Catch a falling star

Café Tati Composit

It is easy to pass by Café Tati without noticing it. You have to step inside the thick stone walls to find an old tavern turned into a funky café decorated with vintage furniture. Named after the great filmmaker Jaques Tatis, it employs four or five chefs who work part time sharing the menu and the kitchen duties.

The food we tried offers an enticing harmony of flavors and textures. Green been tempura that is crunchy and airy. Tender marinated mackerel with the perfect touch of vinegar. A bright, raw pad thai made with zucchini noodles. An intense oxtail stew mixed with smooth potato pure and crunchy fried bread crumbs.

Service is slow to give us time to soak up the atmosphere and listen to the impeccable collection of jazz music. The café hosts art exhibits and a jam session every Sunday. There are shelfs full of shared books and offerings of organic vegetables and fruits.

Unfortunately, rising rents are forcing Café Tati to close its door in December. Until then, don’t miss the chance to catch this falling culinary star.

Rua da Ribeira Nova 36, Cais do Sodré, Lisbon, tel. 21 346 1279. Click here for their website.

 

 

 

Legendary moments at Quinta da Boavista

Quinta da Boa Vista Composit

Some quintas in the Douro valley experienced one legendary moment. But Quinta da Boavista experienced two. The first came in May 1809 when Joseph James Forrester rented the quinta to work on his masterpiece, a detailed map of the Douro river. This map quickly became an indispensable reference for port-wine makers. It also made Forrester one of the most important figures in the port-wine trade. Forrester fought for the production of high-quality wines that reflected the unique terroir of the Douro valley. As a recognition for his service, king Dom Pedro V made him a Baron.

The second moment happened thanks to Marcelo Lima and Tony Smith, a duo of entrepreneurs who bought the quinta in 2013. They realized that the grapes from Boavista, grown in some of the Douro’s tallest terraces, are like precious stones. So they went in search of a master jeweler who could polish them. They knew that the ideal person would be Jean-Claude Berrouet, the enologist responsible for 44 vintages of Château Pétrus. But he had retired in 2007, took very few consulting jobs and had never worked in Portugal.

In July 2013, Marcelo and Tony brought Jean-Claude to Boavista. The enologist stood on the varanda of the house of the Baron of Forrester for a long time contemplating an iconic vineyard named Oratório (oratory) after its shape. When he finally broke the silence, he said “Ça c’est fort!” Marcelo and Tony smiled–they had found his jeweler. Since then, Jean-Claude has worked with Rui Cunha, the quinta’s resident enologist, to perfect the way in which wines from different parcels are blended. He also brought his profound knowledge of the Bordeaux oak barrel producers to choose the ideal barrels for aging the grapes from each vineyard.

When the first vintage of Oratório came out, Marcelo, Tony, and Jean-Claude sat on the terrace overlooking the vineyard. Jean-Claude took time to evaluate the color of the wine, appreciate its delicate aromas and to take a few sips. When he finally broke the silence, he said “C’est un grand vin!”

Click here for the website of Quinta da Boavista.

Great products from small producers at Comida Independente

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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.

 

 

Sun and rain

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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.

 

A path to joy

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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!

Holiday cabbages

Couves de Natal

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.

Mister leitão

Mr. Leitão

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.