Our favorite restaurant in the Sintra region is not in Sintra. It is in a nearby beach called Azenhas do Mar. If you’re visiting Sintra it is worth traveling the 12 km to restaurant Adega das Azenhas.
Located in an old wine cellar, Adega serves Portuguese fare without a trace of foreign influence. Everything on the menu is simply great: fried codfish, hake fillets, codfish cakes, black pork chops, fried cuttlefish, grilled fish eggs. Some of the most delicious dishes have untranslatable Portuguese names: pasteis de massa tenra, rissois de leitão, cozido à Portuguesa.
If you go to Azenhas do Mar at night you’ll enjoy a great dinner. If you go during the day, you’ll have the added bonus of seeing the gorgeous landscape of the Colares region.
Colares is the plural of colar, a word that means necklace. It is a fitting word to describe this region that surrounds Sintra with beautiful views and delicious food.
Adega das Azenhas is located on the main road that crosses Azenhas do Mar (Avenida Comissão de Melhoramentos, 5), tel 21-928-1357.
One of the most beautiful monuments in Lisbon is a ruin. The Carmo convent, founded in 1389, was destroyed by the earthquake that stroke Lisbon on November 1, 1755. The convent’s gothic arches were left reaching towards the sky, asking questions for which we have no answers.
Today, Carmo is a place of peace and tranquility. For we know that from the ashes of the old city, a new Lisbon was reborn.
The Carmo convent is located in the homonymous Largo do Carmo in Lisbon.
In 1901, the Portuguese royal family embarked on a visit to the island of Madeira and Azores. The event was a great honor for the local populations but presented them with a difficult problem: how do you choose a gift for monarchs who have everything?
The Azores Terceira island offered queen Dona Amélia a new cake made with local ingredients: corn flower, raisins, sugar cane molasses, and cinnamon. The queen enjoyed it so much that the new creation became known as the Dona Amélia cake.
More than a century later, the cake continues to be popular in the Terceira island and for a good reason. We loved the Donas Amélias we tried at O Forno, a great pastry store in downtown Angra do Heroism.
The ability of royalty to inspire the delicious Donas Amélias makes us wonder whether we should restore the monarchy.
O Forno is located on Rua São João in Angra do Heroismo, Terceira, Azores, tel. 295 213 729.
It can be hard to visit monuments with little kids, so it is always a good idea to engage them in a game. If you visit Alcobaça, a beautiful abbey in the middle of Portugal, you can ask your kids to go on a treasure hunt. They can look for stones with carved initials and photograph them. This game can turn an otherwise boring visit into a memorable one.
Masons often carved their personal marks on stones placed in the parts of the cathedral where they worked. They did it to show pride in their work but also to claim the work as theirs so they could get paid.
Centuries later, these signatures remind us of the humble people whose hard work created a legacy of enduring beauty.
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.
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.