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Lisbon Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations


fredbram
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Saturday afternoon we did a bit of touring, and because we were taking the ferry back over the Tejo to Montijo on Sunday morning to see M2 and her family I needed to buy a couple of gifts for her. I found a nice set of cordial glasses along with some raspberry liqueur at Villeroy & Boch and also got a recommendation from the sales ladies there for a really, really typical pastelaria that would have pretty items for gifts. I find this an excellent way to shop, and the longer they consider the possibilities the better, as locals take a lot of pride in sending you to just the right place. Suica was considered and rejected, as they have nice things but are really just too snotty for words, and in the end they decided on Casa Chinesa on Rua do Ouro (laughing over the fact that it doesn't sound like a place that would make Portuguese sweets) and drawing me a little map with directions.

As luck would have it Casa Chinesa was closed for repair work that day, with the window featuring a nice note explaining that they'd be open the next day and apologizing for the inconvenience. So we set off for Confeitaria Nacional, where the slightly gruff young woman at the counter let me know that they'd sold out of the already packaged sweets. So I chose as assortment of cookies, assuming she'd re-wrap them as a gift (which I'd made clear was my intention, and she was good about pointing out which cookies would still be acceptable the next day and which ones wouldn't). But she didn't and I said never mind, and we set out for Pastelaria Suica, where the staff was every bit as unpleasant as the sales ladies at Villeroy & Boch had said they'd be, but I did at least find some very pretty almond candies. Oh, and one of those really decadent fresh candies made of egg yolk and sugar.

I didn't photograph either the candies or the cookies, but I did document another food-related find that I bought on the way to Confeitaria Nacional, in a small farmacia:

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I buy local toothpaste everywhere I can find it, and this was the only one I saw in Lisbon (where Colgate and other multinational brands dominate the market). Some of them turn out to be pretty weird, but this one was very nice, very minty.

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For dinner on Saturday night we'd decided to meet up with two local couples who get together informally with visitors to Lisbon who post on fodors.com (there's a long thread there on the Lisbon Dining Club if you want to know more, or hook up with them while you're in Lisbon---very pleasant, normal people who are also into food). The restaurant they'd chosen is outside of central Lisbon, in a neighborhood that was fortunately not destroyed during the Salazar years, Carnide. You take Lisbon's very efficient and clean metro to the Carnide station, and from there you need a detailed map (and I'm not kidding about the detailed map) for the remaining 10 minute walk.

The restaurant was Adega das Gravatas, so named for obvious reasons. If you've got a really ugly tie to donate they'd appreciate it:

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The kitchen:

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The bar:

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Because this was a particularly large version of the Lisbon Dining Club that included a 17 members of an English language course from German-speaking Switzerland (who were visiting Lisbon because they'd run out of Anglophone countries) they'd booked a private room in the restaurant. We started out with port in the bar area, and then trooped back to our private room, where the wait staff was overseen by a really jolly guy named Paulo.

The food was excellent. Starters included shrimp, fava beans with bacon and blood sausage, fried fish (probably monkfish), cheese, octopus, and probably a few things I'm leaving out. Here's a not too attractive photo of my plate with representative dishes:

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I don't have photos of the rest of the dinner, so I'll describe it:

Grilled fish (several sorts---the staff brought the uncooked fish back to the dining room for to choose)

Rice with seafood

Bread stew with seafood

Followed by:

Porco preto (refers to the type of pigs), either "feathers" or "secrets"

Beef steak (very tender, possibly tenderloin) served on very hot stone and only cooked on one side, so that you could have it either rare (my preference) or cooked beyond all recognition

Various vegetables and salad

Assortment of cakes

Assortment of fruits

Wine and beer

Coffee

Amarguinha (almond liqueur)

Altogether a lovely meal, and the restaurant actually gave us all each a specially made azulejo in memory of the evening. The entire meal, from port to liqueur, including tip, cost 24 euro. We upped it to 25 just because.

Home again on the metro to our cosy apartment. We had to use the Baixa exit at our station because the Chiado one was closed off, possibly due to the enormous crowds gathering in Praca Luis de Camoes, where they were loudly celebrating something, possibly a soccer win. The thunderous noise was inaudible behind the closed front windows of the apartment, and only faintly so from the open back windows.

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Great apartment, did you find it online?

Yep, plugged "apartment" and "Lisbon" into google and this agency, Traveling to Lisbon, was one of the hits. I spent a fair amount of time looking at different apartments, and emailed a series of very specific questions to the management. They were answered promptly, and based on my queries the management actually suggested this property (#33---the web site shows more photos, including some more of the kitchen) which I hadn't notice because the maximum occupancy is limited to 4 persons and that usually means that there's only one bedroom. This one has two full bedrooms and two full baths, in addition to the amazingly nice kitchen (where I'd have done more cooking if traveling with my family), living room (where I did end up serving food one evening, so it's not off topic to mention it) and large sunny dining room.

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The produce at Ribeira was pretty straightforward stuff, so the only photo I took was this one:

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What the heck is this?

You surmised correctly--it is pre-shredded couve galega, which is the verde in caldo verde. Actually, I'm a little surprised you went the whole trip without having caldo verde--that soup turns up everywhere. They sell the stuff ready to toss into the pureed potato broth...float a slice of chouriço in it and you've got caldo verde as it is served in thousands of restaurants in Portugal. Everyone should probably try it once, but it was never a soup I could get too excited about. Now, sopa alentejana--that's another story!

I cannot seem to find a consensus as to exactly what couve galega is. It is often translated within the same phrase as "kale" and collard greens", as if the two were the same thing. I believe it is probably closest to "green kale"--not the curly kind that I usually see in grocery stores in the States.

We bought a loaf of bread that turned out to contain a fair amount of cornmeal...

Ah, you bought broa, which seems to be a kind of bread you either love or hate (I pretty much hated it). Very dense, it always reminded me of a slightly sweet, corn-flavored brick.

Next time I'm in Lisboa, I'm going to have to try that restaurant in Carnide--it looks like fun. Carnide is the location of another favorite joint of mine (one I believe I have written elsewhere on these boards), O Coreto de Carnide, named for the coreto, or bandstand, in the plaza which the restaurant faces. They do a killer bife (or naco) na pedra, the hunk of beef served on the hot stone. Now, I'm completely mystified... what did you mean by "Porco preto (refers to the type of pigs), either "feathers" or "secrets"? As you probably already know, preto is the color black, which refers to the color of the breed of pig's patas... how and where do feathers or secrets enter into it? I'm racking my brain and can't come up with anything...

That "Traveling to Lisbon" site looks like a great resource. I'll definitely keep that one in mind for my next trip!

My restaurant blog: Mahlzeit!

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Now, I'm completely mystified... what did you mean by "Porco preto (refers to the type of pigs), either "feathers" or "secrets"?  As you probably already know, preto is the color black, which refers to the color of the breed of pig's patas... how and where do feathers or secrets enter into it?  I'm racking my brain and can't come up with anything...

Apparently plumas (feathers or quills in translation, I'm assuming) and secretos both refer to specific cuts of meat from porco preto. The ones we had were small flat pieces in which the muscle was apparent (so not cut against the grain).

I cannot seem to find a consensus as to exactly what couve galega is. It is often translated within the same phrase as "kale" and collard greens", as if the two were the same thing. I believe it is probably closest to "green kale"--not the curly kind that I usually see in grocery stores in the States.

Here in Atlanta we've got just about every possible sort of green (by which I mean collards et al., not salad greens) and I'd probably call this one kale (and I'm assuming the stuff in the bucket on the floor of the photo is the starting material).

Next time I'm in Lisboa, I'm going to have to try that restaurant in Carnide--it looks like fun. Carnide is the location of another favorite joint of mine (one I believe I have written elsewhere on these boards), O Coreto de Carnide, named for the coreto, or bandstand, in the plaza which the restaurant faces.

I saw this restaurant, as we met our party at the coreto, actually standing up inside of it. It took some time to figure out exactly where the coreto was, as it wasn't indicated on either the map I had (although it did display the street where the restaurant was) or the map in the metro station. Or rather it was there, but the presence of the coreto was not indicated. In the end the nice young man at the ticket booth came over to the map, explained exactly where it was on the map, and then took us up out of the station and a block or so along the way, explaining how to get there and bidding us good luck.

We found people in Lisbon to be very pleasant and accomodating indeed.

Ah, you bought broa, which seems to be a kind of bread you either love or hate (I pretty much hated it). Very dense, it always reminded me of a slightly sweet, corn-flavored brick.

Not my favorite, but interesting. And pretty funny to think that we'd come all the way from Atlanta to eat cornbread. The cod we ate at Confeitaria Nacional was presumably topped with crumbs of this bread, as per the name bacalhau com broa de milho.

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So we got to bed reasonably early on Saturday night (by about 1:00 AM, I'd guess, so officially it was Sunday morning) and that was a good thing, because we needed to be up and about relatively early on Sunday so as to catch the 10:00 AM ferry to Montijo on Sunday AM. M2 met us in her car at 10:20 with two of her children in tow, and we set off on our big adventure.

Our first stop was Palmela, a castle with some very cool history that is now a pousada (where you may be served food, so that keeps this photo on topic):

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This photo is taken from Palmela and shows some sort of orchard (any idea as to what they might be? possibly oranges?) and the base of a windmill in the upper right hand corner:

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Next stop was this establishment in a town nearby (precisely which town I don't know):

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Do you think this man knew he'd be visiting this establishment that morning when he chose his wardrobe?

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The wall opposite the service area features this work of art:

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A less primitive depiction of this sweet (which is a very thin sponge rolled around something or other, very nice), along with a glass of Setubal moscatel is here:

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I'll point out here that for once I was not the one deciding that an alcoholic beverage would hit the spot (that was M2's decision, as she wanted us to try the moscatel), and I followed it up with um galao:

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Thus fortified, we set off for our next destination, a birthday party to which the children had been invited. Located in a posh housing development plopped down in the middle of some very nice farming country, it all felt quite eerily like being in Alpharetta, GA. Or rather Alpharetta, GA 10 years ago before the posh housing developments took over all the farming country.

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The two children tucked in at their party, we headed for more touring, including a trip along the really lovely Arrabida. This photo depicts some plants that I'm sure must be edible in the foreground, and the Troia peninsula across the water:

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Next stop: Lunch

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Lunch was in a nice restaurant called Al Foz on the waterfront in Alcochete. We were met there by M2's 13 year old daughter (who speaks English quite well for her age and experience) and her grandmother, M2's mother, Z (who speaks only Portuguese and Spanish, but with great expression). Z knows everybody and everything in Montijo and Alcochete, and of course ran into lots of old friends at the restaurant.

Here's a hazy view of Lisbon across the Tejo from our table:

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Here's a view from the terrace outside, a bit later in the afternoon as the wind picked up and the haze lifted, of the waterfront in Alcochete:

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Lunch (and I use the term loosely, as we sat down at 3:00 PM) started with various small dishes as usual, including crab spread in the foreground, tuna spread in the gravy boat, and fish roe in the back (the beige hunks of stuff):

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Z insisted that we get thin crispy pieces of toast to accompany the spreads. They were delicious.

For my main I ordered fried eels with mashed fish roe, but before that I was served, at Z's insistence, a sort of fish soup, comprised of a piece of fish in a fairly thick sauce and pieces of bread:

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Z later kicked up a bit of a fuss about the bread, as it's supposed to be a certain sort of bread from the Alentejo, not just any old bread. And I have to confess that when I was eating it that it did seem that the dish did lack a certain zing.

Here are my eels:

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Here's what was left of my eels:

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Here's what Z made us eat for dessert:

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Portuguese desserts tend towards the heavy and sweet.

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As the bus back over Vasco da Gama bridge to Lisbon wasn't due for a while, we stopped in at a swank waterfront bar for coffee (for M, M2, and Z), something fizzy for M2's daughter, and a caiparinha for me. Z considered switching her order to a caiparinha, but then M2 reminded her that she was driving.

M2 and Z of course knew the owners of the bar as well as the owners' parents and various other town worthies. We met a lot of people. Here's a view of the water from the bar:

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We caught the bus back to Parque das Nacoes, doing a little shopping in the mall there before catching the metro home for a rest before heading out that evening.

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Theresa,

I am spellbound. I grew up in the Algarve as a teenager and haven't been back for many years. Your pictures and commentary make me want to chuck it all and go back to this wonderful country. I see so many things that bring back memories.

I actually just finished making a batch of caldo verde yesterday! I recommend using collard greens instead of kale here in the USA. The market pic of that mountain of couve was probably the result of a common, and ingenious, invention - a large robo-coup blade is afixed to a hand crank, the couve leaves are rolled up into "cigars" and fed into the rotating cutting disc. It's like a massive chiffonade machine! The idea is to get the couve as thin as possible so it practically melts in the potato & [chicken] broth, thus turning it a jade-like green. Eric is right that it's not the most exciting soup, I jazz it up with more chorizo and garlic. But it reminds me so much of Portugal, the appeal has been burned-in.

Did you ever go north to Sintra? A very magical part of Portugal.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

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Sunday evening we both took naps, M swearing that she would not eat again until the next day, possibly the next evening. We headed out to Bairro Alto about 10:30, our destination a fado club called Caldo Verde where we expected to find our Swiss-German friends from the previous night's dinner at Adega das Gravatas.

Sure enough they were there, having apparently dined on some not very nice dishes of something or other. I told the waiter that we'd just be having drinks, and he was fine with that, actually moving a table from another part of the restaurant so as to add on to one of the original party's. Most of the original party left soon after we arrived (no, I don't think it was anything I said, but rather the uncomfortable seats and late hour), so we defaulted to a single table and were soon joined by one of the Portuguese couples from the previous evening.

We shut the club down (after an encore performance) and headed out into the night. As we were passing through the Praca Luis de Camoes I pointed out our apartment, and then we decided we should all go see the apartment and probably have a drink.

Somehow, miraculously, we managed to stretch a bottle of wine 8 ways, and that big box of cookies from Confeitaria Nacional came in handy as well. We bid our new friends good night and fell into bed about 3:00 AM.

No photos, I'm afraid, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

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Monday morning came rather sooner that we'd hoped, but fortunately we had no pressing plans, and so had a leisurely breakfast while we considered our options for the day. We'd considered Sintra, but then realized that the sites are closed on Mondays, so we decided instead to see some small museums in Lisbon proper.

The first was the Museu da Farmacia, located just a few blocks away from our apartment. Located in an office building that actually houses the Portuguese National Association of Pharmacies and very well done, there's quite a lot there that pertains to food and nutrition. Cool food from NASA, for instance, and all sorts of vitamin tonics and so forth.

By the time we left we were, incredibly, finally ready for another real meal, and so stopped in at this likely looking spot. Note from the coats on the passers by that the weathered turned a bit chilly:

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The inside's quite nice. This couple of presumed grandmother and grandson were very deep in conversation:

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We drank (well, I drank, as M opted for water):

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I had roast lamb:

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M had grilled sardines (which taste of home just like coffee does):

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We shared some cooked greens and a mixed salad as well:

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Dessert was fresh mango for me, fruit salad for M followed by a coffee.

The total:

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Well-fed we head off for our next stop, Mae d'Agua. We take the metro to Amoreiras. It's cold and windy, and we decide to get some more roasted chestnuts:

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We stop first at Pao e Acucar at M's suggestion (very nice). But by the time we leave Pao e Acucar it's turned quite distinctly cold and rainy and extremely windy and we decide that we'll have to see Mae d'Agua another time. And since I fully intend to return some time soon with my children this is not a tragedy by any means. Home via metro.

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Lots of restaurants are closed on Monday nights, and on top of that it was Father's Day. Not a real holiday, but presumably enough of one that even restaurants that said they were open on Mondays (including A Velha Gruta, the small place located on the ground floor of our apartment building which we thought we might try given the cold and windy nature of the evening) were closed in some cases.

Fortunately Fidalgo was not. We arrived somewhere between 8:00 and 8:30 to snag the last table upstairs (there's a downstairs, and I'm not sure how big it is). No photos as I'd have had to use the flash, so too disturbing to other diners). We started with ham, followed by iscas de figado for me and grilled robalo for M. House vinho tinto.

For dessert we got an order of fresh orange and a piece of tarte de gila com amendoas (a sticky cake made with pumpkin and almond, the same as one of the desserts from Al Foz pictured upthread) and shared them. Tarte much better with contrasting flavor and texture of orange.

A funny moment while ordering: at the bottom of the menu it's noted that both English and French are spoken by the management. Although I manage to say simple things and order food in Portuguese it's of course immediately apparent from my accent that I'm not from Portugal. so our waiter pointed out that he'd be fine in English or French. So I switched to French (heh heh), but of course since the entire menu is in Portuguese had to switch back to same to specify what we wanted. I could have managed to translate it into French on the fly (with the exception of robalo, as I'm terrible with names of fish in any language) but it seemed a bit silly given that I could just read it right off the menu.

Anyway, lovely meal, and we headed home through the now quiet Bairro Alto.

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When we first checked in to the apartment on Thursday afternoon we'd been asked whether we'd be amenable to being interviewed for an article about renting apartments while traveling. I said possibly, depending our schedules, and the agent gave me the journalist's email address.

We agreed to meet her at A Brasileira (so within view of the apartment, actually) for coffee at 10:00 AM on Tuesday AM. I ordered um galao escuro:

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The journalist was a very nice young woman, just out of school, who is doing freelance work to establish her reputation. The article in question will appear (if accepted) in the Saturday supplement of Diario de Noticias at some point. She's promised to email us, but if any of you notice it first let me know. As part of the research for this article she'd spent half a day with a Japanese tour group, an experience she summed up as follows: "They get off the bus, they get on the bus, they get off the bus, they get on the bus." She then pointed out that we didn't seem like usual American tourists; I refrained from pointing out that one doesn't necessarily recognize American tourists of the unusual sort when passing them in the street.

Having established that none of us was an axe murderer we went back to the apartment and she took approximately one bajillion photographs of us.

[edit to clarify time of day]

Edited by therese (log)

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We spent the rest of the morning shopping, and took the Elevador Santa Justa to the top, where it was very sunny and clear (I'd been waiting for a sunny and clear day to make this trip) but also extremely windy.

I like this picture because of the contrast of the oranges against the blue sky. That's the ruins of Carmo in the background:

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I drank an orange juice in the cafe, all the while keeping a firm hold on anything that might move.

This view shows a really lovely set of rooftop gardens, one with a dining area and one with (I assume) grapevines. The river is beyond:

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For Tuesday afternoon we'd actually had to choose between going to Sintra on our own, or driving to Obidos with M2. As we really wanted to see Sintra, and also because I wasn't entirely sure I'd survive another whirlwind tour with M2, we chose the former.

We caught the train from Sete Rios, and climbed gradually higher in altitude until finally arriving in Sintra. Beautiful, beautiful place. Here's a photo of the National Palace that shows the kitchen chimneys:

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We were hungry and so we had lunch at a thoroughly unremarkable little place that served acceptable if not amazing food. Stunningly awful U.S. music from the '70s played in the background, lending that certain surreal something to the experience. I bought some very pretty little ceramic serving dishes that I'll photograph later and add.

By the time we got to the castle the last tickets had been sold (have I mentioned that I'm a really terrible tourist? and I'm not the least bit ashamed of it, I'm afraid), so we went over to Piriquita for coffee and queijadas. The little old lady waitress forgot to bring the pastries, though, and as we had dinner plans we just got a couple to go from the counter on our way back to the train.

Here is a photo from the interior of Piriquita. It is mobbed with tourists; somehow we managed to arrive about 10 seconds before everybody else everywhere we went, and so never waited for tables:

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Train back from Sintra to Lisbon, and then metro to Baixa-Chiado and the last block on foot to our apartment, where we set to packing our suitcases like crazy women, as we knew we'd not feel like doing it when we returned from dinner, and our flight to Madrid was scheduled for 7:35 AM the next day. M2 arrives as planned at 7:30, tours the apartment, and then takes us by car to a restaurant somewhere out near Cascais.

It's located on a marina, and has lovely views and is very nice inside as well: fairly glam, very much what one sees in Atlanta. I don't recall the name, but perhaps somebody local will recognize it.

We were joined for dinner by two of M2's colleagues, women that I've also known for years through work. Some of the things we ate:

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This was, all told, the least impressive food that we ate in Lisbon, and I'm including the lunch in Sintra and the toasted ham and cheese sandwich at Caldo Verde in that number.

But it was a lovely evening nonetheless. Sometime dinner isn't about the food.

M2 drove us home to our apartment and then back over the bridge to her children in Montijo.

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Wednesday morning arrived painfully early, as it'd been some time since I'd seen the dark side of 5:00 AM. Our breakfast today included the queijadas that we'd bought in Sintra on Tuesday afternoon:

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There was a thin crust around the base, and the more I think about it the more it seems that perhaps this thin crust was not, in fact, crust but rather cardboard. I won't worry too much about it either way.

We'd assumed that the taxi stand just down the road would be staffed at 6:00 AM, but in fact it wasn't. But no worries---I hailed a passing taxi and we were on our way by 6:03.

Breakfast was served on the short flight to Madrid. I bought a sandwich, yogurt, and a small bottle of red wine (shhh, don't tell Delta) at the airport for the transatlantic flight, as coach food is so hideous that just the thought makes me slightly queasy. And so you imagine my dismay at the thought of my Spanish food all going to waste, as we were upgraded to Business class for the 9 hour flight home to Atlanta.

The food wasn't amazing by any means, but it was edible, and the wine and liquor flows like water. Champagne all around, please.

The food:

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Each course had a choice, including cheese instead of fruit (or you could have had both). I skipped the ice cream for dessert and just had the cookies instead.

All sorts of snacks during the flight, and then prior to landing a light meal:

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My last glass of champagne:

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M's husband met us at the airport in Atlanta, and I was home in time for dinner with my family.

Altogether a lovely trip, with great food and lots of fun. Feel free to ask me food-related questions here on the forum, or if you'd other details just PM.

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The way to drink espresso... no cardboard cups!

I hadn't had that many Poruguese wines besides vinho verde but recently I started tasting some great red wines from Portugal made with the same grapes used for Porto. I think the wines were from Dao or Douro.

Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us, therese!

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us, therese!

My pleasure, ludja.

I refuse to drink coffee out of paper cups anywhere, even in the U.S. They do have ceramic cups at places like Starbucks, you just have to ask for one.

And I didn't get to drink much vinho verde, as M doesn't like bubbles in her wine. Something else I'll do more of when I return with my husband. :wink:

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Forgot to mention that I did consume the required egg custard tart (on top of the Elevador Santa Justa, one that I'd purchased from a pastelaria en route, along with my orange juice). I did not sample ginjinha, with or without the chocolate cup. Another important reason to return.

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