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A Belem Lunch with a Portuguese White Wine

Andrea SmithEditor’s Note: Andrea Smith is one of our newest additions to the Catavino crew. A 25 year old budding wine enthusiast, chef and linguist, Andrea is no stranger to seeking out great food and wine combinations. Having grown up in Northern Virginia, 10 minutes outside of the capital Washington, DC and in a highly diverse international setting, she was taught the basics of food and wine appreciation from her Italian background, where she inherited a deep love for culinary exploration. Now, living in Campo de Ourique, Lisbon, she will draw upon her CIA and sommelier studies, as well as her intimate knowledge of the Portuguese culture to bring us her favorite Portuguese food and wine combinations. We’d like to warmly welcome Andrea and hope that you will provide her with feedback as to what Portuguese cuisine you would like Andrea to seek out.

It’s another beautiful weekend in Lisbon, and I’m off to lunch to with my boyfriend – something I have been looking forward to all week. In a wealthy, historical part of the city called, Belem, near the outer rim of the city and down by the river lies Cais de Belem. Cais de Belem is an outdoor restaurant with a splendid view of the park, which serves not only some wonderful Portuguese wines, but also my favorite grilled fish – Dourada Grelhada.

What makes this area so special is the amount of restaurants lining the streets grilling freshly caught fish. This is Portuguese for grilled Dourade or Gilthead Bream, a light, white fish found on almost every menu. The fish is simply grilled whole, rubbed with coarse sea salt  and usually served with melted butter, boiled potatoes, vegetables or salad. Now, many people might be turned off by seeing an entire fish on their plate, but in my opinion, whole fresh fish tend to be juicier and more flavorful, and to cover them in any sauce would be a sin! Dourada’s flavor is no different – very clean with fresh ocean flavors given from the fish bones when it’s cooked whole.

As for my wine, there’s nothing like a basic white wine made from native Portuguese grapes to compliment the light, fresh flavors of the fish. Jose Maria da Fonseca, a very well known producer in Portugal, bottles some great everyday wines. His BSE white is a tasty pairing to my Dourada. Made from a native blend of Fernão Pires, Arinto and Antão Vaz grapes grown in the Setúbal Peninsula (only 40 minutes from Lisbon), the BSE completes my favorite meal of tasty, local fresh fish and excellent wine! The BSE has the color of sunshine and a light floral and tropical fruit aroma that mimics its soft palate with balanced acidity. As I lift the glass the sun enhances the BSE’s color and each sip makes every bite of my Dourada taste like heaven.

Another great white wine accompaniment for the summer months is a Portuguese favorite. Made mostly from the Alvarinho grape (Albariño in Spanish), Vinho Verde is a very light wine and sparkling wine alternative because it’s natural, refreshing effervescence. This is a perfect summer cool-down and goes really well as an aperitif for all the little entradas (appetizer plates) that we enjoyed at our lunch before the Dourada. We nibbled on some soft, creamy Portuguese cheese, presunto (similar to prosciutto), marinated olives, and my favorite at this restaurant, marinated roasted red peppers with garlic and mushrooms. My pick for a producer of an inexpensive but high-quality Vinho Verde is Quinta da Aveleda, who happens to also make the internationally known Vinho Verde brand, Casal Garcia. However, unlike Casal Garcia, Quinta da Aveleda is a single estate Vinho Verde with the best grapes selected from the Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura varieties.

After feasting on my grilled Dourada, my boyfriend patiently waits as I linger over my last glass of the BSE 2007, continuing to pick at the cheese and the olives left from the entradas (main meal) while the server tries to clear the plates for the third time. As we walk out of the park, I give him a big fat thank you kiss for the lovely lunch and, as usual, he makes a face from my “lovely’ garlic and wine breath that will plague him the rest of the afternoon. What can I say; I have to savor all these flavors for as long as I can to make it to the next weekend!

Cheers and Happy Lunching,

Andrea

Restaurante Cais de Belém
Lisboa – Santa Maria de Belém
R Vieira Portuense 64, Lisboa
1300-571 LISBOA
+351 213 621 537

  • Sebastian Marcet

    Your descriptions of the vino verde and other wines make my mouth water! So vivid and beautiful. I think I'll go get some dourada and grill it up this afternoon…

  • Bill

    Welcome aboard! Without trying to stereotype, I would say that your comment about "people being turned off" by a whole fish can be applied readily to Americans. In general Europeans are more open to this kind of presentation, and it isn't limited to whole fish. We Americans (stereotypically) don't want to be reminded that the protein on our plates was once a living, breathing being. Personally, I believe that presenting the whole fish, or suckling pig, etc., etc., actually honors the being we are consuming, in addition to the other benefits you mention. We are acknowledging it's existance. Maybe that's weird, but that's how I feel about it.

  • Andrzej

    BSE may sound a bit weird, as it is usually connected with mad cow's disease, but in this case it is simply Branco Seco Especial, which means White Dry Special, so one can drink it quite safely!

  • Andrea Smith

    Hahaha I didn't even realize that's what BSE stood for! I actually never thought to find out, guess I was enjoying the wine so much :p Didn't know also that the term BSE is connected with mad cow disease ugh! I'll stick with my BSE in wine :)

  • noble pig

    What a beautiful site this! I adore Vinho Verde and this post brought back so many memories of times in Lisbon! Thank you.

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  • Carla

    Quinta da Aveleda and Casal Garcia are very far from the best vinho verde we have in Portugal (those are the commercial ones.. I consider them lousy vinho verde (and they´re not Alvarinho). You should try “Muralhas de Monção” (very good price/quality), Deu la Deu, Palácio da Brejoeira (considered the best of all), etc. You should go to the North of Portugal. In the North, even the Alvarinho house wine is good, which doesn´t happen in the rest of the country.

  • http://www.catavino.net Ryan Opaz

    I wouldn’t call them lousy. Aveleda does use Alvarinho. Muralhas is a favorite and Brejoeira, along with Afros and the now defunct Covela(very sad about this)

    thanks for the comment