Portuguese Food Chronicles: March 2015 Edition

tremoços (lupin beans)

Between Portugal Restaurant Week Round Two at the beginning of the month, Father’s Day dinner at Mother-in-Law Restaurante, couchsurfers, and discovering new eateries, it’s been a real mix of food pictures this month. Here’s a selection to wet your whistle.

local bakery treats

There’s always a bag or two of mini-tostas (toasts) in our cupboards. They keep their flavour and texture longer and go with everything — soups, hummus, cheeses and meats. You’ll see tremoços in the top picture, which is the healthier alternative to peanuts or chips as a snack food.

soft cheese with pimiento, served with mini-tostas

Last week I was introduced to a new eatery in Porto centre called Pasteis de Chaves, which serves up a specialty of flaky pastry with either savoury or sweet fillings, originally from the northern city of Chaves, in the district of Vila Real. Traditionally it is made with veal, but modern times call for variations, including vegetarian and dessert versions. I haven’t stopped in Chaves so I can’t compare, but when I do I’ll make sure I try out the native pastel.

Pasteis de Chaves, Porto

Pasteis de Chaves, Porto

Pasteis de Chaves, Porto

Pasteis de Chaves, Porto

Pasteis de Chaves, Porto

Pasteis de Chaves, Porto

caldo verde at Mother-in-Law Restaurante

caldo verde at Mother-in-Law Restaurante

arroz de pato (duck rice)

arroz de pato (duck rice) at Mother-in-Law Restaurante, for Father’s Day

This week I was at Mercado do Matosinhos, and made a stop at a cake shop I’ve been eyeing ever since the first day I visited the market. Cake designer Marta Queiroz happened to be there and I photographed some of her sugarcraft handiwork, which includes brigadeiros (bonbons) as well as custom-made cakes. I’m always at the market at breakfast time, camping out amongst the vegetables because I’ve become very partial to Comida da Rua‘s perfect tosta mistas and meia de leites. They’ve become such a staple of my morning visit to the market that I pass by Marta Queiroz’s cake shop with interest but without an appetite for the sweet stuff. This is probably a good thing, but next time I’ll save a bit of room to try their brigadeiros, because they are seriously tempting.

cake designer Marta Queiroz at Mercado de Matosinhos

cake designer Marta Queiroz at Mercado de Matosinhos

cake designer Marta Queiroz at Mercado de Matosinhos

brigadeiros (bonbons) by cake designer Marta Queiroz at Mercado de Matosinhos

cake designer Marta Queiroz at Mercado de Matosinhos

brigadeiros (bonbons) by cake designer Marta Queiroz at Mercado de Matosinhos

You’ll also find more food pictures in my Instagram account.

March 2015
Album: Portugal [Spring 2015]

Foz Do Douro, Where Porto Meets The Sea

Foz do Douro (Porto, Portugal) (1)

I ended up in Foz do Douro this afternoon, and took a bus to continue on my way to Porto centre. This was my view while I was waiting. Is there a more picturesque bus stop than this?

(I’ve written stacks of words to accompany this post, rewrote, erased, rewrote, and finally erased them all. Pictures trump words today. Click to enlarge any of them.)

Enjoy the view!

Foz do Douro (Porto, Portugal) (2)

Foz do Douro (Porto, Portugal) (3)

Foz do Douro (Porto, Portugal) (4)

March 25, 2015
Album: Portugal [Spring 2015]

Yellow Fever

Portugal in spring (9)

File this one under: Unintended Consequences.

Having a dog means taking a lot of walks, and we are lucky that we have a large parcel of land behind our home that is effectively a gigantic backyard for Ice to frolic. This Dog Paradise is the result of the global economic crisis hitting Portugal hard, causing construction and development projects to grind to a halt — including the one next to us. But the economy is picking up again, and I’ve noticed other developments nearby get resurrected, which means it’s probably just a matter of time before the Dog Paradise becomes a casualty of progress like the Joni Mitchell song. But until then, we’ll enjoy all the overgrowth, the unfelled trees, the mini-wilderness around the pond, the underground mole cities and tunnels (Ice’s favourite part), and these untamed bursts of yellow everywhere.

Portugal in spring (2)

Portugal in spring (3)

Portugal in spring (4)

Portugal in spring (1)

Portugal in spring (5)

Portugal in spring (6)

Portugal in spring (7)

Portugal in spring (8)

Portugal in spring (10)

Portugal in spring (11)

March 24, 2015
Album: Ice the Dog
Album: Portugal [Spring 2015]

Ovar Railway Station Azulejos

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (1)

We were in the city of Ovar last month to watch the Carnaval de Ovar parade, a short train ride from Porto to the Aveiro region (75kms). We decided to leave the car at home because the crowds at Carnaval make it difficult to park. When we arrived, at first glance the Ovar Railway Station was nondescript — typical white-washed train station building, partially tiled. But upon closer inspection there were more panels of azulejos (Portuguese painted ceramic tilework) than average, and they cover both the front and back.

Ever since I moved to Portugal I’ve been on the lookout for azulejos, especially the ones that depict stories and scenes. Azulejos can be found all over the country but my photos are mainly of the north, elaborate scenes in São Bento Railway Station, Aveiro (Old) Railway Stationstops along the Douro Line, on churches like Capela das Almas in Porto and Lamego Cathedral. Even in less likely places like archways.

In Ovar, the local history and cultural traditions of the area are preserved in the azulejos, from clothing to architecture to life by the sea. Interestingly, on the train side the panels of tile are framed by a fish motif, and the panels on the city side have crabs, shells, and waves. The city side features more landscapes, the train side a mix of people, religion, and locomotives. The tiles are in dire need of some restorative work, especially on the city side, but the panels on the train side are mostly intact.

As a person working in a creative field, I very much appreciate the artistic details that can be found everywhere in Portugal, from the mosaic patterns in the cobblestone pavement, to the concrete formed to look like natural wood, to tiny details painted on tiles. These details are easy to miss, but as a photographer it is my life’s work to give these details a longer life, through pictures.

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (2)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (3)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (4)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (5)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (6)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (7)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (8)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (9)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (10)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (11)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (12)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (13)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (14)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (15)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (16)

Ovar Railway Station, Portugal (17)

February 17, 2015
Album: Carnaval de Ovar 2015

Madrid’s Parque del Buen Retiro

Alfonso XII Monument, Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (1)

Alfonso XII Monument

Following on from the preview of our trip to Madrid last month and the post about San Miguel Market, is a post about Madrid’s El Retiro Park, or “Park of the Pleasant Retreat”. Prior to becoming a public park in the late 19th century, it belonged to the Spanish Monarchy and was originally a royal hunting ground, then a park exclusively for the Royal Family. Today, El Retiro is to Madrid what Central Park is to Manhattan — an urban oasis, a recreational centre for events and exhibitions, with green spaces for relaxation.

From the official tourism site for Madrid:

The Park is not only the lungs of Madrid, but also offers cultural, leisure, and sport activities to all people, those from Madrid and those visiting. Among its architectural, historical, and popular elements are the lake for rowing, and the Velázquez and Glass palaces, both used today as exhibition halls. The Glass Palace, a romantic pavilion created to house a collection of exotic plants for the Philippine Exhibition of 1887, is one of the main examples of cast-iron architecture in Spain.

You could probably tell by the pictures which parts of the park were my favourite… including Palacio de Cristal (“Crystal Palace”), but that was even before I learned about the connection to the Philippines. It was designed by architect Ricardo Velázquez Bosco, who was also the creative mind behind the grand Ministerio de Agricultura building across from Atocha Railway Station and Palacio de Velázquez, which you’ll see below.

I’m a fan of large urban parks in general, because of their importance to city life. Stanley Park in Vancouver, High Park in Toronto, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Balboa Park in San Diego — these are all Great Escapes from concrete environments which on one hand may be convenient for day-to-day living (heating in winter, air conditioning in summer), but on the other hand do little for our connection to the natural world. Parks offer a reprieve from the traffic, noise pollution, and large-scale commerce, reminding us of the simple joys of lying on a patch of grass under the shade of a tree, listening to ducks splashing in a pond.

Now that I’ve painted this tranquil picture, it would behoove me to mention that El Retiro is infested with noisy little parrots. As cute as they are, the Argentinian green parrots are an invasive species and have reached pest proportions. Apparently, raccoons are a problem, too, after being smuggled in as pets from America. You’ll have to keep an eye on your food and try not to get pooped on! But don’t let that deter you from wandering the park for a while. You’ll see funky trees, sculptures, galleries, a lake for boating, gardens, monuments and memorials (including a memorial garden dedicated to the victims of the 2004 train bombing). If you plan to visit Madrid, do as the Madrileños do and take advantage of the oasis that is Parque del Buen Retiro. Here’s a map.

Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (2)

Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (3)

Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (4)

Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (5)

El Estanque, Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (6)

El Estanque, an artificial lake in the middle of the park

Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (8)

Palacio de Cristal

Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (14)

Palacio de Cristal

Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (9)

Palacio de Cristal

Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (7)

Palacio de Cristal

Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (13)

Palacio de Cristal

Palacio de Cristal, Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (16)

Palacio de Cristal (photo by Paulo)

Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (10)

Palacio de Velázquez / Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (11)

Palacio de Velázquez (photo by Paulo)

Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (12)

Palacio de Velázquez

Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (15)

photo by Paulo

Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (17)

Argentinian green parrot: cute but loud

Parque del Buen Retiro (Madrid, Spain) (18)

February 8, 2015
Album: Madrid, Spain