The best place to eat grilled sardines in Lisbon is Casa do Peixe, a modest restaurant on the second floor of the Saldanha food market. This eatery dates back to the first part of the 20th century, when a cook from Galicia came to Lisbon and set up a few tables in the market to serve poached fish. The restaurant quickly became a destination for food lovers.
The current owner, Aníbal Sousa, bought the restaurant 30 years ago. When the Saldanha market moved from its graceful old building to its current unremarkable location, he added a charcoal grill and started to grill sardines and other fish.
The restaurant is noisy and there is no ambience. But it is always full of locals who love to eat fresh fish, everyone from clerks and shopkeepers to government officials and business executives.
Three cooks work nonstop to produce a constant flow of perfectly cooked…
Ebullient teens crammed the vans with suitcases and bodies. The astonished sun blinked as he peered over the horizon. Vigorous activity at this early hour seemed indecent. The babbling of Portuguese language assaulted my sleepy ears. One year of Spanish in high school did not begin to cover the differences between the countries.
The hot desert held little charm. With the of sunrise it had turned into a sauna. But the heat did not deter the teens. Our boys thrust their heads out of the window and bellowed cat-calls to the girl of each town. Then we stopped at a café for lunch. There was no menu.
I should have ordered whatever every else had. What was meant to be a short stop ended nearly two hours. The rest rooms were the worst I had ever walked into. I managed to enter and exit without touching anything. I was not sorry to say “adios” to the café.
Tó’s English was good, and he had declared that he would translate the conversations for me. I put too much faith in that promise. The translating began well, but it is exhausting to sustain a conversation in a sometime language. More frequently, Tó and Harry were involved in other conversations.Without translations. I found myself listening to a lot of Portuguese.
We arrived in Madrid about 9:30 that evening tired and hungry. As I was wondering where we would find a place that was open. We walked up to a restaurant, and the place was closed. My stomach kind of rumbled. It was a long time since lunch. with the management, they agreed to open early for us. Yes, in Spain, 10 p.m. is an early supper.
The waiter seated us and gave us menus. I now had three languages to field. I recognized “pollo.” Yes, chicken! I jumped on it. Orders made, the Portuguese asked me what I was eating, and that was how I learned that Portuguese chickens are “frangos.” And we waited. A long time.
During the long interval between ordering and the eating, the Portuguese tried valiantly to converse with the exhausted Americana. They were indefatigable. Finally, someone asked me, “How are you?” slowly, and in Portuguese. I dredged up my high school Spanish and responded, “Estoy cansada.” (I am tired.”) My interrogator instantly came back with something that the folks around us found hysterically funny. She repeated it again slowly in Portuguese: “Estás cansada, ou casada?” I thought that I was getting a Portuguese language lesson. But, from the tone of the laughter it occasioned, it had nothing to do with a vocabulary malfunction. It was more like they were laughing at a joke. And and it was contagious.
I looked to Harry in my best damsel in distress expression. Would you believe that man was still laughing hysterically at this joke that I did not understand? Finally, he caught his breath, and told me: “She asked you if you were tired, or married.” A few explanations, and I got the word play: casada = married and cansada = tired. I laughed again, this time with them. I recognized that the humor was the right hand of fellowship. I knew then that I could fall with love these people. Who else did I know who could make me laugh even when the joke was on me?
The Flor da Rosa Pousada in Crato has a beautiful collection of “talhas” (clay amphoras) made by potters in Alentejo. The small amphoras were used to store olives or olive oil. The large ones were used to produce wine, a tradition that goes back to Roman times.
Several Portuguese wine makers are rediscovering the lost art of producing wine in amphoras. One of them is Dirk Niepoort, a great producer from the Douro region. We can’t wait to try these wines which bring the past into the future!
Click here for the Pousadas’ website and here for more photos of Flor da Rosa.
Harry drank his accidental beverage that morning! And I learned two things: He was fully as stubborn and I am, and I should be cautious about challenging him to take a dare!
To sleep, perhaps to dream – Shakespeare
The field director’s wife saw me fading quickly and led me to the flat beneath hers. The family who lived there were in the states, and had graciously offered me their home while I was in Portugal. It all seemed surreal. I was 3,511 plus miles away from home with only one person I knew in sight. And the last time I had seen him, he had just broken a date with me because he wanted to go to a picnic instead.
I was tired but wired. My internal clock was ticking when I was tocking. The events of the past few days skipped and jumped like a kaleidoscope in my brain. Eventually, I drifted off into a light sleep.
When I woke up, I decided that a shower was in order. Though I’d given the bathroom a glance before I crashed, I didn’t remember seeing that peculiar bit of furnishing earlier. I examined it. Then, I turned the faucet on and off. I looked around in the vicinity. It was less than an arm’s length from the fixture with which I was more familiar. I wasn’t going to ask. Resolutely, I turned my energy toward getting ready to go out to dinner in Lisbon.
Putting on the Ritz
Harry arrived a little early, of course, and to his surprise, I was ready. The man who sent me roses was armed with the loaned car, and gentlemanly attentions. He held the doors, and made sure I was comfortable. I totally admired the way he held his own with the other drivers; I was certain were in training for the Daytona 500.
Harry drove by more landmarks like the statue of “Cristo Rei” (Christ the King) near the 25th of April Bridge (identical to the monument found near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).
The bridge was originally called Salazar Bridge, named for Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, who served from 1932 to 1968. Though Life Magazine called him the greatest Portuguese since Prince Henry the Navigator, many of the Portuguese had seen him quite differently. Dictator might have been a better title.
On the 25th of April, 1974 the military initiated acoup, which eventually returned democracy to Portugal, and the bridge was given change of name.
Soon, Harry pulled up at the the Lisbon Four Seasons Ritz. where he treated me to a bitoque. A bitoque (bee-tok) consists of a grilled or fried tenderized steak topped with a fried egg. It came with both a helping of rice, and French fries.
The next day, we would be pointing our noses toward Spain.
Have you ever mixed tea and coffee in the same cup?
Eels were highly-prized culinary delicacies in ancient Greece. The eels from Lake Copais, a lake near Athens that no longer exists, were famous in the ancient world and sold for exorbitant prices. In the plays of Aristophanes these eels are the symbol of a luxurious life.
In Portugal, the most famous eels come from Murtosa, a town near Aveiro. They taste great fried, accompanied by escabeche sauce (a combination of olive oil, garlic, laurel, and vinegar).
A great place to try this delicacy is a neighborhood restaurant in Aveiro called Marinhas. The eels come perfectly fried accompanied by a delicious seafood rice and the indispensable escabeche sauce.
At Marinhas you can, for a modest price, enjoy a meal that would have cost a fortune in ancient Greece!
The Marinhas restaurant is located on Rua Cavalaria Cinco, 4, Aveiro, tel. 234197679..
Isabel Landeau is a designer who, as a hobby, baked chocolate cakes to share with her friends. She loved so much the oohs and aahs that her cakes inspired, that she became obsessed with perfecting her recipe. For nine months, she experimented with different chocolates and cocoas. The result is a master piece, a cake that is deliciously light but layered with exquisite chocolate flavors.
When Landeau opened a store to share her creation with the world, she was surprised at the praise lavished by the international press (the New York Times called her cake “devilishly good”). Her store has become an obligatory place of pilgrimage for chocolate lovers.
Landeau makes chocolate taste as exciting as when it was brought to Europe in the 16th century, as exotic as when it was used by Aztecs in religious cerimonies. Try a slice of Landeau cake and you’ll see.