After leaving the Douro Valley we drove north towards the Minho river which is the natural border between Portugal and Spain. This area of the country is absolutely gorgeous. One of those places where you just want to unpack and stay for a very, very long while. Lush green landscape is the backdrop for this river that is almost 2 kilometers wide where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean..
We drove to the town of Caminha one day for lunch. Caminha is a small but very classy town located only a couple of kilometers away from the Ocean. We sat down for lunch at a cafe in the in the main square which is surrounded by beautiful Renaissance and Gothic houses. This area of Portugal is known for a type of wine called Vinho Verde. It literally means “young wine”. Vinho Verde should be consumed within a year of bottling and is produced in red, white and rosè varieties. Some people think it is difficult to drink due to the rich color but we love it!
The wine went perfect with our ¨light¨lunch of salad, a hamburger and a ¨bifana¨. The Bifana is a sandwich of slowly simmered pork served with a mustard sauce on an excellent roll. In retrospect we should have ordered two Bifanas and vetoed the burger. It was absolutely perfect with a bit of ¨piri piri¨ and the vinho verde. ¨Piri Piri¨is one of my favorite things about Portugal. HOT SAUCE. Always a few different varieties and always available.
After our very long lunch we ran, literally, to catch the sunset right where the Minho River meets the Atlantic. It was definitely the perfect end to a perfect day.
I am a little behind on posting but, “mas vale tarde que nunca”. And now I am on a clean eating spree so it is good to go back and reminisce about the amazing food we enjoyed on our trip.
After we left the small city of Chaves my wonderful partner decided to take us on a drive through the beautiful Douro Valley, famous for it’s gorgeous scenery and internationally renowned wine production. The whole region is filled with “Quintas” or wine producing farms. Many of which are built on slopes to protect the vineyards from the humid winds. Before stopping in the town of Peso de Règua we took a short detour so my love could show me the ¨lock¨ that raises and lowers the boats in order for them to pass through the different levels of water in the Douro River. I had never seen a lock before or my memory is blocked. I was so amazed by how it worked (and freezing cold) that I forgot to take a picture! But you can look it up on the internet or watch it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MDEG5p3IwA here! This one has an 89 foot drop. My next trip (besides going back to the USA) is a boat trip on the Douro.
We were a bit tired from New Year’s Eve and very hungry so we stopped in the town of Règua for lunch. We found an excellent restaurant, Castas e Pratos, that was built right in the train station. Being New Years Day they had roasted baby goat as a specialty. It was served with the most delicious rice, roasted potatoes and sauteed broccoli rabe. In Portugal everything has to be served with potatoes and rice. Atkins would not be happy. The other dish we ordered was filet mignon with a gorgonzola sauce and risotto with wild mushrooms. Surprisingly not a potato on the plate.
The wine list was a book, being in the Douro region. The service was impeccable and we enjoyed every moment. We can´t wait to go back!!
En route from Valladolid to Northern Portugal we decided spend New Years in the small city of Chaves in the region of Trás-os-Montes, just crossing over the border from Spain. The city and surrounding areas are known for it’s hot springs. The history of Chaves dates back to Paleolithic times and holds much to discover. It is also on the Portuguese Path’s leading to Santiago de Compostela.
The holiday season brings the city back to life with many locals who have emigrated to France. They are home to visit and the restaurants were filled. We wandered into a small place with excellent homemade food. The local cuisine is heart and a good wine is necessary to wash it down. The first dish that we ordered was Alheira, a local sausage with pork, turkey, chicken, bread, garlic and paprika. The origin dates back to the 17th century when the “new Christians” were trying to disguise that they still followed Kosher rule of not eating pork. Here it was served with two types of potatoes and cabbage.
Just in case the Alheira was not enough, we also shared a Feijoada. A dish of white beans, various pork products, tomato, carrot, and onion. It is eaten with rice. Luckily there is always a perfect green salad available to lighten up the meal.
It was a bone chilling New Year’s Eve in Chaves so we decided to end our meal at a funky little cafe that served up a couple of excellent gin tonics with red pepper seeds. Needless to say 2014 will be a New Years’ to not forget.