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.