Eat Portugal – The Best Bits

Okay, let me weight in on the best Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner I had whilst in Portugal.

I know this seems odd because it’s not Portuguese, but in The Algarve there is a huge British ex-pat contingent. As an ex-pat myself, I’m a sucker for a good English Breakfast, which we found at Tee Time in Vilamoura. It’s your standard yumminess with a huge high point being the sausages. And it is an absolutely steal.

IMG_0433

On to lunch. I spoke before about my new obsession with Couvert. So one afternoon we went for a late lunch wherein I had Oysters, Couvert and a great glass of Vinho Verde. The restaurant was right on the beach in Vilamoura. Rocha Baixinha has a fantastic full menu and I highly recommend a visit. The Oysters were just perfect. They were briny and sweet and with just a hair of lemon they tasted perfect. I love trying Oysters in different places… it gives you such a sense of the place. I know they aren’t for everyone, but they are definitely for me.

 

I’m not going to lie, when my Partner in Crime and my other travel companions picked burgers for dinner on our last night in Lisbon, I wasn’t delighted. I like burgers, but I don’t love and obsess over them and I am a bit picky. Also, I was in Portugal. Burgers felt like an odd choice. PiC went ahead and did some research, and an artisan burger place was located. I had resolved to get a non-burger item but the menu was just burgers. I went ahead and ordered an X-Tudo Burger with watercress instead of lettuce. It was a bacon, egg and cheese burger and I was sure I’d eat maybe half and move on with my life.

And Oh. MY. GOODNESS. It was the best damn burger I’ve ever had in my entire life. It was sumptuous and rich and the flavors were spot on. There was a little bit of bread in the middle the burger on top of the patty before the other toppings to soak up the juices so that it wasn’t a giant mess. The egg was perfect, the bacon was delicious. It was absolutely revolutionary and I almost missed it! This is the burger all future burgers will be compared to. Run don’t walk to Honorato if you are in Lisbon. Seriously.

 

Back peddling in time just a little to our first night in Lisbon was my favorite dessert. Our first night we went to a restaurant on the same street as our hotel called Restaurante Laurentina. The meal was pretty good, we enjoyed it. My Partner in Crime had a really great White Veal with Sweet Potato and it was quite tasty. The best part though was the dessert. It was a caramel pudding with toasted almonds and it was decadent and rich with just the right of caramel nuttiness. I loved it so much I nearly ordered I second. I was also mildly sad we were sharing. It was great!

 

And just for fun here are a couple of other random food related snaps from the trip.

 

And that wraps up this series on Portugal. I still have a little bit of Santa Barbara catching up to do and I’ll be in Cambria faster than I can blink.

A Few of My Favorite Things

This serving dish would be perfect for Couvert, with a space each for the Olives, the Tuna and the Butter!

Lets Talk About Couvert

IMG_0349

I’m obsessed. I’m really obsessed and I’m really okay with it. Whenever I travel to a different place, I do my best to absorb the local food and try whatever I can. I ate a lot of Portuguese food over the week that I was in Lisbon and The Algarve, and for the most part everything was incredible. The three stand out things that I had, though, were Vinho Verde, Pastel de Nata and Couvert.

Lets start with the wine. So in the North of Portugal there is a region that specializes in a wine called Vinho Verde. It’s essentially “Green Wine”. It’s fresh off the line and should be enjoyed fairly soon after bottling. It’s a lot like a white version of Beaujolais in that respect. It’s medium dry, and a little effervescent and it is absolutely awesome. It has a a low alcohol content so it’s very easy to drink and relax with, but it’s gentle enough that you aren’t going to be hung over the next day. We ordered it with every single meal and it was just great. My Partner in Crime who is not very into wine really liked it, and it’s always nice to share things. Our preferred bottle was Muralhas de Moncao which you can find on the wine list at pretty much every restaurant and it was massively affordable.

IMG_0594

Now lets move on to the Pastry. Pastel de Nata is the local delicacy. It comes from Belem, which is tucked up next to Lisbon. It’s a custard tart in a very very flaky crispy pastry shell. It’s delicate yet decadent. The custard is subtle with vanilla but firm, smooth and creamy. I tried this both in Lisbon, and in The Algarve and I personally think the ones in Lisbon were much better. One of the best moments on this trip was sitting in a little cafe off the beaten path in Lisbon, surrounded by trees and having a Pastel de Nata with coffee. Just a perfect moment.

IMG_0374

And now, Couvert. This is where you’ll have to bear with me because I may sound a wee bit crazy. Couvert is essentially like a bread basket you get before a meal. Unlike in some other countries, it is charged for, but it’s very inexpensive. Couvert translates to Cover. Every restaurant has a slightly different version but it is usually Bread, Butter, Olives, Tuna Paste (or other fish paste/pate) and sometimes Marinated Garlic Carrots. One place also had Feta with the Olives. The star of the show is the Tuna Paste. It’s such a great start to a meal. You just snack on whichever combinations of things you want. I’m all about variety and I love to pick at things with different flavors and textures. A smear of butter and tuna paste on a small piece of bread, then an olive, then another bit of bread and maybe a garlic carrot or two. The flavors were so simple, clean, and different. And of course, European bread is always divine. I firmly stated whilst I was there that I could have Cover and a glass of wine for lunch every day and I would be completely content. And I did. Three times.

Of course, when I got home I wanted it again, so I’ve approximated it and the recipe is below. Serve it up with some black and green olives and some hunks of fluffy bread.

IMG_1029 2

Tuna Paste for Couvert

1 Can Tuna in Water, drained (4-5oz)
2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/4 Small White Onion, finely diced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, minced
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and taste. Adjust lemon juice and herbs and spices as necessary to be the most happy to your palate. Let sit in the fridge for an hour to let the flavors mingle and mellow. Serve with bread, butter and olives, preferably in the sunshine with a glass of wine on a mellow day.

 

Spring in Santa Barbara, with Two Brunches

7583918400_IMG_0150One of the best things about living in California is how much variety this lovely state has. Last weekend we toddled off for a whirlwind weekend in Santa Barbara. It’s only a couple of hours away from home base in North Hollywood. We were celebrating my birthday. My sister and I have birthdays two days apart so the end of April is always a great excuse to head to Wine Country (any Wine Country, really). So the four of us popped up to Santa Barbara and began what I hope will be the first of many weekends exploring up there.

So today, I’m going to talk about food. Mostly about breakfast. Two fantastic brunches two mornings in a row.

7718134128_IMG_0089

Firstly on out way up, the husband and I stopped at The BoatHouse at Hendry Beach. This little spot might have a long wait on a Saturday morning, but it sure is pretty. They have a big outdoor patio right on the water. The menu is filled with breakfast classics and some nice looking cocktails. Their Blood Orange Mimosa was really lovely. A little sweeter than a normal mimosa, yummy and perfect for a Saturday noon-time.

I went for the Signature Breakfast, which was a version of an Eggs Benedict on Crab Cakes with a Chipotle Hollandaise. It was very very very good. I think I inhaled it in about 45 seconds. Part of that was, well, the wait was pretty long. But it’s a delicious dish. The crab cakes were sweet and light and the hollandaise balanced it perfectly. I’m also always a sucker anytime I get random avocado on a dish. I loved it and would order it again in a heartbeat.

My partner in crime had Huevos Hope Ranch and a Blood Orange Margarita. Both of these were similarly immediately inhaled. I would say that I think his Margarita was better than my Mimosa, but I think I won with my entree.

I think if you got there a little earlier, the wait wouldn’t be so bad, but they definitely estimate conservatively. We were told an hour to an hour and a half and sat down after about 35 minutes. They don’t take reservations for brunch. Definitely a good spot.

7583918400_IMG_0141.jpg

Sunday Brunch was at the Finch and Fork in downtown Santa Barbara. I’d read about the Finch and Fork a few times when doing a wee bit of scouting for this trip. This place was really great. We got there pretty early (for a Sunday) to fortify for the day, since we were going to be off to wineries afterwards. No wait for a table at 9:30am meant I was drinking mimosas before 10am. Always my preferred choice! The restaurant is inside a hotel and was very cute. Weirdly, also, the hotel smells amazing. All the food we had was good. I did a standard breakfast, scrambled eggs, toast, sausage. My Partner in Crime went for the Pork Belly Benedict and gave me a bite. I nearly stole the entire thing. It was sensational. There is a bit of a char on the Pork Belly which gave it this unctuous smoky barbecue-like feel without being overwhelming. It was just the right amount of heat. Completely great. Our dining companions went with the Short Rib Sweet Potato Hash, and The Chop, which was a salmon salad with an added egg (per my suggestion, because everything is better with an added egg. Pro tip). They were both super happy with the food, but my Partner in Crime definitely won with the Benedict. Mimosas were strong, the Bloody Mary’s were apparently great. It was a perfect start to a lovely day.

Alas, no food pictures. Too much focus on the Mimosas, but definitely a good spot. It started to get really busy around 10:30am so definitely something to consider when planning your timing. But, they do take reservations so maybe plan ahead? And definitely order that Benedict.

And then after that…the wine. So much wine. To be continued in another post.