Monday, November 11, 2013

A Gastronomic Stroll through Lisbon

We rarely recommend particular guides, but spending some time with the engaging Jose Antunes,, is a treat.  Jose has a wealth of knowledge about Lisbon's food, drink, and history and provided an informative commentary as we visited pastry shops, chocolatiers, and taverns.  We met Jose in the mammoth Commercial Square, used as a parking lot during the dictatorship but now restored and ringed by government buildings and various shops.  We enjoyed a custard cream tart at the Café Martinho da Arcada, which has stood on the same corner since 1782 and once attracted the Portuguese literati.  A bust of Fernando Pessoa is housed inside the café.

Fernando's table, books and hat, with articles about him on the wall

Fernando Pessoa, famous author

We strolled the vibrant Rua Augusta and Chiado area, with an array of shopping possibilities, and enjoyed chocolates at a charming shop near Rossio Square, which is flanked by two striking baroque fountains.  We visited a shop that specializes in selling canned fish, a store hawking salted cod (a Portuguese obsession) and marveled at the intricate tile work on so many of the buildings.  One former palace has triangular tiles that jut out from the façade and give the structure an odd 3-D appearance.

  Triangular studded tile facade.

Chocolate shop facade.

Salted cod store.

The San Domingos church was fascinating.  Badly damaged by a fire in 1950, the interior bears witness to a near disaster.   The church was not destroyed, and a new roof was erected over the charred walls.  Dark, red marble columns line the muted interior and the effect is haunting.

Steps from the church, we experienced our first ginjinhas, a storefront tavern plying eager customers with a sweet cherry liquor served in shot glasses, with or without actual cherries.  A group of satisfied folk milled about outside the tiny establishment and we enjoyed a drink ourselves.  Maybe two.  We moved on and paused to view the Santa Justa elevator, an ornate structure that was initially viewed with the same disdain as Parisians once viewed the Eiffel Tower.  Like the Eiffel, the Santa Justa elevator--which serves the practical purpose of transporting people between the lower and upper cities--is now a beloved part of the city.

We finished our gastrotour with a stop at another ginjinhas, although we had a shot of an anise liquor, Eduardino, created by and named for a beloved and now deceased clown.  After a rest at the hotel, we meandered through the dark and winding streets of the Bairro Alto to the restaurant 100 Maneiras.  This establishment offered some of the most inventive and delicious food that we have ever tasted.

Codfish stomach dried and deep fried as chips with coriander and red pepper dipping sauce.  Tasted just like potato chips!

Octopus and rice balls with shaved dried tuna, wasabi and micro sprouts. Salty creamy yum!

Rocket coulis, oyster, passion fruit and kiwi essence.

House cured salmon on parsley sauce with basil sorbet on top, a balsamic cookie and a citrus salad.

Lasagna with a port wine reduction, sauteed foie gras and micro greens.

Pan seared local grouper on spinach risotto, with wild strawberries and salmon roe.

Gin, vodka and red fruit juice with a lime meringue.  Name:  Drink my burned-out mind.

Pigeon breast, beet root sauce, Indian spices and a morsel of Indian spiced popcorn.

Goat cheese, toasted Jamon, fruit salad and watermelon sauce.

Coffee ice cream with a coffee foam, almond crisp, vanilla cream and phylo crisps and a cinnamon crisp stick.
                             This was the most amazing and amusing dinner we've ever had!!!

On the walk back to the hotel, we stopped for after-dinner drinks and I asked the bartender what Portuguese beverage he would recommend.  He eyed my for a moment and said, "You do not look like a man who would mind something illegal."  Reaching beneath the counter, he produced a clear gallon jug of something akin to lighter fluid.  I learned that it is called Madronho, and is distilled from a small, black-spotted berry called the arbutus.  Although legal in a less potent form, I can't imagine using it for anything other than to strip paint.  I proceeded to sample a licor beirao, distilled from several herbs, and an amendor amarga, which tasted much like amaretto.  I ended the evening by vowing, never again, to sip an unknown liquid from a plastic jug.

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