The first thing that struck me about Portugal was how welcoming the people were. It is one of the friendliest countries that I have ever visited.
Our first night in Portugal, we ate dinner at a small family run restaurant in Porto. Although the proprietor and his sons spoke very little English, it was clear that we were welcome, Kai was even more welcome, and they were excited for us to taste and enjoy their food. I played it safe by ordering grilled fish, I think I had dorado, while Chris asked for a house specialty. The tripe stew.
If you have ever been in the kitchen with Chris, you have probably seen that he can be a little bit over the top with food safety precautions, so I was pretty surprised to hear that he was going to eat tripe that he did not prepare himself.
We started dinner with bread, then salad, chouriço, and soup. So that we could taste both of the traditional soups on the menu, I had ordered the Sopa de Legumes, while Chris tried a Caldo Verde, a creamy kale and potato soup. Not being a huge fan of soup to begin with, Chris left about half of his soup in his bowl. As he was clearing our dishes, the restaurateur’s son asked if Chris liked the soup. Always honest, Chris tried to politely explain that it wasn’t really his thing. I’m not sure how much of that was lost in translation, but suddenly our consumption, or not, of every morsel of food that was delivered to the table was being scrutinized. It was clear that this family took their food seriously and that, as their guests, our opinions mattered.
Remember the tripe on order?
Finally, my fish and Chris’ tripe arrived at the table. After his first bite, his face said it all. Luckily, Kai saved the day. It was probably the first time that Chris has ever been eager to hear her cry during dinner. He immediately took on the role of doting dad, entertaining Kai while I ate every bit of food on my plate as fast as I could. All the while, the restaurant’s owner was checking on us and how Chris liked his dinner. At the very least, we needed to take Chris’ meal to go and make a huge fuss over how good it was. On cue, Kai’s tantrum escalated and we were able to get Chris’ meal boxed and gracefully leave without eating any additional tripe.
Although he was left hungry, I’m sure Chris felt quite relieved.
Looking back on this experience, I am recalling that much of our stay in Portugal involved eating things that were new, different, or unexpected and breakfast the following morning was another example of this. We set out for the day with an eye out for somewhere to eat breakfast and quickly found a small bakery/cafe that was packed with people, taking that as a good sign, we grabbed a table and ordered two Americanos and the server’s two favorite items out of the deli case. A few minutes later, our breakfast arrived. A fried salted cod sandwich for me and a pastry of meat, cheese, and phyllo dough for Chris. Initially, I was rather turned off by the idea of a cod sandwich for breakfast, but by the time I finished it, I was vowing to cook more fish for breakfast at home. Don’t knock it until you try it, I guess.
I’m a huge fan of smoked salmon for breakfast, why not salted cod?
It was time to continue on to the most important part of the day. We were on a mission to walk across town and cross the River Duoro to visit the port cellars on the other side.
I did not realize how much I had to learn about port wine until we toured a cellar. In fact, I would have told you that I did not even like port wine until we did a tasting. It turns out that I love it, unfortunately, I seem to prefer very fine port wines, aged 40 years. Needless to say, I will not be taking up port drinking on the regular anytime soon.
While Porto might be an interesting city for wine enthusiasts to visit, I didn’t feel like it offered a whole lot in terms of general tourism. Perhaps we missed some hidden gems, who knows. I was glad that we visited, but would probably not rush to go back there.
Next up: Nazare and Lisbon