I’m writing you this week from Brussels. I’m here visiting friends and doing research for next year’s Belgium culinary tour (which involves, among other more arduous tasks, tracking down Belgium’s finest chocolates, beers, waffles and frites!).
I arrived yesterday, after spending two captivating weeks in Lisbon and Porto. The Portugal culinary tour was better than I ever could have imagined. I knew Portugal would be fantastic--with all that sun and sea and straight-off-the-boat seafood, how could it not?
But the most fantastic thing about this particular tour was the incredibly warm and generous spirit of the local guides I teamed up with in Portugal.
Veronica, Mariana and Bruno from Lazy Flavors crafted the perfect mix of tasting local specialties, exploring beautiful, non-touristy neighborhoods and day trips outside the city. We spent an afternoon in a seaside village learning about traditional methods of preserving fish.
We visited an organic farm, where we communed with various adorable farm animals, learned how to make smoked sausage and ate a traditional lunch cooked over an open fire.
We sampled soft-ripened cheeses and smoky chorizo and seafood stews golden with olive oil. We ate fried sardines and spicy pork sandwiches and even something called “bacon from heaven”. (Which was heavenly, BTW.)
My friend Sanda took the group on a studio tour where we met talented local artisans. We wandered Lisbon’s winding streets to discover handmade olive oil soaps scented with local herbs and beautiful handmade jewelry.
Another friend, Nathalie, guided us on a dazzling walking tour of Cascais that was all bright sun glinting off the sea and stunning views of the rocky coast and a park full of regal peacocks.
Filipe and Ana made space in their packed schedule to prepare us an amazing meal. Felipe even talked his grandmother into making her famous flourless almond cake with egg custard glaze--one of my favorite desserts in the entire world. (Thank you, Filipe’s grandma! Also, if you ever get tired of Portugal, you can move to my house!)
Everyone was incredibly giving of their time and happy to share their knowledge.
I was so touched by these people’s kindness and generosity. It seems to me that this is the Portuguese spirit in a nutshell. Bright. Open. Generous. Which is why I’m so ridiculously in love with this little country.
I’m so taken, in fact, that I’m planning another Portuguese culinary adventure for May 2016! I’ll have details up on the blog soon. In the meantime, you can shoot me an email if you’d like more information or if you’d like to be added to the early-registration list (exclusively for blog readers).
Also, if you’re planning your own trip to Portugal and need recommendations, please reach out in the comments below. I’m always happy to share my favorite places!