My what gratitude and good fortune! I feel truly blessed to have spent two energizing, educational, and delicious weeks in Portugal; the first with a phenomenal, international team of colleagues and the second with my beautiful, inspiring mother (who I repeat, is a coveted travel companion)!
Portugal is ripe with adventure, and I’ve done my best to capture the country’s celebrated and hidden marvels. While this post concludes the essence of eating in Portugal, my Cayuaga St. chronicles will resurface with the promise of winter creativity.
For now, one last temptation…
We wound south to Peso da Regua on the Douro’s riverfront, guided by the fading light. Tiago and Domingo urged us to dine at Castas e Pratos (Grapes and Plates), which was conveniently across from the Hotel Regua where we’d parked for the night.
Castas e Pratos occupies a refurbished warehouse at the rail station; a beautiful interior with clear floors peering over the train tracks. The chef is apparently “famous” and specializes in traditional Portuguese food with a high-end, modern flair.
Our couvert was a basket of freshly baked bread, with a rich olive oil and sticky balsamic for dipping along with a smooth, tangy olive tapenade. Wine of course. My generous glass of red was 2.50 euros, despite its high quality (after all, it practically grows from beneath our feet!).
In the dim lighting, our pictures can’t do justice to each dish. To start: goat cheese wrapped with fig compote and brie, tucked into a crepe with port reduction and toasted almonds. Hard to go wrong here!
Not your traditional “cannelloni,” but cannelloni nonetheless! The same leaf-like crepe, wrapped around Alheira de Caça, an exquisite spiced game meat and breaded sausage. Smooth, creamy, and bursting with flavor. Served over lightly sauteed greens, fresh eggs (see the color?), and a drizzle of olive oil.
Bacalhau encrusted with olive tapenade and spiced cornmeal, served over chickpeas pureed with herbs and a fresh tomato sauce.
Our first swallow of chocolate in Portugal! A port semifreddo with dark chocolate ice cream and whipped cream. To our slight disappointment, the cream seems store-bought; it has a processed flavor impossible to recreate by hand. Since the rest of the meal was impossibly delicious, we give our chef the benefit of the doubt: out of tourist season, a supply of fresh cream might spoil – unwise for inventory.
We wake early and drive through the valley floor to Pinhão. We’re told it’s a must. The landscape is beautiful, but not enthralling. The town is uncannily serene, though the barmaid where we stop in for an espresso assures us that it’s ransacked in the summer months. And hot!
We begin our final road trip south to Lisbon, four hours of farmland views dotted with villages that remind us of Italy, the houses a uniform white with red tiled teja rooves.
A long stroll relieves our cramping knees, and lands us in the heart of Lisbon. On a Friday night, the city is hopping with street performers, tourists (this is where they are!), and a general air of joviality. We find a few more sights we missed on our first Lisbon marathon. The Elevador de Santa Justa, a production of the Eiffel Tower’s very same master.
The famous Rossio Station, with the iconic “M,” and one last tourist shot for me!
Mamma spots one more food shot! Apple dumplings: whole apples wrapped in a pastry, much like the batch Shanti tested in my kitchen this fall (Ithaca-Baked Apple Dumplings).
And dinner. Well, on our last night I chose to keep dinner to ourselves. A pleasant, traditional meal without any: “Wait! Don’t eat yet! Ooooone more second, I promise! Oh shoot, the lighting was bad. One more! Ah, there we go. Ok, dig in now!” (No really, it’s not that bad. I promise).