Lisboa, Saturday: Castle, Rain, and Free Wine!

23 12 2010

Continued from here.

Following the band-bus ride, Nick and I slept like babies.  We awoke on Saturday morning to near-freezing temperatures, and gray skies.  I thought we left Paris?  No matter, It was time for more coffee and custard tarts.

Confeitaria Nacional

Founded in 1829, the Confeitaria Nacional is special not only for its vintage décor, but for the fact that they roast their own coffee.  It was ever so slightly more expensive than the other pastry shops we visited – coffee was 70 cents and our four-pastry breakfast with two coffees cost a little over five euros – but the quality was evident.  If I were to continue the rankings, I’d say these were the second-best pastéis de nata we ate, after Pastéis de Belém.

Custard tarts at Confeitaria Nacional

Nicely browned, flaky crust, creamy custard, and the cute, for-some-reason-makes-me-think-of-old-pharmacies surroundings made these tarts almost worth the extra 10 cents.

After breakfast we wanted to catch the famous tram 28 up the hill to the moorish Alfama district and the Castelo de São Jorge (st. George’s castle).  But when we finally found the right tram stop, it was already populated by more than a tram’s worth of tourists.  We waited a few minutes, then set off on foot, figuring that the uphill walk would warm us up as well as work off our breakfast.  It didn’t take too long before we arrived at the Sé Cathedral.

definitely NOT gothic

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Colored Tiles and Custard Tarts

19 12 2010

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted here.  December is brutal on pastry chefs everywhere.  I figured out that my workday is a solid three hours longer during the holidays than it is in the summer, and lunch breaks are shorter or nonexistent. Naturally, when I come home at the end of the day I’m exhausted, and it often comes down to a choice between blogging or showering and eating dinner.  I don’t think anyone can blame me for choosing the latter.  That said, this is going to be a big post, and I hope it will make up for my absence.

I believe I mentioned that Nick and I took a weekend trip to Lisbon a few weeks ago.  We had a fantastic time, and it makes me wonder what took me so long to visit Portugal.

beautifully patterned tiles

I was struck immediately by how colorful the city is.  I took tons of pictures of the tile-covered and pastel-painted buildings, and I know Nick got at least twice as many.  I’ve put some of my favorites up in a Flickr set, which I invite you to browse.  Compared to the gray of Paris in winter, the sunshine and bright colors of Portugal were just what I needed.

tile-covered building

We flew in on a Thursday night, and after grabbing a cheap cab to our hotel, we whipped out our guidebook in search of a nearby restaurant.  Cervejaria Ribadouro turned out to be just across the street, and was a good introduction to typical Portuguese restaurants.  They had several tanks of live seafood in the front, with market prices by the kilo listed nearby.  In addition to the lobsters, crabs, and cod, the menu had a large selection of meats, most of which were pork.  Nick made up his mind to order the pork with clams as soon as he saw it, and we later learned that this is a very traditional pairing in Portuguese cuisine.  I had the black pork, which was juicy and flavorful.  We started with bread and a stuffed crab, and washed it all down with a couple of big, cheap beers.

The next morning, we began on a quest that would carry us through the weekend: eating as many custard tarts as possible.

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