This is when our trip to Portugal becomes interesting… 🙂
After a short train ride, we arrive in Aveiro. This is a lovely little town an hour away from Porto. Many people from here commute every day to the big city and back and I understand why they like their hometown. With its 73k inhabitants, Aveiro is big enough that you have everything and small enough not to feel the pressure of the city. Also, it’s full of bakeries and cafes, serving delicious pastries and ovos moles, made, once again, from egg yolk.
Our arrival day, though, still full of Bolas de Berlim and Pastéis de Nata, we couldn’t eat a thing until dinner. We had a nice walk through the canals and the gondolas, though (not joking). 🙂
After meeting with Marisa and Jorge we headed for the well-known restaurant in Vagueira, Mare. The last time I visited, it was during a bank holiday weekend and the restaurant was closed; Marisa, as much of a foodie as myself, was not pleased, so this had to be the first place to go on my following visit. We had a lovely dinner: beef with garlic and beef with pepper sauce, and we managed to sleep, finally, undisturbed (the apartment in Porto was, as I said, lovely, but someone in the surroundings was fixing something with a big big big noisy hammer, so we couldn’t sleep as much as we would have wanted).
On Saturday, we had the privilege to take part in a traditional Portuguese meal. Iberia is all about… PORK! In this specific case, we went to a restaurant, one of the many serving this delicious meal, in the region of Bairrada, close to where Jorge is from. Here, you order a piglet by the weight (we were given 1 kg of meat approximately), chips, salad, and whatever you chose to accompany the meat with.
The “leitao”, enough said, was more than enough. Delicious, tender, melt in the mouth little pork. The desserts, though, were underwhelming and very very meh.
From here, we went for a walk to another hidden treasure of this region, the hotel, former monastery, of Buçaco. I was left with my mouth hanging walking the woods of this palace (Marisa called it “palace” and she got scolded by Jorge, but I must say I understand why she called it that way… Monks lived la vida loca back in the day!). Here, we managed to sneak into the hotel bar and have a nice wine (we, ladies, had a herbal tea to try and digest the meal).
After Buçaco our gastronomic tour de force went on. Jorge brought us to one of the Gafanhas. He explained to us that it is said that the “gafanhas” were where the poor people affected by leprosy were confined, and there is plenty of those in this area (actually, this specific name is used in this area only). The one we are interested now, though, is the one we went for our dinner, Gafanha da Encarnacao. Here it’s where the wonderful restaurant, O Gafanhoto, awaited us on our second night down there. I must say this was my favourite dinner. I took no pictures of what we ate, because I was too busy eating. We had some delicious fried sardines, and then a “caldereta” with ray and onions and other veggies swimming in an unbelievably yummy broth (I stole a picture from the Internet to show you how it should look like, more or less). And then, the desserts. Marisa insisted that we tried the cheesecakes, that were homemade, and specifically, the carrot cheesecake. I am not a big dessert person (yep, you hear me) and I am always wary of trying new places, but if there’s a person I can trust with food, that’s Marisa. So we order a slice of carrot cheesecake and a slice of another type of cheesecake, that I do not remember now because it was literally blown away by the first one. Imagine a base made with the sponge of the carrot cake you have the recipe for, the filling made of deliciously creamy cheese and some cream on top, sprinkled with cinnamon.
Actually, this is what happened happened:
While we were wolfing down with tears of joy the slice we were sharing (Marisa and me, poor Jorge and Sergeant Lunch did not have a chance with that one), the cook comes out of the kitchen and says:
“Oooh I am sorry, I forgot the cinnamon!”
Marisa replies, while the poor cook tries to add the cinnamon to the tiny bit of cake remaining: “No problem, sprinkle away! Actually, can you bring another one?”
And so it was that we had 2 slices of that awesome dessert.
It’s funnier if you are living it, I swear.
On the next day, we decided to have a relaxed Sunday, so our incredibly nice hosts cooked for us a dish typical from Marisa’ region, Alentejo, called Açorda. It’s a soup with fish, bread (bread from Alentejo, mind you) and lots and lots of coriander and garlic. If you don’t like coriander, stay away from it. If you love it, you will enjoy this humble dish and it will warm you up on a cold day.
After an afternoon session at the movies we were feeling full with everything we had eaten over the past few days, so we decided to head for something light: a burger! Nothing really special about the place, but the meat was very nice, albeit not really light, or healthy. And to finish our trip on a high note, Jorge decided to stop in the middle of Costa Nova (where the fog was ruining the last day of the local festivities) to buy a local specialty, the tripa, some sorts of crepe filled with chocolate that, of course, was delicious as well. I also stole a picture from the Internet to show you:
And so our trip was over and the following day, we left Portugal. After only (Irony: on) thirteen hours (Irony: off) we arrived home, tired but very happy; a big thank you goes to the best hosts ever, Marisa and Jorge, for showing us around and giving us a masterclass in Portuguese history and gastronomy 🙂 ❤