Breakfasts come in many different forms. Some are quick, others leisurely. Some are frugal, others abundant. But most are quickly forgotten. A breakfast at Six Senses in the Douro valley is different because it lingers in our memory as a moment of relaxation and gastronomic pleasure.
The breakfast is served in an expansive room with a granite floor. In the back, a rectangular window frames the views of the Douro valley. There’s a large wooden table set with all sorts of culinary delights, from fruits, seeds and nuts, to milks, yogurts, juices, kombuchas, kefirs, jams, and compotes. Behind it, another table offers a dazzling array of breads and pastries. In the back, there’s an open kitchen where chefs prepare made-to-order dishes, from omelets to waffles. Many herbs, fruits and vegetables come from the hotel’s garden to the table. This freshness is integral to the quality of the food that is served.
Next to the dining room, there’s a place with cheeses and charcuteries. You can travel from the north to the south of Portugal through the taste of these products.
The meal is orchestrated with great care, from the seamless service to the skill with which the ingredients are curated and prepared. The result is an unforgettable breakfast.
Six Senses Douro Valley is located at Quinta de Vale de Abraão, Samodães, Lamego, tel. 254-660-600. Click here for the hotel’s website.
DOC is a restaurant sited on a dock on the Douro river. With chef Rui Paula at the helm, DOC takes us on a culinary journey of aromas and flavors that harmonize with the wines of the Douro valley.
The menu has a lot of fun starters, ranging from an intense oxtail with carrot to a delicate octopus carpaccio with pomegranate. Main courses include appetizing fish and seafood rices and classics of Portuguese cuisine like codfish with corn bread, a fish stew called caldeirada, and roasted baby goat.
The dessert list offers a sampling of many miniature desserts. Our favorite is a crispy crêpe filled with crème brûlée.
The presentations are beautiful and the food is prepared with great technical skill. The role of modern cooking techniques is not to surprise or shock but to refine and enhance the traditional flavors of Portuguese gastronomy. It is this approach that makes the cuisine of Rui Paula so deliciously unique.
A trip to the Douro valley is not complete without a pilgrimage to DOC, a temple of Portuguese food on the shores of the Douro river.
DOC is located on Estrada Nacional 222, Armamar, tel. 254 858 123. Click here for the restaurant’s web site.
There are very few great restaurants in the Douro valley. This scarcity has an historical origin: most vineyard owners used to live in Oporto. When they visited the Douro during the harvest, their meals were prepared by the wife of the caretaker or by some other talented local cook. So, a tradition of eating in restaurants never developed.
We were curious when Abílio Tavares da Silva, the Quinta de Foz Torto winemaker, promised to take us to a wonderful restaurant. Abílio drove us to a small village called Ervedosa do Douro and introduced us to Dona Maria da Graça Gomes. For many years, she worked as a cook for the great families of the Douro valley. Her dream of opening a restaurant came true in 2011 with the help of her two children, Rosário who runs the dining room and shares the cooking duties, and Fernando who helps manage the restaurant and curates the wines. The people of the village of Ervedosa are known as “raposas” (foxes), so they called the restaurant A Toca da Raposa (the Fox Hole).
We liked the food so much that we kept returning to Toca da Raposa during our Douro visit. We asked Rosário to choose our meals and she filled our table with culinary delights. The “pataniscas de bacalhau” a combination of codfish, potatoes and parsley are light and flavorful, the best we ever tried. The eggs with alheira (a sausage made with bread and fowl) are delicious. We loved the satisfying taste of the fatty baby-goat rice cooked in the oven. The flavorful “salpição” rice cooked with beans and salpicão sausage made at the restaurant is a revelation. We marveled at the quality of the codfish and at the flavor of the grilled pork butt.
For dessert, Rosário brought us slices of cheese with an assortment of delicate jams made of strawberries, white grapes, quince, blackberries, orange, and zucchini.
Ervedosa is surrounded by vineyards that produce some of the best wine in the Douro valley. And at Toca da Raposa, it has food that is as great as the wine.
Toca da Raposa is located at Rua da Praça in Ervedosa do Douro, tel. 254 423 466.