The perfect espresso cups

Coffee lovers are on a constant search for aromatic coffee beans, roasted to perfection. They get up early on weekends to study Italian, hoping to uncover the nuances lost in the translation of their espresso-machine manual. They mumble incantations like “ruotare la manopola in senso antiorario per aprire il rubinetto di erogazione vapore” with a passion normally reserved for the poetry of Dante. They listen in rapture to the machine’s rumbles as the water rushes through the coffee at the ideal pressure.

But, after all this effort, they pour their brew into bulky, thick porcelain cups. European cafés use these cups, they tell you with pride. True, but cafés only use them because they rarely break. The coffee tastes so much better in thin coffee cups!

Vista Alegre, the great Portuguese porcelain maker, produces the best espresso cups we have ever tried.  They have the perfect shape and come in bright, joyful colors. These cups are hard to find outside of Portugal. So, if you are visiting Portugal, here’s your chance to bring something unique to your java friends.

Here is a link to the Vista Alegre website.

Sea pebbles


All the seas work hard to please Neptune. They take large rocks and polish them for years, decades, sometimes centuries, to make shiny round pebbles of different colors and shapes. The seas deposit these treasures on the beach sand as a gift from Neptune to those who venerate the majesty of the oceans. When beach goers ignore these offerings, Neptune goes into a rage and the seas shake with furious storms.

When we are at the beach we always collect sea pebbles. Later, in the dark days of Winter, we touch them to remember the Summer warmth and to appease Neptune.

Portuguese cutlery

The Portuguese are obsessed with cutlery. They use a bewildering array of specialized tools to eat their food. Serving snails? You need a snail fork. Eating oysters? You need an oyster fork. The soup is a consomée? A normal soup spoon won’t do. You need a consomée spoon. Cake for dessert? Don’t even think of using a desert fork! You need a cake fork. And, of course, you can only eat fish with proper fish forks and knifes. You can see all this cutlery bravado on display at a Cutipol store. It’s more fun than many museums.

Piri piri

piri-piri

The Portuguese brought from Africa a small red pepper called bird’s-eye chilli that they use to make a popular hot sauce. In Portuguese both the pepper and the sauce are called piri piri (pronounced peeree peeree).

Restaurants that serve grilled chicken often make their own piri-piri sauce. What happens if you ask for their recipe? Here are some sample answers: “My Engleesh is not bery good, sory,” “We get it from Spain, you have to ask there.”

After years of undercover work, we gathered some piri-piri intelligence to share with you. The base of the sauce is usually vegetable oil, although a few restaurants use olive oil. Often, the piri-piri peppers are simply combined with the oil and left alone for a few days. In some cases, the oil is warmed to absorb more quickly the taste of the piri-piri pepper. Some recipes use vinegar, whisky, cognac, salt, parsley, coriander, cilantro, or garlic. No matter which version you try, piri piri will spice up your life.