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48 hours in Lisbon for Foodies

Posted by gen On August - 1 - 2013

Lisbon for Food Lovers, Cellar Tours recommendations:

lisbon farola 1 small

From small, family-owned restaurants offering delicious and inexpensive food to high-end cuisine, the capital of Portugal has enough options to satisfy even the most demanding of foodies. And although the Portuguese are known for sticking to their culinary traditions, Lisbon offers much more than the familiar staples of Bacalhau – salted cod – black pork and piri-piri.

cascais farol clams

So be prepared to banish your preconceptions of Portuguese cuisine in what is undoubtedly the country’s most exciting and vibrant food destination. A growing generation of young, talented chefs are taking Lisbon’s food traditions to new and exciting heights and are seriously intent on impressing you with their creativity. The city also has some of the best open-air food markets in Europe and in the summer months every conceivable type of fresh fruit, herbs, vegetables and spices perfume the air with their exotic aromas. The net result: Lisbon is a foodie paradise.

Day 1 in Lisbon

After arriving and checking into your hotel, head to the nearest terrace cafe and join the locals for a morning  Galão (a coffee served in a tall glass, made with 3/4 foamy milk and 1/4 Espresso) to get your bearings. Lisbon is spectacularly located on a hilly site on the estuary of the river Tagus – over the centuries the city has expanded along the coast to beautiful Belém, which was the starting point for Portugal’s voyages to the New World in the 15th century. Don´t miss the historic Pasteis de Belém bakery, a must. It´s just next to the stunning Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.

bele pàst

After breakfast, you’ll want to start your foodie tour in the historic center – the Baixa – which is a compact low-lying area of broad avenues and leafy squares. However, before entering one of Lisbon’s many excellent restaurants pay a visit to the Mercado da Ribeira near the Cais do Sodre train station outside the center. Open every day apart from Sundays, the market is best visited on Saturdays when the atmosphere is electric. Da Ribeira is famous for its fresh cheeses, seafood and spices. The second floor has been converted into a cultural center, showcasing Lisbon’s best locally produced food, pottery and handicrafts.

Lisboa mercado

By now you must be ravenous, so head to Cervejaria Ramiro on Avenida Almirante for the finest seafood Lisbon can offer. The city is a Mecca for fish lovers, although tourist traps abound so we’d advise you to stick to our suggestions. In fact per-capita consumption of fish in Portugal is some of the highest in the world! Local specialties include the ubiquitous Bacalhau, octopus, squid, grilled sardines, called sardines assadas, hake, sea bass, lobster, prawns, clams, oysters and scallops. Ramiro offers all of the above and does, at least in our opinion, the best lobster in Lisbon. In fact everything on the menu is fresh and cooked to perfection. Service is friendly and the place isn’t overrun with tourists. Great wine list too!

lisb cerv 2

We imagine that you’ll want to work off lunch before dinner, and there is no better place to take a stroll than the delightful Rua Augusta, one of the nicest pedestrianized boulevards in Lisbon. In the afternoon/early evening its hums with locals and tourists taking a stroll and browsing the area’s many old-fashioned shops and cafes.  It’s also not a bad place to take an aperitif, but for some of the best views over Lisbon take a taxi to the hotel Tivoli Lisboa, on Avenida Liberdade. Their rooftop bar is the perfect venue to start your evening sipping Alvarinho and admiring Lisbon’s handsome architecture. Drink prices are also reasonable considering what’s on offer.

Lisbon tivoli

To experience one or two of the finer points in high-end Portuguese cuisine, we can think of no better restaurant than Bocca on Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca. Head Chef Alexandre Silva only uses seasonal produce to craft exquisitely refined, modern interpretations of Portuguese cuisine. Highlights include the porcini, celeriac and white truffle salad, followed by suckling pig and tangerine. This venerable dish originates from the Bairrada region, where’s it known as Leitao a Bairrada and Silva prepares one of the best examples in Portugal. For dessert, you can’t go far wrong with Horta Doce or sweet garden which includes carrot pudding, caramelised pumpkin, crystallized tomato and chocolate. Maybe the most memorable dessert we have ever sampled in Europe.

Lisbon Bocca 1

Day 2 in Lisbon

Skip breakfast at your hotel and instead check out the popular Deli Delux on Avenida Infante in Lisbon’s port. It is one of Lisbon’s best food emporiums, packed with locals on a Sunday buying local delicacies and enjoying a leisurely brunch on the adjacent cafe terrace.  For under €14 you can enjoy divine scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and fresh asparagus when in season. Just be prepared to fight for a table between 11-1pm!

Lisboa del

Before you leave this beautiful city, make sure to visit the Praça do Comércio, Lisbon’s majestic square which was once the main maritime entrance to Lisbon and also the site where the city’s Palace was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. The square’s north side is centered by a 19th century triumphal arch that leads to Rua Augusta. But, the real reason you came here is to experience Lisbon’s oldest cafe: Martinho da Arcada. Touristy but a must see, just have a coffee and enjoy the atmosphere.

For a late lunch, it’s worth the effort to travel out toward O Faroleiro in Cascais- about 30 kilometers west of Lisbon – for the best beach-side dining in Portugal. The restaurant is literally right on the beach and the views of the Atlantic are dreamy. However, O Faroleiro doesn’t just relax and let the views do all the work, the fresh fish and seafood are divine too – try the clams! The service is bright and breezy and although this piece of seaside gastronomic heaven does not come cheap, it’s so worth it.

cascais farol

Options before dinner? Well, you could hang out on Cascais’ lovely clean beach or continue sipping wine on O Faroleiros terrace until you head back to Lisbon for dinner. But we’d recommend taking the train back and escaping the worst of the afternoon heat in the beautiful Botanical Gardens on Rua da Escola Politennica. Relax in the shaded walkways which are surrounded by over 10,000 species of trees and plants. It’s time to plan your last meal!

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So as it’s sadly your last evening, you must try Solar dos Presuntos on will add later for a taste of delicious Portuguese home cooking and extra friendly, family-run service. The restaurant has been open for a long time and serves a loyal clientele specialties from northern Portugal while offering a large selection of vinho verdes by the bottle or glass. It’s what Lisbon does best: honest, wholesome and tasty cooking at very attractive prices.

Come back again on a wine tour of Lisbon, perhaps trying your hand at a Portuguese cooking class in nearby Cascais....  Bom Proveito!

For great food reviews also check out the fun Menina e Moça site and Lisbon Lux is a fabulous resource.

Lisboa baixa

Cheese lovers guide to Portugal

Posted by gen On February - 27 - 2013

Portuguese Cheese Guide

Although Portugal’s most famous contribution to food and drink is undoubtedly Port wine, its superb range of artisan cheeses, with their lengthy pedigree and traditions are equally a worthy addition to any gourmet’s household. And while most visitors to this beautiful and historic country may well only bring home a bottle or two of Port, or possibly a table wine from the famed Alentejo region, they would do well to perhaps remember the delicious cheeses from the Serra de Estrela Mountains or the pungent Serpa cheese from southern Portugal. Indeed, although countries like France and Italy have a stronger association with high-quality cheese production, you would do well to explore what Portugal can offer you. It may have some nice surprises in store.

azores

Portugal, like most Western European countries has a long and (very!) proud tradition of cheese making that has not evolved significantly over the centuries. The equipment and technology may have been modernized in some parts of the country, but the care and craftsmanship has remained the same. Today, there are broadly 15 distinct styles of Portuguese cheese, with the vast majority protected under appellation law. The appellation designation (Denominação de Origem Protegida) strictly regulates the production methods, the length of aging, origin of production and labeling. That said it would be a mistake to discard other regional cheeses that may not have an appellation certification, but can be just as delicious and often offer better value! However, the cheese that visitors are initially most likely to encounter is the Queijo Flamengo, a direct copy of the famous Dutch Edam and ubiquitous in supermarkets and cafes across Portugal. It’s filling and cheap but has little to recommend in high-end culinary terms.

But in contrast, the celebrated soft cheeses from the Serra de Estrela Mountains in the Beiras region are considered amongst the finest in Portugal. It is usually made from the sheep’s milk of two native species indigenous to the area, although it can be produced from sheep’s and goat’s milk outside the appellation framework. Its taste is unsurpassed, smooth, rich and creamy with a beautifully balanced flavor. It is not dissimilar to Brie in its texture and pungency. Another favorite is the DOP Azeitão, from the Estremadura region in western Portugal. It can only be produced from raw sheep’s milk in the aforementioned town of Azeitao, although good examples again outside the DOP are made in the neighboring towns of Setubal and Palmela. The smooth, creamy cheese is made using thistle flowers, rather than sheep stomach lining to coagulate the milk and has an intense, earthy flavor and pungent aroma. Not a cheese for the faint-hearted!

queso portgs

Southern Portugal is also a good place to go hunting for excellent, regional cheeses. Perhaps start with a hard cheese from the city of Evora, the Alentejo regions’ most beautiful and charming town. Evora cheeses are made from un-pasteurised sheep’s milk and have a wonderful salty flavor. Or try the excellent Nisa Cheese from the higher regions of Alentejo. A similar hard cheese, however, Nisa has a less intense earthier flavour than Evora, with notes of herb and vegetable. Another extremely popular cheese is the celebrated Serpa from southern Alentejo. Again this is produced from sheep’s milk and is subject to at least two years aging in cool Alentejo cellars. The consistency can vary greatly and the rind is seasoned with paprika and olive oil, this results in the cheese having a strong spicy taste and aroma.  It has been recognized by food critics worldwide as one of the finest and unique European cheeses; the Slow Food Movement regularly list it as one of their top ten cheeses in the world.

Moving into northern Portugal we encounter the fabulous soft Terrincho Cheese from the Tras-os-Montes region that bounders Galicia in Spain. It can only be produced from a breed of sheep native to the area; the Churra da Terra Quente gives the cheese a mild, easily palatable flavour, enhanced by paprika and the curing process, which uses rye. The DOP cheeses of Bragança and Vila Real are also justly celebrated; under the appellation guidelines the Cabra Transmontano cheese must come from a special breed of goat – Serrana Negra – and be matured for a minimum of 60 days. The resulting product is fantastic, a hard cheese with a precise, slightly spicy bouquet and piquant taste.

chs

You will also want to look out for the (a nightmare to pronounce but delicious to taste!) – Amarelo da Beira Baixa and the Rabacal cheeses from the Beira region. Amarelo is produced from raw sheep and goat’s milk; the aging process can last up to 90 days or longer. The cheese is extremely smooth and creamy, with a pungent aroma married to a silky texture, the saltiness just taking the edge off the creaminess. A cheese perfect for the after-dinner course that deserves a powerful white wine. Rabacal is a semi hard cheese that can either be made exclusively from sheep’s milk or a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk, and must be matured for a minimum period of 20 days.

At this point you may think that mainland Portugal has the monopoly on fine cheese production but this is not so: the unspoiled, idyllic volcanic islands of the Azores in the North Atlantic are home to two DOP cheeses. Both are named after their respective islands – Pico and São Jorge – and are excellent cheeses to rival the best from the mainland. Pico, a delicious soft cheese with a strong aroma can be made from cows’ milk or a mixture of cows’ and goat’s, whilst the hard São Jorge cheese must be 100% cows’ milk and is aged for a minimum of 30 days. It is still one of Portugal’s largest and finest cheeses, with an intense fiery flavor, crumbly texture and fine aroma.

Of course the above is merely a snapshot of the most important DOP Cheeses and you can find many more exciting examples that are exempt from the DOP framework. Take Vila Velha for example, which is made in the Beiras region. It is a similar cheese to Amarelo da Beira Baixa, but because it does not have DOP protection it is significantly cheaper and more accessible but every bit as delicious. But whatever your preferences, be it hard and pungent or soft and velvety cheese, you are bound to find something you love in Portugal’s rich traditions of cheese making.

azeitao

Below are some important Portuguese cheese terms to remember when purchasing:

Cabra: goat

Curado: Aged

Duro: Hard

Leite: Milk

Ovelha: Sheep

Queijo: Cheese

Vaca: Cow

Portuguese food and wine terms

Food and wine lovers tours of Portugal

Buying Portuguese cheeses

The ideal place to buy Portuguese cheese is naturally the country itself, where the best selection and value can be found. However, most major supermarkets, specialist delis and food retailers will stock at least some Portuguese cheeses across Europe and the US, in addition the following online retailers are worth a look:  Alive Taste, Artisanal Cheese, Atlantico, IGourmet

queijo lagos

Best of Portugal: See, Eat, Do- Ten Ideas

Posted by gen On January - 23 - 2010

Portugal is one of Europe’s genuine hidden gems, known more to Port wine lovers then to general tourists-at-large. But there is so much to see and do in this beautiful country!

Let us share some tips on ten things you must not miss on your trip to Portugal:

1. Port Wine Lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia- history, romance and stunning wines on offer just across the river in Oporto. While in Oporto don’t miss the Lello bookshop, Foz Velha restaurant and amazing Arabic room at the Stock Exchange.

Best of Portugal

2. The magnificent Douro Valley- one of Europe’s most untouched and achingly beautiful vineyard landscapes. The region is also home to world class estates such as Quinta do Crasto. Stay at the trendy and luxurious Aquapura and pamper yourself with Zen style spa treatments between the wine tasting tours.

Best of Portugal

3. Pena Palace in Sintra- a touristy town, but like Venice it is still DEFINITELY well worth the visit as just delightful. This palace is outrageous and beautiful. And the town is a true delight. Stay at the Penha Longa where stylish Catalan chef Sergi Arola is the consulting chef in charge. And go gourmet shopping at the Loja do Vinho.

Best of Portugal

4. The creepy Bones Chapel (Capela dos Ossos) in Unesco heritage town of Évora- wonderful town and strange but fascinating visit. This picturesque town is a must and if you had the time, we would stay at least 2 days to see it. Stay at the gorgeous Convento Espinheiro (a luxury Starwood property in a renovated convent).

Best of Portugal

5. A Fado performance in Lisbon- Portugal’s version of the blues. Singers Mariza and Misia have brought Fado to international audiences and Lisbon is full of intimate Fado venues (Cafe Luso, Clube do Fado, etc) where you can see charming live concerts over dinner and/or drinks. Interested in learning more about this unique musical style? Check out the Fado museum, also in Lisbon.

Best of Portugal

6.  Whale watching in the atmospheric Azores Islands- one of those “must do in a  lifetime” experiences- captivating and exhilarating.

Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, with open mouth,  Pico Island, Azores, Portugal, Atlantic Ocean
Sperm Whale, Physeter macrocephalus, with open mouth, Pico Island, Azores, Portugal, Atlantic Ocean

7. Alentejo wine country- personally, our favorite region in Portugal, if not Iberia. Expansive views reminiscent of the Sahara, punctuated by Arabic castles, cork forests and perfectly preserved characterful villages- oh, and some GORGEOUS wines.  The Alentejo is a very special place.

Best of Portugal

8. Pork and Clams (Porco com amêijoas)- sounds awful but it is a delicious regional dish to seek out, originating in the Alentejo. Recipe here.

chefemario.blogspot.com

chefemario.blogspot.com

9. Nazaré- authentic fishing village surprisingly unspoiled, and home to some of the simplest and freshest fish in the country. The best way to enjoy it is a simple lunch at one of the unpretentious beach shacks with ice cold vinho verde or even a chilled rosé. A nice break too, from the ubiquitous Salt Cod.

Best of Portugal

10. Batalha Monastery- Henry the Navigator is entombed in this spectacular, unfinished monastery, one of the loveliest in Europe. Nice place to stop while driving between Lisbon and Oporto, too.

Best of Portugal

Any time of the year is a good time to visit the wine country when it comes to drinking nice wines! But winter can be the most challenging season to visit as vineyards are dormant and bare (not lush and verdant, as in other times of the year), and many of Europe´s wine regions are covered in overcast and bleak skies. There are a few regions however that are just fabulous to visit in winter, and here are some nice ideas for wine lovers looking for that unforgettable winter wine tasting escape:

Winter wine tastings

Alentejo, Portugal

The Alentejo is without a doubt one of our favorite wine regions in Europe. This unspoiled and breathtaking region features soft, rolling hills studded with cork trees and Moorish castles and is spotted with colonial style wine “quintas”. The scenery in Alentejo is reminiscent of the romantic savannas of “Out of Africa” and in winter, you can expect bright blue skies and invigorating cold weather. For a winter wine tasting break we suggest you use the Unesco heritage town of Évora as a base, visit a few wineries and enjoy some long leisurely wine lunches in cozy restaurants with open fireplaces.

Wineries to visit: Esporão, Monte Seis Reis, Herdade da Malhadinha are all favorites and can provide (paying) tours and tastings if you contact them beforehand to set up the appointments.

Alentejo winery consortium:Vinhos do Alentejo feature all kinds of wine region info on their website for self-drive trips (in Portuguese).

Where to stay: Our favorite hotel is definitely the romantic and luxurious Convento do Espinheiro, just outside Évora.

More Info on the Alentejo wine region

Luxury chauffeured wine weekends in Alentejo

Alentejo wine region in winterAlentejo wine region in winterAlentejo wine region in winter

Sherry Country, Spain

Jerez de la Frontera, the main wine town in the “Sherry lands” is a truly delightful little provincial capital. The benefit here is that the wineries are right in the historic center so you don´t need to drive and you can taste as many wines as you like! Most are in walking distance of each other through the pleasant center. Sherry wines are varied (finos, amontillados, palo cortados, and more) and quite strong, perfect on a sunny and cold winter´s day. The ideal winter wine weekend in Jerez would include winery tours, an excursion to beautiful Seville (one hour by train), and a lunch at La Mesa Redonda.

Wineries to visit: Sandeman (our favorite for private VIP tours), Pedro Domecq, Bodegas Tradición, Emilio Lustau, González Byass (Tio Pepe)

Sherry winery consortium: Consejo Regulador Denominacion De Origen Jerez Xerez Sherry

Where to stay: Our favorite hotel in Jerez is the Palacio de Garvey (which made it to our top ten wine hotels in Spain hotlist). The Villa Jerez is another refined little hotel, out of the center in a more residential neighborhood.

More Info on the Sherry wine region

Info on luxurious wine weekends in Seville and Jerez

Winter wine tastings

Valtellina, Italy

The ultimate winter wine escape, Valtellina offers sunny blue skies, fluffy snowy mountains in winter and phenomenal red wines made with the Chiavennasca grape (cousin of Barolo´s Nebbiolo grape). The region is alpine, near the Swiss border and the perfect winter wine weekend could include winery visits and tastings, an excursion to pretty St Moritz (on the Swiss side) and an excursion by horse-drawn sled through the snow. The cuisine is FABULOUS, real mountain food and it perfectly accompanies the rich, velvety “Sforzato” wines.

Wineries to visit: None of the wineries have regular scheduled tours, so you will need to contact them individually to request a (paying) visit and tasting. We particularly love Nino Negri, Triacca, Rainoldi and Conti Sertoli Salis.

Valtellina winery consortium: Consorzio Vini Valtellini have information on the region, wineries and travel tips.

Where to stay: There are some wonderful spa hotels, perfect in winter. We love the Bagni di Bormio, a real destination hotel with wonderful soothing spa treatments and natural springs.

More Info on the Valtellina wine region

We organize luxurious chauffeured wine tasting weekends in Valtellina, more info here.

Valtellina wine region for winter escapes Valtellina wine region for winter escapes

Portugal Michelin Starred Restaurants 2009

Posted by gen On January - 5 - 2009

michelin_star_algarve

The mythical Michelin restaurant guide for 2009 has come out and some of Portugal´s finest restaurants are thanking their lucky (Michelin) stars. Here is a quick summary:

NORTHERN PORTUGAL- MICHELIN STARRED RESTAURANTS

Casa Calçada (Amarante)- this restaurant is located inside a fabulous little boutique hotel in the pretty riverside hamlet of Amarante, about 60km (50 minutes drive) east of Oporto . Worth spending dinner and at least one night here, the Casa Calçada is also in easy reach of the Douro Valley wine country. More info.

Arcadas da Capela, Quinta das Lágrimas (Coimbra)- elegant small restaurant at the refined Quinta das Lágrimas resort, this is a major destination for foodies. Again, the best way to enjoy it is to have dinner with wine pairings and then stay the night at their beautiful hotel near Coimbra.  More info.

Portugal Michelin starred restaurants

CENTRAL PORTUGAL- MICHELIN STARRED RESTAURANTS

Fortaleza do Guincho (Cascais)- This Relais & Chateaux restaurant juts out of a stunning cliffside on the rugged Atlantic coast and is a fabulous lunch venue (for the views!). Read a full review of the restaurant in our newsletter here.

Eleven (Lisbon)- Lisbon´s only Michelin starred eatery, Eleven attracts celebrities, politicians and globetrotting gourmets. Superstar chef Joachim Koerper is the consulting chef here (as in Arcadas da Capela), and the atmosphere is contemporary and stylish with a jetset vibe. Info here.

Portugal Michelin starred restaurants Portugal Michelin starred restaurants

ALGARVE AND MADEIRA – MICHELIN STARRED RESTAURANTS

Vila Joya (Albufeira) - This magnificent restaurant holds two Michelin stars and is located in the sublime Vila Joya resort in a hidden away residential area a few miles from bustling Albufeira.  Star Chef Dieter Koschina is probably the most famous chef in Portugal (although Austrian by birth) and his tasting menus are “a must”.

São Gabriel (Almancil)- German Chef Jens Rittmeyer tantalizes palates in this glamorous corner of the Algarve, and the decor here is cozy and warmer than in some of the other Michelin establisments. More info on the restaurant here.

Portugal Michelin starred restaurants Portugal Michelin starred restaurants

Henrique Leis (Almancil)- another quaint and very cozy little restaurant in the gourmet epicenter of Almancil, Henrique Leis is run by the same-named Brazilian chef (Algarve is about as international as you can get!). Rustic and traditional Portuguese decor, stellar food and fabulous wine list.  More info on restaurant here.

Amadeus (Almancil)- Again, this excellent restaurant is located in easy reach of the other “golden mile” Michelins of this stretch of the Algarve. In keeping with the multicultural Algarve vibe, chef Siegfried Danler-Heinemann is from Austria. The nice thing here is they offer many different fixed price menus, More info.

Willie’s (Quarteira) - Located near the famous Pinhal Golf Course, Willie´s has it all- great food, charismatic chef, and candlelit romantic ambience. More info on Willie´s.

Il Gallo d`Oro (Funchal)- In the luxurious Cliff Bay hotel in Madeira, this classy restaurant offers elegant and formal (gentlemen are required to wear dinner jackets)  dining, superb sea views and a real old world ambience. Gallic chef Benoît Sinthon is at the helm, and he has achieved no small feat- getting Madeira island its first Michelin star. More info here.

Portugal Michelin starred restaurants


Best of Oporto for Wine Lovers

Posted by gen On November - 6 - 2008

Taylor´s Wine Lodge Oporto Oporto Lugar do Vinho wine-bar

Oporto is a romantically fading city, similar in its crumbling down & atmospheric decadence to Havana. For Port wine lovers, this is MECCA! Despite the town being frayed at the edges and not gentrified, we simply love Oporto (called “Porto in Portuguese),for the people, the food, the wine…

And here are some of our favorite spots for food and wine lovers-

BEST WINE LODGES

Taylor´s- Gorgeous lodge complete with house and outdoor terrace overlooking the Douro river. Taylor´s are the original port aristocrats with a fascinating history dating back to the 17th century. The tour is excellent and you learn not only about port but also the barrel coopering and vine-growing. Read a full profile of this port lodge here.

Taylor´s Port Wine Lodge in OportoTaylor´s Port Wine Lodge in OportoTaylor´s Port Wine Lodge in Oporto

More info on Taylor´s

Ramos Pinto- Again, a beautiful lodge and a huge selection of wines to purchase and taste here. Ramos pinto has an excellent small wine museum as well. Read the complete profile of Ramos Pinto port lodge here.

Ramos Pinto Port Wine Lodge in OportoRamos Pinto Port Wine Lodge in OportoRamos Pinto Port Wine Lodge in Oporto

More info on Ramos Pinto

Graham´s- Of all the lodges we have visited, Graham´s do the best tour. Their staff speak 7 languages and the visit is very informative and tailored to your existing port wine knowledge. You can book the “simple” tour with tasting of three ports like white port, Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) and 10 year old Tawny OR you can book a VIP tasting of higher end wines in their range. They have a good shop with many wine books for sale, and a wine bar. For port lovers, you could stay the whole morning here!

Graham´s Port Wine Lodge in OportoGraham´s Port Wine Lodge in OportoGraham´s Port Wine Lodge in Oporto

More info on Graham´s

Other good ones: Sandeman (who have both a port lodge in Oporto as well as a sherry bodega in Jerez de la Frontera), and Rozés, both are open to the public if you contact them first and make an appointment. Sandeman tends to get big groups while Rozés is more exclusive. Cálem (owned by Spanish investors) has a fantastic new visitors center on the riverfront in Vilanova de Gaia, and Croft have a beautiful cellar with excellent visitor´s center for tours and tastings.

More info on Port

Portuguese Winery Profiles

Portuguese Grape Varieties

VIP Port Wine Tours

Port Wine Lodge Tours Port Wine Lodge Tours

BEST RESTAURANTS

Cafeina- Fun, trendy, young and chic.  Good for late dining, wine tasting (they do “wine flights” and atmosphere. Info here.

Shis- Elegant venue and hot chef (Antonio Vieira, formerly of Cafeina). Nice location on the Esplanade. Info here.

Presuntaria Transmontana 1 & 2- Our favorte place to go for the Portuguese version of tapas, called “Petiscos”. Rustic, cozy, highly recommended. they have 2 venues, one in Porto and the other in Gaia. Info here.

Dom Tonho- Perennial favorite, love this place. You´ll find tourists but many locals, and the owner is a hoot. Right int he Ribeira, very picturesque setting. Info here.

Bull & Bear-  Refined and classy, great tasting menu and wines by the glass. Info here.

Foz Velha- Pretty dining room, elegant and expensive, as in Bull & Bear they have highly recommended tasting menus and many wines available by the glass. Great! Info here.

BEST HOTELS

Oporto River Scene

5* Porto Palacio Hotel & Spa- Recently renovated, this Leading Hotel of the World is an extremely comfortable place to stay and a major benefit here is Helio Loureiro´s restaurant. Stylish, great service and top class manager here, highly recommended. More info.

5* Sheraton Porto Hotel & Spa- While Porto palacio is classic and elegant, the Sheraton is contemporary, for a younger design crowd. Great restaurant as well and of course that fabulous spa. More info here.

3* Hotel Boa Vista- If you are on a budget, then this is a good option with great seafront location by the Castelo. Rooms are only okayish, but the sea views and price are worth it. More info.

Coming next year- we look forward to the opening of the new luxury Yeatman Hotel Wine Spa in the current Croft wine lodge in Vilanova de Gaia. Due to open in December 2009, look out for it!

BEST WINE BARS

Solar do Vinho do Porto- Beautiful, old fashioned wine bar specialized in ports (in fact, they only have ports, but maaaaaaaaaaaaany ports!) run by the Port Wine Institute and housed in a mansion. Come here for a quiet glass or three of port. Info here.

Degusto Wine Bar- Total contrast to the Solar, this is a trendy and ultra modern wine bar, very “scene-y” and cool. Contact details here.

Bogani Café- Love it love it love it. Great views over the river, comfy and luxurious chairs on the terrace, this is a café serving wine rather than a bonafied wine bar, but you could not get better views. Fab! Info here.

Cafe Majestic- actually not a wine bar as such (although you can order wine here), but Porto´s most striking and truly “majestic” cafe, dating back to the 1800´s and absolutely GORGEOUS. A “must”. More info.

BEST SIGHTS

Livraria Lello- Yes, we are recommending a book shop, but not just any bookshop. This bookshop is the most beautiful we have ever seen in Southern Europe with a magnificent staircase, exquisite stained glass and many books in English on Portuguese wine and gastronomy on offer. This is a “must” while in Porto. You can also have a coffee and cakes in their cute cafe. Good profile and history of the shop here.

Palacio da Bolsa- The former stock exchange, this amazing mansion is TOTALLY  worth the visit. Don´t miss the Arabian room, wow! Wine lovers take note- the annual Essencia do Vinho wine fair is held here every February and is one of Portugal´s best organized wine events. Info here.

Serralves Art Museum- This contemporary art museum is also Oporto´s most famous Art Deco building and it is worth visiting not only for the wonderful museum but for its manicured gardens. Highly recommended and another “must”. Info here.

Casa da Música- Porto´s best venue for concerts. They run regular concerts ranging from jazz to classical, and if you are  a music lover as well as wine lover, then check out their schedule of concerts.

Art Museum in OportoBook Shop in Oporto

Alentejo Castles and Wine Alentejo Esporao Wine Estate

Portugal´s romantic wine region of Alentejo is a huge area stretching north to south, characterized by its soft rolling hills, wild beaches, cork forests and olive groves. Punctuating the landscape are an array of Arabic castles and medieval towns in surprisingly amazing condition. Alentejo is a beautiful region seemingly trapped in time and due to the history of the last hundred years (when most people abandoned the countryside for the cities), it is not marred by the nasty architecture or the 1960´s and 70´s that you find in other regions. It really does look like it must have centuries ago, and it supremely atmospheric. The most northern main town is Portalegre and in the south, Beja. The cultural epicenter of Alentejo is Évora, a Unesco heritage protected town with a whitewashed historic center, numerous stunning churches and treasures, and an Ancient Roman Temple, dedicated to the goddess Diana.  Driving around the region you will pass gentle hills and miles and miles of cork forests, as well as dry arid landscapes that look look like a scene in the movie “Out of Africa”.

Alentejo wine country Esporao estate Alentejo wine country Evora town

Alentejo is also the region making Portugal´s most exciting dry wines, real knockouts.  Expect “monster reds” and rich, heavy whites.  Portuguese grapes used in Alentejo include (WHITE) Arinto and Antao Vaz, and (RED) Alicante Bouschet, Aragones and Alfrocheiro. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, international varietals, are also widely used. Leading estates include the superb Cortes de Cima, the one-and-only Esporão (who apart from excellent wines make amazing olive oil and cheese), Quinta do Carmo (owned by Bordeaux´s Rothschilds),  Joao Portugal Ramos, Herdade das Servas, beautiful Monte da Ravasqueira,  the lovely estate of Monte Seis Reis, and the fabulous Tapada dos Colheiros.  Alentejo has always had quite a massive amount of international investment and foreign flying winemakers and recent projects and additions include Sonho Lusitano´s Richard Mayson (ex- wine writer for Decanter magazine); Australian Alison Gomes at Azamor;  and Quinta do Zambujeiro (owned by Emil Stricker, a Swissman based in Singapore, how´s that for international??)

WHAT TO DO- Visit wine estates and do some touring and tasting (some are open to the general public if you book the visit beforehand) or contact us if you would like a private luxury chauffeured tour; stay a few nights in Évora and visit the outrageous and creepy Capela dos Ossos (Bones Chapel), taste some vinho in the enoteca right next door to the Pousada, and soak up the historic atmosphere; Don´t miss beautiful Marvão (one of our favorite places in Portugal!) with its castle and breathtaking views over the valley (there is a colony of eagles here); the whitewashed hamlet of Estremoz, with its many wineries; the ancient Jewish town of Castelo do Vide; the medieval castle in Évoramonte; the olive oil museum and castle in Moura; learn how to cook traditional Alentejo cuisine at the Refugio da Vila.

Alentejo Roman Temple of Diana  in Evora Estremoz detail in Alentejo

To visualize the region, here is a video (in Portuguese) that features top winery Esporão (an interview with the winemaker), and some great photography of this wine estate, the wine country and Alentejo

WHERE TO STAY- Without a doubt, the best place to stay is the gorgeous, luxurious 5* Convento do Espinheiro in Évora with a terrific restaurant, spa and sprawling country grounds; for unbelievable romance, lucury and escaping from it all (really, as this hotel is in the middle of nowhere!), the Pousada Flor de Rosa in Crato is exquisite;

WHERE TO EAT- “Must Eats” include the Restaurante Adega do Isaías in Estremoz, rustic, wonderful and “the” place for pork; the wonderful refined restaurant at the Esporão wine estate, Divinus restaurant at the Convento do Espinheiro hotel in Évora; for non nonsense trad cooking, Restaurante Sever in Marvao. Typical local dishes include Carne de Porco à Alentejana (pork with clams and cilantro) and “Migas” (breadcrumbs fried with chourizo. Check out info on Alentejo gastronomy here.

Castle in Alentejo Portugal Cork Tree in Alentejo