Saturday, 25 February 2012

American Suburbanite in Portugal: Food!

There were two things I had been looking forward to in Portugal, the fresh fruits and vegetables and seafood. I was not disappointed by either one.

We did shop in the regular grocery store when we first arrived, but the local market wouldn't be open for a couple of days and we needed a few staples to get through until then. But even in the grocery stores the fresh fruits and fish were abundant.

One of my favorite things I ate almost every day was oranges. We could see a small orange grove across the street from our villa and the trees were laden with bright orange fruits. In the mornings we could see the woman picking buckets of oranges and her husband driving off, presumably to the market in Caldas da RĂ£inha. Knowing from my time in Florida this was prime citrus season, I couldn't wait to taste some. They were so sweet and juicy, better than drinking a glass of orange juice! I have told my husband to look for portuguese oranges at the grocery store here in England in hopes to find some as tasty.

At almost every restaurant you are served olives and bread. Often it is brought to the table before ordering. Unlike olives you get on a pre made salad or pizza, these have a lovely firm texture. I like a flavorful extra virgin olive oil, so I am glad I have found olives I enjoy as well. My only fault in the olives was the extremely salty brine some of them had been stored in. It did help the wine go down a bit faster though!

Another delight was the bread. We snacked on bread more in Portugal than we did in Paris. Whether it was toast, a bacon sandwich, croissants, or the yummy chorizo stuffed mini loaves, we had tons of bread.

Finally, the fresh seafood was amazing. Anytime we ate out, seafood was our choice. I had a tiger prawn the size of a small lobster. We shared a whole sole between the two of us. We were a little nervous to see the bill when they brought it out to us, but managed the bill better than the fish. We had to ask for it to be wrapped in foil to take home.

In addition to sea bass and sole, fresh sardines are quite the specialty in Portugal. I have to admit, after years of serving sardines and herring to the marine animals I cared for, eating them myself has not been easy. It has more to do with making baby dolphin/whale formulas than the fish themselves. I know they are healthy and sustainable, but they take a conscious effort to eat for me, and I wish they didn't. However, they were so fresh in Portugal, I found myself stealing some from my husbands plate. If that doesn't say they were good, I don't know what else does!

I'll tell you about our favorite restaurant and some of the local beverages of Portugal soon.

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