Simple Is Best

March 19, 2008 at 9:13 am 19 comments

Lunch at Chapito

I think when people travel, they tend to get more attuned to their senses.  Or at least I do.  It makes sense that turning off the autopilot routine while in a foreign place would turn up the volume on your ears, eyes, and nose.  For me though, the most noticeable sensual enhancement comes to my taste buds.   Everything tastes better when I’m traveling.  Walking and hiking around all day to work up a monstrous appetite certainly accentuates the enjoyment of a tasty dinner. 

Breakfast at Quinta de Boa Viagem

Now, with my disinterest in carnivorous dishes, some might think there would be slim pickings for me in Portugal, land of fish and meat.  I didn’t find that to be the case at all.  Thanks to my Lonely Planet Guidebook and the blog, In Love with Lisbon, I had several fine dining experiences, the two most notable being a long leisurely lunch at quirky Chapito in Lisbon and a much-needed peaceful dinner at sexy Malagueta Afrodisiaca in Leiria.  I had the best (both looks and taste) cocktail ever at Malagueta Afrodisiaca – it was freshly squeezed bright green kiwi juice, little seeds and all, mixed with some high quality gin.  I only wish I’d had the foresight to bring my camera to dinner.  

box of pastries box of pastries almost gone!

Wonderful vegetarian meals eaten at hidden gems aside, I really took the most delight in sampling local food that I bought at markets or small shops.  One of my favorite finds was the most delicate-tasting creamy honey gathered from wild beehives in the Tras-os-Montes region.  I now slowly nibble one small teaspoon of it a day, never mixing it with anything else for the sake of retaining its purity…

Portuguese honey

Then there were the pastries and the cheeses.  Oh gosh, how can I begin to describe how much I enjoyed some of each of these?  Let’s begin by saying I ate several pastries a day and still managed to loose 10 pounds over the course of the trip.  Illogical, I know, but true.  I also ate ridiculous amounts of cheese too.  I couldn’t help myself.  There was fresh local cheese and pastries everywhere!  Instead of dragging you into all the details about each and every one, the smattering of pictures in this post should serve to whet your appetite.   If not, go here to see the full collection of my pictures from Portugal.

Best pastry EVER!  

I will go into detail about my favorite pastry and my favorite cheese.  First is the pastry, pictured above.  I don’t know what it was called since I bought it from a very busy stand at the Mercado do Bolhao in Porto and there was only time to shove my 10 cents across the counter and grab the pastry and run to escape the press of bodies desperate to do the same.  My good friend, Gintoino, who’s a native of Portugal, tells me it looks like it is a type of “folhado” made with a special traditional flaky pastry.  All I know what it was heaven, and I want more!!  Gintoino has been kind enough to provide the pastry base recipe and I’ll see what I can do to duplicate this wondrous slice.  Oh, you want to know what it tasted like?  Why, of course you do!  The flaky, slightly sweet pastry base was topped with a very creamy coconut custard and, while it didn’t look like it, the whole thing was covered in crunchy toasted coconut slivers that contrasted perfectly with the creaminess of the custard.  It was like coconut cream pie x10.   I need a minute…..

Famous pastry shop in LisbonPastry de Belem
Pastry in LisbonSweet breads in Lisbon shop window

Okay, so, I’ve regained my composure enough to move on to my best Portuguese cheese experience.  Ironically, I didn’t like this particular cheese, a hard “cured” goat cheese, the first time I had it.  I’d used it in a pasta dish one evening at the cottage and found it rather dull, sort of a weak cousin to feta.  The next day I needed a quick lunch and thought I’d try the cheese in a sandwich instead, using one of the airy rolls I’d gotten from a bakery stall at the Barcelos market.  I also had a plum on hand, ripe but still firm, and thought slices of it might offer a nice contrast to the salty hard quality of the cheese.  I wanted to toast the roll, but had not toaster, so decided to brush it with oil and grill it in the frying pan on the stove. 

hard goat cheese from Portugal

That got me thinking about how the cheese might be good for frying, something that very few cheeses can withstand without creating quite a mess.  But this cheese hadn’t melted in the slightest in the previous night’s hot pasta so I thought I’d take a chance.  I sliced it thin and put it in the hot skillet.  WOW.  All I can say is god bless the synapse in my brain that came up with this idea!  What a world of difference the frying made!  It got a beautiful nutty flavor, a crunchy golden crust and a soft gooey (but not melted) inside.  Sandwiched between the toasted roll halves that now carried a hint of olive flavor from the oil and resting next to the sweet firm slices of plum, this cheese took wings and carried me up to heaven. 

Fried cheese and plum sandwich

Sadly, I have no idea how to get more of this cheese here in the States.  Perhaps we can have a grand exchange once a year with Portuguese friends:  bags of our cranberries for rounds of their Bilores cheese?   In the meantime, you can use haloumi, a hard cheese from Cyprus carried by most Whole Foods Markets.  Thoughts of unusual foreign exchanges aside, this sandwich reinforced a little lesson I’d been learning all along my trip up the Portuguese coast: simple is best.  Their food isn’t fussy and it almost always takes in local ingredients and quickly transforms them into something tasty.  I can only hope I can replicate some of these wonderful culinary creations here at home. 

Now, who wants to help me master folhado dough? 

Slices of cheese with roll
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Entry filed under: Extra Credit, Taste of Travels. Tags: , , , , .

Dreams and Lemons Spring Into Action

19 Comments Add your own

  • 1. therealpotato  |  March 19, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I love that you’ve got ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ on the table. I just finished it– what a perfect book to be reading in that context!

    That cheese-plum sandwich looks gorgeous…!

    Reply
  • 2. Jennie  |  March 19, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    Good eye for detail, Sarah! :) Yes, it was the perfect context for such a wonderful book. And then, right after finishing Eat Pray Love, I swaped it for a copy of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” that was in the breakfast room library/book exhange at the estate. OMG, what an amazing book, again, especially because of reading it in that “suspended time” sense of a relaxing vacation in a strange place. If you haven’t read that one yet, be sure to soon!

    Thanks, the sandwich was as yummy as the photo is pretty. :)

    Reply
  • 3. therealpotato  |  March 19, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Ooh, I haven’t read it but you’re the second person to tell me I should. Sounds like I need to move it up on the list. Thanks for the rec!

    Reply
  • 4. gintoino  |  March 19, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Hi jennie! I’m so glad you went and grilled that cheese! Its favourite of mine, but always cooked (I don’t really like it “au naturel”, too salty and hard). I use it in soops and “açordas” (soops made with very simple ingredients like bread, always present, eggs, herbs, vegetables and in some cases fish or meat) and it’s my favourite part of the soop.

    Reply
  • 5. Lily  |  March 19, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Oh gosh this all sounds so divine and I’m starving! There’s a website http://www.portuguesefood.com who deliver to the states – maybe it’d be worth asking them whether they can get you the cheese? They do sell some Portuguese cheeses on there.

    Reply
  • 6. IN LOVE WITH LISBON » Straight From The Farm  |  March 19, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    [...] Straight From The Farm [...]

    Reply
  • 7. Melinda  |  March 19, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Wow, looks amazing. I discovered your blog while you were gone, and I’ve been salivating ever since!!

    Reply
  • 8. move to portugal  |  March 20, 2008 at 3:36 am

    Lovely post, lovely food. No wonder I want to move there! :)

    Reply
  • 9. Jennie  |  March 20, 2008 at 7:18 am

    Gintoino – I’m so glad I grilled the cheese too! :) I never thought to use it in soups, but that’s a very good idea…if only I had more cheese!! Maybe the link Lily posted will be useful for getting more. :)

    Lily – Thanks for the link! I’ll check into it; I hope they have this cheese!

    Melinda – So glad you discovered SFTF!! The fun is just beginning as we rev up for another growing season, which means more ideas for fresh food. :) Come back often!

    Move to Portugal – Oh gosh, I am SO jealous of you and your family! What a dream!! Good luck making it all work so you can go live in a land I found stunningly beautiful! :) Eat some cheese and pastry for me when you get there!

    Reply
  • 10. SeePortugal.Org  |  March 20, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Great post, and a wonderful network between bloggers.

    Anyone else interested in vegetarian food in Lisbon, I would suggest Os Tibetanos,
    Rua do Salitre, 117.

    Also, there is a organic food market every Saturday morning in Principal Real, the best park in Lisbon in my opinion.

    Reply
  • 11. Jennie  |  March 20, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Great suggestions! I wanted badly to go to Os Tibetanos but it my guidebook said it was closed on weekends so I didn’t make it there. I wish I’d known about the organic food market on Saturdays though. Very cool! :)

    Reply
  • 12. Christine  |  March 23, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    I am patiently awaiting “Eat, Pray, Love” which has been on request from the library for almost a month! I’m looking forward to it quite a bit.

    I would love to make some “folhado” with you but only if we can drink kiwi cocktails ;) have you tried making them at home? Do you think the kiwi was just pureed in a blender? (I’m thinking so since the seeds weren’t strained out). Anything else in there besides gin and kiwi “juice”? So many questions…

    Reply
  • 13. Jennie  |  March 24, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Christine – Oh dear, I wish I had known you wanted Eat Pray Love (I figured you’d already read it) as I would have swap one of my other books at the cottage exchange and brought it back instead for you to have. Oh well. Yes, please come help make folhada! I could use your baker’s good sense. And of course we’d have kiwi cocktails. I do believe they must have just pureed the whole fruit in the blender, although, the seeds were whole, not broken up. But the juice was very thick so a puree makes sense. There was just gin and juice and it was heaven! :)

    Reply
  • 14. My First Act As Bee Keeper « Straight from the Farm  |  May 16, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    [...] or six combs.  And what wonderfully sweet and floral honey it is!  Some of the best I’ve had, aside from that which I got in northern Portugal this past spring.  Besides just licking it off my fingers, I’m debating what to do with it to really showcase its [...]

    Reply
  • 15. Sexy Cenouras « Straight from the Farm  |  September 8, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    [...] If you weren’t around for my raving about Portugal, I must insist you click here and here and here to read about this amazing country and its [...]

    Reply
  • 16. Ana  |  September 11, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Hi there!!

    I’m a portuguese young lady ;) eheh and I was wondering around TasteSpotting when I saw the title “Sexy Cenouras” lolol of course I had to check your blog out!! I’m soooooo happy you have discovered our lovely country and had the opportunity to learn a little bit about our culture, history, traditions, and particularly our food! Nhamiiii nhammiii I really have to say that when I travel abroad that’s the thing I miss the most… our food!!! I’m a vegetarian too… here we have “chouriço” and “alheira” made up of soy bean and other spicies… if you are willing to try, I’d love to ship them for you! I hope you come and visit soon, and bring your friends and family!! Portugal is not that known, but portuguese people are very proud of their country!! I just hope you all come and visit and enjoy!! eheh By the way, that pastry you have a picture of, is named “Bispo”, in english “Bishop” :)

    Reply
  • 17. Ana  |  September 11, 2008 at 11:17 am

    By the way, I forgot to mention, I live in the North of Portugal, Near Barcelos, in a small city called “Póvoa de Varzim”, I don’t know if you had the chance to visit… it’s by the sea, there’s a windy but beautiful beach! ;) the pastry called “Bispo” it’s that one with the coconut!! eheh it’s one of my favorite too and you can easily find it anywhere, at least here in Northern Portugal… that’s because, although Portugal is rather small we do have an extremely diversified culture and some of the things we find in the North or in Trás-os-Montes, or in Algarve aren’t so available everywhere else! :)

    Reply
  • 18. Jennie  |  September 13, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Wow, Ana, thanks so much for your lovely comments! I’m so glad you approve of my posts on your amazing country. Thank you for sharing all the information and for giving me the name of the pastry! I do realize there are a lot of different dishes and cultures between the regions of Portugal so am glad someone (you) from the north was able to identify the pastry. I did not visit your small town but do remember seeing it on the signs on the roads I was driving. It’s beautiful in the north and I hope to visit again soon! :) I’d love to try the “chouriço” and “alheira”! Email me at straightfromthefarm (at) gmail (dot) com if you really don’t mind shipping them over here. :)

    Reply
  • 19. "additional info"  |  October 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    “additional info”

    “[...]q I really love the way you discuss this kind of topic.;,`. o3[...]“

    Reply

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