Thursday, October 10, 2013
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Karen mentioned the drive out to the Duoro Valley in passing. Truth is, I'd much rather drive in Europe than the States. Drivers are opportunistic--as they should be--but considerate. They also know what lanes are for and how to use them on the autopista. On rural roads, a spirit of cooperation prevails. And there's a distinct lack of assholes attempting to compensate for their salary and/or penis size by driving unnecessary vehicles at unnecessary speeds toward unnecessary destinations.
Then there's dinner. If you make reservations before nine they look at you funny. So don't do that. But do eat the roasted carcass of a small farm animal like I described in the other post. Then move on.
The traditional but elevated O Paparico--you have to knock on the door to be admitted--will start you off with the best G&T you've ever had, then seat you at an already dressed table. Now, I don't know about you, but if I arrive at a table, G&T in hand, and there's food waiting, I might prefer some bread and butter. If the butter happens to be house-churned goat butter, even better. If it comes on a salt palette that seasons it, awesome. But that's just one option. They might also present a room-temperature-melting sheep's cheese. Or an octopus salad. Or the plate that won Portugal's best dish in 2011: veal liver mousseline in port reduction and toasted fennel seed.
These are just here on the table, starting you out. The bacalhau and black-eyed pea salad come next. And then there's the octopus. Dear lord, the charred octopus. Served with a port reduction, cherry tomatoes and baby onions, it's the best I've ever had. There was more after that, but I had already lost consciousness.
Shall I stop? Shall I not discuss how this country, which occupies the same westward-facing latitude as California, has ideal weather and ideal, well, everything?
Okay. One more. Karen's birthday. DOP is a fine restaurant in the modern tradition. That's the foie you're looking at. There's also the duck, the cheese course, the cod tagliatelle, the crab ravioli, the surprise courses and the amazing service. It sounds like it would cost a limb or two, but the truth is that here in Portugal, this kind of craft is de riguer; people take pride in their work, as if dinner can make the world a better place. And indeed, it can.
Monday, July 1, 2013
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Shit. Lorenço just poured a single vintage '68 called a Colheita. I've had old US ports--the difference here is this didn't come out of the barrel until last year. Unreal.
Where was I? Don't know...Porto, former capital of the country named after something sensible like a dessert wine. Or an aperitif--there's dry, white port, too. We had that before dinner. Then I ate half a roasted lamb and some amazing potatoes. And saltcod and potato fritters. I think carrots and collards were involved. I vaguely recall Karen eating some cheese and maybe a fish while VH1 played videos from the '80s and the...oh, it doesn't matter.
Where is Lorenço?
Truth is, though, Portugal is friendly, beautiful, helpful, clean, traditional, hip and delicious. One of those countries that got the Boy Scout oath really right.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
John Lewis, btw, is Irish, and after two decades of playing I finally understand why it's not the blues and why it's not country, yet I know every chord.
Oh, the women's restroom is located in the former confessional. Karen wanted me to snap the picture. Personally, I've always had more use for the former than the latter, but at the end of the day they are philosophically identical.
Friday, June 28, 2013
Dinner was excellent. Our first choice was booked, so we ended up at a restaurant recommended by the hotel. We had it to ourselves because Thursday was strike day and everyone stayed home. Octopus salad arrived first, and the marinaded peppers and herbs and the buttery cephalopod were sublime. A tomato and eggplant gratin and a spinach crepe gave us something to write home about. But it was the bacalhau-stuffed peppers that made us weep: so simple, so rich--perfectly perfect.
Then they hooked Karen on the white port.
So we headed for the Palacio des Port, and though they were closed (on strike), the back alleys were bustling. It didn't take long to find a wine bar and start sampling. I'm partial to the '76. Meanwhile, the Canadian-Portugese post-production duo struck up a conversation and several drinks later we were making Senegalese spiritual advisor friends over caipirinhas, at which point we realized it was two in the morning and we were the only people going to bed. Fun town.