Tag Archives: Porto

A Antiga

Restaurante Esplanada Marisqueira arthur mullen tiago matosinhos portugal seafood restaurant crab Açorda de Marisco porto portugal

With my career being in restaurants, food is kind of my reason for living. When I visit a new city, I like to eat across different levels of dining. For dinner on my last night in Porto, my 2 Portuguese friends and I went to Restaurante Esplanada Marisqueira which I gathered to be THE special occasion expensive seafood restaurant in Matosinhos. My lovely friend was NOT happy I was spending more money on her (look at her FACE! Oh man, I’m in trouble.) The mayor of Porto and the mayor of Matosinhos and their wives were at a table on the other side of the dining room, and I was excited to be living large.

Restaurante Esplanada Marisqueira arthur mullen tiago matosinhos portugal seafood restaurant crab Açorda de Marisco porto portugal

My friend Tiago walked with me up to the raw bar counter where we talked with one of the chefs about seafood unique to European/Portuguese waters. They brought out what looked like a dungeoness crab (I’m guessing its species but I’m no expert!) which walked up and down the counter like a top heavy body builder. I think we ate him later. We also got to see several kinds of shellfish, 2 kinds of lobster, and a giant prawn. This is Tiago’s favorite seafood restaurant in the world, where he has been coming with family since his youth. That’s a lot of expectations! Happily, the restaurant delivered on it’s reputation for the highest standards.

Restaurante Esplanada Marisqueira arthur mullen tiago matosinhos portugal seafood restaurant crab Açorda de Marisco porto portugal

Everything we were served was amazing. The bodybuilder crab (I’m pretty sure that’s the species – or maybe it was a Lance Armstrong crab, on the juice) was served steamed, white crab meat cooked to perfection and not a second over. In its shell was creamy, succulent crab dip. We had small clams cooked in white wine and butter, and soaked up the sauce (and the crab dip) with toast. Despite being pretty full already, the 3 of us split Açorda de Marisco, one of the house specialties, amazingly rich and delicious Portuguese bread soup studded with gems of shrimp and other local seafood.

Restaurante Esplanada Marisqueira arthur mullen tiago matosinhos portugal seafood restaurant crab Açorda de Marisco porto portugal

If I had to try to summarize my dining experience at Restaurante Esplanada Marisqueira, I would use just one word. It’s the same word that I reflexively muttered when the waiter wheeled out the incredible dessert cart, and in fact, I will go ahead with this one word to summarize my entire first visit to Portugal: damn.

Tagged , ,

Cubo da Ribeira

José Rodrigues Praça da Ribeira São Nicolau parish cubo statue porto portugal arthur mullen 3rdarm

Porto’s Ribeira is one of those few places in the world that attracts painters, photographers and all manner of artists for it’s inimitable combination of historic architecture, color and light. Well done UNESCO for protecting Porto’s riverfront district for future generations while accommodating modern touches like heated patios for the cafes and the mesmerizing statue of a cube suspended over a 17th century fountain, “Cubo da Ribeira” by José Rodrigues.

José Rodrigues Praça da Ribeira São Nicolau parish cubo statue porto portugal arthur mullen 3rdarm

My Portuguese friend Tiago insisted on taking some photos with my nice camera, and of course with my ego I was dead sure that my photos would be way better. I don’t know if it was the time of day, the reflective light from the Douro River or what, but I was later shocked to discover his photos of the Ribeira ON MY CAMERA came out WAY BETTER than my own. Maybe because he’s Portuguese?

Tagged ,

São Francisco

São Francisco oporto porto catholic church 3rdarm bronze angel statue dom henry the navigator crypt goldleaf wood goldwork

I’m not a big pilgrim: I don’t take pilgrimages and to be honest, just visiting 2 churches in one week was a lot for me. That being said, the 2 churches (Clerigos and São Francisco) I visited were both totally worth it, even for a secular non-conformist. My Portuguese friend insisted on taking me to São Francisco on the last day of my visit.

São Francisco oporto porto catholic church 3rdarm bronze angel statue dom henry the navigator crypt goldleaf wood goldwork

The sense of history is palpable, especially when in the basement where centuries of the devote are buried right under your feet. The moment I realized we were in a crypt I was hit by The Fear: this was probably most evident in my eyes. The goldwork inside the church itself inspired a different emotion: I was in awe of the intricacy and imagination in the ornamenture.

São Francisco oporto porto catholic church 3rdarm bronze angel statue dom henry the navigator crypt goldleaf wood goldwork

The living history on hand in Porto’s churches cultivated within me a greater respect for the traditions of the Catholic Church in Portugal.

Tagged ,

Padaria Ribeiro

Padaria Ribeiro croissant port wine squash pastry candied spaghetti tiago portugal 3rdarm

This bakery is in a small space but produces a great variety of Portuguese breads and pastries. Everything I tried was awesome. My biggest regret is that I wasn’t here every day of my visit!

Padaria Ribeiro croissant port wine squash pastry candied spaghetti tiago portugal 3rdarm

My friend Tiago (how could he not be Portuguese?!) insisted I try a savory pastry filled with shrimp, which was a good snack. With my sweet tooth, however, I was happy to move on to the sweet treats. I really enjoyed a small tart filled with candied spaghetti squash.

Padaria Ribeiro croissant port wine squash pastry candied spaghetti tiago portugal 3rdarm

Unfortunately, after just a few bites and an espresso, we had to take off. Tiago had an unexpected emotional outburst in response to the port-soaked croissant. IT WAS JUST TOO DELICIOUS! Face all red, he RAGED about how it’s IMPOSSIBLE to get croissant like this in the USA. I could see he wanted to order another one, but I was afraid of what might happen if he did.

Tagged , ,

Pontual

tiago mexica portugal porto lisbon alheira francescinha little frenchy with egg pontual snack bar cafe late night munchies 3rdarm

Following my early morning adventure, I returned to the hotel to knock out. Regrettably, I did not text my friend, who was worried all day. I finally awoke to loud rapping on the door to my room. It was dark outside. Groggily, I got out of bed and greeted Tiago, my friend and colleague from Chicago, who was on the other side! As a younger man, Tiago graduated from hospitality school in Porto. Now he had taken time away from his family visit in Lisbon, woke my sorry ass up and was ready to show me the old stomping grounds.

tiago mexica portugal porto lisbon alheira francescinha little frenchy with egg pontual snack bar cafe late night munchies 3rdarm

Tiago was hungry so we looked into good late night snack bars. Ironically enough, we chose Café Pontual: Pontual means “punctual” in Portuguese. Unironically, the snacks here are delicious. We had Porto’s signature sandwich, the little Frenchy, made even more decadent with the addition of an over easy egg running into the slow-cooked tomato – beer sauce. We also shared a plate of alheira, pork-free poultry sausage invented by the Jews during the Inquisition.

tiago mexica portugal porto lisbon alheira francescinha little frenchy with egg pontual snack bar cafe late night munchies 3rdarm

Reenergized by Pontual’s midnight munchies, I texted my friend to apologize and let her know that I was alive and well, happily eating unhealthy food again.  Tiago had a beer. I was too late to be punctual, but I was not too late for late night snacks at Pontual.

Tagged , , , ,

Mercado do Bolhão

Mercado do Bolhão porto portugal fish cheese flowers plants meats wine cheese 3rdarm arthur mullen

I had gone for a long early morning walk to see the famous Eiffel bridge, and my path back to the hotel for a little sleep brought me past the Mercado do Bolhão. The 19th-century, wrought-iron building housing Porto’s historic market is impressive even in its imperialism. On sale were fresh produce, cheeses, wine, olives, smoked meats, sausages, breads, plants, and a multitude of fish so fresh they were probably swimming in the Atlantic that morning.

Mercado do Bolhão porto portugal fish cheese flowers plants meats wine cheese 3rdarm arthur mullen

I got some coffee and fresh baked bread. The woman who sold me the bread did not speak much English. And yet she seemed to perceive that I had a rough night, that perhaps I had ingested more salt cod than I could handle and that maybe, in this state of total cod drunkenness, I had made a fool of myself. I don’t know for sure whether or not she picked up on all that, but when she generously insisted I take some amazing cheese for my bread, that’s how she made me feel.

Mercado do Bolhão porto portugal fish cheese flowers plants meats wine cheese 3rdarm arthur mullen

The saying goes that I will eventually forget the names of the bridges I saw and what fish were on sale at the Mercado do Bolhão that morning, but I will always remember this woman who made me feel cared for!

Tagged ,

Eiffel Constructions Métalliques

eiffel bridge maria pia porto portugal 3rdarm arthur mullen gustavo

I had heard there was an Eiffel bridge in Porto, but had gotten confused thinking it was the Ponte Luis I. What I was looking for was the Ponte Maria Pia, completed by the legendary Gustavo Eiffel in 1877, roughly the same era as the Crystal Palace. Maybe not as famous as the Eiffel tower, the bridge Eiffel built is just as beautiful.

Along with the Garabit Viaduct, Ponte Maria Pia is considered one the greatest masterpieces performed by the engineer Gustave Eiffel: Construction began on the arch over the Douro River without support from below. On each side of the riverbanks, a tower was used to support the arch, which was also attached to temporary wires in the mountains. When the arch was finished Ponte Maria Pia stood by itself, and the wires were removed.

Upon completion, Porto’s trade was shut down for 3 days, as the young and old alike took to the streets for music and partying to celebrate the arrival of the railroad. Although retired from use in 1991, Eiffel’s Ponte Maria Pia continues to be considered one of the world’s most stunning bridges.

Tagged ,

Fish Sweats

Ponte Infante D. Henrique bridge douro river gorge porto portugal tile roof historic yellow tramway dawn 3rdarm arthur mullen

After the first full plate of bacalhau, I went back for a heaping second helping. I cleaned that plate as well. It was delicious, my first time with the classic Portuguese dish, plus I wanted to impress my friend’s father with my healthy appetite. Unbeknownst to me, salt cod digests very different from its broiled cousin. I got the fish sweats, and I couldn’t sleep.

Ponte Infante D. Henrique  bridge douro river gorge porto portugal tile roof historic yellow tramway dawn 3rdarm arthur mullen

Before first light, I headed out for a walk. I crossed over the Dom. Luis I. Bridge. In Gaia, I walked behind two guys, I guess on their way to work. They stepped off the street and cut behind a row of homes: I instinctively followed at a distance. The path brought us to the top of a hill, where it was possible to get back on the road. The road lead to another of Porto’s awesome bridges.

Ponte Infante D. Henrique  bridge douro river gorge porto portugal tile roof historic yellow tramway dawn 3rdarm arthur mullen

As the sun rose, I crossed the Ponte Infante D. Henrique for the first time. Named for Prince Henry, the bridge was inaugurated on March 30, 2003. Ponte Infante D. Henrique was designed by the engineer Adão da Fonseca and it was built to replace the upper deck lane of the Luís I Bridge. I I took in the stunning views of the city and Douro gorge, while the morning traffic jam slowly built.

Ponte Infante D. Henrique  bridge douro river gorge porto portugal tile roof historic yellow tramway dawn 3rdarm arthur mullen

On the Porto side of the Douro gorge, the waking city appeared from the Ponte Infante D. Henrique as if in miniature. Cars still had their headlights on as they snaked along the river road. A yellow tramway traversed a steep cliff and disappeared into a tunnel.

Tagged , ,

Bacalhoeiro

bacalhoeiro bacalhau

My friend’s father Eloi invited me to their home for dinner. Elio prepared the classic Portuguese dish of bacalhau, making everything from scratch.

bacalhoeiro bacalhau

The cod was soaked for many hours to wash away the brine. Eloi then boiled the cod with potato and carrots, which he diced on the spot. I was impressed by his deftness in the kitchen!

bacalhoeiro bacalhau

My friend physically removed me from the sink, where I tried to post up and do my thing to impress her father. I realized that if I was not allowed to do the cleaning, I would have to impress him with my eating. One way or another, I was determined to clean my plate.

bacalhoeiro bacalhau

I’m very familiar with cod as a delicious white fish and I was not at all worried about eating a lot of it. However, the salt cod was a little heavier than I’d thought. Adding to the heartiness, my friend slowly drizzled extra virgin olive oil over my bone-in primal cut of salt cod – by far the biggest piece on the table.

bacalhoeiro bacalhau

The flavors of each element shined. The cod is slightly meatier for the brine and tasting of the sea. The olive oil teased out some of the fish’s sweetness. The potatoes and carrots were earthy, satisfying bites. Bg thank you to Eloi (and Nikita!) for having me over for dinner, and cooking an amazing Portuguese classic.

Tagged , ,

“Rabanadas” Majestic Style

rabanadas majestic style porto portugal 3rdarm french toast cafe con leche art nouveau

The Majestic Café, designed by architect João Queiróz in the nineteen twenties, is still today one of the most beautiful and meaningful examples of Art Nouveau in Porto. I may have missed a few of those striking details because I was distracted by my friend’s Audrey Hepburn-style beauty. The servers were gracious even though we arrived right before they closed. Majestic’s classic French toast was perfectly light and at the same time impossibly rich. It made for an unexpectedly epic and decadent midnight snack.

I thought their cafe con leche was on point. On the restaurant’s website, Gloria Montenegro, President of the Paris Academy of Coffeeology, is quoted saying, “The Majestic Café is a wonderful place, where muses, thinkers and artists can get together to live the best moments life has to offer: simply sharing communication through words and gestures, glances, smiles and even a few tears sometimes.” I don’t see why not. My friend and I shared “Rabanadas” Majestic Style, and it was pretty amazing.

Tagged ,