Friday, May 25, 2018

MENU's Iberian Exploit 4. Return to Porto

The second stay in Porto
We had booked another AirBnB apartment in Porto and this was a really good one, it had underground parking and we would leave our car there and just use Uber or the public transport. There is almost no parking in central Porto so this was a find. Our landlord Jorge was there to meet us and he was extremely helpful, pointed out all the important local things, like supermarkets and then how to get to all the tourist things and give us instructions for the flat, which was spacious and modern. We were now in the Serralves Park area. Lynne is looking a bit bedraggled, as we were caught in the rain and had driven all day from the Douro
We were near this bridge, which over the next few days was to become our bête noir
We had a phone call from Joaquim Sá, MD of Amorim Cork in South Africa, who had arrived in Porto that day. Would we like to join him for supper. We took an Uber to Ribeira and headed for Le Petit Lapin, which is on the south bank of the river
It may sound French, but it serves great Portuguese food. It was freezing cold and we were very glad we were not joining the diners outside on the riverside
Waiting for the others at the entrance
We were shown to a table upstairs
And left all the ordering to Joaquim. And then we shared all the dishes. It was a feast. Our first bottle of Vinho Verde was Muralhas de Moncao, crisp and racy as expected, but with some depth and good fruit
Our first course is a speciality. A spicy sausage – like a chorizo; it  is sliced and put on a skewer. Then alcohol is poured over it and lit. It burns nicely for a while and when it's nicely browned at the edges, you eat it
Then octopus with potatoes and garlic. A lovely dish, the octopus soft and properly cooked
Last week’s recipe of the prawns in garlic that we grew to love
Mussels with tomato in a good broth; nice and plump and tender
The party consisted of Joaquim, Charmaine who works with him in Cape Town, Lynne and Andrew London who owns GetCork in Cape Town, selling all sorts of cork products. John was, as always, behind his camera
Now the main courses, Bacalao with new potatoes and an accompaniment of Duck rice
Another bottle of wine to try
Douro Planalto is made from 40% Viosinho, 20% Malvasia Fina, 15% Gouveio, 15% Códega, 10% Arinto. It was aromatic, slightly vegetal and lots of melon and pear flavours, crisp and great with the food. Around 3.50 in the shops. It was a great evening, we had a lot of fun. Thank you Joaquim
Lovely night lights on the river and the Dom Luiz bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel of Tower fame
Despite the cold and the prospect of rain, Porto was out enjoying the nightlife
Next morning we drove to the Amorim Cork factory, which is about half an hour south of Porto

And had a very instructive tour of the wine cork factory. We learned a lot. We were not permitted to take many photographs and most of those we did take, sadly, have gone. Much more about that later. The factory is very large and we walked what seemed like many kilometres that day, seeing how cork is treated, from when it arrives as rough tree bark right up until the corks are punched out and sorted. Fact: Cork oak trees grow the cork as bark and this can only be harvested every 7 years. Who says wine takes a long time to produce! You do see cork trees all over Portugal and Spain. And the special black pigs wander around on the grass underneath the trees and eat the acorns which give their meat such incredible flavour. We'll tell you more about Amorim and the many things they do in a separate story next week

Joaquim Sá of Amorim Cork took us to lunch at 1715 Restaurant in Porto, which is near to the factory. This old church, dating from 1715, has been incorporated into the restaurant,
 which serves a wonderful buffet
And what a buffet! Full of the most delicious looking food, some traditional, some international, good salads and lots of vegetables. The Portuguese like vegetables. Here you can see sautéed mushrooms and a huge tortilla. With salads in the background
Thos wonderful flour sausages on a bed of real spinach, a dish with chickpeas, and a roasted courgette dish, with more salads at the back. We have come to realise that Swiss chard is not a patch on real spinach and, given some winter rain, are going to plant some this year
Rich desserts to turn even Lynne’s head and new season strawberries
Sliced jamon, a coleslaw and lots of fresh veg
John’s choice included smoked salmon, some croquettes and olives
Lynne could not resist the huge white asparagus, also in season
And as if we could forget, also a hot carvery section with roast pork and beef and gravy, and potatoes done at least four ways, including potato crisps
We needed some exercise when we got back to Porto to walk off lunch
The next day, after another interesting visit to Amorim's facilities, we went across the river to meet Joaquim and the gang for a visit to one of the Port Houses
We thought we had to be at Graham's and decided to walk there. A longish walk along the quayside, past several of the Port houses
and then along the narrow streets up the hill
This hill nearly killed Lynne, who has never been good on hills. It went on forever and was very steep. For once we had a sunny and warm day and that didn’t help. When we reached Graham's we discovered that we were at the wrong place
Not being able to face the walk, we took an Uber back down and found the restaurant where Joaquim was waiting
We had Patanisca, which uses Bacalhau - Cod fish from the north Atlantic near Norway, Iceland and Newfoundland waters is salted and dried to preserve it, a process that has been used for centuries before refrigeration. It is then rehydrated with lots of water to wash away the salt and is used in cooking many Portuguese dishes. It is now endangered, so it is very expensive. Here it was made into light fish fritters with salad and chips. Traditionally Bacalhau is made with potatoes, onions, tomatoes and olives.
 And prawns and clam with white beans - Feijoada de marisco, which was something we could become addicted to. Lynne has found a recipe and hopes to make it and then publish it in MENU. Now to find good seafood. Interestingly, it is cooked in beer rather than wine
We drank a bottle of Vallado 2016 from the Douro, a white wine made from Arintok, Codega, Gouveio, Rabigato and Viosinho. Yes, not many of the grapes used are familiar to us either. They grow many different local grape varieties in Portugal. Crisp and grapey, it had good fresh acidity and went very well with the food
Then another (bloody) hill to climb! up to Cockburn's Port Cellar
Where Joaquim had organised a special port tasting for us
Cockburn’s is part of Symington’s stable of Port houses (always Co’burns, never Cock!). Remember this, please:
It was Christmas Day in the Mess
And the Colonel got rather a shock
For he heard to his sorry distress
Someone rhyme Cockburn with “Cock”
Now the Colonel’s a kindly old soldier
And he’d known the lad’s Pa long ago
So he just said “Remember, I told yer
One never says “Cock”, one says “Co”!
Remembered by John from an ad in the London Underground in the late 60s
On the tour, we learned some of the history of how the successful English Port importers became involved in making the port themselves and then stayed on in Portugal to found these famous Port houses. Many still send their children back to England for education. While they are now Portuguese, they speak perfect non-accented English
A barrel, called a "pipe", of Reserva Port
Some of the older pipes
And some of the enormous vats
Many very old and still used to make and store Port
Then into the barrel repair area. They recycle as many old barrels as they can and the workmen are incredibly skilled
Some of the stencils used on the barrels
And whom should we meet but the charming MD of the company himself, Mr Michael Symington
It is their job to check the barrels for leaks, or breaks and to salvage and repair them. Here an old master teaches a new apprentice how to repair the top of a barrel. There must be no leaks
Here you can see one being finished after several new staves have been inserted
Its quite a stack of port
A map of the Douro
Oh yes please, can we have a taste of that vintage?! No chance
The logo on every barrel
Lynne would love to try some port as old as she is – 1947 was a great vintage. John couldn't find any 1945
Time for our Port tasting. Our tasting guide was Nicole Santos and she was young and very knowledgeable. It was the best Port tasting we were to have in Portugal
First the Cockburn’s 2012 LBV. The best selection from a year. It’s a ruby, single harvest and not from a vintage year. It spends 5 years in the big vat. This one had plums and raisins, elastoplast, sharp fresh acidity and some chalky tannin. Sweetness at the entry, a little jammy. Good with strong cheese – cheddar and Stilton, and chocolate desserts. 20% Alcohol. €13 (our score 16)
Next, Cockburn’s 10 year old Tawny Port. Nuts and spices, caramel wood, cooked strawberries and fresh raspberries on the nose. Hazelnuts and almonds with raspberry, honey and caramel, with cooked raisins and sultanas, its elegance and quality blew our minds. We bought a bottle to bring home. €19 (our score 18)
Then a 2007 Vintage Port from Quinta dos Canais, a single “A rated” estate. Dark berry fruit, wood cherries plums, earthy incense on the nose. Silky smooth and warm. A surprising fresh kick of fruit acid, soft chalky tannins which made our teeth stick to our cheeks. €40 (our score 17.5)
And then another classic from 2007 Herbal and floral with Lavender and violets, a fascinating nose. Silky and very sweet with long flavours of plums, dark chocolate, liquorice and salt. But not as powerful as the Quintados. €100 (our score 16.5)
We think  Joaquim was dropping a hint….
Speaks for itself!
Next we drove up to above the Port houses to the best sited hotel in Porto, The Yeatman, also one of the best hotels, apparently, at which to sit on the terrace and watch the sun set. It's in the same league as the Mount Nelson and a must if you visit Porto. And what a view
Construction all around and a view of the Dom Luiz Bridge
Joaquim taking photos of us taking photos
Lynne relaxing. The calm before the storm
It’s a lovely long terrace too
Do have what we had – white port and tonic. It might leave you abandoning your gin and tonic for a while. Well, only a little while. It was lovely and refreshing and perfect after the heady ports at Cockburn’s
A good idea of the density and complexity of the centre of the city across the river.
And then it was time to eat again. The Portuguese love to eat, several times a day. Sunset was at 9, so lunch was a long time ago. Off we went to this restaurant in Matosinhos, O Felipe, famous for its seafood
It is very very popular and although we had a booking, we still had to wait for a table.
Its name is on the napkins
We had a bottle or two of this Soalheiro 2017 from Alvarinho We always left the choice of wine to Joaquim, he is a Cape Wine Master and knows his Portuguese wines, so who better to trust? Floral on the nose, slight muscat note, jujube fruits, very attractive. On the palate, melon, citrus with a crisp tingle on the tongue. Some slight bitterness from wood, it is refreshingly grapey on the end with greengage plums. And shouts “Food please!”
A starter of crisp, battered and deep fried bacalao
And a plate of small, oh so sweet local prawns and. new to us and very enjoyable when you learn how to eat them, barnacles. You pull the foot off the shell and the inside is exposed and that is what you eat.. discarding both the outer sleeve and the shell. It tastes of the sea
New season potatoes, cooked two ways, boiled and in olive oil, garnished with garlic
Rice and spinach in a broth came with each serving of the fish
The fresh sea bass that is Joaquim Sá’s favourite. It was baked in salt
and expertly filleted and apportioned at the table
Dessert. And we had eaten such a lot that day, that we nearly didn’t manage it. However we are very glad indeed that we did. It is a classic Portuguese recipe called Pão de Ló de Ovar , made with lots of egg yolks, sugar and a little flour, almost a soufflé, certainly very rich. Soft and squidgy, sweet and melting. Luckily the portions were tiny. See this week’s recipe
The restaurant is near the harbour terminal where the cruise ships dock.
And then the brick hit the fanlight. When we got back to our car, the quarter light had been broken and the car had been burgled. They took John’s camera bag and all his equipment, which he had locked in the boot
They left our coats and gifts Amorim had given us. We are told that they have a device that can detect lithium batteries, so please do not leave things in your car, even if it is a safe place and locked away out of sight. Do not be under any illusion that there is little crime in Europe. They are professionals. Our crime is mostly opportunistic. We spent an unpleasant night finding a police station and making a report. It left us very upset and stressed. Thank heavens for Joakim who helped us so much, to calm us down, to find the correct Police station and acted as translator while making the reports. And thank you to Charmaine and Andrew who were also tired and were so patient.
John lost over R40 000 of photographic and other equipment. Thank heavens we always take out travel insurance and we’ve just had notification that they have paid us. Off to ORMS tomorrow to get the replacements! It was a horrible end to a really lovely day. That is why some of the photos are missing. They got John’s SD cards. Luckily he is religious about downloading them onto his laptop as soon as possible, usually every evening when we get home, so we had the photos from the time we arrived in Portugal and our trip to the Douro. But what were we going to use now to document the rest of our trip?
We made a plan. Read on next week 

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