Heavenly delights

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During the cold months of the year, banquets in heaven include slices of a white soft cheese served with pumpkin jam, toasted almonds, and a whiff of cinnamon. It has a silky texture and a smooth, milky taste, just what you’d  expect from heavenly food.

“What do you call this celestial cheese?,” newcomers ask the angels. “Requeijão” they answer. “It is made with sheep and goat milk by shepherds who live nearby, in Portugal’s Estrela mountain. Requeijão is great all year round. But it is exceptional in the Fall and Winter, when we always include it on our menus.”

One of the surprises of heaven is that some of its delights come from earth.

The octopus capital

St. Luzia (Polvo) Composit

The best octopus in Portugal comes from Santa Luzia, a small village near Tavira in the Algarve. The locals proudly call it octopus capital.

The shores of Santa Luzia are full of small shrimp that attract the octopi. Old-time fishermen lay clay pots called “alcatruz” in the water. The octopi cuddle in these pots to sleep and get caught when the pots are removed from the water.

Younger fishermen don’t like to wait for the mollusks to fall asleep, so they prefer to use a “covo,” a plastic trap with a sardine inside.

Old timers swear that the octopus caught with the alcatruz tastes much better than the one caught with the covo. But young and old agree that Casa do Polvo is a great place to eat octopus. There are many preparations to choose from, including carpaccio, stewed, fried, and roasted. Our favorite is “polvo panado,” octopus combined with egg and bread crumbs and then fried. No matter which preparation you choose, the octopus is tender and delicious.

If you’re traveling in the Algarve, it is a great idea to include Santa Luzia on your itinerary. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful meal and earn the right to brag that you’ve visited the octopus capital.

Casa do Polvo is on Avenida Eng. Duarte Pacheco, N. 8, Santa Luzia, Tavira. Tel. 281-328-527. In the Summer reservations are a must.

Winter gloves

Luvaria

The queen of England loves to wear them and with good reason. Gloves protect our hands from the elements, giving them the feeling of being on a perpetual Summer vacation.

The best place to buy gloves is a small store in downtown Lisbon called Luvaria Ulisses. It has, since 1925, offered a large selection of gloves, so we can always find a pair that is perfect for us. Every time we leave the store, wearing new, elegant gloves we find Winter more appealing.

Luvaria Ulisses is located on Rua do Carmo, 87-A, tel. 213420295, email: info@luvariaulisses.com.

The most intimate restaurant in Lisbon

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While walking in Mouraria, the neighborhood near St. Jorge’s castle, a biologist and a chef saw an empty bakery. They started dreaming about turning this place into a small restaurant where they would serve great food to a few lucky guests. Their dream is now a restaurant called Leopold. It serves wonderfully refined fare that is creative but grounded on the ingredients and traditions of Portuguese cuisine.

Our meal started with a carrot that was so delicious that it made all other carrots feel inadequate. At first sight, it looked like there was soil on the plate. The soil turned out to be grounded carob, one of the many ingredients that complemented and accentuated the taste of the carrot.

Many other preparations followed: eggs and mushrooms, tuna, codfish with cornbread, beef from Azores, banana cream with cheese from the island of St. Jorge, meringue with a cream made from beans. All the plates looked beautiful; all the dishes had many nuances to be savored.

Leopold is the perfect place to start a love affair, rekindle an old flame, or simply have a great meal.

Leopold is located in Rua de São Cristovão, 27, tel. 21-886-1697.

Wine lessons

Adega Mãe Composit

If you’d like to learn more about wine, we have the perfect plan. Adega Mãe, a new winery in the Lisbon region, organizes one-day courses on wine appreciation that are seriously fun.

The morning is devoted to the theoretical aspects of wine making and wine tasting. After a coffee break, the practice begins. Guided by an experienced enologist, you taste Portuguese wines made with different varietals and compare them with foreign wines.

Once your palate is trained, lunch is served in the beautiful dining room that overlooks the vineyards. Wines produced with grapes from these vineyards are carefully matched with each different dish.

After lunch, there is opportunity to ask more questions and taste more wine. Don’t leave before trying Adega Mãe’s elegant Alvarinho white wine!

Adega Mãe is located near the town of Torres Vedras. Click here for their website. To ask about their wine appreciation courses email enoturismo@adegamae.pt

Diamond glasses

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If you’re looking for a souvenir from Portugal that will remind you of your vacation, consider getting a set of Bicos, the beautiful water glasses sold by Vista Alegre.

Their diamond-shaped pattern was first produced in a glass factory in Marinha Grande in 1901. More than a century later, these glasses are still in fashion because, when you use them, they brighten your day.

Click here to see the Vista Alegre website.