In Porto: Ovelha Negra

Joana Nossa (standing) and one of the knitters of All Knit Long (also Joana)

Joana Nossa (standing) and one of the knitters of All Knit Long (also Joana)

Joana's famous legs!

Joana’s famous legs!

Pode ler No Porto: Ovelha Negra em Português

One of my favourite places in Porto is a knitting shop, Ovelha Negra.  Not just because I love to knit and the yarns are beautiful, but because the owner, Joana Nossa, has created a wonderful atmosphere of wecome, light-heartedness and creativity.  In addition, the shop is set in a wonderful neighbourhood filled with lots of small shops each with their unique products and points of view, so it’s a nice point to begin or end a long wandering walk.

When she was only eight years old, Joana discovered two passions:  dance, and knitting, but like many of us, she was not permitted to follow her passions in school and university.  But, one day, a small notice for dance auditions caught her attention.  Without any professional experience, she auditioned – and began a successful career as a contemporary dancer performing around Portugal and the world.  You can still admire her legs on the album cover of Luis Ribeiro´s music for her performance of The Red Shoes in Vila Nova da Famalicão.

I am always curious how people start their businesses.  For Joana there came a time to move on from the dancing – she had a child, and wanted a more settled life.  So, she decided to pursue her other great passion – knitting – and open a yarn shop.

Joana had no commercial experience or training, nothing but “courage and foolhardiness” in her words.  Her family were worried, but she went ahead and used only her own savings to “rent a space, buy some yarn and needles, and open the shop” as she modestly describes it.

In fact some smart thinking went into her planning and choices:

Ovelha Negra:  yarn, needles and shawls knit by Joana

Ovelha Negra: yarn, needles and shawls knit by Joana

The colours and the quality of the yarn is spectacular

The colours and the quality of the yarn is spectacular

Porto has a number of yarn shops, but they are all quite traditional, offering the same very basic yarns year after year, and excepting the wools of Porto-based Lopo Xavier, most of the available yarns are acrylic or synthetic blends.  Joana saw the opportunity to bring to Porto the latest in fashion-driven, artesenal knitting and fibre design.

Ovelha Negra is located in an area of Porto well-known for its art galleries, used book stores, cafés and independent shops, so there are always lots of people wandering around, curious to look at everything.  Additionally, it is near Trindade (the hub of the Metro system) and Aliados (the starting point of many a tourist’s explorations of Porto).

To decide what yarns to stock, Joana spent considerable time on Ravelry – the renowned on-line community of knitting and fibre enthusiasts – and looked at the projects and yarn-stashes of Portuguese knitters to see what they were buying, using and loving.

At the same time as opening the shop, Joana also started the Ovelha Negra blog – which is a visual feast whether or not you can read the Portugese – and the Ovelha Negra on-line store.

She started small with just a few of the best-known, highest quality and most sought-after brands of yarn, including Rowan, Debbie Bliss and Noro.  She offered needles, pattern magazines and books, as well as courses in knitting for all levels, from absolute beginners to developing techniques to designing your own jumpers.  Joana has also regularly invited skilled friends to offer workshops in related arts, such as crochet, spinning, felting, weaving, embroidery, patchwork and making Waldorf dolls.

All Knit Long, the first Wednesday evening of every month

All Knit Long, the first Wednesday evening of every month

Her business has grown steadily every year since opening in 2009, despite the hard times in Portugal, and Joana has been able to expand her selection of yarns and products.   Her shop is the focal point of a very active knitting community, and the first Wednesday of every month sees a dedicated group knitting (and talking!!) till midnight at the shop, All Knit Long.  We have even attracted the attention of video-journalists and the press.

When you visit Porto, you should join us at Ovelha Negra.

Ovelha Negra
Rua da Conceição, 100
4050-214 Porto
tlf: +351 220935847

The opening hours are:
Monday to Friday from 10:00 to 13:00 and from 14:00 to 19:00
Saturday from 10:00 to 13:00 and from 14:00 to 18:00

Visit the Ovelha Negra on-line shop and Ovelha Negra Blog

Posted in in English, Life in Portugal, Porto, Travel | 9 Comments

Apaixonada Pelo Porto Uma Vez Mais

Read this post in English

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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Posted in em Português, Life in Portugal, Porto, Turismo | 1 Comment

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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Posted in in English, Life in Portugal, Porto, Travel | 7 Comments

Rainbow over Porto

Beautiful, isn’t it?  I love my city.

Rainbow, 17:30, 22 February, Porto

Rainbow, 17:30, 22 February, Porto

Posted in in English, Porto | 2 Comments

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

Posted in em Português, Porto

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…

Posted in Food, Food and Wine, in English, Wine | 7 Comments

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!

Posted in em Português, Food, Food and Wine, in English, Life in Portugal, Miscellany | 8 Comments

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 Cookery, em Português, Food | 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, in English | 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 generoso 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 fortified 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 Douro, em Português, in English, Port Wine, Wine | 6 Comments