Happy New Year, dear blog readers!
2015 ended with a familiar picture – a week in the city of Porto, in the north of Portugal. I unreservedly LOVE this city. Not only because I was born here and lived here for over 25 years, but because it is genuinely one of the top cities in Europe to visit. It has everything: tradition and culture, sea and sand, river, architecture, rich history, lots of sunshine and, of course, beautiful food. I won’t dwell too much on all the positive aspects of this city or go into too much detail about food in Porto – that would need a whole series of blog posts. What I want to do is give you a little glimpse of this last food week, using photos I took (when I remembered!).
It is so astonishingly easy to eat good food in Porto (and Portugal in general). What I mean by easy, I mean nearly all cafés, delis, groceries, restaurants and the like will serve very decent food. You can rest assured of that anywhere you go and there is no need for Trip Advisor reviews to back you up. You know it will be a pleasant experience, nearly every time. Of the places we visited last week here is a diverse selection: the best seafood restaurant in the north of Portugal (and, dare I say, beyond); a delicatessen shop that sells regional farming produce; a traditional humble Portuguese restaurant set in the heart of the old part of the city; and a café and patisserie in the seafront, called Tavi.
I leave you with photos and a few comments. Not sure they give it justice, but I can assure you I was truly spoiled this time, and got once more reminded of the wonderful gastronomy that has made me the foodie I am today.
Let’s start with Ernesto. This place serves authentic traditional Portuguese food, and is as unpretentious as it gets both in concept and price. On the table as I arrived was the creamiest of cheese oblongs and beautiful quality cured meats in thin slices. We started with breaded octopus and octopus rice (I had to start the week with one of my favourite foods!).
For seconds we had ‘rojões’ – a typical northern dish made with juicy and tender pork chunks, black pudding (well, essentially cooked pig’s blood) and tripe. They were both DELICIOUS.
Endless jugs of house white and house red accompanied both dishes (and dessert, and coffee, and…). In the end, each of us only paid 20 euros (including dessert and coffee for some and tip). I can finally tick Ernesto from the list of places to visit in Porto and I will surely be back!
Marisqueira de Matosinhos is not for the faint hearted. It is a temple of seafood, the best in the north of Portugal (at least) and the prices come accordingly. But I can honestly say, there is no other place in the world so far where I have eaten better seafood. And I am lucky enough to have eaten seafood in many places around the world.
As usual, we were spoiled for choice but took the advice of the experienced owner and started with some prawns ‘da costa’ (translates as ‘from the coast’) which are usually smaller and darker than other prawns but are the best in flavour and juiciness. Yum!
We were lucky enough that the restaurant had a 3Kg spider crab delivered, one like I hadn’t seen in a while. What a beast it was! And a delicious beast too. I don’t remember the last time I ate one so good.
We then proceeded to eat some clams, a ‘carabineiro’ (a stunning scarlet large shrimp from deep cold waters) and finished with some lobster rice. There is no point describing the deliciousness of all these. You need to trust me that they were indeed delicious and if you ever come here, don’t hesitate to eat any of these (or all of them!).
I know what you are thinking… surely that is too much food. And yes you are right and even though I knew that, I HAD to eat ‘pudim Abade de Priscos’ – this is a typical dessert invented by an abbot from Braga (a city in the north) that resembles a crème caramel and is as sweet and velvety as it can be. This one was perfection. I must learn to make this…
We ‘watered’ the whole meal with a truly stunning white wine, made with Alvarinho grape – ‘Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas’ – a wine that got a gold medal at Mundus Vini 2015 International Wine Awards. I’m not surprised in the slightest and am already planning to get some bottles to line our rack at home… A gem.
Tavi is a café/patisserie where every Christmas I go to buy some Hungarian biscuits (no idea why they are called that). This is a soft yellow kind of sweet shortbread cookie covered in chocolate in one of its halves. While we were there to get the scrumptious biscuits, we decided to have lunch in the glassed back room, which juts out of the old building and stands above the sea, providing a priceless view over the Atlantic, even in December.
I was surprised at how exciting and creative the menu was and we chose all sorts of treats: black pudding and green apple samosas, scrambled eggs with game sausage and spinach, and black pig smoked slices, among others.
What a pleasant experience this impromptu lunch was! From the setting to the food, I have only nice words to say. The price was adequate too. I think this lunch in Tavi will now become a compulsory feature of our Christmas week in Porto.
Saboriccia is a foodie’s paradise. A delicatessen shop specialising in regional produce from the northern regions of Portugal. It sells what I paradoxically call “quality peasant food”.
Every product there is chosen with minutiae. The olive oils are stunning, the cheeses have won prizes in big agricultural fairs, the cured meats are out of this world and many more products are equally delectable. Don’t be fooled when I say ‘peasant’, these are top quality (and yes, expensive) products.
But this place screams farming, mountains and fresh air. I love coming here. It makes me feel happy, comfortable, welcome. Once again I stocked up on wonderful things and can’t wait to have them on offer to guests at our house in England. I want to give people a glimpse of the (hitherto relatively unknown in the UK) wonderful world of quality Portuguese produce.
I won’t bore you with anymore and I hope you get left with an idea of the possibilites in this very special city. I will be back next year as always, ready to be delighted once more. If you come to this part of the world, be sure to visit and prepare to get spoiled while you take in the culture and the fabulous views.
See you soon, Porto!