It’s always a treat to try some famous higher end restaurants when you travel. I’ll admit to not always taking the opportunity to do this. And of course “famous” can mean a lot of different things. When I say “famous” I mean restaurants that are run by well-known local chefs who usually I’ve never heard of. Famous can also mean that the locals eat here and absolutely rave about it and may not have any association with a local chef celebrity at all. In Portugal, I had the opportunity to try four restaurants that I’ve been meaning to tell you about. I also contribute my favorite of all the gelato places!
Do you enjoy ceviche? If so, A Cevicheria in the Principe Real area of Lisbon is a must. I spent quite a bit of time both in Principe Real as well as walking through the area to get to other neighborhoods, so I passed this place a few times and didn’t realize what it was. The menu is dedicated to South American cuisine, especially Peruvian tapas and Ceviche. It’s the creation of Portuguese Chef Kiko Martins.
Cevicheria Cornbread Starter
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.
Licor Beirão. Image source: http://www.licorbeirao.com/en/
Most cities are known for something, and for me, forever more, Lisbon will be known as the city of pastry! Is it all about the Pastel de Nata? Not at all, though I sure did enjoy my daily dose of nata :) If you haven’t already, please read Lisbon: The City of Pastry (Part 1). Pastries were everywhere in Lisbon. I’ve never seen so many pastry shops, pastelarias, and so many different kinds of pastries. The question became how to narrow it down to which ones to sample. I asked some born / raised / and still living in Lisbon friends to narrow it down for me. They suggested these four pastries: Tortas de Azeitão and Amêndoa, Mil Folhas, Jesuítas, and Pastéis de Tentúgal.
Every time I went into a bakery, I asked if they had these four so I could see what they looked like and perhaps try one. Before I tell you about each pastry, how I ranked them, and where I tasted them, here’s a bit of history about the egg-based pastry world of Portugal. It is fascinating and sets the scene for the pastry world you’re about to enter.
After colonizing Brazil and Madeira in the 16th century, Portugal began importing a steady stream of sugar (formerly a luxury destined only for the wealthy) from their plantations abroad. At this time, there happened to also be a large number of convents in Portugal using egg whites to starch their habits. All those elaborately starched wimples meant a lot of nuns with a lot of extra egg yolks. One of those nuns had the brilliant idea of combining the surplus egg yolks with the newly abundant sugar, and the classic eggy, sweet Portuguese convent pastry was born! Yet, despite the regional differences in pastry in Portugal, there is one common theme throughout every pastry in the country: egg yolk. Egg yolk is the magical ingredient that gave birth to Portugal’s famous pastry industry, with each region expressing their own innovative, unique and historical manner in which they use this one ingredient.
As I mentioned in Part 1, on my most recent trip to Hawaii, I was curious to see if there had been any additions or changes to the local coffee scene. After all, it has been a while since I wrote about the best places for coffee in Hawaii. There are no newcomers to the coffee scene worth mentioning, however, it is worth noting that Honolulu Coffee Company, which is my favorite, has expanded. They have taken over two spots at the Sheraton in Waikiki that were previously used by Peet’s Coffee. Strange but true, Peet’s Coffee did not make it in Hawaii.
So instead of writing about coffee in Hawaii, I decided to ask some local friends on Oahu what their favorite restaurants were. I’ve lived in Hawaii, so I have a few of my own to mention, but let’s start with their recommendations first. In Part 1, I wrote about restaurants you can walk to if you stay in Waikiki. In Part 2, I’m writing about places outside of Waikiki, so let’s start with Chinatown. One of my friends mentioned how many dining options were cropping up in Chinatown. His two favorites are Senia and Fête. I haven’t tried these two places, but the menus look interesting and creative. Fête calls themselves “part Hawaii and part Brooklyn,” so that certainly sounds appealing :) I do trust my friend’s taste in good eats, so I’m letting you know about these places.
On my most recent trip to Hawaii, I was curious to see if there had been any additions or changes to the local coffee scene. After all, it has been a while since I wrote about the best places for coffee in Hawaii. There are no newcomers to the coffee scene worth mentioning, however, it is worth noting that Honolulu Coffee Company, which is my favorite, has expanded. They have taken over two spots at the Sheraton in Waikiki that were previously used by Peet’s Coffee. Strange but true, Peet’s Coffee did not make it in Hawaii.
So instead of writing about coffee in Hawaii, I decided to ask some local friends on Oahu what their favorite restaurants were. I’ve lived in Hawaii, so I have a few of my own to mention, but let’s start with their recommendations first. They did know that I’d be writing about their suggestions, so I asked them to keep in mind that many tourists don’t rent cars if they stay in Waikiki. We took this into account. Let’s start with the restaurants that are easily accessible if you stay in Waikiki.
Diamond Head Grill is for sure a local favorite. There’s not much space to sit and eat there. It’s best to take your food down to the beach or as a picnic in the park. Everyone, including me, loves their plate lunch. And their baked goods are good, too!
Diamond Head Market Grill lunch plate. Image source: https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g60982-d1009927-i153755380-Diamond_Head_Market_Grill-Honolulu_Oahu_Hawaii.html