More Portugal - Oporto
- Pat Hammond
We arrived in Porto for the feastival of St. John. If you can time your visit for this festival (June 23-24) its a terrific, rollicking time! Everyone, everywhere you go is grilling sardines. We took a cab from our hotel to the Cathedral District and from there walked through the alleys that twisted and turned as we descended toward the Cais da Ribeira, the waterfront area along the River Douro. We were ready for lunch and headed to D Tonho, mentioned here on Chowhound. We were not disappointed. Several little appetizer plates are served before the meal and you may either have some and pay, or leave them alone. Something we really liked and ate each time it appeared were black-eyed peas (?) with a vinegar/oil dressing, parsley, and chopped onions. Marinated octopus was another wonderful treat at this restaurant. It was so tender it was just this side of being mushy, but NOT mushy or in any way unpleasant; it was delicious in a marinade of vinegar, oil, and garlic. The bread at this place was uniformly excellent. There was a very dense hunk of brown bread that my friend, Judy, called wet bread, and my favorite, called Folar. It was extremely eggy, with bits of meat cooked into it, more like a savory dessert. In honor of St. John, I ordered the sardines, perfectly grilled and oiled, with a squeeze of lemon. Those were my first fresh sardines ever. The remains on my plate looked like a comic strip fish with head and tail at the ends and perfectly picked clean bones in the middle.
Wonderful. More mixed salad, and we shared a flan type dessert with a burnt caramel sauce.
We went across the river to the port lodges and did some tasting. I knew nothing about port, so I learned a good bit, and enjoyed the port very much. I found that I like white port a lot! I also recommend a boat ride down the river. It takes about an hour.
The revelers were beginning to hit the streets with plastic hammers or giant leeks they used to bonk everyone they could reach on the head. My roommate for the trip, Barbara, bought a hammer and bonked with the best of them. This is all done in good fun and I have no idea what it signifies! Another interesting thing is they launch big paper balloons with fire inside, that go very, very high and then burn up!
Soon it was suppertime and Judys husband Al, consulted his Rough Guide and we took off in search of Papagaio Churrasqueira (Travessa do Carmo, 30-A). This meal was fabulous! I cant even tell you what I ordered I because I was so taken with Judys squid, and Als veal. The veal was some of the best I have ever put in my mouth. Also on the veal spit they added chunks of rich and gooey pork fat, sort of like unsalted salt pork. Al took a bite and a sound escaped him that was almost obscene! It was that good! Everything is cooked on the same grill on skewers. The squid had a meaty taste to it because it had cooked along side the meat. The pieces of squid were quite large and alternated with vegetables. They baste everything with a jus of some sort before de-skewering onto the plate. More venho verde! If I had dessert, which I doubt, I cant remember it.
The evening ended with an enormous, long firework display at the river at midnight, which we could see from our hotel room. We were awakened at 2 a.m. by another extravaganza not a block outside our window. A wonderful way to say good-bye to Porto.
Next will be Aveiro for the Math Conference and roast suckling pig!