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Tag Archives: Portugal

Aguardente Bagaçeira: Portugal’s Seriously Strong Wine Spirit

After a fantastic picnic among friends, we gathered at an outdoor café to finish the afternoon with a stiff drink called bagaço. The boys ordered two very full snifters of a crystal clear beverage that I had never heard of, nor did I have to chance to ask just how potent it was before it was passed around to “enjoy” a healthy swig. Erring on the side of caution, I took a tiny sip, but that’s all it took before my eyes popped wide open, and my face clenched and shuddered in pain. I rapidly slammed my fist on the table until the wave of fire passed; and when I came back from the fifth dimension of hell, all that was […]

A Portuguese Twist on Thanksgiving Leftovers

Portugal’s ultimate leftovers food has to be “Açorda” (pronounced ah-soar-duh). Growing up, if my mother had leftover “bacalhau,” the next day, there was “Acorda de Bacalhau.” If she had leftover shrimp, then it was “Açorda de Camarao.” If she had too much stale bread lying around, then it was plain old bread “Açorda.” What is Açorda? Think bread pudding, but savory not sweet, with a porridge-like consistency. It was originally a rural, peasant dish; the most famous comes from the southern region of Portugal, the Alentejo. The traditional “Açorda Alentejana” isn’t as thick as the one my mother makes. The Alentejo version has a great deal more broth and is traditionally finished with poached eggs and lots of fresh cilantro. […]

Tasca A Badalhoca: The Man Cave of Porto

The afternoon beamed a hazy yellow light upon the street, casting soft shadows across brightly tiled buildings – the iconic trademark of Porto. After days of heavy rain and dark skies, a moment of sun was not only appreciated, but savored, and required an office outing into the light. “Where should we go?” I asked our team, readily expecting the family owned pizza shop just around the corner that has become our second home. Eyeing me with caution, Francisco smiled,” If you like great presunto (ham) sandwiches served by a woman with the mouth of a sailor, I know the perfect place.” “Will Mica’s ears burn off if we take him in the pram?” I ask. Nodding with confident assurance, […]

Cutting to the Bone: The cultural nuances of butchering meat

It’s 7:30 am, the mist is rolling off the breathtaking Umbrian countryside, and the sun is breaking through the leaves. I sip on my cappuccino and stare at the enormous carcass of a 400lb pig and wonder, how are we going to butcher this enormous beast? We’re staying at a beautiful country inn, just 5km from the border with Umbria, and our mission is to help Giugliano, our charismatic host, in the Spezzatura di Maiale, or as we call it, Butchering the Pig. Our group consists of 15 adults and 8 kids, none of us with butchering experience, but we all love food and everything that goes with it. So, here we all are, bright and early, now coming to […]

Alheira: The King of Portuguese Sausage

Alheira is a smoked Portuguese sausage, (pronounced “Al – iyai -rah”), that derives its name from the Portuguese word alho, meaning “garlic”. Different from its pork-dominated counterparts, Alheira is not only filled with poultry (chicken and turkey), but also game meat (duck, rabbit, venison, partridge, pheasant): creating a mouthwatering smokey, garlicky and earthy aroma. Now here comes the interesting part, hold tight! The original Alheira was a pork-free sausage that was invented by the Portuguese Jews during the Inquisition. When the practice of the Jewish faith was outlawed, the Jews, especially the large community in the northern region of Trás-os-Montes, were easily found as they lacked the traditional pork sausages that hung from the smokehouses. To disguise themselves as “New Christians”, they created their own sausage, made from […]

Portugal’s Unknown Treasures: Peneda Geres National Park

I adore nature. Call me a tree-hugger, but I’m the girl saving spiders, running barefoot through the mud or picking up random leaves to inspect whether they have a particular aroma. I guarantee evolution would have killed me a century ago, if left to own devices. Nature is my place of rest and relaxation. And if there’s ever an opportunity to don my backpack and hit the trails, I’m there! Especially if my trail partners happen to be tree-huggers of equal intensity. Fortunately, Ryan’s parents just happen to fall into this unique category. Not long after our wee Opaz was born, we took a much needed  trip to the Peneda Geres National Park (Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês) located along the northern […]

Taste Porto Food Tours: Bring your Appetite!

When we arrived to Porto, we knew we had a considerable amount to learn. Despite visiting this charming city for over a decade, our visits were typically part of conferences or press trips, and thus, focused on a certain set of restaurants, hotels and historical sites. Though it gives you a general sense of the city, it doesn’t give you an insider’s view of great places to visit. So how do you visit a city? The most common way is to jump in and explore on your own, to go rogue! Another option is to let the experts guide you on a few tours. When we sought out the second option, there wasn’t much on the table; especially when it […]

A Tale of Two Portuguese Regions: Douro & Serra da Estrela Are Calling Part II

Editor’s Note: In Part I, Sonia visited some of the Douro’s enchanting wine-producing villages, took in prehistoric art at the Coa Museum with wine glass in hand, savored the rustic flavors of the Beira Interior at O Lagar, and was nearly run over by a pickup truck packed with shouting, shirtless men in the historic village of Castelo Rodrigo. Her Douro e Estrela – In Tourism journey continues … and ends with a Portonic. The itinerary our group had been handed couldn’t have seemed more deceiving at that very moment. In its description of Castelo Rodrigo, it noted the ancient village’s tranquil streets. Perhaps on most days—but certainly not when we visited. The silence was disrupted by a band of shouting, shirtless men packed […]

Quinta do Vallado: Revisiting an Old Friend in the Douro Valley

Many moons ago, Ryan and I took our first trip to Portugal. The year was 2003, and our objective was to celebrate our marriage among the vines, the winding city streets and with any luck, to create a memory that would become the foundation of our relationship. Three weeks of exploration, and diving into the unknown with only 2 backpacks and no cellphone, led to an incredible adventure. The trip took us as far as south as the Alentejo, as far north as the Minho; and although there were several places that left a lifelong impression on me, it was the Douro that held center stage on this trip. For those of you who haven’t visited Portugal, it’s important to note […]

A Tale of Two Portuguese Regions: Douro and Serra da Estrela Are Calling

Editor’s Note: Invited by the Douro e Estrela – In Tourism  project, our Catavino contributor Sonia Nolasco spent five days in June traveling through the Douro Valley and the Serra da Estrela region’s Beira Interior. Sonia gorged at countless gastronomical feasts, imbibed great quantities of wine, and checked out hunky, shirtless Portuguese men on her trip—all for the sake of bringing you this two-part report. Enjoy! Imagine traveling about an hour through pitch black darkness, going to sleep not quite sure where you are at the moment—only to find yourself a few hours later waking up to the beauty in the picture above. That’s not likely how I would’ve planned it, but in the end that’s part of what made the […]