Douro TGVThree bottles of extra virgin olive oil graced each table at the University of Trás-os-Montes’ Panoramic Restaurant in Vila Real, Portugal. The occasion—dinner themed around olive oil and prepared by three chefs known for culinary innovation—was the culmination of a day devoted to gastronomy at Douro TGV (Turismo-Gastronomia-Vinho) 2018. A stunning salad of edible blossoms was just one of six dishes on an extraordinary menu. For Tom and me, the evening was a chance to sample beautiful food featuring one of Portugal’s best-quality culinary products, lovingly presented.

Three talented chefs

Organizers called upon three talented chefs to put on a tasting menu with every dish showcasing the virtues of the region’s high-quality olive oils. Each chef brought a unique perspective to the event. The three worked in tandem through the evening to present a vibrant, colorful, one could even say poetic, salute to one of Portugal’s top contributions to gastronomy. 

The culinary magicians behind our dinner were Chef João Paulo Magalhães of Quinta do Ventozelo in the Douro Valley, with a new restaurant featuring traditional Portuguese cuisine set to open in 2019; Chef Daniel García Peinado, whose Maroleum Restaurant Oleoteca in Malaga, Spain features olive oil in every dish, and uses no oils other than olive oil; and Chef André Magalhães, the spirited genius behind two remarkable Lisbon restaurants: Taberna da Rua das Flores and the recently opened Taberna Fina, with a contemporary flair and tasting menu.

Olive oil expert Francisco Pavão, director of the Olive Growers Association of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (AOTAD) curated oils for the evening. Edible blossoms and herbs were provided by Graça Saraiva, whose Ervas Finas organic gardens in Vila Real supply many of Portugal’s top restaurants.

3 Chefs
Chefs João Paulo Magalhães, Daniel García Peinado, and André Magalhães.

The meal!

toasted artisan bread with aged hamOur dinner was a taste trip through the varietal olive oils of Tras-os-Montes and Douro: Cobrançosa, Madural, Verdeal Transmontana and Negrinho do Freixo. 

First up was a slice of toasted artisan bread with aged ham. A  ‘ploof’ of Cobrançosa, its light aroma hinting of fresh grass, was all this simple plate from Chef André Magalhães needed to activate our taste buds.

Next, it was a trip to the sea with Chef García Peinado: a single fresh oyster, briny and lightly sweetened with a citrus dressing featuring Madural olive oil. It was the first time I have been tempted to lick an oyster shell!

Then, it was on to two fish dishes cooked in olive oil at low temperature. From Chef García Peinado, there was croaker accompanied by couscous seasoned with basil, cheese and broccoli in a broth emulsified with Cobrançosa. Chef André Magalhães presented codfish confit on a sauce slightly spiced with Negrinho de Freixo oil and with a side serving of greens, to be seasoned to personal taste by each diner with the oils on our tables.

taste of the sea
A taste of the sea, with a hint of Transmontana

codfish confit on a sauce slightly spiced with Negrinho de Freixo oil The meal closed with two special creations: before dessert, from Chef García Peinado, a glass of natural yogurt foamed with Verdeal olive oil and enriched with the flavors of peanut, banana, honeyed gelatin and a single blueberry. The finale, from Chef João Paulo Magalhães, was a delicate salad of edible flowers, curled around a slice of cured Terrincho sheep’s cheese and a dollop of cinnamon-tinged almond pudding from Casa Lapão in Vila Real—drizzled with port wine vinegar.

Every dish in this incredible meal was a burst of flavor, in which the oil supported, but did not overpower other delicate flavors. My favorites? I loved both fish dishes, but there was that incredible oyster and the salad of delectable bites brought together in perfect Trás-os-Montes harmony. Thankfully, I did not have to choose a favorite, just enjoy!

Wines were local too, a selection of excellent, unpretentious Douro whites and reds. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the Três Bagos Reserva Douro Tinto 2015 from Lavradores de Feitoria. The wine’s soft tannins and acidity were in perfect harmony with every dish on the menu.

Pre-dessert: yogurt foamed with olive oil
Pre-dessert: yogurt foamed with olive oil

Douro TGV 2018

Regio-Douro Park’s three-day event promoted tourism in Trás-os-Montes and the Douro, as well as gastronomy and wine from Portugal’s northern region. Presentations on a gastronomy day coordinated by Francisco Pavão included extra virgin olive oil as a product, its benefits and the importance of attribution of Denomination of Origin (Azeite de Trás-os-Montes DOP is Portugal’s second largest area of olive oil production). 

The day included debates about valorization of olive oil in the region, and tastings of olive oil and products made with olive oil—from ice cream to bread to chocolate. Best of all, though, was the opportunity of a marvelous dining experience to help us appreciate, dish by delicious dish, what top-quality extra virgin olive oil can do to enhance an already good meal!

It’s time to taste olive oil!
It’s time to taste olive oil!

 

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I would LOVE to taste every dish made with these olive oils! The fish dish with greens looks especially good to me right now. There really is a distinctive difference between them, which I discovered when we went to Greece. Portugal sounds like another destination I would enjoy.

    • Oh Debra, if you enjoy Mediterranean food, you would have loved this meal. Portuguese dishes can be heavy, but not these! There is plenty of culinary innovation going on here, and much to explore. Come visit!

  2. What a feast? I never would have imagined one with an olive oil theme and all the creations you enjoyed. We were just in Italy and I must admit, the olive oil there was a cut above what I have in my kitchen cupboard. It’s obviously best to enjoy olive oil on the continent where it is produced. Your post is a tasty addition to my Portugal Pinterest board.

    • Portuguese olive oil is spectacular, Suzanne. This is the first time I have had multiple bottles of EVOO going at once in my cupboards, and I am motivated by dinners like the one in Vila Real to use it in all sorts of dishes. Thanks for sharing our post!

    • A couple of dishes were almost–but not quite–too beautiful to eat! It was a treat to discover so many light ways to enjoy Portuguese flavors.

  3. Reading this made my mouth water! I don’t even like oysters but that dish sounds amazing. I haven’t even been to Portugal and am not familiar with Portuguese cuisine really so I will have to go one day.

    Jenny | localleo.co.uk

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