Asado Kitchen, With Our Argentinian Couchsurfers

of course Ice nosed his way into the preparations

We sadly said goodbye to our fabulous Argentinian couchsurfers today, after two days of great conversations over food and wine. They doted on Ice so much I’m sure he’s going to miss them, too! They’ve been travelling for 22 months straight (!) and return to Argentina in a few weeks.

I’ve not been to Argentina, but I know enough about the country and have met enough natives to know one thing about their cuisine: MEAT. Asado is the Argentine barbecue, and last night we were the lucky beneficiaries of a meat-fest in our kitchen. Ice, as you can imagine, went bananas with the smell and he had more than his fair share of handouts.

For the sake of the vegetarians I’ve put most of the pictures in thumbnail size, which you can click to enlarge.

gailatlarge-GEA_5222

February 26, 2015
Album: Portugal [Winter 2014/2015]

Porto’s Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO)

Porto's Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) (2)

My inner aviation nerd has been quiet for a while in this space and it’s time to revive it, to give some love to my local airport. Why? Because OPO ranks highly, recently winning third place for Best Airport in Europe after Keflavik and Moscow. Porto airport was also in the top three from 2006 to 2011, and voted as the best European Airport in 2007 by passengers according to ACI (Airports Council International). Also, my local airport is really local to me — I can walk there in less than half an hour — and yet I had nothing but mobile pictures of it. I finally got around to photographing the exterior properly on our way back from Madrid earlier this month.

I was first introduced to Porto Airport in June 2011, when I flew into Lisbon and flew out of Porto. I remember Paulo driving me to the airport on his way to work, my attention completely divided between details about my return flight to Toronto, telling Paulo that he should come visit me and we’d go to Tadoussac, Quebec for whale watching, and the interesting architectural lines of the airport. In the end I caught that flight to Toronto, 15 months later Paulo visited me in Canada and we went to Quebec (although it was too late in the season for whale watching), and nearly four years later I am still enamoured with the architectural lines of Porto Airport.

Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport is named after a Portuguese politician who was Prime Minister in 1980 and died in a controversial plane crash 11 months after taking office. His namesake, the current airport, was renovated for expansion between 2003 and 2006 at a cost of €108m and has five skylights in the centre, supported by a complex roof structure. Those skylights are what gives the airport its bright, spacious atmosphere — important for reducing some of the stress that comes with ever-increasing airport regulations and the pressures of flying.

A sidenote: my father-in-law used to work at Porto Airport as an avionics communications technician (I hope I translated this properly), and retired before the airport’s most recent makeover. I’ve been trying to hunt down some archival images, to see what the airport used to look like in the days he worked there but have yet to find any. Paulo found some for me:

OPO history (including when it was called Pedras Rubras): http://restosdecoleccao.blogspot.pt/2013/03/aeroporto-de-pedras-rubras.html

You can find out more about Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport here:

Official website: http://www.ana.pt/
Tech specs: http://www.airport-technology.com/projects/oporto/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_de_S%C3%A1_Carneiro_Airport
Practical information: http://www.sleepinginairports.net/europe/porto.htm

ANA Airports of Portugal even has a Flickr album for Porto Airport: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjv9caPw

Porto Airport is on three of these Top 10 lists for World Airport Awards 2014.

Keep winning the awards, OPO, I’m pleased to call you my home airport!

Porto's Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) (3)

Porto's Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) (4)

Porto's Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) (5)

Porto's Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) (6)

Porto's Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) (7)

Porto's Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO)

Porto's Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) (9)

Porto's Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) (10)

Porto's Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) (1)

February 9, 2015
Album: Portugal [Winter 2014/2015]

Portugal Restaurant Week: Real Indiana Foz

Real Indiana Foz (Porto, Portugal) (10)

Last night I arranged for Casa Aguiar to partake in Portugal Restaurant Week by making a reservation at a local Indian restaurant to thank my sister-in-law for looking after our pooch while we went to Madrid a couple of weekends ago. She loves Indian food and I am only too happy to expand on my Indian restaurant knowledge in Porto beyond my first one a few months ago — especially when there’s kulfi involved.

The pictures could use more light, but the photography was merely incidental — the big draw was the food.

All three of us really enjoyed each of our dishes, which included pakoras, samosas, lamb korma, chicken curry, spicy aubergine, and desserts on the €20 prix fixe menu. We calculated what the total would’ve been if we’d ordered each of these items off the regular menu and it worked out to €25 plus change, so we definitely got our money’s worth for the food. In addition, we ordered lassi drinks for each of us and tea afterwards, which bumped up the final bill to around the same as what we would’ve paid for the food à la carte. Bottom line, it works out similar to receiving those additions for free for Restaurant Week.

My only disappointment in the meal was the mango kulfi! It was sickly sweet, quite unlike any kulfi I’ve ever had before. In my experience, it should have this texture which is drier and less creamy. But an overly sweet kulfi isn’t a dealbreaker, despite how much I profess my love for the stuff. Since we’d already had our fill of Indian deliciousness, dessert is nothing but sheer gluttony by that point.

(I’m looking to continue my Portugal Restaurant Week run, once I decide on restaurant #2.)

Click on any of the pics to enlarge.

Website: http://www.realindiana.pt

Real Indiana Foz
26, Avenida Montevideu 498
4150-516 Porto
Tel: 22 616 2107

HOURS (check website for updates):
Sunday-Thursday: 12h-15h, 19h-23h
Friday/Saturday: 12h-15h, 19h-midnight

February 23, 2015
Album: Portugal [Winter 2014/2015]

Taylor’s Port Wine Tour

Taylor's Port Wine Tour (Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal) (2)

You would think that after a handful of trips to Taylor’s Port Cellars between my first visit to Portugal in 2011 and moving here in late 2013, I would have experienced their cellars tour by now. But only last month did I actually do it! How can this be??

For one thing, Taylor’s has a large property which includes a fine dining restaurant, a patio with one of the best views of Porto to be found, a garden, a lawn for outdoor performances, and a reception space where one end is devoted to the port house’s history — a mini-museum, of sorts. This makes it more of a multi-purpose venue than just a port wine storage facility.

In 2011, I passed through Taylor’s on the way to Croft Port, which is now owned by Taylor’s, and did the Croft tour. (There I was introduced to pink port, which they pioneered and remains my favourite of all the port wines so far, which explains my bias for the Croft tour!) Then, a year ago I brought my friend visiting from Luxembourg back to Croft for the tour so she could compare the pink port with the others. Meanwhile, I was at Taylor’s again for a concert in the garden for Cais de Fado in the summer, and shot some pictures of the view of Porto from the restaurant patio while waiting for the performance to begin. I’ve brought visitors back to Taylor’s since then for the views, but last month while on a leisurely stroll through the upper part of Gaia I decided to play tourist and finally check the Taylor’s tour off the list, to at least say I’ve done it and give a comparison.

It’s winter, but Taylor’s is one of the bigger port houses and they still run tours every day. For English speakers it’s easy enough just to show up; there’s usually a tour every 20 minutes or so in high season (if not more) and at least one an hour in the low season. I asked if it was possible to take the tour without the port samples (hello, isn’t that the best part?!?), and I was informed that the €5 charge is more of an entry fee than a package consisting of tour and samples. I see. Brace yourselves: if you like port as a digestive, have lunch first.

I piggybacked onto a cellar tour with a small group of young Chinese tourists, and we were taken around by a guide who I’m guessing is Dutch or Belgian. Everything is a guess since she didn’t introduce herself to us, and she didn’t ask us where we were from. I’m only pointing it out because this is the first time I haven’t been asked where I’m from, and it’s the one time I wanted to be stealthy and blend in!

By the way, while you are waiting for your tour to begin, don’t miss the large framed illustrations on the far wall by the entrance to the garden. They explain each stage of the wine-making process, from grape-growing to bottling (if my memory serves me correctly — I’ll check next time I’m there). If you don’t have time to browse the illustrations before the tour, view them slowly while sipping the three glasses of port afterwards. Soon you’ll want to sink into one of the lounge chairs for a nap as your brain tries to absorb all that information while the port takes hold.

A few bullet points about the Taylor’s cellar tour:

  • Length: the tour was longer than Croft’s, it ran at least 20 minutes;
  • Breadth: it was incredibly informative — I’ve been on two cellar tours already, and I learned quite a bit more this time;
  • Taylor’s is generous with their port samples, and they offer three (see below). If you drink them all, don’t drive anything, not even a stroller!
  • If you plan to photograph in the cellars, bring your fastest lens because it’s you’ll need it. I shot these at ISO 1600 because I was silly and didn’t bring my FX camera.

Taylor's Port Wine Tour (Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal) (1)

Taylor's Port Wine Tour (Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal) (3)

Verdict: I enjoyed all of the port wines at the end of the tour, but my favourite is still Croft Pink. But if I were to rank Taylor’s, this would be my order of preference, starting from top to bottom:

Taylor's Port Wine Tour (Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal) (5)

Taylor's Port Wine Tour (Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal) (6)

Taylor's Port Wine Tour (Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal) (4)

Website: http://www.taylor.pt/

Taylor’s Port
Rua do Choupelo nº 250
4400-088 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
GPS Coordinates: 41.13394, -8.61435

Tel: +351 223 772 956 / +351 223 742 800

HOURS (check the website for updates):
Monday-Friday: 10am to 6pm
Saturday-Sunday: 10am to 5pm

(Please note that last tour leaves about an hour before closing time so as to allow sufficient time to complete your tasting.)

January 10, 2015
Album: Portugal [Winter 2014/2015]

Winter Beach Lunch

lunch at Lais de Guia, Matosinhos

Yesterday was such a beautiful winter day that we had lunch on the beach, indulging my abiding love for al fresco dining. Portugal is one of those countries where eating on the beach in winter is not only possible but fairly common, even in the north of the country where I live. (On the south coast, even more so.) Another upside to this scenario is that our dog Ice can join us, we can watch the ocean waves while we’re waiting for our food, and we can get in our Vitamin D and fresh air.

This being Portugal, fish is always on the menu and often a feature of the day. I ordered robalo (seabass), Paulo ordered prego (steak), and we finished off with desserts of lemon meringue and raspberry cheesecake. If we had nothing else to do, I would’ve sat there all day and kept ordering. In the end, our total bill including drinks was €33.40, which is good for a beach cafe. Lais de Guia sits directly on the sand and accessed via a boardwalk. As you can imagine, the deck is typically full in the warmer months, but it was windy yesterday — a boon for the surfers — and that gave us an unobstructed view out to sea. We’ll take it!

lunch at Lais de Guia, Matosinhos

lunch at Lais de Guia, Matosinhos

lunch at Lais de Guia, Matosinhos

lunch at Lais de Guia, Matosinhos

lunch at Lais de Guia, Matosinhos

February 21, 2015
Album: Portugal [Winter 2014/2015]