Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Wine Chronicles | Wineries Visit at Fernando Pó (Palmela, Portugal)

Fernão do Pó (or Fernando Pó) was a 15th century Portuguese navigator, allegedly one of the first European men to step on the Gulf of Guinea islands, one o which was named after him (currently Byoco).  But those weren't the only lands named after the Portuguese explorer. A wide plain, not far from Lisbon has long ago became known as Fernando Pó and, in more recent years, as the place of some serious winemaking, with wineries winning medals after medals in some of the most important international wine contests.

In this region, distinguished by a layer of soft sands, covering the soil of clay, the microclimate provided by the proximity of the Tagus and Sado rivers protects and facilitates the perfect ripening of the grapes. The resulting wines are known for their structure, body, color and, especially, aroma. With some of the wineries associating the judicious choice of grape varieties to a modernization of the processes, combining tradition with the most modern technology, it has been possible to produce wines of high quality that do not cease to amaze the connoisseurs.

During the months of April and May (every Thursdays and Saturdays, until May 27) you can make a visit to 3 major wineries in the region, hear and talk to their winemakers, and taste some wine and regional products. The visit starts at Oriente train station in Lisbon, and after less than 30 minutes you arrive at Fernando Pó. A car with a guide will take the group of visitors on a tour to 3 wineries and then back to the train station at the end of the visit. The complete visit takes about 9 hours. I've done this visit a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed every minute of it. Let me tell you more about it!

On arrival to Fernando Pó the group were welcomed by our guide from Rota dos Vinhos da Península de Setúbal (Wine Route) and by the winemaker of Filipe Palhoça Wines, a family-owned company dedicated for more than 50 years to viticulture and wine production in the sand plain of Palmela. Marta, the winemaker, took us in a visit trough the vine gardens and shared her knowledge on vine growing and wine making. From the vineyards we get to Quinta da Invejosa, the headquarters of the estate, to know some more about the wine making process and for a tasting of Moscatel wine (both Setúbal and Roxo varieties), that we paired with a traditional cake of the region (Fogaças).

Next stop at Fernão Pó Winery, a company that seeks to combine the best of tradition with modern technology, while strongly committed to social and environmental principles, such as adherence to the Wine in Moderation and the Business and Biodiversity programs, in addition to producing grapes with environmental certification.

At Fernão Pó, after a guided visit to the winery, held by their  winemaker João, we were invited to a tasting of 3 of their wines that were paired with Tibornas (a Portuguese traditional recipe resembling Bruschettas) and with crackers with the winery's special wine jams.

Fernão Pó Winery takes very seriously the strong bond between wine and gastronomy, and João will give you sound advice on pairing their wines with specific foods. The passion and knowledge he expresses while talking to us about winemaking and the wines he presents is contagious and you will not notice the time passing by. Well, maybe the fact that you are on your fifth wine glass will help too!

After joyfully saying goodbye to our kind hosts at Fernão Pó, a merry group of wine lovers get on their way to Casa Ermelinda Freitas, where we have lunch on the terrace, before visiting the winery.
The view from the terrace is spectacular, with vines extending to the horizon and the food was absolutely delicious. We couldn't thank enough to Maria her outstanding cooking skills.

Once more, lunch was an opportunity to know (and taste) a traditional recipe called Sopa Caramela - a meat and vegetables soup  specific to the region, named after the seasonal works from the north part of Portugal that came to the region to work on the vines. The rich flavor, the tender meats (served on the side, the freshly baked bread and, of course, the wine made this lunch a memorable experience.

After a most interesting visit to the winery, conducted by Susana, we return to the terrace for one more wine tasting experience, where the pairing was made with some superb regional cheese (I've told you about Azeitão cheese before), bread and regional charcuteries. By that time we were having some hard time dealing with numbers, but 10 wine glasses were some of the numbers that I can remember to hear between smiles and laughs.

Was time then to finish the visit and return to the train station. Everybody in the group looked relaxed and happy after a great day. Although I've been a guest to Rota dos Vinhos, all the opinions presented here are my own and I would strongly recommend this program to anyone that loves wine, food and to know more about wine making in Portugal.

These 3 wineries have their own wine tourism programs and I'll be talking to you about them in the next few weeks. Until then, you can pay their sites a visit and know some more about them and the great wines they are making.

For more information on the visit contact:
Wine Route of the Setúbal Peninsula
Phone: + 351 212 334 398

Price per person:
Adults € 54 |  Children up to 16 years old: € 38

The price includes transportation by train, transfer between wineries, referred experiences (wine is only served to participants over 18 years old) and a bottle of water. Subject to the minimum number of 6 participants.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Best Things to Do in Lisbon | Summer Wine Tourism Experiences

Summer is on our door step, and the longer days and warm weather are propitious to outdoor activities. Today I bring to you two wine tourism experiences really close to Lisbon that you will enjoy and that you can bring your kids along. A picnic in the country and a cruise where you'll the opportunity to watch dolphins in their natural habitat will certainly be two experiences that your children will enjoy. These wine experiences and many others can be find at the site of Rota dos Vinhos da Região da Península de Setúbal (Wine Route).

June 15 at 16:00

The Saint Antony Picnic is an annual event held every June at Quinta do Piloto, that includes a visit to the winery, wine tasting and regional products tasting in the vineyards.

The Picnic Menu includes Cold Tomato Soup, Azeitão cheese, dry sheep cheese, sheep's butter, traditional Portuguese charcuterie, bread baked in a wood oven, local jams, Palmela fogaça (regional cake) and seasonal fruit.

This wine experience is organized by Quinta do Piloto. You can make your registration at the Wine Route site.

Adults: 18 € | Children between 4 and 12 years old: 9 €.

June to September, Saturday at 18:30

The weekly Wine Sunset Party cruises, with the duration of 2:30 hours, include wine tastings commented by the enologist from one winery of the Setúbal's Peninsula Wine Region (a different one is invited each week) and the tasting of regional products like cheese, charcuterie and regional pastries. The cruise goes through the river Sado Estuary, Setúbal's Bay, Arrábida and Tróia coast.  Dolphins watching is very common as there is an established population of dolphins in the region.

This wine experience is organized by Sado Arrábida and you can check the wineries present on each cruise date on their site.

Adults: 30 € | Children between 6 and 12 years old: 17,50 €.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Food Chronicles | Lunch at Audrey's Café (Lisbon)

I have already written about Audrey's Café on my Tea for Two series, but tea is not the only thing you can have in this charming Alfama's venue. Audrey's is open for breakfast and for tea, but also for lunch, presenting a selection of petiscos to share, and of meat and fish dishes. Salads and delicatessen boards, and some nice dessert options complete the menu.

You can find Audrey's Café at Santiago de Alfama Boutique Hotel, situated on the historical Alfama district. I've lunched there a couple of weeks ago, after a morning visit to Lisbon's Flea Market at Largo de Santa Clara (commonly known as Feira da Ladra).

This is a great place to visit with friends and to calmly have lunch while you catch up. The beautiful venue and the delicious food will invite you to stay for quite a while. Although the room is not very large, there is a good space between the tables so you can keep a good sense of privacy. The natural light and the breeze that entered trough the window, made this the perfect setting for a Spring lunch in the city.

The interior decoration successfully brings together a mix of styles and references, that contribute to a relaxed atmosphere and to create the feeling of being home. The color palete is a delightful combination of blues, browns and beiges, present in the amazing wall paper and dramatically lightened up by some red velvet curtains.

For our meal, we seat in a cozy corner, by the cupboard, with a view to the room and to the outside terrace, and talk for hours about food and travels while having a delightful lunch.  The couvert includes some good Portuguese bread with olives, olive oil and tuna patê. I've tried it all and it was delicious. Then we have some amuse bouche of Azores's tuna, marinated with spicy Asian sauce and chives. It was so good that I totally forgot to photograph it! I'll ask the restaurant for a pic just to show you how nice it is.

The restaurant presents an interesting selection of starters and I suggest you to do the Portuguese way, ordering different options and sharing with your friends. We had clams cooked by a traditional Portuguese recipe (Bulhão Pato), where the simplicity of the method (the clams are poached with olive oil, garlic and coriander) relies on the freshness and quality of the seafood. And this clams where outstandingly fresh, succulent and tasty! 

Next we had tenderloin steak with grilled vegetables and Port wine reduction. The combination of tender and juicy meat with the crispy vegetables is close to perfection. You can choose to have some home made chips instead of the vegetables or choose a different sauce, just have to ask. Audrey's menu also features some delicious fish and vegetarian  options if you're not in the mood for meat.

To finish this fantastic foodie experience we shared a Chocolate Brownie with Strawberries, that was to die for. With the right consistency and flavor, vanilla ice-cream and a red fruit coulis, I think the only fault of it is its huge size. Actually that it's only bad for me as  I'm trying to loose some weight but don't seem to have the willpower to resist a good chocolate dessert!

The restaurant presents a well trained staff team and all trough the meal, the service was attentive, friendly and helpful.  The menu is created every season by Chef Carlos Robalo, featuring locally sourced produce that presenting dishes with a true Portuguese inspiration. This was my first lunch at Audrey's Café but I'm sure it won't be the last.

Audrey's Café
Hotel Santiago de Alfama
R. Santiago 10
1100-538 Lisboa
+351 21 394 1616

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Tea for Two at Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon

The days are longer, giving us enough time to meet friends after work and relax a little after a busy day. Last week, I meet a long time and dear friend for tea at the Almada Negreiro's Lounge at Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon.

This was the perfect place for us to meet, not only because is close to her office but also because she is a lady of great artistic sensibility. As I have mentioned before the Hotel Ritz Lisbon is not only a posh hotel but also an outstanding art gallery, and the ideal scenario for two art lovers like us to enjoy a great afternoon tea.

At half past five, we had the Lounge almost for ourselves and spend about 3 hours caching up on our lives and remembering the old times without noticing the time passing by. During that time, we were served the most opulent afternoon tea, including both savory and sweet options, champagne and a multitude of tea varieties to choose from.

All that was served was superbly fresh, of the outmost quality and in such quantity that we were not able to finish it, although we did our best to. We skip the champagne and had a hard time deciding from the 20 varieties of tea available. Finally I choose Gorreana Orange Pekoe Black Tea, a premium grade black tea grown in the mineral rich Gorreana hills in the Azores Island, and my friend opted for a Red Fruit Infusion, with raspberry and cherry flavor, fruitfully tangy red berries and currants.

Now, let me show you all the delectable food included in the Almada Negreiros Afternoon Tea! The first tier presented us a selection of finger cut sandwiches with Pata Negra ham and rocket, and with Emmental cheese and cucumber. We also tried Mini Blinis with smoked salmon, which were our favorites on the savory section.

The intermediate plate presented a selection of bakery treats like chocolate chip cookies, Madeleines with honey and miniature Rice cakes. The Scones, with strawberry jam and cream, were perhaps the best that I've ever tasted. Superb!

The last tray was haven for the regular sweet tooth in everyone of us. Macarons, Chocolate Éclairs, Clementine Financiers, Coffee Éclairs and Raspberry Tartelettes. You know I'm partial to Macarons, but in this particular case, the tiny tartelletes, with a very light filling and the tangy raspberries were the best choice for me.

We had the Almada Negreiros Afternoon Tea, but you can choose one of two other tea menus: the Lisbon Afternoon Tea, where you can have a Portuguese inspired pastry selection with a Macaron with spices, a Pastel de Nata (Portuguese egg custard tart), a Queijada de Sintra (fresh cheese and almond Tartelette), a Pastel de Feijão (Bean Tartelette), and an Almond and Blueberry Tartelette. Or the Ritz Four Seasons Afternoon Tea, that presents you with a (even) richer selection of pastries, including a Blueberry Tartelette, a Paris Brest, an Ópera, a Clementine Financier, an Orange Macaron and a choice of Pastry from the trolley.

Whatever option you choose (the savory and bakery sections are common), a calm and sophisticated atmosphere is guaranteed, along with a truly attentive and polite service. We had the most delightful time and an enticing gastronomic experience that we are glad to recommend and plan to repeat.

Almada Negreiro's Lounge
Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon
Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca, 88
Lisbon 1099-039
Tel. +351 (21) 381-1400