Portuguese fast food


Portuguese cuisine is definitely slow food. You have to wait for the fish to grill, the clams to open, the meat to roast, or the shrimp to cook. If you’re in a hurry, Portuguese cafés offer a wide array of finger foods to eat on the go: tasty codfish cakes (bolos de bacalhau), delicious small pies (empadas), crunchy paninis (tostas mistas), and much more.

But, if you’re in need of something quick and more substantial, try a Portuguese hamburger chain called H3. They cook to order delicious hamburgers made with great ingredients. Start with the wonderful “croquetes de alheira” as a appetizer. Then, choose one of the many burger configurations, with toppings ranging from mushrooms to foie gras. You’ll see why this fast-food chain is growing so fast.

Click here for the H3 website (choose “onde” to see a list of locations). 


Mental vacations


When things are not going our way, we take a mental vacation and recall a day at the beach. It’s late afternoon and the sun is getting ready for an ocean dive. The temperature is perfect; a slight breeze caresses our skin. Sometimes, we daydream about the Algarve, where the air is perfumed by almond flowers. Other times, we imagine the west coast of Portugal, where the wind smells of pine and seaweed. All we hear is the chatter of the waves. All we feel is the serenity of the moment.

Pedro Rebelo is a Portuguese composer, sound artist and performer, working primarily in chamber music, improvisation and installation with new technologies. You can learn more about his wonderfully original work by clicking here.

Kissing in Portugal


Historians trace the costume of kissing on the cheeks to the French Revolution when it was used to show solidarity. Since then, the French made greeting into an art form. Depending on location and circumstance, they might kiss twice, thrice, four times, or not at all.

The Portuguese are quite formal, but greeting norms are relatively simple. Men greet each other by shaking hands. Women greet man or other women with two kisses, the first on the right cheek and the second on the left.

There is, however, one tricky exception: in Lisbon close friends kiss only once, on the right cheek. So, as you start making friends in Portugal, you might go through a period of hesitation: should I greet them with one or two kisses? It’s a price well worth paying for the joy of having Portuguese friends.

Drawing (ink on paper, 2013) by Ana Duarte. Check out her clothes collection here.

Street art in Lisbon

Maria Keil
Maria Keil’s Fisherman, Maria Rebelo, digital print image, 2012.

The most beautiful tiles in Lisbon are not in majestic palaces or soaring cathedrals. They decorate humble subway tunnels and ordinary streets like Infante Santo.

Keil do Amaral, the architect who designed the subway in the late 1950s, was dismayed that there were no funds budgeted to cover the bleak cement walls. His wife, the painter Maria Keil, suggested the use of inexpensive tiles and offered to design them for free.

Keil filled the subway with elegant modernist tiles that brought the art of tile making into the 20th century. She continued, throughout her life, to dress the walls of the city with tiles that make Lisbon feel young and pretty. If you’re visiting the capital, here’s a challenge for you: how many of Maria Keil murals can you find?

Portuguese lesson: how to order an espresso

Uma bica, Rui Barreiros Duarte, ink on paper, 2012.

You can order an espresso by saying:  “Um espresso, por favor. “ (oom espresso poer faevoer). “Um” means “one,” and “por favor” means “please.” This method works fine, but the Portuguese don’t use the word espresso. So, here’s how to order coffee like a local.

In Lisbon, an espresso is called a “bica” (pronounced beeca), so the right thing to say is: “Uma bica por favor” (ooma beeca poer faevoer). In case you’re wondering, “bica” means spout, so the name probably comes from the spout that channels the coffee into the cup.

Now that we covered the basics, let’s discuss some advanced topics. There are two types of “bica.” The “bica curta” (beeca coorta) is a short espresso, sometimes so short that you can barely taste any coffee. A “bica cheia” (beeca sheia) is a long espresso. Your choice of bica reveals a lot about your personality. People who like the “bica curta” are usually intense, while those who enjoy the “bica cheia” tend to be more relaxed.

In Oporto they call an espresso a “cimbalino” (ceenbaleeno) in homage to La Cimbali, a popular Italian brand of espresso machines. Foreigners who know this arcane fact are often honored with a state banquet and given the keys to the city.

Where can you find a list of the best coffee shops in Portugal?  There’s no such list. With more than three centuries of experience brewing coffee, Portugal has as many great coffee shops as beautiful beaches.