Half of the itinerary in Portugal involved driving North East from Porto to visit the wine country. First, we traversed the birthplace of Portugal, with a medieval castle located on the hill. Seriously? No ticket, no entrance fee, just the strolling of your legs to consider this fortress. Once a co-ed monastery, I found some playfully moments climbing the walls (was told, I surmised, to “get down off the wall”) and then strolling surrounding gardens. After parading through a Roman Festival in Braga and introducing my little sister to H & M clothing mecca, next a stop in the “Green Wine” center, Ponte De Lima, with its roman bridges and not so impressive ‘green wines’.
But one of the most impressive aspects of this stay? Traveling into the Duouro Valley and entering the acreage of the Casa Leyeda Agricoloca, in Vila Real. No wonder they make their own wine, cheese, and bread, this estate with its roaming hills (little lawns built into the hillside, in the same fashion as little grape plants stacked into the fertile ribs of the soil) next to the river, and its welcoming hosts. After sampling their house wine, they sent us to Terrra De Montana, where we sat in a hollowed out french oak barrel and savored the slow service with bawdy conversation. Honestly? We were a bit starving and cranky after taking a bit of time to find the place. But after the little sister scored on selecting her first bottle of wine ever, the night perked up. Oh! Yes, the food deliciously sumptuous (white cod, baked in black stone pottery for me, roasted vegetables for sis, and a tripe and green bean “casselouet” infused with naturally pressed olives for dad) but more so, the soulful sharing of experienced gone delightfully amiss. Connecting together in new spaces created just for that wine barrel. Too precious to capture or describe. Feijoada is a popular bean stew that is cooked slowly along with bacon, pork trimmings, and beef. This dish is prepared often and is also enjoyed throughout Brazil, a former Portugues colony, as well. I think this is what dad had that night…
The food and wine in Portugal absolutely spoke my language. Not too rich, not too light, flavorful and yet salivating, I found most pleasure in noshing on dishes “family style” and my dad and sister soon found out how much of a mooch I really am. I mean, why order TWO fishes, when if he orders fish, I can order the house speciality.
Pedro on the plan told us that we could not leave Porto without tasting a FRENCHIE. It really is a Francesinha, imported from france. Dad ordered it basically so I could nosh on it. Indescribable really, like nothing ever tasted before. Think French Toast, with grilled meat inside, and cheese, and then gravy poured over it, with a fried egg on top and swimming with perfectly charred thin “fries.” Five bites and it floored me.
This was one new taste for me, most likely something I’ll be dreaming about for years to come. Irreplace-able and never could I make it in a 100 years…purely Portugal!