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Portugal memories (long)

pat hammond | Jul 7, 200110:31 PM

We had two full days planned in Sintra with excursions into Lisbon. Our flight was grounded out of Bangor so our first night in Sintra was spent at the hotel at the Bangor airport. Got out of Bangor the next morning only to find our flight out of JFK to Lisbon had been cancelled. Our second night in Sintra was spent at a hotel near JFK. No Pasteis de nata in Belem for me.

We picked up our car after getting out of Lisbon and spent the first few days in Guimaraes. Two meals stand out in that town: one because it was less than I had expected and the second was quite good. I’ll save the less good for last:
In the Old City near the Largo da Oliveira is a place called Solar do Arco. I had a fish that was new to me called Dorado. It was grilled, crispy skin, and white, very sweet flesh. Plain, no sauce, perfectly cooked. I never saw it on another menu during the trip. Yukon gold colored potatoes along side were fine. My first Portugese mixed salad of the trip was at this meal: a very buttery Boston-type lettuce, sliced sweet white onion, and sliced red tomatoes that looked under ripe but were not, simply dressed with vinegar and that wonderful olive oil that I wiped up with my bread. Wine was the Vinho Verde, dry, and I would stick with that the whole trip. I loved it and the drier the better.

The second meal was on our last night at the Pousada da Oliveira (a very welcoming and well run place to stay). The meal we chose was called tipico (?), meaning typical Portuguese cuisine, I surmised. This was the only meal where I didn't have to restrain myself from licking the plate AND it was the most expensive meal of the trip. [It seemed that the less we spent, the better the food!] Don’t know that I’d call this a rule though. The plate had on it very big hunks of fried pork, little intestine looking things stuffed with something not unpleasant but very greasy, and a large blump of blood pudding. Nothing was unpleasant but it was way, way to heavy for me. We had a “tipico" carrot and nut cake for dessert. Too dry. The pousada was absolutely wonderful for breakfast, sort of snazzy service outside if one chose, but I think I’d take dinner elsewhere the next time.

Perceves at the Paraxute were absolutely wonderful. But they were procured especially for us and I think are hard to come by so far inland.

This is peculiar, since I have no name for this tiny place, but it’s indicative of the wisdom of following one’s chowhound nose, if the vibes are right. This would remain among my favorite meals of the trip. We stopped for just a bite on the way back from a day on the road at this little place that seemed to be between serving times. We were pretty bedraggled from a long day and the lovely lady who ran the place offered us a sandwich with pork (actually she said “meat” but it was pork). Her English was almost non-existent, but way better than our Portuguese! She also threw together an amazingly beautiful and delicious salad. It was like being in someone’s home. And she delighted in practicing her English. The Portuguese KNOW how to cook pork. The bread was crusty outside and tender and fragrant inside. The pork, oh that pork! It was moist, meltingly tender, and redolent of garlic, hacked off of a larger piece back in the kitchen and piled into our rolls. Sorry I don’t have a name for you all. I didn’t even see one on the building. We had first stopped at a cafe across the street and they had shooed us over to this little place.

Enough for now. But I’ll be back with more. pat

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