Portugal’s food scene is as sunny as its skies, and can be every bit as classy as the fabulous tiles adorning so many buildings here. For six glorious weeks, Tom and I munched and quaffed our way from one end of the country to the other, marveling at exquisite seafood and regional specialties. Along the way, we learn a lot about both traditional food ways and contemporary takes on old favorites. It’s time to go home, go on a diet, or both!
Over a month and a bit, we met chefs and fellow diners, and tasted the output of food artists and snack vendors. We tried meat, fish and fowl and yes, some vegetables, too. Best of all, we benefited from the insider knowledge and the exquisite taste of a legion of fellow foodies: some of them professionals and others, just regular folks, and every one proud of their country’s food heritage. So many people were eager to showcase the best of it for visitors like us. We are especially indebted to our friends at Aptece, the Portuguese Culinary Tourism and Economic Association, for introducing us to many traditional foods and the people who make them.
Taste of Lisboa Food Tours
Filipa of Taste of Lisboa Food Tours got us started, with a food and culture walk through Lisbon’s Mouraria neighborhood. She also shepherded our visits to cheese producers and winemakers in the Lisbon and Setubal regions, and organized a fine evening of cooking in a Lisbon home kitchen.
Taste Porto Food Tours
André of Taste Porto Food Tours put more than 13,000 steps on our pedometer as he hustled us up and down that city’s hilly mid-section. We ate (a lot) and took in a morning’s worth of the city’s food history. Our walk in Porto kicked off a week of Portuguese food experiences with James Martin of Wandering Portugal/Wandering Italy and Martha Bakerjian of Martha’s Italy. After our move to Porto, we also got to know André and his team of marvelous food guides, and were delighted to have their help settling into our new hometown with several Taste Porto food experiences.
Specialty producers & local markets
And then, there were the producers and local markets–from olive oil and wines, to cheeses, sausages, jams and so much more. Makers of “conventual sweets” and patisserie cooks across the country, from Póvoa de Varzim to Portel and several places in between, treated us to more egg yolks and sugar than was good for us. We also received a big dose of cultural history along with all those sweets!
Locals everywhere invited us into their homes and their lives, sharing meals and stories with us. In a Schist village southeast of Coimbra, we tasted homegrown sweets and teas with friendly neighbors–and met the family goats. In the north, we stayed in manor houses with rich family histories. In Lisbon, we had a chance to help prepare dinner with locals in their home.
Landscapes with food
From Minho to the Algarve, we experienced fabulous landscapes along with the food; mountains, sea, and sandy plains, each one with its special character and flavors. This was not our first visit to Portugal, and it certainly won’t be our last!
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Thank you to Aptece, the Portuguese Culinary Tourism and Economic Association, and Turismo de Portugal, for making our travels possible.