And 2014th’s best custard is….

      Yesterday during the festival “Fish in Lisbon” it was announced the winner of 2014th’s best custard. This year the great winner was the pastry shop “Alcoa”, from Alcobaça, and here at LisbonStories we can’t wait for our next tour to Alcobaça, to try one.

     By now you’re probably confused: “I thought that the best custards could be found in Lisbon, in that famous pastry-shop in Belem?!”

     “Pastéis the Belém” can only be found in that famous pastry shop as it is said that they’re made with a secret recipe, invented by the monks who lived in St Jerome monastery, right by its side. Belém is indeed the name of the district.

     “Pastéis de Nata”, same thing than custards, but different name, are the ones that can be found everywhere else in the world. They taste just like the first ones, with the exception of the name… and the secret.

     Is there such a big difference? Honestly, no. Maybe the ones in Belem are crunchier as they’re served warm, but that’s about it. I love them, but after trying the ones served in Aloma, the 2013 winner, I couldn’t decide which is my favorite.

    Well, let me try Alcoa’s custards and I’ll tell you my final opinion!

Portugal Restaurant Week

     If you love to go out and try new restaurants, new flavors and gourmet foods, you’re coming to Lisbon during the right week.

     Portugal restaurant week is here and until next Sunday the best restaurants in Portugal will be available at a settle price of 20€ per person (drinks not included). This is a great opportunity to try expensive restaurants, where one can’t go every day. Besides, 1€ per person will be donated to charity, which makes this event even more special.

      To check this long list of restaurants and to do your reservation just follow this link. You’d better hurry up: this promotion only lasts until March the 24th and some restaurants are already full.

    If you decide to give it a try please don’t forget to leave a comment and tell us how it was!

“Alheira” – a sausage plenty of history and flavor

     There was once a time, about 300 years ago when the Inquisition – an extremist section of the Catholic Church – dictated the rules around here. Strangely enough, even in what food was concerned.

     One of the tastiest sausages in Portugal was invented by the Jews during those difficult times as a way to escape the clutches of the Inquisition. Since their religion wouldn’t allow them to eat pork, they would be easily identifiable by their pursuers by not preparing the -very common at the time- smoked pork sausage.

     They found a clever resource: they replaced the pork with a huge variety of other meats, such as veal, rabbit, turkey, duck and chicken sometimes partridge, tucked into richly seasoned dough of wheat bread. Garlic played an important part flavor wise as it would cleverly disguise the lack of pork if any investigation would be carried through.

     The result was “Alheira”: a mouthwatering soft sausage that would eventually become popular even among Christians. Today we can find “Alheiras” made with different ingredients, including pork, as Christians didn’t resist to adding the usual porky touch to the recipe.

     Alheira can be easily found in almost any restaurant menu. Served with a fried egg on top, french fries and salad or vegetables, it can be either fried or grilled.

Évora with picnic lunch and wine tasting

    Yesterday I had the most amazing day with Carol and her family. They are a happy family of 6 composed by her parents, her and her husband and two kids, aged 8 and 14. They all wanted to visit Évora but while her husband wanted to visit a winery and try some wines, her parents wanted to see the country-side and her kids wanted to do something fun.

    In order to please everyone we visited Évora in the morning and once they were feeling hungry we drove towards a vineyard where between cork-oak trees and endless vineyards there was a wooden table set with regional products. Cheeses, hams, chicken pies, regional sweets and liqueurs, bread and jams, as well as fruit composed the menu. While parents could eat and taste some regional wines and liqueurs, the kids could run around vineyards and scratch pieces of cork from the trees.

    The picnic was provided by a local company of wine experts, so, all the products were fresh and we didn’t need to worry about cleaning the table or so. Once we finished eating we visited the winery where everyone could learn about the wine production and its complicated process. Since the kids were very interested in cork, we also visited a cork-factory in a really small town, far from everything, where they could learn more about the cork process and see how things are made.

By the way, here’s the tour link. If you’re looking for a romantic tour this can be an idea.  Imagine you and your partner having a picnic lunch on your own, tasting great wines in an idyllic landscape on the shade of cork-oak trees and vineyards…

Have you heard of Linguiça? I’m sure you did!

    Yesterday I was watching the news when I was surprised by this commercial! Who would have thought that Apple, John Malkovich and “linguiça” would be all together in a TV commercial?!  The word “linguiça” has generated buzz thanks to this ad, but after all what is it?

    Linguiça is a Portuguese sausage prepared with minced meat, usually pork meat, seasoned with salt, garlic, onion and pepper. Then it is embedded in natural casings, and by that I mean the small intestine’s thin skin, which must be totally dry and clean. In the end this is a horseshoe-shaped sausage cooked and smoked until it reaches a reddish appearance and a semi-stiff consistency, without casing breakage.

    This sausage is one of the oldest forms of processed meat, being mentioned in the “Odyssey” of Homer written in the ninth century BC and Linguiça was actually one of the first sausages to be invented and the word. Here in Portugal we usually eat it with bread as a starter and I ensure you that this is the best way to start a barbeque! You just need to grill it a little bit, catch a slice of bread and it’s perfectly good to be eaten.

   I hope that Malkovich had the opportunity to try it either after or before the commercial. And what about you, ready to try some during your stay in Portugal? You won’t regret!

Don’t forget: share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends!

5 things that are different (on the table)

After all these posts about food I decided to clear some doubts and talk about 5 things that are different, on the table.

Appetizers: When you sit at a restaurant they’ll bring you immediately some bread, olives and butter. After you’ve order they may also bring you wonderful small appetizers to eat while you wait. Though they may seem a courtesy, they may cost you almost as much as the meal itself… and they also fill you almost as much as the meal itself!

If you don’t want any of those, just don’t touch them or tell the waiter that you don’t want them right away.

My fish wasn’t clean: in Portugal you can eat excellent fresh fish everywhere. The only thing that may look weird for you is that the fish never comes clean. Why? Portuguese people love to eat fish and also to know which kind of fish it is, and how fresh it is as well. This way, we like to clean it ourselves and refuse to eat just a fillet. At pricey restaurants they may clean it for you, but they’ll bring the cooked fish first, show it to you, and then clean it in front of you.

Eat without rushing: for us eating out is meeting with friends and talking about everything. We like to take our time during the meal and restaurant owners understand this. Don’t get surprised if the service isn’t really quick or if they don’t bring the check just after you finished to eat. If they would rush us out of the place no one would go back there.

Tipping: for us, tips are a reward for a good service and not part of the waiter’s wage. There’s no rule but we tip about 10% of the check, which may double when the service is outstanding. Since it’s not mandatory it’s never included in the bill.

Taxes included: In Portugal all prices MUST include taxes (vat, for instance) and when they don’t, they have to state that.

Read more about Eating habbits here.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me and this article with your friends!

5 Meals a day and become Portuguese right away

Though you don’t see that many people in the streets, Portuguese people eat a lot: generally we eat 5 times per day. Here they go:

Breakfast: a caffèlatte and a sandwich or cereals with milk. Is eaten at home and quickly as everyone is always late for work.

Mid-morning snack: about 10.30 or 11am it’s time to stop what you’re doing and ask your colleagues if they’d like some coffee. It lasts about 15 minutes and is a moment of relax and socializing between working colleagues. Almost everyone drinks an espresso and eats one pastry.

Lunch: about 1pm everyone is already hungry and it’s time for lunch break. It lasts about one hour and is composed by some bread, vegetables soup, the main dish (rice and meat or fish and potatoes), desert or fruit and another expresso. This isn’t “the” big meal of the day: we have two big meals per day and love it this way.

“Lanche” or afternoon snack: is mandatory for kids but most adults eat something before dinner too. About 6pm it’s time to bite another sandwich and drink some tea, or have some milk with cookies.

Dinner: at the end of the day (8 or 9pm) the family spends some time together and sits for more than one hour by the dinner table. In terms of food, it’s just like lunch but since the day is over, everyone takes their time to eat and talk.

When we have a dinner out with friends it never starts before 9pm and lasts up to two hours.

Supper: not everyone, but since we never go to bed before midnight, some people still eat some crackers or a piece of fruit before going to sleep.

What do you think of our eating habits? How many times per day do you eat? Share your thoughts and share this post with your friends!

Read more about our gastronomy here.