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Portuguese chowdown at the Grubstake: report

  • w

16 hounds gathered at the Grubstake last night to try the Portuguese menu. (Someone needs to teach me to say "no.") We sampled all the Portuguese offerings from the regular menu plus one special. Krys also cleaned out a Portuguese bakery in Hayward, and Susan and Henry and I filled out the mix with cherry liquor and fado CDs. All in all, it was a successful evening.

Courses included:
caldo verde
salad and olives
shrimp with molho de alho
bacalhau (salt cod) a gomes de sau with potatoes, onions, eggs, and olives
pork chops à Alentejana
steak with garlic and fried egg
clams with pork (special of the day)
flan and rice pudding

Encouraged by the $5 corkage, we also brought several bottles of vinho verde, a douro, a few other red wines, and a 1994 Dow vintage port.

My general thoughts: the highlights were the bacalao, perhaps the perfect hangover food, and the heavily seasoned pork chops and potatoes that came with them. The linguiça in the caldo verde was flavorful and is available with eggs or on a sandwich. I found the soup thinner than when I've made it, although the kale was sweet, not bitter, and a bit of piiri piiri sauce didn't hurt.

I've tried bacalao before including in Portugal and never liked it before, but this was delicious, especially with an extra bit of olive oil. The entrees came with small portions of carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower, a welcome healthy touch. The flan was fine if undistinguished; Derek and Malik claimed one flan was better than the other, but I'll leave that for them to debate.

This is not haute cuisine (not with us passing bags of smuggled in rolls amd cookies covertly under the table). But I'd happily return for more than a burger and a milkshake. Maybe easier for a table of 4 than 16. Service was extremely accommodating considering who they were dealing with. And remember, cash only.

Total came to $30 each including tax, generous tip, and corkage. You could spend much less and leave happy. Comments, please!

Link: http://sfgrubstake.com/menu/index.html

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  1. Thanks again Windy for organizing this! (And thanks for emailing me about it, since I've been semi-absent from this board lately.)

    I'd never had Portuguese food before, and this was a nice introduction. My favorites were the caldo verde (tasty, and unusual) and the bacalao (so! good, salty and savory and really excellent with a little oil and vinegar).

    Now that I know this place is open until 4am, I'm certain I'll be coming back.

    1. The one dish we did not try from the Portuguese menu was Bacalhau Cozido Com Todos (Boiled Codfish with Potatoes, Vegetables and Hard Cooked Egg). I've had it on a previous visit, and found it thoroughly bland, would definitely not recommend ordering it.

      My favorite dish was the Bacalhau a Bomes de Sa, which was also my favorite Bacalhau preparation when I was in Portugal last summer. The version at Grustake is a bit different than the traditional one in Portugal, as it has hard boiled eggs as opposed to scrambling the eggs in the pan along with the fish, potatoes and onions. Nonetheless, it was a good dish, and I'll be ordering it next time I'm at Grubstake for a late night after-drinking meal.

      I also enjoyed the shrimp dish, but the shrimps were a tad overcooked. The potatoes in this dish were particularly tasty thanks to the garlic.

      1. Thanks for posting and thanks for organizing the event.

        First of all I am not an expert in Portuguese food but only pretend to be on Chowhound.

        However, I did eat at all three restaurants in the area and all five bakeries (help me) in the past few weeks.

        First, of all, loved that cherry liquor. Don't forget to post the name and I'll scour the web for more info.

        I had the flan before and it grows on you, not the type that you warm up to on the first bite. When I had it myself, my first bite was ... this is ok ... at the last bite I was really enjoying it.

        The rice pudding was not Portuguese which I've found is usually flavored with lemon, a wonderful addition. My reference is trying it 3 places and cook books.

        Perhaps the best dish I like at Grubstake is that Caldo verde which is clear and clean to me with the greens and the lighter broth than at Sousa's in SJ. The Sousa's version was more like a potato cream soup with greens.

        I like the potates with cod here too, but haven't tried it elsewhere.

        The clams and pork was the dish I was most excited about trying because it is not on the Grubstake menu but a special dish. The clams were tasty. It was the least Portuguese of all three versions I tried. Sousa's does this best followed by La Salette.

        The thing with Grabstake is that all the dishes were the same in preparation. The meat on top of potatoes and vegetable. It was good, but each was not that different (and I'm on the Grubstake list anyway for bringing the contraband baked goods, so I might as well be candid.

        Should they let me eat there again, I would get the Caldo Verde. I like the potatoes, but I'd be more interested in trying other items on the Grubstake mentu.

        People asked about the bakery address and here it is:

        Popular Bakery
        (408) 258-2800
        1636 Alum Rock Ave
        San Jose, CA 95116

        What we had from the bakery was:

        Papaos Secos (hard rolls)

        Portuguese sweet bread

        Bollo - flat white corn bread. First time I tried this at this bakery. I like this, like most baked goods, better than Hiser's version. I learned from Eric at the bakery that Popular has a special source for the white corn meal used in this.

        However, the difference in bakeries is marginal. It's like comparing Neldham's to Virgina Bakery.


        Pasteis de Nata - the egg custards

        Biscoitos - the round cookies plain and frosted. I just am not fond of these. Best variety is at Portuguese Bakery in Santa Clara which is their thing with a dozen flavors, frosted and unfrosted. All bakery versieions taste the same to me.

        Queihadas - the other little tartlets - orange, coconut, bean, almond

        Dona Amelias - little brown tartlets dusted with confectioner's sugar. Named after the last queen of Portugal.

        Orange biscuits - just tried these that morning for the first time after Eric at Poplular Bakery clued me in. Probably my favorite Portuguese cookie to date. Loved the fragrant and orangy cookies.

        The only cookie not from Popular was the Especiales which were the spicy brown and white ring cookies. The one thing Hiser excells at due to a secret that my many queries will not uncover. Any idea on what spice that could be?

        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/boards/notfo...

        1. well I for one am glad that you didn't say "no" as I think we were one of the later responders.. Thanks so much for putting this together and doing the ordering.
          I think you hit the nail on the head that this is not haute cuisine but rather hearty peasant food served on the appropriate earthenware platters. I thought everything was very flavorful with the exception of the caldo verde which was as bland and homey as I remembered from our trip (honeymoon) in Portugal.
          I loved the sauce/broth from the pork and clam dish. Yimster and Derrick both commented how it needed a side of rice to soak it up! Also would go back for more bacalau. What a great addictive chewy texture and a good vehicle for olive oil (although it really didn't need!)
          I was asked to say a bit more about the "Ginja" liquor that we brought. Well let me preface it by saying that Portugal was my sort of place- great espresso like coffee, bakeries on every corner, Port, cheap if not the most exciting wine, this Ginja and other exotic liquors and apertifs, and most importantly a culture that promotes enjoying it all and enjoying it in the company of friends and family. The Ginja was sold in tiny standing room only shops which would sell nothing but the said drink and seemed to be busiest during the after work pre dinner hour. Grubstakes owner, Mr santos said he would have a couple shots then stroll around, and then come back and have a couple more shots.Usually the shots would include some of the liquor and a delicious saturated cherry. We found these shops mostly in Lisbon and also in the medieval city of Obidos. Thats all I know..
          Thanks again and thank you Kris for all the great bakery goods and the means for smuggling them!

          3 Replies
          1. re: suebe

            OK, so here's what I found about Ginga. I started to write it up here, but, ya know, kind of a general topic, eh?

            What was really cool to me was that it is Morello cherries in aguardente, a grappa like brandy. I have wanted to try aguardente. So that was it. Thanks for the sip.

            Anyway, probably more than you wanted to know about this on the general board link below ... with recipes to use up the rest of it.

            Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

            1. re: Krys

              thanks for the research. Knew you would find some interesting tidbets. Makes me want to return to Lisbon.

              1. re: Krys
                Robert Lauriston

                If you like that stuff, you should try pacharan, a similar Basque liqueur made from sloe berries. They serve it at B44.

            2. Here's a link to a post I did about Vihno Verde (green wine) when I started my Portuguese Quest.

              Some people asked about the name and it has to do not with color but with the freshness of the wine (with an exception, not over 2 years old ... the more verde the better)

              I've found the less expensive vihno verde, the more pleasing. However, I do want to try Quinta do Dorado Alvarinho, an upscale version available at the Spanish Table. I was clued in on this by a Portugese wine sales person at K & L. Why it is supposedly good is in link below.

              The Aveleda which some of us tried early in the evening is my favorite to date and only $5 a bottle.

              One thing I forgot. I am really shy in person. So going to something like a chowdown is a major decision for me. I just want to tell anyone new to the board, that Chowhounds are wonderful and these dinners are wonderful. I felt like I was dining with people I knew for years. It also helps that everyone has an interest in food which makes conversation easy, something that is tortuous for me ususally. I can never think of what to say.

              My only other dinner with Chowhounds was at French Launder where I found the same situtation and learned far more about that dinner than I could have learned on my own.

              So, If you ever see a post about a chowdown that interests you, don't be shy. You will have a wonderful time with a wonderful group.

              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Krys

                It's hard to believe that you're shy in person, reading about all the adventurous chowing you're doing, and no doubt chatting up various butchers bakers and candlestick makers along the way! I hope to meet you soon at one of these things.

              2. All the food was wonderful and new to me. Yes I wish i had some rice to soak up the woderful sauce in the clam and pork dish. But I was able ot wipe the plate clean with bread. Also the salted cod dish was not overly salted and it was a treat.

                Which stick with me was the wondertul texture of the fried potatoes served with the dishes. I was told that this is the way the potatoes are served at breakfast.

                A special thanks to Krys for all the baked good she share with us hounds.

                1. My favorite dish was the pork and clams. Both were excellent. The clams were juicy and not overcooked, the pork was tender. And the sauce was great too. I would have definitely liked some rice with this dish. Then again, I like rice with almost everything...
                  The bacalao dish was yummy, I second it as a good late night meal.
                  I recently realized that I like egg a lot. Steak with egg on top seems like a protein overkill, but I thought that the egg added a lot to the otherwise bland steak.
                  Thanks to Windy for organizing this fun event, and to Krys for bringing tasty bakery treats. I liked them all, except the donut shaped one covered with frosting (too sweet).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: felice

                    Donuts ... hard donuts ... thank you. I've been thinking of a way to describe that shape every time I post about them. I have described them as like dog chew toys or teething rings. But ... donuts ... of course.

                  2. c
                    ChowFun (derek)

                    This was my introduction to Portuguese food, and I must admit...I enjoyed ALL the dishes..they were all homey and very tasty!
                    It was a fun Chowdown event at a funky SF diner car restaurant.
                    I enjoyed meeting Khrys and putting a face on the name...Today I've been eating all her goodies (do you believe she was thoughtful enough to provide plastic bags and twist ties!!!).
                    The music was wonderful and the alcohol flowed!
                    I would definitely return to the Grubstake for the Portuguese dishes as well as the American ones...very enjoyable!
                    Thanks to Windy for putting this evening together!

                    1. The Grubstake has been on my list of places to try for a long long time. I thought the food was solid particularly the pork and clams and the cod dish. The roasted and then fried (?) potato was excellent.

                      I learned what I like (vinho verde and port) and didn't like (reds) of Portuguese wines.

                      I see that in the fog of food at our table I completely missed the steak dish!

                      And the party favors were a bonus.

                      These events are fun as they bring together a diverse group of people with a common interest--food. It really was a cultural experience with the some bringing trip photos, music, cookbooks from the Azores, wine, food and baked goods.


                      1. This was a fun dinner - I had a great time. The Grubstake is only a few blocks from my house, so I would probably go back -- to echo what many said -- for the bacalau dish. I found the pork chops to be way too salty and just kind of tasted overprocessed or over marinated. The caldo verde was ok, but I am sure I would have liked it more if I added some of the delicious hot sauce ... piri piri? The rest of the food was just fine, but the bacalau was standout.

                        1. i dug the pork chops, the pork and clams, and the bacalhau. sure, the pork chops were super-salty, but they were salty in a way that made me keep reaching over and slicing off another piece.

                          considering the enormous size of the group and the one long table, there was a whole lot of mingling and good cheer. thanks everybody.

                          1. like malik, i'd been here before and wasn't impressed with the surprisingly bland bacalhau com todos. the soup and salad aren't notable either. i wouldn't have come back this soon if it hadn't have been for the chowdown plus opportunity to meet krys.

                            but the other stuff i've liked here more include the bacalhau with olives and bife a cavalo (steak and eggs) although i'd prefer more garlic and less sauce on the steak. the pork and clams special was new to me, and my favorite of the night. like the others, i thought the pork and clams were perfectly done, and the sauce and potatoes were unusually good. so good that i'd be interested in having breakfast here with linguica, eggs, piri piri and those potatoes.

                            in case anyone was wondering, mr. santos is from northern portugal.

                            thanks to windy, krys, and all the winebearers.

                            1. How did I miss this? Was there an announcement, or a Yahoo list where these gatherings are organized? Thank you.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: KathyR

                                In the thread a few weeks ago regarding Grubstake, Windy invited those interested in a chowdown to email her to pick a date. Often the response to an initial announcement like that is so large there's no further public notice.