Tag Archives: Portugal

Pastry Post-Doc in Portugal: Saboia

When we first read Fabrico Proprio, we were particularly intrigued by the saboia cake. It almost looked cartoonish, what with the striking brown polka dots on white background. The saboia is made of the trimmings of other chocolate cakes cut into a thin outer layer and jaunty polka dots, and filled in with whipped cream. Apparently, the saboia used to be popular in the 1940s, but is now sold in very few stores in Lisbon, in fact it may only be one, Central da Baixa (Rua Áurea 94, Lisbon). Like the saboia, this cafe is a holdover from an earlier time, somewhere between the present day and the elegant Manueline architecture. The saboia was super rich, and the chocolate cake parts had a fudgy consistency. This is definitely a special occasion cake. Even more intriguingly, I haven’t found a single recipe for this complicated cake online.Saboia

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Guide to Old-School beverages at Lisbon’s Quiosques de Refresco

portugalWe previously wrote a post about Quiosques, small cafe kiosks located in city squares, and their awesome prevalence throughout Lisbon. Today, we are going to give you a guide to a special breed of quiosque – the Quiosque de Refresco (refreshment kiosk). The quiosque de refrecos is the brainchild of Catarina Portas, proprietor of the store A Vida Portuguesa, who wanted the revive the quiosques in Lisbon, and their old school drinks. The project was extremely successful, and the Quiosque de Refresco is something of a chain now with five locations throughout Lisbon. We were shocked to learn that there was no quiosque (in the recent past) in the bustling Praça Luís de Camões (below) until the Quiosque de Refresco appeared in 2009. Doesn’t it seem like it had been there forever?

Praça Luís de Camões

Praça Luís de Camões

What makes these quiosques so unique, despite being cool places to while away the time, is that they sell old-school drinks that originated in the mid-20th century or earlier. So what kinds of drinks can you get at a refreshment quiosque? The drink options are written on a little hanging chalkboard, pictured below, and include both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. Seem confusing? Never fear, I will walk you through all of the options on the menu pictured below.

QuiosqueMenu

Leite Perfumado – I ordered what I thought was a Spanish horchata, turns out it was actually a leite perfumado. This drink, which translates to “perfumed milk,” is milk steeped with sugar, cinnamon, and lemon, which gave it a chai-like flavor. Even though it is made with UHT (boxed) milk, which I normally do not like – I thought it was great! This drink is served cold.

Leite Perfumado

Leite Perfumado

Mazargan – This is a classic drink made from coffee, sugar and lemon. The Portuguese are big coffee experts, and this storied coffee drink has quite an interesting history, and bears the name of a town in Algeria. Served cold, this drink is sweet and refreshing and good for a midday caffeine boost.

Limonada/oranjada– Perhaps the most familiar option, these are fizzy lemon or orange drinks, much like a San Pellegrino fizzy beverage. These crisp drinks are definitely great for a warm day, or for kids.

Capilé

Capilé, pre-mixing

Xarope (Syrup) drinks – These drinks came in a variety flavors, and are served with a small amount of sugar syrup in a cup, and you then mix in a small bottle of still water. Two of the most iconic and unique syrups are the groselha and the capilé. These drinks were somewhere between a juice and Kool-Aid in taste, but not super sweet. The flavor Groselha is within my realm of knowledge – red currant. However, capilé was something else entirely – not that it doesn’t even have a translation on the menu – fern! We really enjoyed the Capilé, which had a sweet grassy flavor similar to green tea. Other syrups available included: chá verde/green tea, erva principe/lemongrass, tonilho-limão/thyme-lemon and the simple limão/lemon.

Groselha

A mixed Groselha syrup drink

Alcoholic:

Vino quente– We were there during the winter, this drink was basically flying out of the quiosque. Vino quente is literally translated as”hot wine,” and is basically a mulled wine (usually Madeira or Port) with spices. Perfect for a cold night.

Grogue – For some reason we had this drink mixed up in our head with the Swedish drink glögg, which is actually more akin to the vino quente above. However, we did find a description of what makes us a grogue from the Quiosque site:

O nosso Grogue mistura aguardente velha, água, sumo de limão e mel, é servido bem quente e deve ser bebido de um trago. Sem medos! Which translates to: Our Grog mixes old brandy, water, lemon juice and honey, is served hot and should be drunk in one gulp. No fear!

Praça do Príncipe Real

Quiosque in Praça do Príncipe Real

So there you have it! Now you know exactly how to decipher the menu, and find your new favorite Portuguese drink. We also suspect these drinks may change with the season…mulled wine may not be suitable for a hot summer day. If you are in Lisbon, the quiosque de refresco is a great slice of history, and it fun to seek out all of the different quiosques across town. If you go, let us know what you order!

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Chocolataria Equador: Portuguese chocolates with style

Equador

We are going to NYC this weekend, home of one of our favorite chocolate purveyors, Mast Brothers (shop located at 111 N 3rd St, Brooklyn, NY, though you can get the bars elsewhere). Along with having superlative chocolate, we appreciate Mast Brothers’ attention to detail with the clean, simple packaging with interesting papers. While in Lisbon, we came across a store that reminded us a lot of the Mast Brothers’ aesthetic, Chocolataria Equador (Rua da Misericórdia 72, Lisboa). Located in the Chiado district in central Lisbon (with another location in Porto), this elegant and minimalist Portuguese store sells dark, milk and white chocolate bars with flavors including sea salt, port wine, crispy rice and hazelnut, as well as pure bars without any add-ins. The the chocolate is from around the world, but the bars are handmade in Portugal, with beautiful packaging. Though a little pricey, the chocolate bars came in a variety of sizes for appetites big and small. We sampled an 80% single origin bar – which was phenomenal – perfect for those who like their chocolate to be intense. Inside the shop, there is also a counter with beautifully-decorated truffles and other tidbits for a sweet tooth, including a riff on the iconic-in-Portugal chocolate umbrella. Chocolataria Equador is definitely a must-visit for any chocolate (or design) lover in Lisbon.

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Pastry Post-doc in Portugal: Escangalhado

CrazyPastryportugalThe name of this pastry says it all. In Portuguese, escangalhado means “messed up” and this pastry is basically a chaotic creation, made up of puff pastry and egg yolk cream. The bottom layer is merely a square layer of puff pastry, on top there is a huge dollop of cream onto which tons of puff pastry shards are stuck, all topped with a flurry of powdered sugar. There is no elegant way to eat this treat. We basically used the puff pastry as chips to scoop up the cream. We saw this special treat at only one location in Lisbon, one of our favorite bakeries, Pastelaria 1800 (Largo do Rato 7, Lisbon, Portugal). Have you ever seen it anywhere else?

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Cake tour of Lisbon

portugalBeing the Portuguese pastry fans we are, we were excited to meet up with one of the masterminds behind the indispensable Portuguese patry guidebook, Fabrico Próprio, Frederico Duarte, for a cake tour. Frederico was generous enough to show us around the city to some hidden bakery gems of Lisbon. While we had previously visited the big names like Versailles and Confeitaria Nacional, Frederico helped us uncover yet another layer of sugary, pastry goodness in Lisbon.PacoRealWe first visited Cafe Paço Real (Rua da Conceição 55) an understated cafe with a full savory menu in addition to the bakery counter, in the heart of Baixa. When you walk in, you will notice one feature immediately: there is an azulejo mural of the ubiquitous Portuguese statesman Marques de Pombal on the wall. However, we were most drawn by the wide variety of pastries on display in the street-facing windows, which Frederico told us was more traditional in bakeries of the north, something we had not noticed to this point. We tried the specialty of the house – a unique treat for us – the rocha (“rock” in Portuguese). These little cakes do indeed have a somewhat craggy appearance, but the texture was almost like a banana bread, unlike a sponge cake or puff pastry. It was cakey, not too sweet, and contained bits of citrus peel and more than a hint of cinnamon. This was a different type of pastry and was a nice change from sugar and egg yolks.
RochaThe next stop on the cake tour was another old school cafe in Baixa that Frederico was familiar with: Cafouro (Rua do Ouro 177), usually spotted by its triangular “Tofa” brand coffee signs. There, Frederico recommended that we try a geladinho, a coffee-flavored version of the Indiano pastry in Fabrico Próprio. This pastry was composed of two layers of cake, split in the middle and filled with a coffee pastry cream and a shiny coffee glaze. The pastry was moist and delicious, and we appreciated the unique coffee flavor, not especially common in traditional Portuguese pastries. Like Paço Real, we definitely appreciated the down-to-earth vibe of Cafouro.
GeladinhaNext, we took the iconic #28 yellow tram up to the School of Hospitality and Tourism of Lisbon, located in Campo de Ourique, in the historic Palácio dos Condes de Paraty. Here, we got a glimpse of future pastry chefs hard at work in the teaching kitchen. Frederico also told us about the techniques manual that you can now buy along with Fabrico Próprio, which makes sense since so many people were intrigued to try the recipes behind the desserts in the book. However, due to the semi-industrial nature of most Portuguese baking, these pastries are not generally meant for a home cook (rats!). Still, we hope to try our hand at making them someday.
WheatTileAround a nondescript corner we came upon a truly old school cafe, Panificaçao Mecânica (Rua Silva Carvalho 209), our final stop on the cake tour. This was by far the most unusual stop on the tour, a pastry shop crossed with a breadmaker. The opulent setting was the highlight of the cafe, with two large crystal chandeliers and two types of Bordallo Pinheiro azulejos with wheat motifs (seen above and below). We not-so-secretly covet these azulejos for a future kitchen.

Chandalier

The inside was straight art nouveau, with some anachronistic 1950s plastic-y touches. They had a variety of traditional pastries as well as a wall of breads and an unusual streusel from the Alentejo region. We ordered a new-to-us type of cookie, called a Húngaro (yes, after the country Hungary), and a passable Pastel de Nata. The Húngaros were two sugar cookies joined with cherry jelly and coated in chocolate. Another showpiece of the cafe were the bolinhos de Algarve, little marzipan cakes in the shape of fruit, which reminded us of some of the marzipan candies we had seen in Sicily and Naples.

Hungaros

We finished up at one of our favorite Pastelarias for a superlative Pastel de Nata, Pasteleria 1800 (Largo do Rato 7), brightly decorated with yellow, blue and white azulejos. Though not officially on the cake tour, we were excited to return to one of our favorites before parting ways with Frederico. The cake tour was certainly one of our Lisbon trip highlights. We visited bakeries we would have never noticed, thanks to Frederico’s guidance, and gained an even greater appreciation for the world of Portuguese pastries. Thanks so much for showing us around town, Frederico!WheatTile2

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Portuguese Pastry Post-doc: Bola de Berlim

BerlimportugalIch bin ein bola de Berlim. Yep, this is an offshoot of the Berliner, the classic German jelly donut. The Bola de Berlim is popular throughout Lisbon, and is a basically a fried donut split and filled with yellow egg yolk-based cream found in many Portuguese pastries, creme pasteleiro. However, we have also seen them filled with chocolate cream, occasionally. The regular and mini-sized classic BdB above are from the Padaria Portuguesa bakery chain, though you can get them pretty much anywhere pastries are sold in Lisbon. M liked these as a Portuguese replacement fix for his beloved American donut (though we saw some bizarre prepackaged versions of “American donuts” in the supermarket as well). You can even make Bola de Berlim of your own at home.

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Exotic Portuguese Produce: Anona

Anona2portugalWhen we were in Brazil we felt like we were in a paradise of exotic fruit, and we certainly tasted a few unique varieties. When we arrived in Portugal, we put our hunt for exotic fruits aside. However, we were stopped in our tracks by an exotic Portuguese fruit that bore a striking resemblance to the Brazilian sugar apple, the anona. When we saw the distinctive green nubby shell in the grocery store we did a double take. It looked like a sugar apple, but with less nubs. The greengrocer informed us it was from the island of Madeira, and was ripe when soft. After two days, we broke the anona open, and like the sugar apple, it had white fleshy nodes surrounding large black seeds. The flavor, while similar, tasted a bit more like banana. We were happy to find the anona though it gave us saudades for the sugar apple.Anona

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The best roast chicken in Lisbon: Frangasqueira Nacional

portugalOur noses led us to the Frangasqueira Nacional (Rua da Imprensa Nacional 117, Lisbon, Portugal). We were on our way to another restaurant in the area when we smelled the delicious roast chicken and spotted the tiny shop down the travessa. We knew we absolutely had to return, so we stopped in a few days later. Though the name is a tongue twister, don’t be intimidated – it just means “national chicken shop.” True to form, all they sell are ribs, sausage and the piece de resistance: roast chickens! Though everything looks great, obviously you are here for the chicken.

Frangasqueira Nacional

Frangasqueira Nacional

This is a take-out-only shop and 2/3rds of the store is given over to a giant charcoal grill with an expert griller manning it. When we popped in on a rainy night, the entire grill was full of spatchcocked chickens with various stages of char, and a small line of hungry Lisboetas. Everything in the shop is sold by weight (chicken is €16 a kilo), along with a small selection of extras including fries, rice, tomato salad, chocolate cake, and a refrigerator of cold drinks and beer. You can get your chicken plain, or with spicy piri piri sauce, which was billed to us as only a little hot (don’t worry it isn’t too hot at all). They are crazy about piri piri in Portugal, a sauce made from malagueta peppers, citrus, lemon and garlic. The non piri piri chicken baste was also flavorful, with a hearty helping of salt and garlic.

Frangasqueira Nacional

Grillmaster at Frangasqueira Nacional

A blackboard informed us that a chicken was usually about 3/4th of a kilo, so over 1.5 pounds, which we figured was more than plenty for the two of us. As you can see, unlike in the US, these chickens appeared to be of a normal size. With a side of rice, our whole meal clocked in at less than €12. Don’t worry about having to cart home an unwieldy bird: the grillmaster had a huge pair of scissors with which he cut the chicken into about 8 pieces expertly and efficiently. This seemed like the perfect size for us, but if you would prefer a sampler, there are a variety of deals where you can get a combination of meats for well less than €10.

Frangasqueira Nacional

Chicken’s ready!

There is no place to sit inside the shop, but if the weather is nice, a perfect place in would be in the elegant Príncipe Real garden, which is only a few block away and has an awesome quiosque. We opted to take ours home, where it fed us for 2 meals! Even after a half hour subway ride home: the chicken was delicious, juicy with a crispy skin. It was amazing and certainly one of the best roast chickens we have ever had! We are so happy we found the Franguesqueira, it has become one of our go-to Lisbon places. If you are in the mood for a good, cheap and comforting meal, we can’t think of a better deal in the city.

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Portuguese Candy Surprise Game: Caxia de Furos de Chocolate

portugalAt snack shops and convenience stores around Portugal, you will often see a perplexing yellow and red box with punch holes near the cash register. We learned that it is in fact an awesome game-of-chance involving chocolate candy, called a “Caixa de Furos,” literally a “box of holes” in Portuguese. The boxes are branded by the chocolate brand Regina, so the surprise you receive will be chocolate. So what happens is you use a little pick to punch a hole in the white circle board and then a color-coded ball falls to the bottom of the box. Depending on the color of the ball, you get a different kind of chocolate candy from behind the counter. We tried our hand at a box and got a yellow ball, which got us a Regina chocolate umbrella, one of the most iconic Portuguese treats. You can even buy a small version for your home (which might by dangerous).

Caixa Chocolate

“Take-Home” Caixa de Fruos de Chocolate

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Portuguese Pastry Post-Doc: São Marcos

portugalAs the Pastry Post-Doc moves into 2015, I have reached the point where I am encountering more esoteric Portuguese pastries. At a recent visit to Chique de Belem (Rua Da Junqueira 524, 1300-341 Lisboa) – our 2012 winner of best Pastel de Nata – we encountered a rarer variety, the São Marcos. The kind waitress assured us that it was “really, really good!” So we decided to give it a shot. We recalled this pastry appearing in Fabrico Próprio. This rendition of São Marcos had a top and bottom layer of sponge cake, filled with whipped cream and topped with sticky, shiny caramel. One large piece was more than enough for two – typical of Portuguese pastries – it was a total sugar bomb!

SaoMarcos

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Lisbon, a city of quiosques

portugalQuiosque stampOne of the classic sights in Lisbon is seeing an elaborate beverage and snack stand in the center of a plaza or at the edge of a park. Now these are not modern, boxy newsstand-type places, these are cool, ornate turn-of-last-century (or earlier) ironwork masterpieces called quiosques (kiosks). Quiosques typically serve an array of snacks, coffee drinks, juices, and alcoholic beverages. Typically outfitted with metal tables and chairs, you can lounge for as long as you like: indeed, quiosques remain popular day or night. One feature we particularly love is that some quiosques have baskets full of blankets for customers to use if it get chilly. Since the quiosques are open well into the night, this can definitely come in handy. If you want some munchies with your drink, you can also get pasteis de nata, fried snacks like bacalhau fritters, and simple sandwiches. Quiosques are found throughout town, and have become one of the iconic symbols of Portugal, even appearing on postage stamps (at right). Though quiosques dot the entire city, one of the most popular cafes is located in the center of the Praça de Luís de Camões in the Chiado district, where you can really be in the heart of it all.
QuiosqueSaoRoqueSome quiosques – called “quiosques de refresco” – even specialize in traditional beverages like the rarer mazagran, an iced coffee mixed with rum. Though quiosques are usually classic in design and menu, there are a few outliers, including the Bananacafe quiosque in Belem that is located in a refurbished yellow tram; and the bright red Soundwich cafe in Cais do Sodre that serves gourmet sandwiches (below) with an eclectic soundtrack. Other updated quiosques are found in the parkway of the main thoroughfare Aveneida Liberdade.
SoundwichQuiosque
Quiosques are also usually located in Lisbon parks with views called miradouros (literally “golden views”), which adds another wonderful element of relaxation to the quiosque experience. Enjoy your bica (strong Portuguese coffee) with a view. One of our favorite miradouro quiosques is in the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara where you can get a good cappuccino and a cheese, prosciutto and arugula sandwich on French bread along with your view of the city below (see below). Though quiosques have been an integral part of the city forever, they have been experiencing a major revival in the past 5 or so years. We can definitely see why Lisboetas are flocking back to the quiosques. We have found that there is nothing more relaxing than sitting back with a coffee and watching the world go by.
QuiosqueAlcantara
MiradouroAlcantara

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Fabrico Próprio, a field guide to the world of Portuguese pastries

FabricoProprio We are back in Portugal for the third time and there are still so many pastries to try! An invaluable resource for my pastry post doc has been the book Fabrico Próprio (which means “made in house,” a label you will see on many bakeries), which I purchased in Lisbon in 2012. The book, by Rita João, Pedro Ferreira and Frederico Duarte presents a social history of semi-industrial baking in Portugal, and also serves as a field guide, identifying 92 emblematic pastries and many iconic cafes through lovely pictures and Portuguese/English bilingual text. The book was clearly a labor of love, and the authors were quite thorough in their documentation of pastelarias throughout Portugal (but especially in Lisbon). We love using this book’s detailed photos and drawings as a guide to the sweet offerings in Lisbon, since the Portuguese pastry experience can sometimes be overwhelming. You can learn more on the book’s comprehensive website. We highly recommend this book! Fabrico Próprio is available on the book’s site for 35 euros – and with free international shipping!

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Lisbon Gastronomic Tour 2k15

Chique Pasteis

Back to the land of Pasteis de Nata

portugalWe are excited to be back in Lisbon, Portugal, one of our favorite culinary locations! One of our ETW team members has been in Lisbon for a week and has already indulged in the chouriço, cheese, olives, and our favorite: the pastel de nata (Portuguese egg tart), among other delights. However, now the second member of the ETW team is here – so the gastronomic adventures can really begin. Most importantly, how do our ratings for the best pasteis de nata in Lisbon hold up in 2015?

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Portuguese Pastry Post-Doc for the World Cup: Queijadas from Sintra

Portugal received a trouncing today by Germany in the World Cup, so if you are a Portugal fan, why not drown your sorrows in some delicious Portuguese pastry? One of the most emblematic pastries in Portugal is the Queijada / Queijadinha (simply, “little Queijada”), which is a sweet, baked cheese and egg tart from picturesque Sintra. It is actually kind of hard to describe since “cheesecake” in the USA conjures up memories of cool, creamy New York-style slices. Instead, the filling of a queijada is more solid and granular – not “cheesy” at all! But don’t let that dissuade you – they are delicious and unique in their own right. For the real deal, the best place to get queijadas in Sintra is the Piriquita Cafe/Bakery (Rua das Padarias, 1 – Sintra), a store that has been turning out the delicacies for over a century. If you are not in the vicinity of Lisbon, Honest Cooking and The Age have recipes to make your own sweet treats to smooth over any world cup moodiness.

Queijada

Queijadas at Piriquita by Sandra Rosa

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Malasadas on Fat Tuesday in Hawaii

hawaiiIt’s Mardi Gras / Fat Tuesday / Carnaval! Hope you are having a festive time, or at least enjoying some festive treats. We’ve written about many Fat Tuesday goodies in the past including the inimitable Chicago doughnut staple, the Paczki. Like the Polish Paczki, the Portuguese malasada is a filled doughnut without a hole, eaten as a last indulgence before Lent. The malasada first came to Hawaii with Portuguese immigrants in the late 19th century, and has since become immensely popular in Hawaii as well as in Madeira and the Azores. Due to the treat’s popularity, Shrove Tuesday in Hawaii is informally known as “Malasada day” and at the iconic Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu (933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816) you can even get plush Malasada toys alongside the coveted pastries. Traditionally, Malasadas were not filled, but today in Hawaii you can get fun fillings like Coconut (Haupia), Chocolate and Passion Fruit. Saveur even has a recipe for Leonard’s signature Malasadas.

Malasada

Malasada at Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu by Albert Lynn

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Silver Star Portuguese Bakery in Providence

Silver Star Bakery
150 Ives St.
Providence, Rhode Island

Silver Star Bakery’s English name belies its specialty in all things Portuguese – after our visit we think it should probably be called Estrela de Prata instead. From our Pastry Post-Doc in Portugal we became very well-acquainted with the country’s extensive sweet heritage. As you know, we here at ETW are particularly obsessed with Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese egg custard tarts), and, sadly, there is absolutely no place to get them in Chicago. Fortunately, Providence has a large Portuguese population, with the bakeries to match. We figured we’d be able to find Pasteis de Nata at Silver Star, and there was indeed a large tray on display when we arrived, for only $1.75 a pop.

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We are pretty discerning about our pasteis, and have specific criteria for what makes one perfect, as we detailed in our rubric for the best pasteis in Lisbon. The version at Silver Star was excellent, and even surpassed some of the versions we had in Lisbon. The crust was flaky and crispy, not soggy at all; and the filling was light and creamy. The caramelization of the top was also perfect! These were the American pasteis we had been waiting for, and we even got to order in Portuguese. Now if only we could replicate them at home….

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But even though the Pasteis de Nata are the star, other Portuguese specialties available include Malasadas, Portuguese sweet rolls, fradinhos and more. There is also a wide selection of American treats including cookies, mini tarts and doughnuts. We also sampled a fradinho, a sweet tart with a bean filling dusted with powdered sugar, which was delicate and tasty. We visited Silver Star twice, once on our way to the Brown campus, and another time on our way to the airport (we absolutely had to get another round before we got home). If we lived in Providence we guarantee that the majority of our diet would consist of solely Silver Star pasteis.

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The International Origins of Nando’s Peri-Peri

Over at Africa is a Country, our favorite African news and opinion site, historian Sarah Emily Duff has a fascinating write-up on the multinational origins of Nando’s Peri-Peri, a self-described South African peri-peri chicken joint with locations throughout Africa (including Gaborone, capital of Botswana, from where she writes this piece), Europe, and a few in the USA. M visited a location in Washington, DC last year, and raved about the food. Now, we have a much greater understanding of the surprisingly complex history of the chain, with ties to Portugal, Mozambique, South Africa, and the UK during the second half of the 20th century. We’ll take all this cultural learning with us when we return to the DC Nando’s again in October!

Nando's peri-peri chicken with extra spicy sauce, rice, and cole slaw in Washington, DC.

M’s favorite: Nando’s peri-peri chicken with extra spicy sauce, rice, and cole slaw in Washington, DC.

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Food traditions for the Festa do São João do Porto

portugalThe June festivals in the Lusophone world, commonly called “Festas Juninas,” are most associated with Brazil. But one of the biggest is actually held in Porto, Portugal: the Festa do São João do Porto. Though little known outside Portugal, the festival for São João (St. John) is one of Europe’s biggest street partiesLasting from the night of June 23rd until June 24th, the holiday celebrates St. John the Baptist (whose feast day is June 24), and was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese. However, the Portuguese celebrations are a little different, though there is the same merriment, dancing and fireworks that Brazil enjoys, along with some quirky Portuguese food-related traditions. 

saojoaomallet

Fireworks (and mallet) for Festa do São João in Porto by Black_wall

There is a ton of food at the Festa do São João do Porto, and one of the most traditional foods, seen on nearly every street corner, is grilled sardines, Sardinhas Assadas (and the recipe couldn’t be easier). Other somewhat stranger food traditions, whose origins are pretty much unknown, are also part of the festivities. First, a tradition is bopping other revelers over the head with plastic mallets (which were substituted for leeks or garlic flowers in former times, a tradition that is actually coming back). The other food tradition is the exchange of basil plants (manjericão) with your sweetheart. The plants traditionally even come with a romantic four-line poem:

Se eu me podesse afogar / If I could drown myself
Na tua pele perfumada / 
In your perfumed skin
Poderia flutuar, / 
I would waft away,
Viver sempre apaixonada. / 
Living passionately forever.

Who’d have thought a little basil plant would have such a major part in any festival?

Sao Joao Mangericao

A Basil Plant (manjericão) sign for São João by Tantegert

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Easter Treats from Portugal: Folar da Páscoa

portugalLoyal reader José, who previously introduced us to the Portuguese delicacy, Tripa, sent us some great information about typical Portuguese Easter cakes: Bolo da Páscoa and Folar. Bolo da Páscoa (literally translated to English as Easter Cake) is a simple, delicious cake, popular around Easter time in Portugal. However, even an even more unique Portuguese Easter delicacy is the Folar da Páscoa.

Folar da Pascoa

Folar da Pascoa by Zé Pinho

Folar (which has no English translation), basically a sweet yeast bread, varies from region to region, and could be classified into a few major varieties. The first kind, from the Algarve in Southern Portugal, is a very sweet cinnamon and anise-flavored bread, typically decorated with whole eggs colored with onion skins. This type of Folar also reminds us of classic Italian Easter Bread with its colorful whole-egg topping. The other type of Folar, from the North of Portugal, is a simpler bread which is less sweet than the Algarve version. Another version of Folar from the very north of Portugal, near Spain, called Folar de Trás-os-Montes, sometimes contains ham or bacon! Piglet in Portugal has a recipe from Central Portugal, and Portuguese Girl Cooks shares her grandparents’ version of the sweet variety of Folar. Tia Maria has a recipe for savory Folar.

Thanks for the tip, José!

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A Taste of India in Portugal: Popat Store

Popat Store
Centro Commerical Mouraria
Lisbon, Portugal

India Flag

We love cooking with Indian flavors back in Chicago, but we figured that we would not be able to find Indian spices in Lisbon – but we were wrong! Right in the heart of Lisbon, and accessible from the Martim Moniz metro stop is the Popat Store, a small Indian grocery store which will warm the hearts of any Indian food lover. You don’t even need to exit the metro station to find Popat Store, just follow the signs in the labyrinthine Martim Metro stop to the Centro Commerical Mouraria – which is even a more labyrinthine shopping mall of international delights.

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Popat store caters to those who want to cook from scratch, as well as those who would reheat frozen samosas. There are pre-packaged spice blends starting from just one euro, including a masala spice blend and tandoori spice rub. You can get bottled sauces for a few euros more, as well as coconut milk and other canned goods imported from India. For those wanting to make their own blend, you can also find fresh lemongrass, and every kind of spice in dried or powdered form. In addition, you can find over a dozen varieties of rice and all different kinds of grain in bulk.

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There is also a small fresh market in the front of the store with okra, tomatoes, Piri Piri and Habanero peppers. The coup d’etat however was that they had peanut butter! Peanut butter is particularly rare in Europe, and if you find any it is bound to come in a very small jar and to be particularly expensive. However, Popat Store’s variety was a huge jar of delicious natural peanut butter (which appeared to be imported from Amsterdam) for less than 3€. We bought some garlic naan, tandoori spice mix and peanut butter. After a visit to Popat Store, our kitchen was really starting to feel like home.

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