Vintage vinegar

Moura-AlvesIf you’re looking for a present for a gourmet friend, look no further: buy a bottle of Moura Alves vinegar. While most vinegar is made with the artificial addition of acetic acid, Moura Alves is produced naturally.

Wine from the Bairrada region is combined with acetic bacteria and left in oak barrels while the bacteria converts alcohol into acetic acid. It’s a very slow process: it takes ten years to reach the ideal level of acidity. But, if you try this vinegar, you’ll see it’s worth the wait.

Moura Alves vinegar is available in many gourmet stores and at El Corte Inglés, at the crossing of Avenidas António Augusto de Aguiar, Marquês de Fronteira e Sidónio Pais in Lisbon, tel 213 711 700. You can also order it from the web site A Vida Portuguesa, click here.

Millenary honey

Archaeologists discovered 2,000 year-old Egyptian honey that is still in good condition. This longevity stems from the honey’s remarkable purity.

There are a number of Portuguese beekeepers that strive for this purity. They spurn the industrialized processes that sacrifice the bees to extract the honey. They shun the additives used to keep the honey from crystalizing during Winter.  Some produce honey from the nectar and pollen of a single flower species, such as eucalyptus, lavender, or rosemary. Others produce multifloral honey, extracted only after the bees feasted on flowers from all seasons, from the wild flowers that bloom after the Winter rains to the fleeting pumpkin flowers that bloom only for a day.

It takes a little effort to find this superior artisan honey. It is mostly sold in farmers markets (one of our favorite producers, Miguel Evaristo, sells his honey at the Lourinhã fair on the last Saturday of each month). But, once you buy it, you can take your time enjoying it. It is good for 2,000 years.

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.