We fell in love with Comida Independente at first sight. It is a new gourmet grocery store in Lisbon that has a selection of food and wines curated by its owner, Rita Santos. The shelfs of the elegant shop are filled with the best of Portugal: wines, olive oil, sausages, canned fish, salt, herbs, spices and much, much more. The store’s fitting motto is “great products from small producers.”
There are regular tastings of wines and foods that turn into exuberant gourmet parties. When we visited, Mário Sérgio from Quinta das Bageiras had everybody under the spell of his wonderful Bairrada wines. Lugrade, a famed producer of codfish, had sent their own chef to prepare tantalizing codfish cakes and other delights.
Rita hired two great collaborators: Inês Ruivo and Olavo Rosa, who graciously posed for us behind the store counter. Inês is an enologist who advises custumers on wines, food pairings and much more. Olavo has been involved in many gourmet projects in Lisbon. “I love the products we sell and the people that come to the store, we are connecting great producers with appreciative consumers,” he told us. “I am so committed to this project that I changed my name. From now on, please call me Evaristo.” This is the name of the grocery-store owner in the 1942 hit movie O Pátio das Cantigas (the courtyard of songs). The movie is about a courtyard with such a wonderful atmosphere that it creates a community. It is a fitting metaphor for Comida Independent, a grocery store destined to become a magnet for the gourmet community.
Comida independente is located at Rua Cais do Tojo 28, Lisbon, tel. 21 395 1762. To ask about upcoming events, send a message through their Facebook page located here.
We can’t blame the moon for feeling unappreciated. Its life revolves around the earth and yet people prefer sunsets to moonrises. In the first day of the year, the full moon commanded the waves to bathe the beach sand and the clouds to sprinkle the earth with their blessed water.
The sun, feeling guilty about the droughts of the old year, let the moon have its way. But in the last few minutes of the day the star sent its rays to pierce the clouds and make everything shine.
We hope the New Year will have enough rain so you can come to Portugal to see lush green fields illuminated by brilliant sunshine.
We love spending time in Portugal, a country where even December has days when the sky is painted cerulean blue and the breeze offers a warm embrace.
We wish you a joyful New Year and we hope you’ll find a path that brings you to our sunny corner of the world!
Codfish is the star of the Portuguese Christmas-eve supper, but a cabbage called “penca” plays an essential supporting role. It is a hardy variety, capable of surviving the frost that usually covers the fields in December.
Penca is often planted next to “couve galega” a cabbage similar to kale used to make the traditional “caldo verde” (green soup) served at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
We love to see the fields of Portugal planted with these cabbages, dressed for the holidays in stunning green hues.
A completely reliable source told us that the best roasted suckling pig sandwich came not from Bairrada, the region famous for this culinary delicacy, but from a small café in Fátima called Mister Leitão. We couldn’t ignore this tantalizing tip, so we got on the road to Fátima to investigate.
We were advised to call in advance to reserve our sandwiches and we duly contacted José Miguel Vitório, the restaurant owner. He confirmed that they always run out of roasted suckling pig at some point in the early afternoon and that a reservation is indeed wise.
Mister Leitão has no place to sit, just a few counters where the sandwiches can be enjoyed. There’s always a line because the sandwiches are made to order. The air is filed with the smell of the roasted suckling pig and the bread baked in the premises. These appetizing aromas make the few minutes we waited seem like hours.
But the wait was well worth it. The sandwiches are amazing: the warm, crispy bread enfolds the succulent meat that is lean and has a deep taste reminiscent of prosciutto.
José Miguel is the heir to a tradition that started with his father in 1956. It takes a lifetime to learn how to roast a suckling pig. There are many details, seasoning the meat, sowing the animal, choosing the right fire wood, learning how to read and adjust the temperature of the oven. “But all the technique in the world will not matter if the ingredients are not great,” says José. He uses only fresh ingredients bought directly from selected farmers. “We peel by hand large quantities of fresh garlic. But that is what it takes to get the flavor we strive for,” he says. José carefully selects all the suckling pigs he uses, making sure that they were not fed with grain but were breastfed by their mothers.
After talking to José we felt hungry again. So we went back in line for another dose of suckling pig perfection.
Mister Leitão is located at Estrada da Batalha, 6, 2495 Fátima, tel. 249-538-120.
Late in the afternoon, groups of friends gather in cafés and esplanades all over Portugal to enjoy the last rays of sun and talk about their lives. They seat on metal chairs painted in bright colors that create a festive atmosphere.
These chairs were designed half a century ago by a craftsman called Gonçalo Rodrigues dos Santos. They are elegant but sturdy and can be stacked for storage. These virtues make them perfect pieces of urban furniture for enjoying leisure and celebrating friendships. If you visit Portugal be sure to try them!
The Gonçalo chair is produced by Arcalo. Click here for their web site.
In October 1956, the Duke of Edinburgh embarked on a long tour of the Southern Hemisphere without his wife, Queen Elizabeth II. There were rumors that the couple was going to separate.
When the Duke arrived in Portugal in February 1957, the Queen flew from England to meet him. For four days the royal couple did what so many other tourists do in Portugal. They ate canned sardines, sailed on the Tagus river, toured the Jeronimos monastery, visited Mafra and the Nazaré beach. Then, they flew back to England and lived happily ever after.
Portugal is a place where fairy tales can come true.