Casa de Pasto was the designation given to humble restaurants that served comfort food to country folks, making them feel at home when they visited the city. So, it was with low expectations that we walked up the stairs of a Lisbon restaurant called Casa de Pasto. We were greeted by an exuberant decoration that combines ceramics and artifacts sold in country fairs with a deft sense of design.
The food was a revelation. First, a gazpacho so intense that it could make a Spaniard blush with pride. Then, the freshest sea bass, perfectly grilled, the kind of delight that you can only enjoy in Portugal. Next, we shared a grilled veal T-bone steak, so large and succulent that it would bring tears to the eyes of a Florentine. The meal’s ending was a chocolate mousse so perfect it could convince a Belgian to move to Lisbon.
Casa de Pasto is a restaurant with wonderful food that makes everyone feel at home.
Casa de Pasto us located at Rua de S. Paulo 20, Lisboa, tel 963 739 979. Click here for their website.
More than a century ago, a baker from Vila Real was given four secret recipes from the local Santa Clara convent. The pastries she made with these recipes were so extraordinary that she decided to turn her bakery into a pastry store.
Today, her great grandchildren continue to use the same prized recipes at Casa Lapão, a pastry store in Vila Real. Their most popular pastry is called “Crista de Galo,” which means rooster comb. We recommend that you try them with your eyes closed so you can better appreciate the heavenly combination of the flaky dough with the egg and almond filling.
If you’re near Vila Real, a stop at Casa Lapão can turn an ordinary day into a memorable one.
Casa Lapão is located at Rua da Misericórdia 53/55, Vila Real, tel 259 324 146, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for their website.
If words could describe how great it is to stay at the Caniçadas pousada in Gerês, you would not need to drive up the Gerês mountain to find this hotel ensconced in the woods, overlooking the Cávado river. But even poets would have trouble putting into words the feeling of starting the day sitting in the hotel’s veranda, our eyes feasting on the spectacular vistas.
The origins of the hotel go back to 1951, when temporary accommodations were built for a group of engineers working on a dam on the Cávado river. Naturally, the engineers chose a location with an amazing view. In 1968, the building was converted into a hotel and an annex was built to house the chauffeurs of the wealthy patrons who came to Gerês to recharge their energies.
The staff of the pousada gave us wonderful recommendations for what to do in Gerês: trails to hike, rivers to swim, horses to ride, traditional villages to visit, and culinary specialties to try.
We greatly enjoyed these activities, but we also loved returning to the pousada at the end of the day to sit in the veranda and watch the sun bid farewell to the Gerês mountain.
Life is like a train trip. We eagerly anticipate getting to the next station but, once we’re there, we can’t wait to move on.
Much of life is a blur, like the views from a moving train. We remember the arrivals and departures of those we love. And we remember some of the train stops, when the pace of life slows down.
For us, many of these leisure moments are spent on a Portuguese beach. We recall the beauty of the seaside, the wonderful weather, the delicious food and, most of all, those who shared these happy moments with us.
This year we visited Terceira, an island in Azores. After Madeira and the Canary islands, Azores was the third group of islands discovered by Portuguese navigators. Initially, the Portuguese called the whole archipelago Terceiras (the Portuguese word for thirds), but later they renamed it Azores and reserved the name Terceira for the largest island.
Terceira is a perfect destination for a relaxing vacation. There are many beaches to enjoy and hiking trails to explore. Restaurants serve great food for modest prices. And the traditional architecture makes us feel as if we are in a time gone by, when life was simpler and time was not a luxury.
Vitorino Nemésio, a great poet from Terceira, wrote that here you are “at the very bosom and infinitude of the sea, like the medusas and the fish.”
The green valleys of Terceira compete with the beauty of the sea. For Nemésio, this competition is futile because “The islands are ephemeral and dispensable. Only the sea is eternal and essential.”
Tascas are modest, inexpensive restaurants that offer a small, seasonal menu. They are often family affairs; the parents cook and the kids wait the tables. The quality of tascas is highly variable, some are good, a few are great, many are just passable.
When tascas become popular, they often have trouble coping with success, and their quality suffers. That is why people who find a great tasca usually like to keep it secret.
We’ll break with these social norms and tell you the name of our favorite tasca in Lisbon: Das Flores in Rua das Flores. This establishment is not to be confused with the more posh (and also very good) Taverna da Rua das Flores located on the same street.
You could write a dissertation about the eating habits of Lisbon residents by studying Das Flores’ menu. It includes items like poached grouper, grilled sole, codfish cakes with tomato rice, pork and clams Alentejo, and grilled lamb chops. All perfectly prepared with pristine ingredients. Many items on the menu cost less than 10 euros, which is why the small dining room is always crowded. The restaurant caters to its regular customers, so it can be difficult to get a table.
Das Flores is not a place for a romantic date. But it is a great choice if you want to experience traditional Portuguese food on a budget. Just don’t tell anyone else, ok?
Das Flores is located on Rua das Flores 76, Lisbon, tel. 21 342 8828. If you do go to Das Flores on a date, skip dessert and go to Landeau on the same street for chocolate cake. It will make the whole experience more glamorous.