One of my favorite things to do is plan for a new trip. Even if it turns out we don’t take it! When a NJ friend asked me about Portugal, it got me to thinking that maybe we need to go there too! So I downloaded a bunch of podcasts: Rick Steves, Amateur Traveler, Indie Travel, and Marta on the Move. Then I pulled out my DK, Fodors and Rick Steves guide books, checked out Trip Advisor, and most importantly, I started asking around. High on my list of questions was “what is delicious to eat and drink there?” and “what are some things that you must try while in Portugal?”.
If you look at a map, it will come as no surprise that seafood is THE thing to eat in Portugal. At least in the towns near the Atlantic ocean. Further inland, I think ham and pork become more popular. But I am focusing on visiting the coastal towns of Lisbon (south) and Porto (north). I hear lots and lots of talk about cod (bacalhau when dried and salted). Every source I have says it can be cooked in 365 variations. OK, so they eat cod virtually every day of the year. That is a lot of cod! So we understand that cod is a big, big thing there. Also sardines. Hmmmmm…. I might need a little liquid fortification to try those.
Chorizo, of course is very good in Portugal, as is the bread. Cataplana is a fish stew that is supposed to be akin to Boulliabaise. That sounds fantastic to me! Arroz de mariscos is a variation on this with rice. You will also find some good ham and pork, similar to Spain. Carne de porco a Alentejana is a combination of pork and clams, and supposed to be very good.
As far as drinks go, the one I have tried here in the US and really enjoy is Vinho Verde. This translates as “green wine”. Named for young grapes, this wine is typically served in summer months. It can be made with either red or white grapes, but typically it is white. Usually, it is a bit bubbly. Very nice.
Clearly, you will find Port wine in Portugal. This has never been my thing, but reserve is supposed to be the best. If I get to Portugal, I will definitely try it. Mardiera wine is made in the Madiera islands of Portugal. It is a fortified wine, and whenever I have seen it here, it was sweet. There is a wine growing region in the Duoro valley. This is just east of Porto and where you can find wineries. Visiting these vineyards in the valley of the river Duoro is very popular with tourists, and looks to me like a nice day trip. There are also river cruises along the Duoro river which are gaining in popularity.
For sweets, there is a town very near Lisbon called Belem. In this town you will find the VERY famous pastry called Pastel de Nata, it is an egg tart pastry and people LOVE this stuff! The most famous place to get it is Pasteis de Belem. This is where everyone goes, and when I finally get to Lisbon, it is where I will go, too!
Lastly, there is a thing I hear about called sipping chocolate . I have heard it described as akin to drinking a chocolate bar. People seem to go nuts for it, so it might be on the “things we need to try” list!
As they say in Portugal, Saude! (cheers!)
More to come about sightseeing in and around Lisbon and Porto!