On 18 March, Portugal declared a national emergency, and shuttered restaurants, bars and wine shops across the country. Through the weeks in lockdown, Tom and I have missed our frequent forays into the Porto food and wine scene. We miss dinners in local restaurants, mostly family-owned, serving up hearty arroz com pato (duck rice), bacalhau com natas (codfish with cream), and other staples of the Portuguese home kitchen. We miss finishing a long meander through town with a stop at one of Porto’s many cafes or bakeries to linger over pasteis de nata, bolinhos de bacalhau, and other bakery goodies, along with a pingo (Portuense for espresso) or two or three, or a tall glass of homemade lemonade. We even miss dodging tourists along the Douro river walk.
Through the COVID-19 crisis, some of our favorite bloggers and tour operators have helped keep us up to date on the pandemic situation in Portugal. Others have offered virtual food experiences. Tom and I have found these resources to be invaluable through the first, lockdown, phase of the pandemic:
- Julie Dawn Fox, writing from central Portugal, has mixed social media posts on the country’s many tourist attractions with English-language updates on the virus. She provides helpful tips for travel to Portugal at any time, and updated her travel advisories earlier this month to include Travel Considerations In The Face Of COVID-19.
- Sara Riobom of Portoalities is a passionate leader of private tours in Porto and Northern Portugal. She is using her blog to keep us up to date on Porto’s efforts to combat the pandemic.
- Rita Branco, aka Oporto Encanta, has teamed with fellow bloggers in Munich, Prague, Barcelona and Provence, to offer recipe booklets (in Portuguese) to their readers.
- Filipa Valente, owner of Taste of Lisboa Food Tours has hosted Taste of Lisboa at Home, regular Instagram Live sessions with wine producers and chefs, who share some of their best-known recipes with participants. Coming up on Sunday: a discussion with André Appolinário of Taste Porto Food Tours!
- Célia Pedroso is Culinary Backstreets Lisbon bureau chief. Her thoughtful report, Portuguese Solidarity in the Time of Coronavirus, details the efforts by a number of Portugal’s top food and beverage businesses to provide food and other assistance to frontline workers and citizens across the country. Casting a wider net, Culinary Backstreets’ Daily Dispatches from the Frontlines of Local Eating provide insights to crisis-hit foodie destinations around the world.
Dinner out, in
When the COVID-19 crisis reached Portugal, Tom and I stocked our pantry and wine cellar for self-quarantine. We enjoy preparing our own food and from the start of the lockdown here, have been fortunate to receive weekly deliveries of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from the organic farmers at Quinta de Louredo. We know them from the Saturday market at Parque da Cidade and while sheltering at home have been delighted to be able to order a weekly box of fresh produce delivered to our doorstep.
Many food and beverage providers in Porto have stepped in to offer take-out and home delivery, as well as vouchers for future in-restaurant dining. As Portugal’s lockdown continued into its second month, it was a relief to add a few luxurious treats to our meal rotation.
One of our favorite restaurants, Almeja, was our choice for an order-in restaurant meal after weeks at home. Gelato delivery from Gelateria Portuense topped up the experience.
These days, Almeja Chef João Cura offers sourdough bread and a range of home-style dishes, such as a delectable arroz com peixe (fish rice), on a menu that is updated weekly. Both Chef Cura and his wife and partner Sofia Amaral Gomes have used Instagram Stories to present easy-to-follow recipe suggestions. And this week, for Mother’s Day, Almeja is offering a Sunday breakfast option, in addition to lunch or dinner.
Gelataria Portuense, Porto’s top artisanal gelato maker, provides home delivery of freshly made gelati and sorbetti every Saturday. Our challenge has been to decide which flavors to order, given the limits of a small apartment freezer compartment. We love them all, but salted caramel looks to take the prize for this pandemic!
Until the pandemic ends
Hats off to the energetic entrepreneurs who are keeping Portugal’s marvelous culinary and wine traditions alive through a difficult period. We may not be able to hop in the car and visit the country’s tourist sites right now. But with help from these spirited guides, we can still travel on our plates, as we follow the latest on Portugal’s pandemic response, and the country leaves lockdown behind and begins a phased reopening from the 4th of May.
We can taste some of Portugal’s best foods, while we wait for the next opportunity for an in-person Portuguese travel experience. In the meantime, #CantSkipHope, a stunning promotional video from the Portugal Tourism Board, reminds us of so much that Portugal has to offer, with a tantalizing look at what awaits us when all this is over. And for anyone with Porto as a stop on a dream-trip itinerary, here are some food travel ideas from our friends at Taste Porto Food Tours.