Portugal is a great place for food and wine lovers. The food is simple, fresh and well-priced. The wine’s spectacular.
One of our best days was spent visiting the Duoro wine region. We hired a private guide from Tours By Locals, Richardo Oliveira. He picked us up in Porto and drove us to Pinhao, the town at the junction of the Duoro and Pinhao river. On the 2 hour drive Ricardo entertained us with a history of wine in Portugal. Sure, Portugal is famous for Port wines but they have many great wines that we rarely get to try in North America.
My favourite winery was Quinta da Foz, built at the end of the 18th century. Cristiano, the Director of Wine Tourism took us into the vineyards where the steeply terraced vineyards mean that the vines have to be tended by hand. It looks like back breaking work. In the winery there are beautiful tiles that tell the story of their production. I was amazed to learn that foot stomping the grapes is still the norm in the Duoro. We finished in the tasting room. Every wine was delicious but the Grande Reserva, a field blend from 100+ year old vines was a knockout. I have a couple of bottles in my cellar waiting for a cold winter night to bring some Portuguese sunshine into my life.
A visit to the Duoro wouldn’t be complete without spending some time on the river where you can really appreciate how steep the terraces are. We enjoyed it immensely and our captain, Bruno served us a tasty treat of toasts with cheese and pumpkin, walnut jam from his mother’s farm. The Portuguese are warm and welcoming and somehow keep things very local and personal. I could definitely spend more time in this fascinating wine district.
There are said to be over 1,000 bacalhau recipes in Portugal. Bacalhau, or salt cod is near and dear to my Newfoundland heart. I tried it 7 different ways in my first few days in Porto, each one a delight taking me back to childhood Friday fish dinners.
We never had a bad meal but the fresh grilled fish and potatoes, with olive oil, bread and wine are reliably delicious and reasonable priced.
Our best meal was at Volta & Meia in Figueira da Foz http://voltaemeia.com/. Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato combines clams, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, white wine and cilantro. Without doubt, the best clams I’ve ever eaten and we loved the restaurant. There were 7 of us for dinner and every dish was great. They are part of the Happy Café Network supporting Action for Happiness, a movement creating and promoting happiness and wellbeing in their communities. Great food, a great wine selection with atmosphere and service that makes you want to linger. I give it a big 5 Yums Up.
My final big food experience was the discovery of Serra da Estrela Cheese. A cloth bound, sheep milk cheese, it has a soft gooey paste when young and it won our hearts. We just couldn’t get enough of it. We liked how it was served with a circle carved from the top to make a lid that could be used if you didn’t finish it, an unlikely occurrence.