Apaixonada Pelo Porto Uma Vez Mais

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Há um pouco mais do que três anos, desde que cheguei a Portugal e fiquei a morar em Vila Nova de Gaia, a margem a oposta do Porto.  No inicio, claro, passei os meus dias a passear pelas duas cidades, mas quando comecei a trabalhar não tive tempo de explorar ou até mesmo de olhar as cidades a toda a minha volta.

Recentemente, tenho tido mais horas para passear e apaixonar-me uma vez mais.  Talvez não seja para todos, mas estou apaixonada pelo Porto.  Apesar da evidência esmagadora das décadas de negligência e da crise atual, há muita beleza e vibração a ser encontrada.  Nas próximas semanas, tentarei trazer-te comigo enquanto passeio.

Por agora, deixo-te algumas fotos para te dar algumas ideias do que vamos descobrir.

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Falling in Love With Porto Again

Pode ler em Português aqui

It is just over three years since I moved to Portugal and settled in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the river from Porto.  Of course, at first, I spent my days wandering the two cities and getting to know my new home, but once I started working it seems I quit exploring or even seeing the city around me.

Recently I have had more time to simply wander and fall in love again.  It may not be for everyone, but I love Porto.  Despite the overwhelming evidence of decades of neglect and the current financial crisis, there is a lot of beauty and vibrancy to be found.  In coming weeks I will try to bring you with me as I wander.

For now, a gallery of photos to give you some ideas of what is to be found.

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Rainbow over Porto

Beautiful, isn’t it?  I love my city.

Rainbow, 17:30, 22 February, Porto

Rainbow, 17:30, 22 February, Porto

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Arco-Íris no Porto

É lindo, não é?  Adoro a minha cidade.

Arco-íris 17:30, 22 Fevereiro, Porto

Arco-íris 17:30, 22 Fevereiro, Porto

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A Sunday Lunch Lesson in Food Pairing

Nothing feels quite so decadent as a long lazy Sunday lunch.  And if it’s really good, you don’t need to worry about dinner, as you will still be deep in conversation with your friends and grazing the cheese board till late into the evening.

Rosy-peachy Vinho Espumante Bruto Tinto Casa Reguengo

Rosy-peachy Vinho Espumante Bruto Tinto Casa Reguengo

I am visiting snowy London, staying with my friend Nicola Thomson  and her partner Drew.  Robert Giorgione, another wine writer friend,  joined us for the six or seven hour long repast.  We started with a toast to the new year and the coming meal with a lovely Portuguese champagne-method sparkling wine, a dry pink non-vintage, made by Casa Senhorial do Reguengo, near Braga in the Minho region, though it is not a DOC or even regional wine.  The wine was a lovely peachy-pink colour with a fine even fizz and delightful nose and palate of red summer fruits (strawberry, currant, raspberry), rather delicate and elegant.  We thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was a surprise to find it is made of primarily Vinhão – a grape which is associated with the highly acidic red Vinho Verde wines – and a little Syrah.

Riesling, Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2010, Weingut WWE Dr. H Thanisch

Riesling, Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2010, Weingut WWE Dr. H Thanisch

Drew was chef du jour, and we were happy with an hors d’oeuvre of sliced hot pork sausages, pickled shallots and a home-blend honey and mustard sauce till he was ready to serve forth the “proper” starter:  a generous slice of grilled ciabatta bread coverered two-thirds with a hot mixture of sautéed mushrooms and one third with a cold tomato concassé.   We finished the sparkling wine and switched to a lovely Mosel Riesling, Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2010, Weingut WWE Dr. H Thanisch which had a palate of tropical fruit and a nice acidity which cut through the richness of the pork sausages from Boston Sausage, and made a very effective contrast.

There followed a perfectly cooked massive leg of lamb, with which we finished two different bottles of claret:  the first a Margaux, Chevalier de Lascombes, 2005, which had been decanted a couple hours previously, the second a 2005 Saint-Emilion made for Fortnum & Mason by Chateau Dessault.  Both were drinking beautifully now and were perfect with the lamb, of course – Bordeaux and roast lamb are a classic pairing.

The Tokaji Aszu had the most gorgeous intense lemony honey colour, very inviting

The Tokaji Aszu had the most gorgeous intense  honey colour, very inviting

The intention was to go on to the cheese board, but somewhere along the line discussion got onto the subject of artisanal chocolates  (in fact most of our conversation turned on wine and food!) which prompted Drew to share a box of Damian Allsop chocolates, and open a bottle of Tokaji Aszú 2003, also from Fortnum & Mason, this made by Chateau Megyer.  Although 5 puttonyos, this was quite light on the palate and had a quite fresh flavour profile of lime and grapefruit.  This, with the Allsop water ganache truffles was absolutely divine.  Damian’s trademark is a ganache filling which is made with water, rather than the usual cream and butter.  Though the chocolate was rich and deeply, intensely chocolatey, the unbelievably light texture worked to make this pair beautifully with the elegant Tokaji.  Having said the pairing with the ganache was divine leaves me without an adequate adjective to describe how it paired with the salt caramel truffle.  Really really well!  The caramel had a soft whipped consistency and the salt was under control, so the weight and flavour-strength of the confectionary balanced nicely with the Tokaji.

Then on to the cheese board.  Seven cheeses and three bottles of wine – sounds about right, doesn’t it?  We had fun trying and comparing all the possible combinations of cheeses (with or without a slice of marmelada, quince paste) with each of the wines.  Here’s the list:

  • Madeira Barbeito Malvasia 2000 Colheita, single cask 44a – flavour of orange blossom honey, quite vivid but neither flavour nor texture of the wine was heavy or cloying, absolutely delightful
  • Quevedo 40 Years Old Tawny Port – so rich and complex it defies description (like all really good Port, I think!)  I first had this in Oscar’s tasting room last September, whilst clutching an ice pack to a severely sprained knee incurred in the Douro seven hours previously.   The knee soon ceased to bother me.  It tasted wonderful on a warm evening in Vila Nova de Gaia, and tasted wonderful again in cold snowy London last night.
  • Chateau Raymond-Lafon Sauternes 2007 Famille Meslier – another wine with a wonderful light texture despite its sweetness, with distinctive minerality and pineapple notes
  • Drunken cheese with barolo
  • Drunken cheese with prosecco
  • Drunken cheese with vernaccia
  • Stilton
  • Caerphilly
  • Serra de Estrela São Gião (a Portuguese sheep’s milk cheese, strong flavoured and very creamy buttery textured)
  • Comté
  • Marmelada (quince paste)

All the cheeses were excellent and like much of the food that night, came from Borough Market near London Bridge.  The Comté or the drunken cheese made with Prosecco would be my picks if I were just making a meal of cheese and biscuits with fruit (which yes, I do occasionally, paired with a really good story, preferably one of John Buchan’s thriller/adventure novels).   Stilton really is THE cheese for wine, par excellence, for me, I find it too pungent and salty to make a meal on its own with just water and fruit, it needs a wine of strong character to balance it.

The Quevedo 40 Year Old Tawny has the most beautiful rich colour and flavour imagineable

The Quevedo 40 Year Old Tawny Port has the most beautiful rich colour and flavour imagineable

Our cheese and wine pairing picks of the night:

  • Nicola – Caerphilly with marmelada and celery with the Madeira
  • Drew – Stilton on a biscuit with the Madeira
  • Cynthia – Stilton on celery dipped in just a tiny bit of coarse salt with the Port
  • Robert – Serra de Estrela on a biscuit with the Madeira

We all liked the caerphilly/marmelada combination with both wines, the balance was right in both cases, with the wines showing splendidly against the food.  When Drew recommended trying the Stilton spread on celery and dipped in Maldon sea salt, we found that this particular food combination really changed the character of the Madeira on our palates – we think it was the added salt that did the trick.  It was not unpleasant, by any means, but just brought out a different balance in the flavours of the Madeira, from how it came across when paired with the milder, less salty cheeses.  The Quevedo 40 Year Old Tawny on the other held its own and balanced beautifully with the strong flavour combination.

The meal really was a lesson in food pairing – how successful pairings can be driven by either contrast or matching, as long as the relative strength of flavour and weight-in-the-mouth of food and wine are balanced.  Fantastic examples from this meal:

  • The contrast of the sweet fruity Riesling versus the rich savoury pork sausages
  • The matching of the sweet, delicate Tokaji with the water ganache chocolates – a traditional thick creamy filled chocolate would have suffocated the Tokaji
  • The classic matching of the savoury roasted lamb with the Bordeaux – depth and complexity of flavour well balanced

Interested in more good examples of cheese and wine pairings?   Borough Market invited Robert to taste 10 different cheeses and recommend wine pairings, and the article includes a good general discussion of food pairing ideas, take a look.

What have been your most memorable food and wine pairings? I would love to hear your stories and suggestions.

Sunday lunch wine line up

We had a good lunch…

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Merry Christmas – Feliz Natal

Rabanadas e vinho do Porto Tawny - French toast and Tawny Port

Rabanadas e vinho do Porto Tawny – French toast and Tawny Port

Já recebi uma entrega das rabanadas frescas e ainda quentes!  Com um copo do vinho do Porto Tawny… fantastico.

I just received a delivery of fresh, still-warm rabanadas!  This is a Portuguese dessert like french toast, but better than any french toast I have ever had.  With a glass of Tawny Port – fantastic.

Bom Natal e bom ano novo a todos, de Porto!  A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone from Porto!

Christmas in Porto

Feliz Natal do Porto! Merry Christmas from Porto!

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Bacalhau Dourado

Ingredientes poucos e simples

Read Golden Bacalhau in English.

No último verão tive o melhor bacalhau de sempre no Restaurante Beira Rio, no Tua, e perguntei o nome e como era feito ao meu amigo que almoçou comigo nesse dia.  Ele disse que se chama Bacalhau Dourado e explicou brevemente como se faz – é uma mistura de batata, bacalhau, cebola e ovos mexidos cozinhado com muito azeite (como toda a comida portuguesa!).  Finalmente, hoje, eu tentei cozinhar eu própria.

Se calhar fiéis leitores lembram-se do meu bacalhau de Natal, que eu demolhei durante as férias e, no final, arrumei no congelador.  Então, ontem à noite retirei alguns pedaços do congelador e preparei para cozinhar hoje.

A ultima natação

Almoço com a minha professora de português, Joana

É melhor do que aparece, prometo!

Não tinha uma receita (tenho uma revista Teleculinaria com 65 receitas de bacalhau –mas não ESTA receita!!) então eu arrisquei como se faz.  O primeiro passo é cozer o bacalhau e deixar arrefecer.  Quando puder tocar sem se queimar, remova a pele e as espinhas e esfie o bacalhau.

Próximo passo, descasque e corte as batatas em palitos, frite-as e deixe de lado.  Eu pus numa travessa no fogão para as manter quentes – e não me lembrei até ao minuto final, mas felizmente não ficaram queimadas.

Depois, corte uma grande cebola a meio, e depois às rodelas e deixe de lado.

Mexa os ovos, e deixe a taça perto da placa.

Então, agora começamos a parte mais excitante.  Deixe refogar a cebola em azeite (muito azeite!) e adicione o bacalhau e as batatas fritas.  Mexa, deixe a alourar, (sem dúvida precisa de mais azeite!) e finalmente, junte os ovos mexidos.  Continue a mexer até os ovos estarem cozinhados como desejar.

Ponha nos pratos, decore com azeitonas e talvez mais azeite, e coma!

Posted in em Português, Miscellany, Portugal | Tagged , | 7 Comments


Though I spent last week mostly in the Douro for the harvest of a few selected parcels, I return today for the start of full-on harvest – all the Symington wineries will be opened, all the grapes will be picked across all their quintas.

Though I will be based at Quinta do Tua and blogging for Graham’s again, I will also be blogging on The Vintage Port Site, reporting on the harvest across all the Symington brands (Graham’s, Dow’s, Warre’s, Cockburn’s, Quinta do Vesuvio to name the most widely known).

The harvest period is such hard work for all concerned, personally I find it equally exhilarating and exhausting.  I love being outdoors basically from sunrise to sunset every day (being inside the wineries occasionally doesn’t feel “indoors” the way being in an office or in a city does) though I pay for it by having to be in the quinta office or house and on the internet very early mornings and late into the night to get the writing and posting done.

Still, it is worth it, and there are always moments, details, that refresh me when I am most exhausted.  Like looking down at the boots I bought two weeks ago because they were exactly the colour of 30 Year Old Tawny, and realising the Douro dust has made them indistinguishable from the old boots… or the ground…

Or watching five birds of prey gliding and circling on the breeze above Vilariça.  Or catching the magical moment when the rising sun crests the hill and the entire landscape around me changes in the light.

Posted in Douro | 4 Comments

Um Copo do Vinho do Porto – A Glass of Port

Acho que o vinho do porto é o melhor vinho da meditação.  Rico, doce, descontraído, este copo do vinho inspira ideias, emoções, confiança, fé.  Hoje eu provei um vinho do porto feito por um amigo que tem uma quinta no Douro Superior, e faz vinhos, na maior parte das vezes, só para a sua família e amigos.  É um vinho de Touriga Nacional feito em 2000, que está a envelhecer nas pipas na cave da sua casa nos altos, e que ele engarrafou ontem para nós bebermos hoje.

A cor é um tawny cor de laranja muito escuro e rico.  O aroma é muito sedutor.  Eu estava a cheirá-lo por tanto tempo até que ele me perguntou porque não estava a beber.  Na boca, pode apreciar o efeito da madeira, a concentração, está como se nada permenacesse no vinho que não é essencial, puro sabor, pura amizade, pura meditação.

Port wine must be the ultimate wine for meditation.  Rich, sweet, relaxing, this glass of wine inspires ideas, emotions, trust, faith.  Today I tasted a wine made by a friend who has a quinta in the Douro Superior and makes wines for the most part only for his family and friends.  This is a wine of Touriga Nacional made in 2000, which is ageing in casks in the cellar below his house in the highlands, and which he bottled just yesterday for us to enjoy today.

The colour is a tawny, very dark rich orange.  The nose is very seductive, I was enjoying the scent for so long he asked why I wasn’t drinking.  In the mouth, you can appreciate the effect of the wood, the concentration, it is as if nothing remains in the wine that is not essential, pure flavour, pure friendship, pure meditation.

Posted in Miscellany, Portugal | Tagged , | 6 Comments

New Year’s Resolution – em Português

Pode ler em Português ao baixo.

One day last summer, in a tiny Douro village, I stopped at a café with colleagues.  Whilst they drank their coffee, I played with the sugar packets.  They were printed with words and phrases to demonstrate some recent changes in spelling standards, and I realised yet another reason I am struggling with my Portugese comprehension:  The Orthographic Accord.

A few years ago someone decided to change the way everything is spelled, to harmonise European Portuguese with Brazilian.  As the new spellings do away with a lot of letters and accents, more and more words sound and now look on paper the same, even though they aren’t.  For example, on this sugar packet:

Este cão tem muito pelo.  Vais pelo bom caminho.

This dog has a lot of fur (pelo).  You go by (pelo) the good path.

The word for fur used to be pêlo.  But they decided to throw out the accent, so now the word for fur is identical to the preposition pelo (by + masculine definite article, por + o = pelo).

O comboio que vai para o Porto não para no Entroncamento.

The train which goes via (para) Porto doesn’t stop (para) at Entroncamento.

Once again a preposition (para) can no longer be distinguished from another word, in this case the verb para (he-she-it stops) which used to be spelled pára, until they threw out the accent.  It’s still pronounced as if the accent is there, but in writing there’s no difference.

My biggest hurdle in language learning is listening comprehension – I am just plain slow at the work of sorting out the sounds into recognisable words, and often due to vocabulary limitations, I just don’t recognise the words, because I haven’t learned them yet.

Very frustrating, so I tend to focus on my comfort zone of reading, and rely on written language to learn, or double check my comprehension.  Now, with the Orthographic Accord even that is going to be more of a struggle, since I will be less certain WHICH word this really is – the preposition or some other word which has lost the distinguishing marks that helped me figure it out before.

On the other hand, one New Year’s resolution is to get through this and become more fluent by year end.  I need to build vocabulary and I need to sort out my grammar.  To that end, I am doing two things:

First, I am trying to read more on wider variety of topics, not just the Revista de Vinho.  Magazines are a big help as they often use a more conversational tone and vocabulary, they cover a wider range of topics, and if I really cannot figure out the words… at least I understand the photos!!

Second, I am again taking lessons, and will be using proposed texts for bi-lingual blog stories as a basis for practice and discussion.  So … we’ll see.

E agora… em Português…

Certo dia, no último verão, numa pequenina aldeia do Douro, parei num café com alguns colegas.  Enquanto eles bebiam os seus cafés, eu brincava com os pacotes de açúcar.  Neles estavam escritas palavras e frases para mostrar as mudanças da nova ortografia.  E apercebi-me, mais uma vez, da razão porque estou a lutar com o Português:  O Acordo Ortográfico.

Há alguns anos, alguém decidiu mudar como tudo é escrito, para harmonizar e simplificar a escrita do Português Europeu com todos os outros países lusófonos.  Porque com a nova ortografia se perdem muitas letras e acentos, mais palavras parecem iguais embora não sejam.  Por exemplo, neste pacote de açúcar:

Este cão tem muito pelo.  Vais pelo bom caminho.

A palavra pelo (cabelo na pele dos animais) parece igual à contração da preposição por e o artigo o (pelo).

O comboio que vai para o Porto não para no Entroncamento.

Mais uma vez, não se pode distinguir a preposição para (o Porto) e a forma verbal para (como cessar) que costumava ser escrita como pára.  A pronunciação é a mesma, mas na escrita não há diferença.

O meu maior obstáculo é a compreensão oral – quando ouço alguém a falar, tenho de literalmente separar os sons nas palavras que reconheço e, muitas vezes, por causa das limitações de vocabulário, não reconheço as palavras porque ainda não as aprendi.

Muito frustrante, então, tendo a concentrar-me na minha “comfort zone” de leitura e a confiar na língua por escrito para aprender ou verificar novamente a minha compreensão.  Agora, com o Acordo Ortográfico até isso vai ser mais difícil, porque vou ter menos certeza de QUAL palavra se trata na verdade – a preposição ou qualquer outra palavra que perdeu as suas marcas distintivas que antes me ajudavam a a descobrir.

Por outro lado, um dos meus desejos do ano novo é ultrapassar este problema e tornar-me mais fluente antes do fim do ano. Tenho de ganhar mais vocabulário e tenho de melhorar na gramática.  Para isso, estou a fazer duas coisas:

Em primeiro lugar, estou a tentar ler mais numa maior variedade de tópicos, não só a Revista de Vinho!  As revistas são uma grande ajuda porque usam, muitas vezes, um tom e um vocabulário mais coloquial, cobrem uma maior variedade de tópicos, e, se eu não posso descobrir as palavras… pelo menos compreendo as fotos!

Em segundo lugar, estou mais uma vez a ter aulas e vou usar histórias bilíngues no blogue para prática da língua e discussão.  Então… vamos ver!

Posted in em Português, in English, Miscellany, Portugal | Tagged , , | 8 Comments