You know how it is when you return from a trip and you’ve had the most wonderful time. I keep asking people, “Have you visited Portugal, yet?” The answer I receive most often is “no.” I’m on a roll giving people delicious reasons to make their next vacation spot Portugal. You’d think I worked for the Portuguese Tourist Agency :) I found it EASY to appreciate Portuguese food and wine. And of course pastries, too! So let me see if my delicious reasons sway you.
1. Mom and Pop. If I only had two words to describe the food I enjoyed, I’d say SIMPLE and FRESH. Some people might call it comfort food. I was so surprised and delighted that I could get a delicious, home-cooked meal from any one of the “mom and pop” eateries throughout Lisbon. They were everywhere. Simple and inexpensive I believe as a result of their locally sourced seasonal meat, fish and produce.
2. Licor Beirão. Portugal is known for its wine, and I’d agree; trying some is a must. I flew to Portugal on TAP in business class and my experience with Portuguese liquor started on my flight. The flight attendant asked me if I wanted to try Licor Beirão, the “Liquor of Portugal”, from the central Beiras region. It is made from a secret 100-year old recipe that gives it a delicious sweet, herbal flavor. I always sample digestives when I travel, so why not? The crew gathered and we talked some about Licor Beirao, how to drink it, and that if they ever feel like they are coming down with a cold or flu, they take some Beirao. I decided to have mine over ice, and a little bit goes a long way. I rather enjoyed it! The one drink I didn’t get to try, which I heard will “knock your socks off” was aguardente bagaceira, or Bagaço as it’s commonly called. It’s Portugal’s version of grappa, made from leftover pomace. Pomace is the pulpy residue leftover after crushing fruit. The best Bagaço is said to come from the pomace of Vinho Verde grapes in the northern Minho region and is distilled on an open flame from small wine producers. This method is illegal, so the only way to find it is if you’re in a small, local restaurant where the owner generously pours you a shot from his “unmarked” bottle. Unfortunately, this treat didn’t come my way, but I’ll figure out a way to sample some next time I’m in Portugal! I did find out that you can try Macieira Centenário, which is a legal and respected brand of Bagaco! The other liquor that was popular is ginja. It’s a traditional cherry liquor from the town of Obídos served in a small cup. I like fruity liquors so this one is on the list for next time, as well.