos", introduz Almudena Martín, autora do artigo publicado na Condé Nast, que acrescenta que a cidade, berço do Fado, "é fascinante" com os seus "bairros pitorescos, ruas íngremes, miradouros dignos de um filme e eléctricos históricos".

A publicação propôs-se, no entanto, ir mais longe, e descobriu 40 "recantos" de toda a região de Lisboa destinados a convencer os leitores a fazer imediatamente as malas e a rumar a Portugal para umas férias.

O conjunto de fotografias compiladas pela revista e acompanhadas do nome de utilizador dos seus autores é muito diverso, mas não faltam registos de ícones da capital, como a Sé de Lisboa, a Torre de Belém, o Elevador de Santa Justa, o Castelo de São Jorge, o Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, o Cristo Rei ou a Ponte 25 de Abril.

Entre as imagens escolhidas há também espaço para a gastronomia, com uma das fotografias a retratar um prato de bacalhau à Brás e uma outra a dar destaque aos incontornáveis pastéis de nata, símbolo maior dos sabores tradicionais lisboetas.

O típico bairro de Alfama parece ser um dos preferidos dos turistas, aparecendo em várias fotografias publicadas, à semelhança de locais que não podem faltar em qualquer guia, como o Rossio, a Rua Augusta ou o Parque das Nações, com a sua moderna Estação do Oriente.

Destaque ainda para o facto de a Condé Nast não esquecer as imediações de Lisboa, em particular as praias de Cascais ou do Estoril, muito apreciadas pelos viajantes, e os encantos de Sintra, representados na lista pelo Palácio da Pena. 

Veja aqui as 40 fotos >>>

Comment

Wines award winners

Comment

Wines award winners

The Douro and the Alentejo regions were home to the biggest award winners at the recent Wines of Portugal 2014 competition award ceremony, said Jorge Monteiro of the ViniPortugal wine association.

Monteiro said that the Douro had picked up 67 medals and the Alentejo 59 but that the event had above all shown the quality of Portuguese wines currently in production.

The ViniPortugal competition had attracted some 1,070 wines from across mainland and archipelago Portugal with Monteiro adding that 80 percent of the wines gained the kind of classification worthy of medals even if only 25 percent or 280 wines of that total received any official recognition.

The wine specialist explained that due to the high quality levels, the competition had done away with bronze medals to hand out more silver medals.

The Dão region Quinta das Marias Touriga Nacional Reserva, produced by Peter Eckert, was the outright winner in the single caste wine section with the Rozés Porto Tawny 40 years winning the fortified wine category. 

Meanwhile, the Alentejo produced Terras d’Alter Reserva won the 2014 award in the mixed cast wine category.

The wines, representing a sector that generated €725 million in exports last year, were judged by 100 specialists including 25 international judges.

Source: Portugal News

Why Portugal is high on a wine lover’s list

People often ask me to name my favorite wine countries. I like to surprise them by putting Portugal high on the list.

I love Portugal because it offers tremendous value and variety, with wines that you won’t find anywhere else. And the Douro Valley, the region famous for those fortified ports and its stunningly beautiful landscape, leads the way.

Continue reading...

d46b22694843af576b3ec6738fff4755.jpg

Comment

Portuguese wines

Comment

Portuguese wines

It's no secret that Portugal has gifted the world with astounding fortified wines for over 200 years, yet what has remained a well-kept secret, in recent years, is that Portugal's table wines have reached new crescendos of quality, while maintaining a firm grip on vino value. While fortified wines, largely Port and Madeira, have been the exclusive focus of Portugal's wine scene for centuries, it's the Portuguese table wines that have started garnering some well deserved notoriety abroad. That's not to say that you can't find high end, high dollar wines from Portugal, just that there are plenty of good bargain wines to be had as well.

Portugal's Wine Regions and Grape Varieties

For being a relatively small country, Portugal enjoys an immense amount of both geographical and climatic diversity. Situated along the Atlantic ocean and sharing a top to bottom border with Spain, Portugal maintains over twenty distinct DOC wine growing regions. For the majority of consumers there are really only a few wine regions to focus on at this point of the Portuguese table wine story, the Douro and Dao in the north and the Alentejo in Portugal's southeast corner. Over a half million acres are currently under vine in Portugal and these vines host over 250 different grape varieties. Many of Portugal's grapes are indigenous to the Iberian peninsula and the majority are not even known by name to local Portuguese fans. A few international varietal favorites have also been thrown into the Portuguese vineyard mix (think Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Chardonnay). Expect to see frequent flyers from Spanish wine regions appear in Portugal's wines as well, just under new names. Take Spain's famous red wine grape, Tempranillo, for starters. In Portugal's Alentejo region, Tempranillo is referred to as Tinta Roriz; however, in Portugal's northern Douro it is often called Aragonez, same grape just three jazzy names. In general, the top value wines tend to come from the Dao and Alentejo regions (typically in the $10-15 price range), leaving the top dollar wines to the Douro (at $25+ per bottle on average).

What Makes Portuguese Wines Different?

04ddf907d12641b6afb2dba53109e817.jpg

The vast majority of Portugal's table wines are made from a blend of predominately native grapes. While many New World wine drinkers tend to be more comfortable with varietal-based (and labeled) wines, Portugal opens the door to a whole new wine adventure. The average American wine consumer has been fed wines by varietal for so long that it requires a bit of a paradigm shift to encounter and embrace Portuguese wines. However, on the flipside, there are certain categories of American wine fans that are looking for the next "wine adventure" - they want to be the first to taste, tweet and talk about a "new wine" from a "new region" - Portuguese wines will find a nice niche with this category of younger oenophiles. There is another segment of consumer that has an experienced palate and strives to diversify both their cellar and their wine tasting resume, and Portugal's wine offerings can uniquely cater to this market segment quite well.

While Portugal is not known for a handful of specific varietals like say Chile, Argentina or California, though if pressed they can offer up some of their top five grapes grown locally: Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira Preta, Gouveio, Aragonez and Alvarinho for starters. What Portugal is known for is its traditional blend of grapes, whether it's a field blend or a variety of grapes that have come together in the winery. The Portuguese enjoy a strong history of blending grapes and have become masters at it, beginning with Port and bringing their table wine blends to remarkable levels over the last two decades. Not unlike many well-known, Old World wine regions, Portugal's winemaking paradigms perform a delicate dance between tradition (complete with full scale lagares, for foot-treading higher end wines) and technology. While tradition and technology are often competing for the upper-hand, many of Portugal's producers are discovering that tradition and technology are fully capable of completing one another, in ways that make the wines better than they would be if stranded with just one vinification philosophy at work.

Like much of Europe, the wines of Portugal tend to be regionally labeled, with the producer and region appearing as the most prominent feature of a Portuguese wine label. Back labels may disclose which grapes were used in the blend, but this is not always a top priority for Portugal's table wines.

Styles of Portuguese Wine

Stylistically speaking, Portugal's wines cover the gamut. From traditional Port and Madeira to full-bodied, rustic reds and oak-driven whites to vibrant, almost effervescent Vinho Verde, whose acidity and food-friendly nature make it a prime time candidate for all things summer and perfect for seafood. Most of the Portuguese wines that I've tasted display solid structure, with forward, fruit-focused character. Some of the reds can show a touch rustic when sipped alone, but then shine extremely well with food, a significant motivator for making Portuguese wine in the first place.

Portugal Wine Producers to Look For:

While there are plenty of Portuguese wine producers to choose from, these producers provide a good starting point with decent distribution and consistent Portuguese wines: Herdade do Esporão; Quinta de Roriz; Quinta do Vallado; Quinta do Crasto; Quinta da Pellada; Quinta de la Rosa

Wines from Portugal are among the market's top contenders for the industry's highly coveted quality-to-price ratio, or QPR. With Portuguese wines consistently showcasing exceptional QPR across the board these quality-conscious, value-driven wines from the Old World are worth seeking out on several counts. Different, distinct and adventurous, Portuguese wines have something to offer everyone.

Source: About.com by Stacy Slinkard

Comment

31 REASONS TO LIVE IN LISBON

Comment

31 REASONS TO LIVE IN LISBON

1. It basks in Europe's greatest climate

Lisboasol.jpg

More sunshine than Madrid, Rome or Athens — yet while they all sweat through the Mediterranean summer, there's usually a breeze blowing off the Atlantic to give Lisbon natural air-conditioning.

2. Cervejaria Ramiro is so, so, so good

Lisbon is full of great places to eat super-fresh seafood.

3. The beach is 20 minutes from downtown

The soft sandy beaches of Oeiras and Cascais are a short hop along a coast-hugging suburban rail line. There are countless other choices too. In less than an hour's drive you can plunge into bracing surf at Guincho, or chill in a sheltered bay fringed with white sand beneath the green hills of Arrabida.

4. Tram 28 exists and makes everyone happy

Tram28.jpg

Every tourist knows about the little yellow street cars that ply this line, but the five-mile ride is still the coolest (and cheapest) way to see the city. The trams rattle through a succession of historic neighborhoods carrying locals and sightseers squeezed in sardine-style, while cheeky urchins cling perilously to the running boards for a free ride.

5. It's got a river that feels like the sea

The Tagus at its widest is over 10 miles across, forming western Europe's largest estuary. It's a haven for wildlife — including pink flamingos that flock to the far bank. The river water's reflected sunshine gives "the white city" its unique milky light.

6. It is mainland Europe's closest capital to Africa and Latin America — in all sorts of ways

It's not just the weather. Lisbon's public gardens are filled with lush tropical foliage. Countless Lisboetas have roots in Brazil or Portuguese-speaking Africa. There are bars playings bossa nova and serving caipirinhas; nightclubs where you can sway all night to the rhythms of Cape Verdean coladeiras or Angolan kizomba; restaurants dishing up Brazilian feijoada or the sophisticated, coconut-infused cuisine of Mozambique.

7. Rome can't match the views from Lisbon's seven hills

Lisboacolina.jpg

Like the Italian capital, Lisbon is supposed to have been built on seven hills. Almost every one offers a fabulous view, from across the rooftops of the old city to the shimmering waters of the Tagus beyond. For the full panoramic experience head for the terrace bars at the view points of Portas do Sol, Sao Pedro de Alcantara, Graça or Santa Catarina.

8. The LX Factory has brought life back to a forgotten corner of the city

Take a rundown industrial site, fill the factories and warehouses with funky stores, restaurants and galleries, bring life to a forgotten corner of the city.

9. Getting lost here is a delight

Lisbon is reckoned to be Europe's second oldest capital (after Athens). It was ruled by Romans, Germans and Arabs before Portuguese crusaders conquered it in 1147. Wandering aimlessly through the souk-like streets of ancient neighborhoods like Alfama, Mouraria, Bica or Madragoa is one of the city's greatest pleasures.

10. Football is a religion

Some cities are divided by language, faith or politics. Lisbon is split down the middle by citizens' unbreakable devotion to either the eagles of red-shirted Benfica, or Sporting's lions in green. Few sports events unleash more passion than a game between them.

11. The coffee is better here than there

In its empire building days, Portugal managed to colonize Brazil, Angola and East Timor — producers of some of the world's finest coffee. Lisbon today runs on superpowered espresso served in tiny shots known as bicas.

12. There's loads of culture

You can overdose on the arts — from the gilded interior of the Sao Carlos opera house, to the fabulous art in the Gulbenkian Museum and Berardo Collection, to endless open-air music festivals through the summer.

13. You can drink ginjinha in gardens all over the city

Portugal is famed for Port wine, but Lisbon's favorite sweet tipple is this rich, red cherry liqueur. Best sipped at one of the old hole-in-the-wall bars around Rossio square or the many kiosk terraces in gardens and squares around the city.

14. They don't kill the bull

Unlike in Spain, the bulls walk away from a Portuguese corrida de touros. Instead, they are poked and prodded by a spear-wielding horseman (or woman) dressed in aristocratic 18th-Century garb before being wrestled to a standstill by a team of seemingly suicidal commoners. Lisbon's Campo Pequeno bullring is a neo-Moorish architectural oddity.

15. You can chill in cool modernist neighborhoods

lisboarua.jpg

A few metro stops from the old city's mazes of medieval streets, the broad modernist avenues of Alvalade are lined with cool stores and tempting sidewalk cafes.

16. You can eat really, really well for practically nothing

Despite recent sales tax hikes, it's easy to eat a hearty traditional meal (let's say duck baked with rice, eggs scrambled with salt-cod and olives, or grilled fresh sardines) for about $7 in neighborhood eateries known as tascas. Food is taken very seriously here and even fancy restaurants are much cheaper than in most European capitals.

17. Lisbon's version of the blues is on the world's protected heritage list

Fado songs should form the soundtrack of any trip to Lisbon. The bluesy, guitar-backed laments can be an acquired taste, but a new generation of singers like Ana Moura, Gisela Joao or Cristina Branco are making fado sexy, accessible and successful.

18. It has what might be the greatest aquarium in the world

Oceanario.jpg

The Oceanario is Lisbon's biggest attraction. An aquarium like no other, its 180,000 cubic feet main tank holds more than 100 species of big fish, including tuna, rays and sharks. Located in the ultra-modern Parque das Nacoes district, the landmark building's myriad displays also include penguins living in a re-created Antarctic icescape, sea turtles gliding through the water and darkened tanks lit by fluorescent jellyfish.

19. Even the cakes are historic

Pasteis de nata are Lisbon's greatest gift to confectionary. The Antiga Confeitaria de Belem has been selling the little custard-filled tarts since 1837, but if you want to avoid the queues, aficionados say the nearby Chique de Belem cafe does them even better.

20. The houses have more colors than a box of Legos

Lisbon's "white city" nickname is something of a misnomer. Houses and apartment blocks come brightly painted in yellow, pink, sky blue and just about every shade in between.

21. Johnny Depp speaks English here

Unlike in most European countries, Portuguese theaters play movies in their original language, with subtitles. Monoglot anglophones can happily catch up on the latest Hollywood releases, or enjoy an art house classic at the Cinemateca — preferably combined with a drink in its rooftop bar.

22. Shopping can take you back in time

lojas.jpg

While much of Europe has succumbed to out-of-town megastores, Lisbon is filled with specialist shops where a friendly face will be waiting behind a wooden counter to help you find dried Algarve figs, bathroom appliances, coat buttons, vintage port or whatever it is you're searching for.

23. It smells really good (except sometimes when it smells bad)

A favorite song here claims "it smells good, it smells of Lisbon." If you're lucky, you'll catch whiffs of orange blossom, freshly hung laundry or cinnamon sprinkled on cakes hot from the oven. You might also be confronted by salt cod on the grill, blocked drains or trash piled up on strike days. All part of the olfactory experience.

24. There are great bars everywhere

Pensao Amor is an erotically charged former bordello; the Pavilhao Chines resembles a giant Edwardian curiosity cabinet; Botequim da Graça is an intimate intellectual hangout; Povo showcases up-and-coming fado stars. In a city that lives late into the night, there are bars on the roof of car parks, in gardens and museums; quayside nightclubs where you can dance until dawn breaks over the Tagus; whole neighborhoods of bars in Bairro Alto or Cais do Sodre.

25. The Chiado is like the legend of the phoenix

chiado.jpg

Devastated by a 1988 fire, this grand old district of Belle Époque stores, theaters and literary cafes rose from the ashes as the restored heart of the city. You can spend your days browsing the world's oldest bookshop (Livraria Bertrand, est. 1732) and drinking bicas at the counter of the Brasileira cafe founded in 1905.

26. Where else (outside of Goa) can you sample wonderful Goan food?

Portugal's former colony on the west coast of India makes some of south Asia's finest cuisine. Can't get to Goa? Lisbon's Goan restaurants like Jesus e Goes and Cantinho de Paz serve sublime shrimp curry, kid with roasted coconut or crab-stuffed samosas.

27. There's a fairy-tale fortress up in the hills

Sintra.jpg

Commuter trains take less than 40 minutes to climb to the magical hill town of Sintra. A plethora of palaces were erected there amid the thick woodland so Lisbon's aristocracy could escape the city heat. Looming above them all is the Palacio da Pena, a romantic bolthole built by a German prince who married into Portugal's royal family. The whole place is a UNESCO heritage site.

28. Neighborhood markets are a feast for foodies

Fancy tripe, baby squid, or a plate of freshly picked loquats? Lisbon's neighborhood markets will have them all (in season). The best known is the 132-year-old Mercado da Ribeira, poised for a major facelift.

29. It's full of leafy havens

From tree-shaded public gardens where aging card sharks while away endless afternoons to the 2,500 acre Monsanto in the western suburbs, Lisbon is full of green getaways. A favorite is Jardim do Principe Real a verdant oasis surrounded by chic shops and bars.

30. They've got fabulous gelato

Attilio Santini moved from Italy in 1949. His family still serves world beating ice-cream from their stores in the Chiado and in the western beach suburbs. There's usually a line, but with flavors ranging from baked apple to Azores pineapple, the gelato is always worth the wait.

31. You can get a shoe-shine for less than $3

Shoe-shiners may have disappeared from much of Europe, but professionals armed with brushes, rags and pots of polish are stationed around downtown to give new life to your footwear — and fill you in on the latest gossip. Some operate inside cafes, like the splendid 1940s Pastelaria Mexicana, so you can get a shine while enjoying your morning coffee.

Source: Global post

Comment

Portugal’s love affair with canned fish

Comment

Portugal’s love affair with canned fish

Canned fish: poor people’s food, gourmet cuisine, souvenir or just healthy fast food?

sardinha.jpg

It was late when I arrived home, tired and starving. I opened the kitchen cupboard looking for some late-night lazy-man food, and there, they were: my friendly and colorful fish cans.

My oldest memory of canned fish brings me back to primary school when both children and teachers were asked to bring basic food that could be packed in boxes to send to starving people in the south of Nigeria during the Biafra war in the late sixties. I had not seen that many cans of fish together in my life since that day, until I visited a factory.

sardinha1.jpg

Canned fish was always a part of my family picnics along the Tagus river or on the seacoast beaches. I also discovered them later on, included in my army survival kit. It was like a piece of home amid that hostile environment.

In Portugal, fish (canned or otherwise) are as popular as burgers in the U.S. or bratwursts in Germany.

Regina Ferreira says canned fish is one of the oldest and healthiest fast foods in the world. She runs an 83-year-old family business selling canned fish in downtown Lisbon, one that is recommended by most tourist guide books. The Conserveira of Lisbon is one of the few shops in Lisbon preserved in its original form and fashion and where grandmother, mom, son and grandsons work together.

sardinha2.jpg

Nearby, at the Comercio square a new restaurant and bar, Can & Can, recently opened serving canned “gourmet” fish in a modern design atmosphere. Ferreira hates the word “gourmet”, saying canned fish is just simple, basic and cheap food for everyone.

sardinha3.jpg

Fernando Machado agrees. He is the director of Ramirez canned fish factory in Leca da Palmeira in Northern Portugal. Ramirez was created in 1853 and is one of 20 factories. The industry has more than 3,500 workers and produces more than 250 million cans of fish, of which 70 percent are exported to 70 countries around the world.

Only half of the factories survived the crisis in the seventies and eighties. The harbor of the fishing city of Setubal has no factory today. The only remnants of those cans are those painted on the doors of homes in the old downtown area.

sardinha4.jpg

More demanding labor laws after the Portuguese 1974 revolution made the industry less profitable and many factories shut down. But the use of tinplate, often plagued by corrosion, has since been abolished and the belief that canned fish raises cholesterol levels is an idea left in the past.

Today, we know that fish and olive oil lowers cholesterol, cans are made in varnished aluminum and, with the help of industrial fridges, factories can work on a regular basis and not depend on how lucky fishermen are with their catch. The declining industry of the past has found success.

sardinha5.jpg

The old can designs are displayed together with new ones in groceries and souvenir shops. Tourists buy cans almost as they buy postcards, taking with them not only the image but also a bit of the Portuguese flavor.

Grocery shop Loja Portugueza in Lisbon is an example of such a store. Half the costumers are foreigners, absorbing the diversity of canned fish and taking them with them as souvenirs. The cans include sardine, tuna, squid, mackerel, eel, clam, fish eggs, horse mackerel, codfish, anchovy, in salty water, olive oil, tomato, lemon, hot spicy, garlic or onion sauces.

Source: blogs reuters by Jose Manuel Ribeiro

Comment

48 Hours In: Lisbon

Comment

48 Hours In: Lisbon

This charming capital, which combines sea views, steep hills and old-world manners with a vibrant nightlife, is a joy to visit, says Mary Lussiana.

TRAVEL ESSENTIALS

Lisbon's Portela Airport (ana.pt) is an easy 7km journey to the capital. TAP Portugal (0845 601 0932; flytap.com) flies from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester; easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com) from Gatwick, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Bristol and Luton; Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) from Stansted and Manchester; and BA (0844 493 0787;ba.com) from Heathrow.

Metro trains (www.metrolisboa.pt) run from the airport to Saldanha station (2), 6.30am-1am (€1.40). Aerobus (carris.pt) shuttles to Cais do Sodre station (3) every 20 minutes, with stops at the city's train and bus stations, including central Avenida da Liberdade (4). Buses run 7am-11pm; tickets (€3.50) are valid for 24 hours. TAP Portugal air passengers travel free with a boarding pass.

Taxis take around 15 minutes to the city and cost around €10.

Get your bearings

Lisbon.jpg

After the 1755 earthquake, Lisbon was rebuilt by the Marques de Pombal, on a grid of parallel streets linking Rossio Square (5) to the Tagus river. A triumphal arch stands on Praca do Comercio (6), near the Tourist Office (7) at Rua do Arsenal 15 (9am-8pm;askmelisboa.com). You can buy a Lisbon Card here for 24 (€18.50), 48 (€31.50) or 72 hours (€39). It entitles you to limitless free rides on city transport (including the city lifts such as the Santa Justa) and free or discounted admission to many cultural attractions.

The city centre, known as Baixa, remains elegantly 18th-century. Rising into the hills to the east is the original Moorish quarter of Alfama, where the fortified Sao Jorge Castle (8) stands above narrow streets (castelodesaojorge.pt); further afield, near the mouth of the Tagus, is Belem, from where explorers set sail in Portugal's golden age.

DAY ONE

Take a hike

Start in the Praca do Comercio (6), for the first view of the city that 16th-century visiting dignitaries would have had as they alighted from their boats on the Tagus and walked up the marble steps to the Royal Palace, which was destroyed in the earthquake. With your back to the river, Lisbon's oldest café, the Martinho da Arcada (12), which dates to 1782, is on the square's right-hand side and is the place to stop for a bica (the local version of an espresso), under the arcades which became the new Royal Palace in the 18th century.

Walk under the triumphal arch into Rua Augusta (13) – a pedestrianised street lined with mosaic pavements and bordered by boutiques – and continue until you meet Rua de Santa Justa. Here, turn left to the Santa Justa lift (14) (7am-9pm; €5 return), which was built in 1902 and is still used. Made of iron and embellished with filigree, it raises you 13 metres to Largo do Carmo and the elegant Chiado district.

Lunch on the run

Head left down Rua do Carmo and into Rua Garrett, where Café a Brasileira (15) offers the perfect pause. Enjoy the pasteis de bacalhau, delicious cod fish cakes with a local wine or a Portuguese beer for under €10. Inside the 1920s café, a favourite haunt of Fernando Pessoa, all is gilded mirrors; outside is a bronze statue of the nation's famous poet.

Window shopping

Across the road is Paris em Lisboa (16) at Rua Garrett 77 (parisemlisboa.pt) a 19th-century family-owned store, which sells attractive tablecloths and napkins.

For the artisanal crafts Portugal excels in, head down Rua Anchieta to A Vida Portuguesa (17) at Rua Anchieta 11 (avidaportuguesa.com) with its Claus Porto soaps, olive oils and hand-woven rugs from the Alentejo.

Loop back to Largo do Chiado for a dip into Vista Alegre (18) at Largo do Chiado 20-23 (myvistaalegre.com), which makes Portugal's most beautiful porcelain and where you can also find striking Atlantis glassware.

An aperitif

To learn more about premium Portuguese wines and enjoy the patio designed by Portugal's greatest architect, Alvaro Siza Vieira, head to the new Wine Spot Chiado (19) at Rua Garrett 19 (00 351 213 460 032; winespotchiado.pt) to explore the different regions with wines by the glass accompanied by plates of cured ham and cheese for around €15 for two people.

Dining with the locals

Traditional flavours with oriental influences is how chef Joao Rodrigues describes his style of cuisine at the riverside restaurant, Feitoria (20) at Doca do Bom Sucesso (00 351 210 400 200;restaurantefeitoria.com), which delivers superb dishes such as lobster and wild seabass with Alcacer do Sal rice, lime and coriander (€37).

The service, setting and sensational tastes make this a favourite with Lisbon's in-crowd, so book early.

DAY TWO

Sunday morning: go to church

The Church of Sao Roque (21) on Largo Trindade Coelho (00 351 213 235 824; open Tuesday-Sunday 9am-6pm) has a plain exterior that belies an opulent interior with ornate hand-painted tiles and beautiful side chapels, particularly that of St John the Baptist, wrought with gold and silver, ivory and lapis lazuli. Sunday mass is held at 11.30am.

In Belem, don't miss the opportunity of mass – or a wander around – in the magnificent Monastery of Jeronimos (22) on Praca do Imperio (open daily 10am-6pm; Sunday mass at 9am, 10.30am and 12pm; otherwise tickets €7; mosteirojeronimos.pt). Built in the 16th century, on wealth from the spices, precious stones and gold that explorer, Vasco da Gama, had returned with, it is a fitting tribute to Portugal's era of discovery. Appropriately, Vasco da Gama is buried here.

Walk in the park

Just across the road from the monastery lies the little-known Jardim Botanico Tropical (23) on Largo dos Jeronimos (00 351 213 921 800; weekends 11am-6pm, Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm; tickets €2). It is a haven of peace with peacocks and ponds among the rich collection of trees from the old Portuguese colonies such as Brazil, Angola and Mozambique.

Out to brunch

At the Varanda Restaurant in the elegant Four Seasons Hotel Ritz (24), Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca 88 (00 351 213 811 400;fourseasons.com/lisbon), the brunch is legendary. From the sweetest of oysters from nearby Setubal to octopus ceviche, huge joints of beef to tiny lemon tarts and runny cheese from the Serra da Estrela, it is a feast fit for the gods; €59pp.

Cultural afternoon

Download the Four Seasons Hotel's free Art Collection app (bit.ly/LisbonAC) to use as your guide to the eclectic mix of contemporary Portuguese artwork found there. Then walk to the Gulbenkian Museum (25) at Avenida de Berna 45 (00 351 217 823 000; gulbenkian.pt; open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5.45pm; €5, free on Sundays). Inaugurated in 1969, this important museum contains collections that span 4,000 years, from ancient Egyptian figurines to Lalique's Art Nouveau jewellery.

Icing on the cake The Hills Tramcar Tour lasts 80 minutes and departs from Praca do Comercio (6) every 20 minutes from 9.20am to 7pm (€8) and follows a similar route to the famous yellow No 28 tram around the old quarter of Lisbon, but with less risk of pickpockets and the inclusion of an audio guide.

Source: www.independent.co.uk

Comment

Portuguese Food

Comment

Portuguese Food

Portuguese cuisine is a mixture of Mediterranean traditions and Atlantic freshness. That is a lot of olive oil, fish and fresh ingredients, while in the regions away from the coast, pork and other meats are the favorites. 

Although most of the fish served in Portugal's restaurants was swimming in the ocean just a few hours ago, it is dried salted cod that makes up most of the dishes on a Portuguese menu. 

And those menus are changing fast, thanks to a growing number of acclaimed chefs and new Michelin stars. 

Lisbon is thriving in the kitchen, with the recent gastronomic energy giving rise to a new contemporary Portuguese cuisine that is also (finally) beginning to capture international attention (including in Portuguese-inspired restaurants abroad, like New York's Michelin-starred Aldea and London's acclaimed Viajante). 

The food is joining the country's wines whose elevated and renovated quality of recent times are new pleasant surprises around the world. 

Here is what you should try in Lisbon:

MARISCOS

Because no part of Portugal is very far from the ocean, and considering the history of the country at sea, it's no surprise that seafood is one of the country's and Lisbon's specialties. Typical dishes include "santola" (stuffed crabs), simply grilled "camarões" and "gambas" (shrimp and prawns), or "arroz de marisco," a rice stew mixing all kinds of seafood (more moist than the Spanish paella). 

A concentration of seafood restaurants is found on Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, but everywhere else you'll also likely find at least one of the supposedly 365 ways to prepare cod (one for each day of the year). One of the most popular is "bacalhau à brás" (shredded with potatoes and egg) and "bacalhau com natas" (with cream). At most traditional cafés you can also try the "pastel de bacalhau," a cod croquette. 

Walk around Alfama in summer and you'll also smell corner barbecues grilling sardines.

AÇORDA

Its mushy appearance may not look very appetizing at first, but this purée studded with seafood or cod is quite good. The best is served at Pap'Açorda, but you'll find it in several restaurants around Lisbon. A slightly different version is called "Açorda Alentejana" (from Portugal's Alentejo region), a little more soupy and presented with floating coriander.

PORTUGUESE CHEESES

Portugal's cheeses are excellent and make a good companion to the country's wines. 

From the Lisbon region is the cheese of Azeitão (south of the city), which is rather soft and buttery. It's made with sheep's milk and should be served at room temperature as an appetizer or before dessert. 

Also try Nisa cheese from the region of Alentejo (semi-hard and also made with sheep's milk) which Wine Spectator magazine listed as one of the world's best.

PORTUGUESE WINES

Portugal produces some of the world's finest and most distinctive wines, and those are not just Port.

The Douro Valley in the north of the country is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, and its "greens" together with the reds from the rest of the country have a growing reputation internationally. 

Good places to sample them in Lisbon are the several wine bars in the center of the city, and for all kinds of Ports visit Solar do Vinho do Porto. 

Wines from the Lisbon region to try are those from Colares (a village outside Sintra), produced from sandy terrain vineyards of the Ramisco grape variety. These grapes generally create a wine of low alcohol content (between 10.5 and 12%) and of high acidity but fresh on the palate. 

The Setúbal Peninsula south of the city also produces a sweet, liqueurous wine named Moscatel. The "Moscatel Roxo" is especially worth looking for, aged 20 years before sale. 

A CUP OF COFFEE

Don't leave Lisbon (or Portugal) without having a "bica," a powerful dark espresso coffee served in a tiny cup. Just be careful if you're addicted to coffee because you'll agree that this is the best coffee you've ever had. The tradition came from the former colony of Brazil, and it's the way most Portuguese start their day and finish their meals. 

To accompany a Bica in the morning many Lisboetas choose a Pastel de Nata (see below).

CUSTARD TARTS OR "PASTEL DE NATA"

Known as "Pastel de Nata" around Portugal and as "Portuguese custard tart" elsewhere, this pastry is called "Pastel de Belém" in Lisbon's most famous pastry shop which started it all ("Antiga Confeitaria de Belém"). 

Sometimes sprinkled with cinnamon or even more sugar, they also often accompany a "bica" in the morning (see above). 

Forget your diet and have a few in Lisbon.

"THE WORLD'S BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE"

Dripping with chocolate, filled with chocolate mousse and made with 53% cocoa, this is officially the world's best chocolate cake. Officially because that's what the café where it was born is called, and its recipe has been exported to Brazil and New York which now have their own shops. Discover it in its original home in Lisbon, or in selected restaurants and cafés around the city. 

Also mouth-watering with chocolate are the croissants served in café Benard. They're served with no filling or with a variety of fillings, but it is the chocolate that everyone asks for. And you will too, several times once you try them.

Source: www.lisbonlux.com

Comment

Why Portugal is high on a wine lover’s list

Comment

Why Portugal is high on a wine lover’s list

People often ask me to name my favorite wine countries. I like to surprise them by putting Portugal high on the list.

Portugal seems to be stuck in an unfortunate dichotomy in our mind’s eye: There’s cheap Mateus, the wine of unsophisticates — Saddam Hussein supposedly was a fan — and vintage port, the expensive postprandial tipple of the stodgy British aristocracy. 

That’s as regrettable as it is incomplete.

I love Portugal because it offers tremendous value and variety, with wines that you won’t find anywhere else. And the Douro Valley, the region famous for those fortified ports and its stunningly beautiful landscape, leads the way.

Much of the country’s charm is in the sheer variety of its grapes, many of which are indigenous and not widely grown in other countries. Portugal has not succumbed to the lure of chardonnay and cabernet. It shares some grapes with Spain, of course. Albariño and godello appear here as alvarinho and gouveio. Tempranillo, the great red grape of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, plays a supporting role throughout Portugal under a variety of pseudonyms. Syrah makes a cameo appearance, though it hasn’t stolen the show. 

If you enjoy keeping track of the grape varieties you’ve tasted, you can add extensively to your repertoire by exploring the wines of Portugal. The port grapes of touriga nacional, touriga franca, tinta roriz (Portugal’s main pseudonym for tempranillo) and tinta cao form the major red blends from the Douro. Farther south, trincadeira anchors the reds along with aragonez (another name for tempranillo), while fernao pires shines in aromatic whites. If you search, you can find touriga in Virginia or Australia, and others maybe in experimental vineyards, but most of these varieties are unique to Portugal. 

The Douro is the world’s oldest wine region, having been officially demarcated in 1756 in an attempt to guarantee the authenticity of its wines. Those wines were almost exclusively port — fortified and sweet, in a variety of styles — until the 1990s, when a few wineries began using the same grapes to make dry table wines. Those wines have proved popular enough that more vineyards have been planted farther upriver in the Douro Superior, near the Spanish border. So the Douro is both an old wine region and a new one.  

douro1 (1).jpg

Stylistically, Douro’s table wines are similar to Spain’s famous reds from Rioja and Ribera del Duero; remember the tempranillo connection. Yet Douro reds have a complexity that seems to reach down into the schist that makes up the vineyard soils. They also have a leafy, somewhat woodsy character that speaks of the outdoors. They don’t conjure wood-paneled tasting rooms or barrel cellars as much as an autumn hike along a riverside trail. 

The Douro also leads Portugal in value, and I might not have said that a few years ago, when the wines seemed to aim at the higher end of the price spectrum. There are a few priced under $10: Charamba is nationally available, while Lello is available more in the Washington area market. The excitement now starts around the $15 level and up, with wines that outperform for their price. Quinta do Crasto and Muxagat are two labels I highly recommend for their entire line of wines. Others, such as Niepoort and Quinta do Vale Meao, are harder to find but worth seeking out and splurging on.

Another reason to love these wines: They often have a smoky, earthy character that pairs well with grilled foods. And the time for grilling is nigh.

Source: By Dave McIntyre www.washingtonpost.com

Comment

Comment

Cheddar Cheese & Parsley Beer Bread & Exploring the birthplace of Fado – Mouraria

 

Her arms speak of family and home and pride

Her face tells of laughter and sorrow and time

She is a fountain
She is light
In the historic, sleepy district of Mouraria, where the typically cobbled Portuguese streets are ever so slightly narrower, an artist Camilla Watson installed photographs of some of the eldest residents along the walls, close to their homes. The photographs are a triumphant tribute – sensitive and thoughtful. Out of them jump the personalities of Mouraria’s eldest. Some retreating and shy, others calm and fearless, others yet playful. The more you look, the more they reveal.

Comment

Seafood, one of Portugal delightful flavours

Comment

Seafood, one of Portugal delightful flavours

We ate arroz de marisco, a Portuguese seafood rice, saucier than paella and without the crusty bits, a number of times in Lisbon. Inspired by it I also made a version with chicken, chouriço and blood sausage while we were still there.

Portugal is abundant (perhaps not as much these days) in seafood – shrimp, prawns, clams, shellfish like langoustine, crab and lobster as well as fish. Substitute seafood according to what you have available and the occasion. Frozen seafood may also be used.

I enhanced the sauce by using chopped anchovies, they dissolve in the sauce but impart a saltiness that I find adds depth you can’t achieve with anything else, except perhaps Asian fish sauce.

Adjust the chilli to your liking.

I have been sharing stories about beloved Lisbon, a city I fell in love with in 2008 and in which I based for three months earlier this year between travels, for a while.

I want to share these images with you and for all the reasons I miss Lisbon, click on the link to read more.

My ode to Lisbon and other recipe and travel posts were picked up and translated into a story about the time I spent there, in the local Get It magazine.

Lisbon Holydays2.jpg
Lisbon Holydays3.jpg

Here’s an excerpt:

“I miss the tiled pavements, that goes without saying. Each tile telling a story, many nautical in nature – an art from artisans of a bygone era. I miss the convenience of purchasing fruit (even two plums and a banana being acceptable) just two doors down. I miss the clack-clack-clack of heels on the pavements or the unmistakable rumble of the ramshackle trams. I miss seeing so many old people (and I mean really old) go about their business independently, with everyone else. The impossible hills and the slopes I encouraged us to climb especially after large dinners. The people we met, so warm and welcoming.”

Lisbon Holydays4.jpg
Gate to Praca do Comercio
Lisbon Holydays5.jpg

The Recipe

Lisbon Holydays6.jpg

This recipe has several steps and does take a bit of time to put together, but is so worth the extra effort. Making the stock base with the fried prawn heads is crucial to the taste profile of this dish. Budget about 3.5 hours to make this dish in a relaxed and leisurely fashion- from chopping and prep to cooking through the steps. Read through the ingredient list, set everything you need out/store what you don’t need for a while in the fridge (seafood) and go over the instructions to familiarise yourself with the steps. I do hope you enjoy making this dish.

Ingredients

6-8 servings

12-16 large prawns, deveined and shell on, heads chopped and kept aside

300 g fresh mussels, cleaned

1 medium green pepper, diced

1-2 t chilli pepper flakes

4-5 Mediterranean Delicacies anchovy fillets, chopped

300 g firm white fish (e.g gurnard, dorado or kingklip)

1/3 cup Italian flat leaf parsley or coriander (or mix) finely chopped

extra lemon wedges

For the stock base:

1 T olive oil

12-16 prawn heads

1 large carrot, diced

3 T finely diced onion

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

………………………………………………

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

2 bay leaves

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

410 g fresh ripe tomatoes or a can peeled and chopped Italian tomatoes (best quality), pureed

1 t sugar

1.5 cups seasoned water, plus extra if needed

1.5 cups liquid from steaming mussels

2 mild red chillis, chopped

1.5 cups liquid from steaming mussels

1.5 cups seasoned water, plus extra if needed

2 T fresh lemon juice

salt, to taste

For the rice:

1.5 cups short- medium grain rice (I used arborio in this recipe)

strained stock, plus extra water (if needed)

410 g can chopped, peeled and pureed Italian tomatoes (best quality) —add 1/2 t sugar

3/4 cup dry white wine

Method

Lisbon Holydays7.jpg

1. Tap the mussels a few times. Discard those that are still open. Steam cleaned, de-beared mussels in 2 cups water. Bring to the boil and lower down to a simmer- process shouldn’t take longer than 4- 5 minutes. Discard those that don’t open. Retain 1.5 cups of the steaming liquid (add more if necessary but not too much as the liquid released by the mussels will become diluted)

2. In a frying pan on medium heat, add prawn heads, carrot, chopped onions and garlic. Fry for 4 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat and blend in processor or with hand held blender until smooth. <keep prawns and fish in fridge >

3. To a large pot add the ground prawn mixture, chopped onions, garlic, bay leaves, 1 can or 410 g tomato, sugar, mild chillis, 1.5 cup mussel liquid, 1.5 cup water, lemon juice and salt. Bring to the boil for 10 minutes. Then lower heat slightly and cook for 40 minutes, stirring.

4. Set stock aside, it will have reduced by more than half. Strain through a sieve, pushing the onions and other soft bits through, a little. Don’t force them.

5. In a paella pan or large, deep frying pan add the rice on medium heat. Then ladle the hot stock, bit by bit until it has absorbed, the way you would with risotto. Keep stirring the rice. I prefer to alternate hot stock with wine and the tomato puree until it is all absorbed. Add the chopped anchovies and chilli pepper after the first 5 minutes. [The total process should take around 40 minutes.]

6. When the rice is 3/4 cooked, add the green pepper. The fish will take 6-8 minutes to cook and the prawns 5 minutes, so time this accordingly. You add the seafood directly to the rice and stir around gently, once or twice with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to break the fish up.

7. Switch heat off and add the mussels at the end, adjust seasoning and allow the mussels to infuse with the flavour for 15-20 minutes before serving.

8. Add more water if the rice is too stodgy, stirring carefully. Stir the herbs through.

Serve with lemon wedges and cold beers or lemonade. This dish will continue to deepen in flavour over the next two days. Store in the fridge when it cools.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this four part food and travel series with Medi Deli. 

Source: www.foodandthefabulous.com

Comment

Douro: where Port Wine Grapes are Grown

Comment

Douro: where Port Wine Grapes are Grown

Douro valley
Douro region

We inch up the serpentine bends, pulling the car precariously close to the side of the narrow road closer to the river, as an SUV returning from the mountain, hurtles down in haste. We draw in deep breaths, keeping our eyes as wide open as the glare of the sun will allow. Below us lies a latticework of vines growing in schist rock terraces, arranged at pleasing angles.

As if splitting the mountain interface, the mighty Douro river carves its way, flowing between Portugal and Spain. The river has witnessed the efforts of man and vine for more than 2000 years; in 1991 the Alto Douro was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the long tradition of Port production and the resultant development in infrastructure in the area.

Visit to Douro
Douro wine valley

We stop off to the side of the road as safely as we can, one of us keeps an eye out for possible oncoming traffic, the other takes a few photographs. The Douro wine valley is as spectacular as they say, but even in the heat of summer, there are very few tourists. There are a number of rural houses across the river, some with a noble edge, and they cast ethereal shadows in the flat green waters. The terrain is unique and I feel a growing curiosity about the history and people who live and work here.

While the grapes for some incredibly good table wines, of which we have had the pleasure over three months of living in Portugal to sample, are grown here in the Douro, the region is most famous for excellent Ports or fortified wines. In picturesque Oporto, one of our favourite Portuguese cities which lies at the basin of the Douro, you will see prominent signs advertising the names of Port wine cellars. Port is stored in these cool cellars, but in order to get there, trucks must traverse the precarious journey down. We are told that it isn’t uncommon during harvest season for more than one collision or for a truck to tragically take a tumble over the side.

Douro
Tourism to Douro

In the old days, barrels of pressed grapes were transported by rabelo along the unpredictable Douro.

At various estates or quintas, you may still find rudimentary chapels built in the old style – these were houses of worship where the stewards of those small vessels would come to pray for safe passage.

At Quinta do Crasto, we are taken up to admire the views of the valley from the pool area before our tasting commences and the eye is tricked into believing the pool flows into the Douro river.

It is here that we are reminded what we have been told before, that as popular as Port is, it isn’t so with the Portuguese. Rather, it’s an English custom that seems to live on; naturally much of the port produced is for export. The Douro developed the first appellation system, a wine classification to distinguish the three regions in which the grapes are grown. This was developed 200 years before the French system!

View toward Douro river

Later on at Quinta do Nova, we both agree that this could be the very spot for a renewal of wedding vows, except we both know we have family who wouldn’t commit to scaling the hills to get here. Lunch is an elaborate affair paired with the estate’s wines, under the shaded pergola.

Portuguese Port Wine
Wine Tasting

After a day of exploring, wine tasting (the driver must opt for sensibility, the roads aren’t worth the risk), and taking in views we head back to the beautiful CS Vintage House Hotel for a nap and a shower before dinner at Rui Paula’s DOC, a sleek and modern restaurant with an excellent reputation, on the water’s edge.

Wine tasting in Portugal
Holiday at Douro

And tomorrow? We’ll blissfully do it all again.

Douro region
Douro tourists
Douro 15.jpg
Douro 16.jpg

Comment

Portugal: a Destination to Discover!

Comment

Portugal: a Destination to Discover!

Vacationing in Portugal is not just about Lisbon and Porto.  While I agree that these cities are definitely must-sees for first-time visitors, I have to admit that for even a small country, you are really missing out on so much more if you don’t venture beyond these areas!  If you take a look at this Basic Regional Map, Portugal is firstly divided into 5 distinctly different geographical regions, but then these are further split into.

Sub-Regional (Right) & District (Left), with the districts named after their capital city.  These smaller divisions represent how even more different they are from each other within not just geography, but also architecture, culture and cuisine (including wine!).  That then gives you a perspective of just how much of Portugal you’re actually missing out on experiencing!

I read recently that it used to be that most tourists in general searched for a vacation spot according to the three S’s- Sun, Sea and Sand, which is still apparent on Portugal’s long coastline for being a tourist hot spot.  But now, more and more people are shifting to looking for a vacation with the three L’s- Land, Lore and Leisure, meaning they prefer to stay in a place that best represents the land around them, to learn about the place’s history and folklore while being able to enjoy it through relaxing leisure activities. And for me, this one seems to fit my natural inclinations very well.

For the last 3 years, Miguel and I have maintained a tradition of taking two mini-vacations around Portugal, one in the summer (June/July) and one in the winter (November/December).  And each time, we have made sure to go as deep into the country as we can, in search of finding a hotel that provides those three L’s, along with some other preferences we have.  For example, a comfy bed is a must, as I don’t know how one can relax on vacation without a good night’s sleep!  Also, we prefer a room with a balcony, specifically one with a great view of the land around there, so I guess you could say we normally tend to go to the mountains.  And lastly, if we go in the summer months, a hotel with a pool is usually nice to have.

All of this you can easily find in a hotel using my favorite search site, Booking.com, just put in your dates and type “Portugal” as your destination then scroll down to the map and Portugal Overview where you can search by cities or provinces/regions or even closest airports.  You can also check out Wonderfulland.com which recommends great Portuguese guesthouses and pousadas (luxury boutqiue hotels built within hisorical sites like castles, monasteries etc.) or Pousadas.pt directly for the entire list of pousadas.  However, I find that these sites tend to be pricier to book with for the same hotel that you can almost always find on Booking, so I suggest that if you find a hotel on one of those latter two sites, look it up on Booking next to compare prices before reserving.

So now you may be asking yourself, when do you recommend the best time to go?  What do I look for exactly?  Well below are the guidelines I like to go by when choosing a hotel:

My Guidelines For Picking The Right Getaway Hotel in Portugal For You:

1. Avoid going in August at all cost!

EVERYONE in Europe goes on vacation in August, so most hotels, especially on the coast, are 2-3 times more expensive than other months.  And even if you’re willing to pay the money, it’s almost guaranteed that your hotel will be packed to the brim with lots of families and screaming children….not exactly ideal for a relaxing getaway, you’d almost be better off staying at those people’s empty homes!

If you want the beach without so much of the craziness, try booking in late September/October when it’s still quite warm most of the time and the water has had the opportunity to heat up all summer   Just saw a room at a 5-star hotel in Sagres for more than a €100 less per night in mid-October than if you had booked it in mid-August!  And of course, staying during the week versus the weekend will always be cheaper.

2. Always check the hotel’s room photos carefully to see exactly what you’re sleeping in/on.

I’ve encountered some gorgeous little hotels in the most absolutely beautiful locations to find out that their rooms look like creepy medieval dungeons.  Maybe some people think it’s cool sleeping on a 500yr old piece of history but I prefer my relaxing getaway bed NOT to be a rock-hard tiny mattress that’ll break you’re back as you stare up at a giant gnarled black crucifix.  About as romantic as staying at your deeply-religious grandmother’s house for vacation….Pass!

3. Order your search results by highest rated, NOT most popular.

You don’t necessarily want the most popular hotel, especially if the popular vote comes from families with screaming children.  However, you do still want an overall high rating for your hotel to begin with, as this usually narrows down your search to places with high-quality service and facilities.  I usually tend to not go below about a 7.7 out of 10.0, however I have found exceptions to that before.  If you want to really be sure, read several of the comments from past guests, making sure to read specifically the comments from your specific guest profile.   As I said, it may be great according to families but not so much for young couples looking for a relaxing, romantic getaway.  Also, older couples and families with small children tend to complain the most about any little thing, such as rating the place a 5 out of 10 just because there was no TV in the room.  I think these are unfair complaints when they could have easily chosen a different hotel with those desired features beforehand, instead of crapping on an otherwise fantastic place to stay!

Bottom line, if you spend a little extra time searching, narrowing down and looking in detail at the placese  you have in mind, you’ll have a better chance of choosing the right hotel in the right area that you´ll be satisfied and happy with after. 

So, are you looking for some recommendations to start with? Well, if you have similar preferences as the ones I stated above, then check out the 5 hotels below that I’ve stayed at on my mini-vacations in the last 3 years!

Hotel Folgosa Douro-Folgosa, Douro Valley (Norte) | http://www.hotelfolgosadouro.com/en/

This small but modern 3-star hotel was just a little over a year old when we stayed there for the first time in November, 2009.   Situated in the tiny village of Folgosa, near Peso da Régua, it’s in the heart of Douro wine country.  Which is what we mainly did on our vacation there, spend the day driving up and down the mountains exploring the area and checking out the all the wineries and vineyards and the breathtaking views of the valley.  We liked this place a lot for it’s location right on the river with a great view of the mountains and neighboring villages.  The cleanly decorated rooms have comfy beds and nice mood lighting and the bathrooms have huge bathtubs that made for a great bubble bath to soak in after a day of wine tasting in the colder months.

vacation portugal2.jpg
vacation portugal4.jpg
vacation portugal5.jpg

The staff were very nice, offering us a complimentary glass port upon arrival and were very accommodating throughout our stay.  The small restaurant serves inexpensive, good food presented nicely in front of their large window with a great view of the river.  And if you’re willing to splurge, you got the famed Restaurante DOC by Chef Rui Paula just across the street from the hotel!

Hotel de Caramulo-Caramulo, Viseu (Centro)

This hotel is basically the only one perched at the top of the Caramulo mountains, just outside of the town of Caramulo.  Don’t be turned off by its lower rating, this is mainly because the hotel is on the older side and some of the facilities need some fixing up but they have plenty of other reasons to make up for it.  The rooms are modest but large and if you book a room with the “Valley View”, you get two double door windows opening up to a large balcony with a table and chairs and of course that GORGEOUS VIEW.  The balcony was also great sitting out there in the evening in our hotel bathrobes and slippers breathing in the delicious mountain air under a star-filled sky with the towns all lit up below.

vacation portugal7.jpg
vacation portugal8.jpg
vacation portugal9.jpg

If the view still isn’t enough for you, the hotel has a fully equipped gym, spa, sauna, steam room and both an indoor and outdoor pool.  The restaurant is a bit pricey but has good food, however their adjacent lounge/bar has a great mini-menu of soups and sandwiches and afternoon tea goodies that are great to spend a quiet, relaxing afternoon/evening with still that great panoramic view of the valley. 

vacation portugal12.JPG

Hotel El-Rei Dom Manuel-Marvão (Alto Alentejo)

This was the last hotel we stayed at back in early December and also our first time vacationing in the region of Alentejo.  I must say, we couldn’t have picked a worse weekend to go, with the cold, rain and immense fog, it made it hard at first to appreciate one of the best aspects of the hotel (room) and area-the view!  But thankfully the fog did clear up enough for us to enjoy it and I can say it was definitely worthwhile after that.   

vacation portugal13.JPG
vacation portugal14.JPG

This is only one of two hotels (the other is the pousada, which has a much lower rating) that are located in the historical village of Marvão, perched at the top of a large hill, complete with the ancient ruins of a castle. This makes it a perfect location to walk through the village and explore the castle and take in all the incredible vistas without ever having to worry about transportation.

vacation portugal15.JPG

Most of the rooms are small and a bit old-fashioned in decor, but the added rooftop terrace of a superior double room evens it out.  The restaurant also serves good food, especially at breakfast and the staff are very hospitable.

Quinta de Moçamedes- São Miguel do Mato, Viseu (Centro)

Quinta de Moçamedes- São Miguel do Mato, Viseu (Centro)

This cozy, 10-room guesthouse located in a tiny aldeia (village) was rebuilt out of a 12th-century stone manor house and is run by incredibly hospitable Antonio Borges and his family, who live on premises.  All the rooms are spaciously decorated with extra-comfy beds and some with a private courtyard or an outdoor terrace overlooking the countryside.  Our room was located in the original stone house so we had the delight of the thick stone walls keeping our room naturally cool during the day and snuggly warm at night. 

The family puts out a simple but homemade breakfast every morning with local fresh fruit and fresh baked sweets and though there is no restaurant, you can request to have a meal prepared for you in the dining room or you may be invited to dinner instead, if they are already cooking for themselves.  This is what happened to us and the rest of the guests the first night and we had a casual, yet delicious family-style dinner, complete with Antonio and his family, they made everyone feel right at home! 

vacation portugal17.JPG
vacation portugal18..JPG

The estate has an outdoor pool and you can also get recommendations from Antonio on local sports activities to do, such as hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, rafting, rapeling, BTT and more.

Casas da Lapa- Lapa dos Dinheiros, Serra da Estrela (Centro)

vacation portugal21.JPG
vacation portugal20.JPG

This tiny 8-room boutique hotel was built totally out of local stone and is perched high up in the Serra da Estrela mountains at the top of the tiny aldeia, Lapa dos Dinheiros.  The super comfy rooms are stylishly decorated with even softer beds and furniture and all are equipped with jacuzzi bathtubs. 

vacation portugal23.JPG
vacation portugal24.JPG

The outdoor pool has a great view of the valley and village below and since the hotel is so small, you almost feel like you’re the only guest there!  There are also two rooftop terraces for guests to sit out and relax on, sunbathing or taking in the great view.  The staff and service are impeccable and still retain the warm, local friendliness.

Breakfast is great and showcases a lot of local goodies, lunch is available and dinner can be arranged for you on their front terrace at your prior request.  The night that we arrived though, it was already quite late, but the staff the kind enough to offer us the dinner menu that another group of guests had requested before so we lucked out!

Outside the hotel, you can walk up and down the historical cobblestone streets of the village and there is a praia fluvial (“river beach”) a short drive/walk down through the woods with a crystal clear mountain lake with a local “pub” that’s great to watch the moon come up over the mountain at night   And of course, this place is perfectly located to explore all around the beautiful Serra da Estrela mountains and surround villages.

Boa Viagem & Happy Vacationing!

Source: http://americaninportugaltours.com

Comment

5 “Strange” Portuguese Foods That I’ve Grown To Love

Comment

5 “Strange” Portuguese Foods That I’ve Grown To Love

I wouldn’t say there are many “strange” things in Portuguese cuisine.  And by strange, I mean something that isn’t normally found or eaten in your own native country.  In general, I actually find Portuguese cuisine to be one of the most “likeable” cuisines, because just as in the much-loved Italian cuisine, they use a lot of simple, fresh, locally sourced ingredients.  And for the most part, every dish that has been put in front of me during my time in Portugal has looked delicious and made me instantly want to eat it.   

However, there have been a small handful of Portuguese foods and dishes that I definitely found, and still think are strange.  And it’s even more difficult for someone like me with a culinary background to get weirded out by something.  But these were foods that I either never knew existed or the combination did not look appetizing.  Though ironically, they are some of the most nationally known and loved foods in Portugal!  But since my parents raised me with the good manners of eating everything on my plate, even if I didn’t like it, I knew I had to try these things regardless of what I thought.  

Though now I’m glad I did, because then I understood why these foods are so popular here- they are indeed, really tasty!  Granted, the soft texture of these foods in particular was not very appealing to me at first, but once I stopped focusing on that and more on how delicious they tasted, I was able to let go and truly enjoy and appreciate what I was eating.  

It’s true, we’re all programmed to turn up our nose at things that look strange or unappetizing to us, it’s natural.  Would you believe that most Portuguese I’ve asked have never even heard of the classic American peanut-butter and jelly sandwich?  And even funnier is that after I explained what it is, most of them still found it strange and and wouldn’t want to try it!   The same way they found it funny and surprising when they heard my reaction to their beloved foods.   So bottom line, if we get over these cultural or personal hangups, as I eventually did, we’ll be able to enjoy so many more things that one would have never imagined to be delicious! 

Below are five popular Portuguese foods and dishes that I found very strange in the beginning but now love.  I’ve ordered them on a scale of “least to most strange”   So, on your next trip here, I encourage you all to give these foods a chance and try them like I did, as you never know just what might become your next favorite food!

AÇORDA ALENTEJANA (BREAD SOUP)

AÇORDA ALENTEJANA (BREAD SOUP)

AÇORDA DE GAMBAS (SHRIMP)

AÇORDA DE GAMBAS (SHRIMP)

The only bread I normally associate with soup are the croutons you sprinkle on top, so when I found out that bread was the main ingredient of this traditional Portuguese main dish, my first question was “why?”  Well, with the historically poor background of rural areas, one had to make sure you never wasted anything, so this was a way to use up old, stale bread.  Traditionally, the bread is soaked to some degree of softness, then either broken up and/or cooked with chopped garlic and fresh cilantro.  

There are two main versions of açorda. In the greater Lisbon and northern regions, they make Açorda de Gambas, where the bread is heavily soaked and mushed up, then cooked with shrimp.  Despite its great flavor, I’m not a big fan of this version (pictured second) because the look and texture reminds me too much of…er…vomit .  But I do love the Açorda Alentejana version (pictured first), which resembles more of a soup without cooking the bread.  Only a hot broth of garlic, olive oil and tons of fresh cilantro is poured over it and topped with a poached egg.  Many people also add bacalhau (saltcod) or other fish to it for a heartier meal.   Açorda Alentejana is so popular here that it was nominated as one of the 7 Maravilhas da Gastronomia (7 Wonders of Gastronomy-hmm a future post?) and even though it didn’t win, you don’t want miss out on trying this!

SAPATEIRA RECHEADA (STUFFED STONE CRAB)

SAPATEIRA RECHEADA (STUFFED STONE CRAB)

Let’s get this straight- I love stone crab, in fact I loved it even before I moved to Portugal.  But I never had anything more than the claws, which can sometimes cost you a small fortune to get in the US.  Here in Portugal though, on the coast, sapateira is about as common and readily available as any regular fish, and much more affordable!  But get ready to eat the whole thing, which includes the shell of the body stuffed with its roe and insides.  Yes I know what you’re thinking, that really doesn’t sound lovely, and I made a face too when I saw it the first time…..but oh my god is it delicious!!!  This has become my favorite part of the stone crab now, because the flavor is so rich compared to the claws and legs, and when spread over some warm toasted bread and butter it’s just heavenly   Personally I prefer this stone crab stuffing plain, but most people mix it with a variation of the typical ingredients found in a classic potato salad, like mustard, mayo, pickles, egg, onion, parsley etc, even beer!

You can find sapateira recheada on the menu of any marisqueira-seafood restaurant, all along the coast, but note: it’s a common belief here that stone crab and most shellfish are only best eaten “in the months with an ‘r’” (September-April) so try to save this for a treat in the colder months. 

SALADA DE OVAS (FISH EGG ROE)

SALADA DE OVAS (FISH EGG ROE)

These not-so-luxurious fish eggs typically come from pescada (hake) or bacalhau (saltcod) and honestly, if you saw these whole- raw or cooked, they look absolutely disgusting.  But when sliced up and made into a cold salad mixed with onion, tomato, bell peppers, olive oil, vinegar and fresh cilantro (as pictured above), they are much more pleasing to the eye and very tasty.  Many Portuguese also recommend eating plain, boiled ovas when you’re sick, particularly if you have tummy problems, because they are mild and easy to digest.  You can find salada de ovas served at many fish and seafood restaurants as an entrada-appetizer.

CARACOIS (SNAILS)

CARACOIS (SNAILS)

Snails, either you love em’ or hate em’, but most Portuguese absolutely love this seasonal late spring/summertime bar munchie.  Unlike the French escargots, caracois à portuguesa are much smaller- normally about the size of a dime and are slow-cooked in a delicious broth of olive oil, garlic, onion, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper and sometimes a pinch of piri-piri for a slight kick.  They are best enjoyed with a cold glass of Portuguese draft beer and a basket of bread to mop up all of that finger-licking broth.

PERCEBES (GOOSENECK BARNACLES)

PERCEBES (GOOSENECK BARNACLES)

Utterly strange, not even edible looking and more expensive than most seafood….who in their right mind would want to eat these things??  Yup, exactly what I said at first, but plenty of people eat them here, including me now!  Goose or goose-neck barnacles can be found growing on the rocky cliffs all along the northwest Atlantic coast but are most appreciated in Spain and Portugal.   Due to the dangerous area they grow in, they are a lot of trouble to collect- hence the hefty price.  Just a tiny appetizer plate of them at your local marisqueira here can cost around €8-10.  And they’re not that easy to eat either, since you have to take off the rubbery outer layer first, which can get a bit messy as you might get squirted by their red juice if you’re not too careful!  You can check out exactly how percebes are harvested and eaten in the video below from Gordon Ramsay’s show The F Word, when he went to Galicia, Spain (just above the northern border of Portugal) and you’ll see that he agrees with me that although percebes look totally unappetizing, they really are delicious.  In my opinion, I would describe them as having the cleanest, most pure, unadulterated flavor of the ocean- refreshing! 

Happy Adventurous Eating in Portugal! 

Source: http://americaninportugaltours.com

Comment

Wines of Portugal Academy

Comment

Wines of Portugal Academy

Anyone interested in Portuguese wine has the chance to learn more at a new academy being set up by Wines of Portugal, in association with Harpers Wine & Spirit.

wines of portugal.GIF

Wines of Portugal has developed three WSET-style training modules that take members of the trade through introductory, intermediate and advanced learning about Portuguese wines.

The Wines of Portugal Academy promises to give both individuals and companies interested in the country the training and ability to really help drive Portuguese wine sales in their business.

The course will provide insight into Portuguese regions, grape types and wine styles, and all attendees will receive a certificate on completion.

Nuno Vale, marketing director for Wines of Portugal, said: ‘There is a definite buzz around Portuguese wines at the moment, as the value and variety that they offer find increased relevance for buyers and retailers looking to ‘wow' their demanding customers.

"The Wines of Portugal Academy has been created specifically to help educate more fully those responsible for buying and selling our wines," he added.

Source: www.harpers.co.uk

Comment

Ribatejo: à la découverte des provinces

Comment

Ribatejo: à la découverte des provinces

Et voilà sur le point de quitter Leiria. C'est qu'aujourd'hui, je pars plus au sud, en direction d'Evora, à 200 kilomètres de là. J'ai prévu de m'arrêter sur le chemin pour visiter Santarém, située dans le Ribatejo. Occupant une colline le long du Tage, cette ville s'appela d'abord Scalabis du temps des Romains. Puis devint une importante cité-forteresse durant les guerres entre les Maures et les Chrétiens pour être finalement reprise par ces derniers en 1147. Les automobilistes portugais sont toujours aussi fous sur la route, et l'état de la chaussée par endroits n'aide pas aux déplacements.

Par contre, j'étais loin de me douter que ce jour était mal choisi pour visiter l'endroit: Si vous voulez découvrir Santarém, n'y allez surtout pas les lundi et mardi. Je ne peux pas vous expliquer pourquoi mais la majorité des musées et monuments sont fermés. Ca doit être une coutume locale...Je me contenterai donc d'une courte promenade dans les petites rues d'une cité qui a du voir passer du monde depuis son existence: Depuis l'arrivée de Dom Afonso Henriques (dont on voit sa statue dans le jardin Portas do Sol) dans cette ville, le 15 mars 1147, Santarém a toujours été présente dans les principaux moments de l'histoire du Portugal. Des princes y sont nés, des rois y ont vécu et les cours du royaume s'y sont même parfois réunies. Des batailles s'y sont déroulées, monastères, temples et palais parmi les plus beaux du pays s'y sont construits.

Il me suffit de me rendre au jardin Portas do Sol, qui semble être la grande fierté des habitants, pour découvrir la vue splendide sur le Tage. A perte de vue, je découvre les immenses plaines du Leziria, qui ont toujours été liées à l'image du campino (ce personnage typique du Ribatejo associé à l'élevage des taureaux). Ici, on vit surtout de l'agriculture et de l'élevage des chevaux et des taureaux (deux symboles de la région). On trouve aussi le long du fleuve une AOC appelée Ribatejo: Ce vignoble situé dans le centre-ouest du pays produit des vins rouges, rosés, mousseux mais aussi des vins liquoreux. Devant reprendre la route, j'éviterai de boire de l'alcool et me contenterai de déguster un délicieux ragoût d'agneau dans un restaurant de la région.

Blog 2.JPG

Les rues étroites et sinueuses de Santarém peuvent surprendre. La circulation des voitures aussi. Je n'y ai pas rencontré de voies piétonnes et ai du sans cesse me coller le long des murs pour laisser passer «les chars romains ». L'office du tourisme m'avait conseillé un certain nombre de lieux (dont pas mal d'églises) à parcourir lors de mon court séjour.

Je passe ainsi devant l'église de la Miséricorde, construite au milieu du XV ème et de style Renaissance tardif, dont je peux admirer les hautes colonnes toscanes décorées avec des éléments grotesques qui ornent l'intérieur de l'église. L'entrée est libre et il faut se rendre jusqu'à l'autel puis visiter à gauche (le petit musée d'art sacré) et à droite (la sacristie avec ses habits sacerdotaux) pour profiter pleinement des lieux. Sa façade, elle, évoque des influences baroques depuis sa restauration suite au tremblement de terre de 1755.

Blog 3.JPG
Blog 5.JPG

Je marche toujours dans cette rue du 1er décembre et parviens au bout de quelques minutes sur une place où se trouve l'église do Marvila, fermée aujourd'hui. La cathédrale de l'azulejo des années 1600 fut érigée au début du XII ème siècle puis réédifiée au XVI ème et offre à l'intérieur des panneaux de carreaux de faïence du XVII ème siècle (d'où son nom de cathédrale de la faïence du XVII ème). Une maison m'attire l'œil à cause de sa façade . A deux minutes, voici la Tour des Cabaças et le Musée archéologique du Temps. Cette tour fortifiée fut, dit-on, transformée en tour de l'horloge durant le XV ème siècle. D'où la présence du musée dédié à l'évocation et à l'interprétation du temps par l'homme.

Je pousse ensuite jusqu'au jardin Porta do Sol, considéré comme le plus beau belvédère de la ville. Ce jardin fut bâti à l'emplacement de l'ancienne citadelle de Santarém de laquelle subsiste encore une partie de la muraille ainsi que la Porte du soleil. La fondation de Santarém remonte à la mythologie gréco-romaine et chrétienne, ses origines mythiques se retrouvant dans les noms d'Hobis et d'Irène. Les premiers vestiges témoignant de l'occupation humaine remontent au VIII ème siècle.

Blog 4.JPG

La population locale aurait collaboré avec l'occupant romain lors de leur arrivée en 138. La cité devint à cette époque l'un des principaux entrepôts commerciaux du Tage moyen et l'un des plus importants centres d'administration de la province lusitanienne. Au cours des quatre siècles d'occupation islamique, la ville eut un rôle militaire stratégique puis culturel et artistique, grâce à la présence de quelques prêtres et troubadours du monde arabe.

Blog 6.JPG

Le roi Afonso VI de Leon concéda à la cité une première charte en 1095. La ville fut reconquise en 1147, ce qui donna lieu à l'attribution d'une deuxième charte en 1179. Les XIV ème et XV ème siècles offriront une ambiance palatine à Santarém. De nombreux troubadours et ménestrels traverseront la cité mais le séisme de 1755 détruira une importante partie du patrimoine de la ville. Les invasions françaises et la Guerre péninsulaire viendront se rajouter aux premiers malheurs. Et le patrimoine sera souvent mis à sac par l'occupant.

Sur les conseils de l'office de tourisme, je me rends à l'église do Santissimo Milagre. Reconstruite au XVI ème siècle, son intérieur est un espace de style Renaissance. La chapelle principale contient le tabernacle avec les reliques de Saint Miracle (XIII ème). La Cathédrale offre une jolie façade. Dommage qu'elle soit elle aussi fermée!

Blog 7.JPG

Alpiarça n'est situé qu'à une dizaine de kilomètres de Santarém. Cette agréable bourgade de la plaine de la Leziria est renommée pour ses élevages de chevaux. A sa lisière sud, se trouve une splendide demeure, la Casa Museu dos Patudos, au milieu des vignes.  Cette maison est l'ancienne résidence de José Relvas, qui fut grand amateur d'art mais aussidiplomate et homme politique. Il occupa d'ailleurs brièvement le poste de Premier ministre.

Blog 8.JPG

La maison aux murs blanchis à la chaux et dominée par une flèche fut construite par Raul Lino entre 1905 et 1909. La loggia à colonnes, desservie par un escalier extérieur, est ornée d'azulejos colorés. Dans les jardins autour du musée, on peut aussi admirer quelques belles œuvres en bronze de Teixeira de Lopes, des panneaux d'azulejos des XVII ème et XVIII ème siècles et une niche en pierre sculptée (XVI ème) du tombeau de Dom Aleixo de Meneses, qui provient du Couvent de Saint Antoine de Chamusca.

Blog 9.JPG
Blog 10.JPG

Je suis accompagné pour la visite par Anna, notre merveilleuse guide et Monsieur le directeur du musée (qui est désormais propriété de la ville d'Alpiarça). Le rez-de-chaussée est constitué par deux vestibules et deux salles, une dédiée à Carlos Relvas, puis l'autre, la Salle de l'Art sacré. On y trouve du mobilier des XVII ème et XVIII ème siècles. Les murs du grand vestibule sont garnis d'azulejos qui furent peints par Jorge Pinto entre 1905 et 1906. La Salle Carlos Relvas est dédiée au père de José Relvas, à la fois artiste et cavalier.

Dans la salle de l'Art sacré, se trouvent plusieurs peintures religieuses portugaises et espagnoles des XVII ème et XVIII ème siècles. Le premier étage débute par les pièces familiales. On trouve notamment un magnifique tapis en soie d'Arraiolos, pièce unique datant de 1761. La salle de la musique expose des peintures thématiques des écoles espagnole, italienne et hollandaise. La salle des Colonnes présente quelques exemples d'arts décoratifs avec entre autres, mobilier, porcelaines, tapis d'Aubusson et portraits. On retrouve dans la salle de Saint François des panneaux d'azulejos qui illustrent la vie du Saint.

Blog 12.JPG

Cette promenade est un ravissement pour les yeux tant il y a d'objets précieux. José Relvas, grand amateur d'art, avait profité de ses fonctions de diplomate et de ses séjours à l'étranger (surtout en Espagne) pour rassembler un nombre impressionnant d'œuvres qui se trouvent aujourd'hui ici rassemblées pour notre plus grand plaisir. Les chambres de la famille, dont celle de José Relvas, occupent le troisième étage de la maison. Plusieurs objets personnels s'y trouvent dont des peintures portugaises des XIX ème et XX ème siècles.

On peut aussi admirer durant cette visite les salles à manger dont celle-ci qui possède un plafond style caisse et de superbes azulejos du XVIII ème, récupérés par José Relvas lors de la démolition d'un ancien couvent. Ce double musée (un musée d'art mais aussi un musée monographique exemplaire et représentatif de la figure de son fondateur, José Relvas) est un agréable moment d'art et d'histoire, d'autant plus que José Relvas fut un personnage marquant de la vie politique et diplomatique portugaise de la période de la première république, en tant que ministre, diplomate et grand homme de la culture.

Blog 14.JPG

Doué d'un esprit supérieur et d'une sensibilité artistique raffinée, il fut aussi un violoniste accompli qui participa à plusieurs concerts au Colisée Royal de Lisbonne et aux soirées musicales qu'il organisait chez lui, à Patudos. C'est en 1882, que José Relvas prendra la direction de la maison agricole de ses parents (son père fut le précurseur de la photographie au Portugal).

Blog 11.JPG

Dix ans plus tard, il sera reconnu comme un viticulteur talentueux. L'ensemble de la collection d'œuvres d'art ici rassemblées révèle une culture artistique inégalable et singulière dans l'esprit de son temps et offre l'un des meilleurs musées municipaux du pays. A découvrir!

Blog 13.JPG

INFOS PRATIQUES:

Blog 15.JPG
  • Office du tourisme, rua Capelo Ivens, 63 à Santarém. Tel: (351) 243 304 437. Ouvert tous les jours de 10h00 à 14h00 et de 15h00 à 19h00. Site internet: http://www.cm-santarem.pt/Paginas/Default.aspx
  • Tour des Cabaças: Pour la visiter, s'adresser aux services techniques de la mairie au 243 377 290 ( en semaine) ou au 243 357 288 ( le weekend).
  • Jardin Porta do sol, ouvert de 9h00 à 20h00 (en hiver) et de 9h00 à 23h00 (en été)
  • Restaurant Portal da Vila, Rua José Relvas, 220 à Alpiarça. Tel: (351) 243 557 476. Délicieuse cuisine locale à prix doux. Accueil agréable.
  • Casa Museu dos Patudos, à Alpiarça. Tel: (351) 243 558 321. Ouvert du mardi au dimanche de 10h00 à 12h00 et de 14h00 à 17h00 ( en hiver) , jusqu'à 18h30 (en été). Entrée: 2,50€. Visites assurées en français,italien,anglais,espagnol,portugais et allemand.

Comment

Olive Oil, Portugual's finest nectar

Comment

Olive Oil, Portugual's finest nectar

 

 

Olive oil, is one of Portuguese finest nectares. Despite its low production when compared to other competitor countries, Portugal has been recognized by one of the best producers of this gastronomic nectar due to its extraordinary quality.

Comment

Food & Wine: Any Port in a storm

Comment

Food & Wine: Any Port in a storm

By Robert Rabine

It’s finally getting cold and the holidays are here. Now is the perfect time to snuggle up next to the fire with a good glass of fortified red wine from the Douro Valley. A glass of what? From where? Port…you know, from Portugal.

When I was younger I had two misconceptions about port: (1) I used to think it gave me a hangover from all the sugar. Wrong. It was from all the assorted cocktails and glasses of wine I drank before actually getting to the port. (2) They added alcohol to port because the Portuguese wine itself was so bad. Well, not exactly. Initially, in the 1690s, they added a small amount of aguardente (similar to brandy) to plain red wine to stabilize it for shipping. Port was established as a protected appellation in 1756, but by the early 1800s the product had evolved into something quite different. Gradually, they began adding the aguardente to the barrels to stop fermentation while the wine was still sweet and strong (20 percent alcohol). It eventually became something similar to today’s port.

It’s called port because it was always shipped from the seaside city of Porto on the Atlantic coast of Portugal. Which is weird, if you think about it. That would be like calling all wine from Napa Valley “San Mateo.” Port is actually grown and bottled in the hot, dry Douro Valley along the Douro River in northeastern Portugal. There are three sub-appellations that make different types of port reflecting their distinct terroirs. Most inexpensive ruby and tawny ports come from the Baixo (lower) Corgo. Tawny ports are barrel-aged and allow for considerable oxidation and evaporation in the barrel; hence their brownish color and somewhat nutty flavor. The Cima (upper) Corgo is hotter and gets less rainfall. It produces the best bottle-aged vintage and ruby ports. These are characterized by their bright color and freshness.

More fun facts: The grapes used in red ports are usually a blend of five or six varieties, both indigenous (like touriga nacional) and imports (like tempranillo). There are also white and rose ports. A LBV, or late bottle vintage, has spent more time in the barrel before being bottled due to lack of demand. Serve port at around 63 degrees Farenheit. The glass should be around 4 ounces and have a small bowl with sides that angle inward, like a shorter, fatter champagne flute. Vintage ports can be incredibly long lived. Always decant older ports, but drink them right away. The individual port houses – like Dow, Warres, Cockburn – decide when to declare the year a “vintage” year-meaning worthy of aging, but it must be approved by the Institute of Port. It’s in Lisbon. Not surprisingly, I have actually been there.

Source: shorelinetimes.com

Comment

Tom Cannavan’s wine selection

Comment

Tom Cannavan’s wine selection

After much hype and anticipation, Tom Cannavan’s 50 Great Portuguese wines selection was finally unveiled in London at the Portuguese Ambassador’s Residence in Belgrave Square.

 

Comment

LinkPedia Web Directory