Last Lisbon Food Adventures: Portugal #4

Last Lisbon Adventures | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Last Lisbon Adventures | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Last Lisbon Adventures | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Last Lisbon Adventures | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerLast Lisbon Adventures | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Last Lisbon Adventures | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Last Lisbon Adventures | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Our last week and a half in Lisbon was spent doing two things: crossing adventures off of our to-do list before we ventured to other parts of Portugal, and working. We adopted a simple approach of spending a day working, then a day adventuring, a day working, and a day adventuring. These adventures included things as simple as going to new neighborhoods and walking around, as daring as trying new foods, as long as taking a train to Sintra to explore castles, and as fun as renting bikes to ride along the coast.

The neighborhoods of Intendente and Mouraria were recommended to us by our Lazy Flavors tour guide Mariana, so we took the subway out there a couple of days after our tour. We poked around the beautiful A Vida Portuguesa store and, when our stomachs started grumbling decided to find lunch. Our timing and location worked out perfectly, as we were just a block away from Cervejaria Ramiro, a seafood restaurant that I had read about and had been recommended to us. We sat down just a few minutes after they opened and after we ordered, the flood of people came rushing in. We were, however, some of the more adventurous ones in the dining room, as we ordered a plate of goose barnacles, which Mariana had also told us we needed to try. Our waiter showed us how to peel off the scaly skin to reveal a tender, pinkish purple flesh, which you could easily pluck off of the barnacle end. They were tender and light, and reminiscent of the sea without being overly fishy. Definitely a new favorite for me.

On our walk back from Intendente to our neighborhood, Santos, we passed through many parts of Lisbon, and as we passed a shop filled with bacalhau I realized that I hadn’t yet written here about it. Bacalhau is dried, salted cod. It is a weird phenomenon, and I can’t quite figure out why perhaps the most iconic Portuguese ingredient is from Norway when the country of Portugal is known for its incredible range of fresh seafood. To cook with it, it is soaked in water and rehydrated for 24 hours, but even then it’s still kind of chewy and weird. There are lots of variations of bacalhau you’ll find here: croquetas, seared with peppers and onions, and maybe the strangest is a kind of fish salad with shredded bacalhau, raw onion, olives, parsley, and little crispy noodles. I’ll admit, I have yet to enjoy a bacalhau dish.

Our bike ride was really an excuse to get to Belém without sitting on a train or bus for upwards of thirty minutes. We rode along the bike path on the river, soaking in the ocean air. We had four orders of important business in Belém: see the momument to the maritime explorers, go up the Tower of Belém, visit the Jerónimos Monastery, and eat the best pastel de nata in the greater Lisbon area. Only one of them was food related! Aren’t you proud, dear reader? Let’s get to the part you’re interested in, the pastry. Pastel de nata is an egg custard tartlet, usually infused with vanilla and sometimes cinnamon, and baked in such a way that the top gets speckled with little darkly caramelized bits. We had tried a few in Lisbon, and while I like them, custard pastries are not really my thing. In all of my research for Lisbon, everyone said you had to go to Pastéis de Belém for the best pastéis de nata, but I thought to myself, could they really be that much better than the ones I had already tried? The answer? Oh yes they could. These pastéis were served warm, already a huge advantage over the others I’d tasted. What else made it better? The smoothest custard ever, more cinnamon, and a cracklier, slightly saltier, and much butterier crust. If you are questioning if the trip to Belém is worth it for these sweets, stop it. Just go. (Also a tip if you’re going: There are two doors. The one on the right with the crazy line out the door is for takeaway. Go in the door on the left and enter their cavernous restaurant area – it goes on and on, room after room, forever. We only waited about 3 minutes for a table.)

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Market Tour with Lazy Flavors: Portugal #3

Mercado da Ribeira Tour with Lazy Flavors | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Mercado da Ribeira Tour with Lazy Flavors | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Mercado da Ribeira Tour with Lazy Flavors | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

I always love exploring a new culture through their food, and that was one of the things I was most excited about doing in Portugal. When I think of Portuguese food, I think of fresh seafood, piri-piri, and Iberian ham. And all of those were things we’ve been enjoying since we’ve been here. But we knew we wanted to dig in a little deeper, and so Jonah booked us a tour with Lazy Flavors.

One of the places I kept reading about in my research of Lisbon was the newly refurbished Mercado da Ribeira, aka Time Out Market Lisboa, so we decided to tour the market with Mariana of Lazy Flavors. The market is one of the oldest in the city, and has been rebuilt and expanded multiple times. But in 2014, it was bought by Time Out with a new concept in mind: keep half of it as a produce, meat, and fish market, and open the other half as a dining hall. They invited in some of the top chefs from around the country, some amazing shops, a bar, and more to offer a huge range of classic and contemporary Portuguese food.

We started our tour walking through the market side, and Mariana talked about some traditional dishes and ingredients in Portuguese food. We scoped out new kinds of seafood, talked to a butcher who has been in this market for 60 years, and learned about a traditional sausage called alheira. Alheira was invented by the Jews of Portugal who were given the choice in the 15th century to either leave the country or convert to Christianity. Many of them supposedly converted, but secretly maintained their Jewish religious practice, which included not eating pork. In order to hide the fact that they hadn’t actually converted, they openly made sausage, but stuffed it with game or poultry and bread instead of pork.

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A Trip to Cascais: Portugal #2

A Trip to Cascais | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A Trip to Cascais | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A Trip to Cascais | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A Trip to Cascais | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A Trip to Cascais | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

When I told my grandmother about our grand travel plans, she immediately wanted to connect me with some friends of hers. Lauren and Sam live in Mozambique but have a house in Cascais, where they spend a few months every year. My grandmother introduced us over email, and they gave us some tips about our time in Lisbon, and we planned to meet when they were in town in January. They invited us out to Cascais to go to the market and then prepare and have brunch together.

Cascais is a suburb of Lisbon: it’s about 20 miles west and sits nestled on the coast. If you get a sense of the ocean in Lisbon, that sense is much stronger in this town. It used to be a fishing village, but is now a upscale vacation town, with lots of Europeans making their way there to spend summers on the beach. It has the same cobblestone streets and brightly colored buildings as Lisbon, but was much more calm and laid back. I wonder if it would feel the same in the summer when it’s filled to the brim with people.

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Sunlight and Steep Hills: Portugal #1

Sunlight and Steep Hills: Lisbon | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sunlight and Steep Hills: Lisbon | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sunlight and Steep Hills: Lisbon | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sunlight and Steep Hills: Lisbon | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Well, now that we have left Lisbon, I figure it’s time to start writing about it. Our plan was to arrive in Lisbon and stay. For two and a half months. We had booked an Airbnb (with the greatest hosts ever) for the first two weeks, and we were going to use that time to find an apartment and a coworking space, to establish a routine, and to explore the city, of course. But within our first few days in Lisbon, things changed. I felt completely drained. I did not have the energy to wander far from our apartment, much less decode a new language and public transit system, hunt for apartments, or research coworking spaces. I was wiped out, and I did not have the ability to summon the excitement for being in a new and beautiful place. So after some serious heart-to-hearts, Jonah and I decided, once again, to change plans: we would stay in Lisbon for a month, explore the rest of Portugal for about three weeks after that, then fly to the Netherlands to visit some old friends who live there and to meet some friends at the beginning of their own Europe trip, and then fly back to the States.

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Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage)

Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Sai Ua (Chiang Mai Sausage) | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Well friends, this is the last post from my time in Thailand. Although I’ve been gone from the country for a month and a half now, the fact is that after this post I’ll be done writing about it, looking at pictures constantly, revisiting notes, and all that. But in a way I saved the best for last.

As a birthday present for me, Kylie and Walt got the four of us a class at Ton Gluay Thai Culinary Heritage, a cooking school that Kylie found on a blog all about life in Chiang Mai. They contacted Ice, the woman who runs the school, and got us set up for an afternoon class to take place at Ice’s house. The cool thing about this class is that instead of rushing you through making four different dishes, you pick one dish to make from scratch. One of the dishes we hadn’t yet made in any of our cooking classes was the infamous Chiang Mai sausage, or Sai Ua, that we had eaten (and loved) on many occasions. It was spicy and juicy, with strong flavors of cilantro and lemongrass. Now, I’ll admit that making sausage from scratch isn’t necessarily the most appealing thing to me – intestines have never been high on the list of parts I enjoy eating or handling. But I was determined to try something new! So the class was scheduled and we were on.

When Jonah and I pulled up to Ice’s house on our motorbike, she and her boyfriend Eric (from New Jersey) were sitting out front, waving us in. Perhaps the first thing you notice about Ice is her petite but incredibly strong frame – turns out she and Eric are starting a gym in Chiang Mai and do lots of weight training in their yard. But the second thing you quickly notice is her voice. Ice is Thai but studied in Scotland and has also spent some time in the U.S., and because of this her accent is fascinating and hard to place. The way she said “cool” was so great that eventually all four of us started repeating it after her. If you want too hear what I’m talking about, you can check out the podcast that Jonah and I have been making and listen to the episode that features Ice’s class.

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