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Food and Wine Tours in Portugal and Spain
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    Editor’s note: Everyday, we come across fantastic articles on an Iberian food, wine or cultural experience by a blogger. Some are based here in Spain and Portugal, while others are chiming in halfway around the globe with a new Portuguese recipe or Spanish wine. So in the spirit of sharing quality content, we’re featuring a section on Catavino called, “Iberian Spotlight”, highlighting articles we feel are too great to pass by. Many of these bloggers aren’t getting the recognition they deserve, and by spotlighting them, we’re hoping to show added appreciation for their effort! Catalan food, as observed by my friend Sebina, can be a little heavy sometimes. This mainly comes down to a love of recipes involving beans, especially in conjunction with lots of pork products. A classic combination is Botifarra amb Mongetes, sausage and beans… but that’s a tad dull if you ask me. Instead, I prefer ‘Beans a la Catalana‘, made with either mongetes (big white beans) or fabes (young green broad beans). This is my made up recipe for Mongetes a la Catalana, another great rustic dish for wintry days and evenings. The measures are based on serving four or five people. (photo by JaulaDeArdilla) What you will need: About 700g of good Mongetes blanques. Go for ‘ganxet’ type as these seem to be better. When I say 700g, I mean when they’re still in their water, in the jar. Strain them but do not wash them. 3 strips of good panceta/cansalada/pork belly, cut into large postage stamp-sized pieces. Not too large, mind you. Sausage. Go for about 400g of botifarra sausage (chopped up as well). I used some mini chipolatas with black truffle but I don’t know how easy these are to come by 2 cloves garlic, minced (or whatever you call it) Handful of chopped parsley Dash of white wine Salt Good olive oil About 15 mins What you need to do: Heat a nice amount olive oil to medium-high temperature (around level 5 on my cooker) in a large, heavy frying pan. Add the panceta, making sure to add plenty of salt (it’ll be a bit tasteless otherwise). After a minute or two, add the sausages. Fry the meat for 5-10 minutes, until it browns. Ensure the oil doesn’t get too hot and that the meat doesn’t burn. It might well spit a bit at this point (the fatty panceta does like to ‘pop’ from time to time). When browned, remove the meat with a slatted device, and place in a bowl. Let the oil cool down a little bit before continuing. Get the heat down to medium/medium-low. Now throw the garlic and parsley into the pan. If you got the oil temperature right, it’ll fry but not burn immediately (that happened to me the first time I tried this). Fry for about a minute. Now add the strained beans and stir together for another minute. Here, I like to add a dash of white wine, just to provide a bit of liquid to the dish. Don’t add more than a glass. When the wine has reduced down, add the meat again. Cook it all together for about four or five minutes (keeping the heat really low), and that’s it. Serve a fairly small portion in a bowl with pa amb tomaquet and a glass of decent red wine. This dish is filling, warming and really yummy. Hope you enjoy it! Catavino Wine note: We would highly suggest you pair the food with a wine having a touch of body. Personally, we love old vine Carignan from Montsant or Garnacha – something with a bit of “beef ” to it so it can stand up to the rich unctuous fat and thick sauce. Conversely, we have found that a Brut Nature Cava is often times the best pairing you can choose. In fact, while in Catalunya, any Cava is a good option! 🙂 We think it might be a Catalan conspiracy to make all their food Cava friendly! Cheers, Tom Clarke Tom Clarke lives in the suburbs of Barcelona and blogs in his spare time. He loves Catalan cuisine and is a fierce proponent of the qualities of Bujorn 2007, his most recent discovery from the Priorat DOQ.

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    Finding a quality “wine bar” in Barcelona is like finding a tapas restaurant without cured Spanish ham, challenging! For me, a quality wine bar isn’t about pomp and flash, nor is it about who can have the most wines from Rioja. A quality wine bar doesn’t need an attractive metrosexual god donned in a pressed black apron with his hair perfectly gelled to one side serving wine enveloped in a Riedel goblet, nor does it need trendy chillout music in the background to set the mood. What the ideal wine bar does need is quality and affordable wine by the glass served by a knowledgeable and passionate host who’s created a low key and friendly environment for all walks of life to experience. Owner of the famed cheese shop, Formatgeria la Seu, Katherine McLaughlin has launched an understated and hidden wine cave with her sister Mary and business partner Francesc Mas Gutierrez called, Bar Zim. According to Katherine, “My sister Mary has kindly given us the bar.  She is the owner of the building, lives upstairs and even helps us clean the bar!! Francesc Mas Gutierrez is originally from a restaurant-hotel family in La Seu d’Urgell. He has a good nose,  a good palate, and at times, it’s a pity it [Bar Zim] is so small as his cooking skills are going to waste.” Literally squeezed into a tiny little space the size of a Smart Car, its conspicuousness will taunt you as you frantically search the windy Barcelona streets in vain. But once your wine loving radar does hone in, take a moment to revel in its quaint and cozy environment. Exposed brick walls, wooden bar stools and the smell of cured meats and cheeses linger in the air. With a total of 12-14 wines of various styles on display, each and every one available for tasting by the glass, it’s an opportunity to get your palate acquainted with fun, innovative and interesting wines that you normally won’t find either on a menu or by the glass. What do I equate with interesting? What about a stellar lineup that includes a wine or two from Seville?! Seville is located in Andalusia, southern Spain, and internationally renowned for producing amazing sherry wines, but not table wines. Historically, table wines from this area have lacked in quality, but we’re happy to announce this is changing, and at Zim. Colonias de Galeón is run by Elena Viguera and Julián Navarro in Cazalla de la Sierra, the very center of Seville’s Parque Natural de Sierra Norte is a modern project using international grapes. It’s an ecological winery that produces 4 table wines: 2 reds and 2 whites. Having tasted both their Chardonnay and their Roble made with Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah, I can attest to their surprising quality. While the Chardonnay is nice the Roble is still a bit too…Roble (roble means oak and refers to wine that are only briefly aged in barrel). “I chose these wines because I like them. I don’t care that their not from a famous Spanish wine region, or that the winery is unknown to most people. They’re good, they’re the right price, and I like to drink them.” To see Katherine’s face as she speaks these words with both determination and pride is unforgettable. Part of the reason why we adore her is because, like her cheese shop, she only sells what she loves. And what she and Francesc both love are high quality products made naturally and priced fairly. The most expensive wine on their list was the 2006 Corbatera from Montsant priced at 18.00 euros. It’s a 100% Garnatxa and well worth its price. Bar Zim also served us a 100% Verdejo from Bodegas Shaya. Overflowing with aromas of lime, orange blossom and raw almonds, this wine is bright, festive and seductive with a round, rich mouthfeel and a long, lingering mineral and citrus finish. The perfect pairing with Bar Zim’s ‘petó’ (small kiss), a small housewarming tapa filled with varying concoctions. Ours consisted of a chorizo and sobrasada stuffed roll. And guess what, it was delicious! What’s truly unique about this tapa is the mere fact that tapas don’t come for free in Catalunya. This is a Spanish, not Catalan, tradition; hence, the gesture alone should be recognized. One must also consider that Bar Zim went through several trials and tribulations to find the perfect bread, and breadmaker, for their creation. To the layman, baking a small little roll should be a piece of cake (or bread, as it were), but according to Katherine, it was anything but “easy”. But no matter how the creation came about, we’re thankful for its savory, spicy and tender interior perfectly balanced by its sweet and slightly crunchy exterior. And if hunger still grips your innards, why not savor one of their rustic sausages or chorizos from Cal Rovira located in the Pyrenean foothills (on our list of places to visit), juicy pimientos piquillos from Navarra, hot guindilla peppers from Pais Vasco or simply, a hunk of delicious cheese from her shop not a few doors down?! So with all this fabulous gushing about Bar Zim, there must be some drawbacks, right?! There are a few. Bar Zim doesn’t have a phone and lacks internet presence of any kind, as exemplified by my Flickr photos coming up on the front page of Google, instead of their website. However, the domain name has been bought, and evidently, a website is in the works. So stay tuned. Additionally, it can get crowded quickly when you only have enough space in the entire bar for you and a few friends. So as long as you’re in the right frame of mind, as you should be for any bar in Spain, all is well! Keep in mind, however, that drinking on the streets is illegal if you are not within a certain distance of the bar. So even when the temptation strikes to bring a glass of wine […]

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    Have you ever heard the tale of Stone Soup? The legend of how this hearty soup came about is a popular one told throughout most European countries and was adapted to an American version by Marcia Brown. Each version is slightly different depending on your country or region and is usually influenced by varying historical or cultural references. However, at the base of each and every one is a uniting and heartfelt lesson about working together in times of need. The story of Stone Soup was told to me when I was very little, but remained a simple childhood story until I landed in Portugal several years ago. The Portuguese hold this tale very near and dear to their hearts, in part due to their insatiable appetite for soup in both restaurants and around the family dinner table. However, Sopa da Pedra, as it’s called in Portuguese, seems to be the best tasting and most readily available in Almeirim, the birthplace of the story. This small city, or “capital da sopa da pedra”, is located in the heart of the Ribatejo region, just accross the river from the city of Santarém and about a one hour drive East from Lisbon. According to the people of Almeirim, a poor friar who was on a pilgrimage stopped in the village of Almeirim and knocked on the door of a house. He was too proud to beg for a bite to eat, so instead, he requested a large pot in which he could make “a delicious and filling…….stone soup”. With arched eyebrows and curious glances, the family invited him into their home and set up a large pot over flickering flames and filled with water. Slowly walking up to the iron clad cauldron, the friar reached into his deep pocket to produce a smooth and well-cleaned stone that he promptly dropped into the boiling water. A little while later he tasted the soup and said that it needed a touch of seasoning. So the wife brought him some salt to add, to which he suggested that maybe a little bit of chouriço (sausage), or pork belly, would be better. Graciously, she obliged and dropped several thick slices into the pot. Then, the friar asked if she might not have a little something to enrich the soup, such as potatoes or beans from a previous meal. With a broad smile, she agreed, and added a healthy portion into the bubbling water. This banter continued back and forth between the family and the friar before he finally announced that he had indeed made a very delicious and filling soup. When the soup was done, the friar fished the stone out of the pot, washed and dried it off, and plopped it back in his pocket for the next time. After hearing this version of the story, it sounded exactly like the one I had heard when I was a child, so it leads me to believe that the Portuguese Sopa de Pedra is the true story of Stone Soup. But now, decades later, I finally had the opportunity to taste the soup itself! At the beginning of this month, we took a leisurely trip to Almeirim in search of Sopa da Pedra for lunch, a very easy task when the majority of the local restaurants boast of their authentic recipes. There is even a restaurant called Sopa da Pedra, located at the beginning of Rua de Coruche, where all the other sopa da pedra restaurants are situated and continues down the street until you hit the bull-fighting arena. Although tempting, we did not choose the restaurant named after the story; instead, we chose “O Forno” (The Oven), a little restaurant located at the end of the street and highly recommended by a local friend. We ordered Sopa da Pedra for two, which was served steaming hot in a small metal soup terrine with a ladle. I would best describe Sopa da Pedra as the heartiest bean and sausage soup I’ve had the pleasure to savor; with its mouth-watering aroma and my big hunk of thick, Portuguese fresh bread and slice of Queijo da Nisa cheese. It was the perfect way to warm up on a cold, November day! Though not surprisingly, one could easily deduce that this soup was a truly a poor man’s soup in origin, due to the less-than desirable cuts of pork used for flavoring and removed prior to serving. But what I really loved about Almeirim’s (O Forno’s) version was the three distinct types of sausage. One was a local chouriço negro, a firm variation of blood sausage – a personal favorite as a result of to the richness it gave the soup – while the other two were a basic chouriço/sausage mix. You may be wondering if we found an actual stone in our stone soup but alas, we did not, though we heard other restaurants do put a small stone in theirs. Can you make this hearty soup at home? Absolutely! Additionally, Sopa da Pedra can easily be prepared as a meal in and of itself or as a hefty starter. And with the addition of any full-bodied red from the local Tejo, or Alentejo, you can’t go wrong. On this particular day, we enjoyed a simple house red, which perfectly complemented the meal. If you find yourself in Almeirim, having enjoyed a warm and filling lunch, don’t forget to visit the Sopa da Pedra friar himself, whose statue and soup pot have been made into a monument to commemorate the generous hospitality of the people and the man who taught them the lesson in giving back to others. He can be found just down the street from Restaurante O Forno.  And if you like to carry on the legend and try making the soup yourself, I have included the translated recipe of Sopa da Pedra de Almeirim for your reference.  There are also variations of the recipe from other regions in Portugal which include cabbage, carrots and […]

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    WARNING: This post is extremely graphic; however, it does depict the very real act of processing an Iberian pig after the Matanza(Killing). If you are someone who is an animal lover, or gets squeemish at the site of bodily fluids, we might suggest you skip this article and await happier articles of drinking wine by the sea. Please read part 1 here: La Matanza if you want better context to this story.   Part 2: Cutting up a pig Now that the dead pig has been cleaned and prepared, the fun begins. Before the massive corpse is transported a few hundred metres to a shed to be butchered, Luis and I hold a rear leg each while Alvaro takes a knife and slices down the animal’s belly. On this occasion, the blade nicks an edge of the beast’s lower intestine and an intense, gagging smell of pre-fecal matter is up our nostrils within seconds. Everyone groans, curses Alvaro, and then laughs through the stench. . Placing a very large container on the side of the skeleton bed on which the pig has been prepared, we tip the sow on her side and her innards spill out of the cut and into the bucket. There are distinct jobs during the matanza and generally, I have noticed, they are divided up by sex. Men kill and butcher. Women clean tripe and make blood sausage. Everyone comes together to make the chorizo at the end. Selfishly and shamefully, I am glad to be a man in a chauvinist’s world as I watch Alvaro cut the colon that keeps the innards attached to the pig and cart the whole, foul-smelling, wobbling mess off to the women waiting in a backyard with hot water and vinegar. We bundle the pig onto a trailer (although I have known it be strung up again by a tractor and paraded down the street to the waiting garage) and drive it 50 metres down the road. As we’re walking Luis taps me on the arm after he’s lit a cigarette. ‘You know those hooves Alvaro gave you?’ I nod. Alvaro had pried the burned cones off the animal’s feet and handed them to me, saying they were important, and for the vet. ‘Well, that’s a bit of a joke. They’re rubbish. They’re not for the vet. Alvaro plays that one on people. You know what he’s like…’ I feel into my pocket and bring out eight blackened hooves that smell of toasted faeces. My intense humiliation turns into brief anger which turns, as it must, to a resigned smile and then, indeed, to vengeance. As we walk into the garage, I slip the hooves into Alvaro’ coat pocket hanging in the doorway. It takes a while for my eyes to accustom themselves to the darker surroundings. A short bench, whose edges are rounded and notched, stands across the middle of the garage. Large plastic buckets and wooden troughs line the walls. A large cigar box – probably a relic from a wedding – lies open on a chest freezer, its contents an assortment of knives, some of which look like they were homemade by the inmates of a prison. The pig is hauled in and its back laid along the bench. The head is the first to be removed. Then the sirloins are stripped from it. Once these are removed, Juan produces a small axe similar to a tomahawk and with a mallet he and Alvaro remove the spine from the carcass. Then follows a bout of cutting, slicing, whacking and tearing. Unnervingly the meat is still warm and within seconds everyone’s hands are greasy with animal fat. There is a special technique for removing each side of the ribcage more or less intact. It involves a slice between two upper ribs to gain a handle and while one hand lifts, the other cuts the ribs free, turning them into a rack of ribs. All such bits are thrown into a bucket or trough, depending on their further use. No one really makes jamon here (the climate is not as dependable as it is in the mountains further south) so trotters are cut free and whole legs put to one side. The trotters land in the trough with the head and spine. Once the pig is in more manageable chunks deboning and the like take place on a black table that has been brought in and placed in the centre of the room. As I’m deboning a leg as best I can (one finger in the tuber calcaneus the other whipping around the bone with a slim knife) I look up to see three generations in tableau. Alfonso the granddad has relegated himself from cutting up to sharpening knives and his gently trembling hands work the blunted blades on a belt sander. His son is dealing with the other rear leg opposite me and behind him, his niece is looking on with curiosity. When all the meat is removed and the fat trimmed as best it can be, it all goes through a coarse mincer. This is where it gets divided up between people and styles. The meat destined for chorizo is mixed, by hand, with endless packets of Pimenton (Paprika). Each family has its own recipe for salchichon but we used a good dose of white wine, a touch of mace and whole black peppercorns. Once each 15kg mash of flesh and ingredients is mixed up by hand and patted down, it sits in the cold garage overnight to be fed into the casings (read cleaned ‘intestines’) the next day. This is the job where everyone comes back together to tie up the sausages, prick them with a set of forks so old they probably date back to the French occupation in the early 19th century, and hang them up in a cool, airy attic. For now, though, most people light up a cigarette and have a beer – some are more unconscious than others that they are flicking tobacco ash liberally […]

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    It’s been almost four years since I called Portugal my “home away from home”, translating to a half decade of savoring Portuguese food and wine on a regular basis – something I’ve never taken for granted. Consequently, while searching for information on Portuguese gastronomy, I stumbled across Catavino’s Facebook page. Immediately drawn to Ryan and Gabriella’s story, it echoed many similarities to my own adventure. So, I reached out, expressing my shared enthusiasm and appreciation for Iberian wine and food. (photo by Ryan Opaz) The shock came soon after when Gabriella hinted that I write for Catavino. Me? A writer?! Are we speaking of the same person who dreaded school writing assignments, or even writing thank-you letters?! The idea was dreadful, as I neither thought myself qualified, nor that my writing would be interesting enough for people to read. But Gabriella gently coaxed me into the fold, with the help of her editing magic and continued support; I’ve been pecking away at the keyboard for well over 3 years now. Aided by the research I was required to do for Catavino, I have developed an appreciation for some relatively off the wall flavors; dishes that I would’ve stayed clear of if they weren’t ordered by fellow diner. What a shame it would have been to miss out on so many extraordinary flavors. Portugal has brought out the proud “foodie” in me, the person who spends ten minutes deciding on the cake or tart I should savor at the pastelaria; the person who requests additional bread to mop up the garlic, cilantro, butter and white wine sauce from the ameijoas á bulhão pato; and the person who lingers over every single drop of their (espresso) café, scraping around the inside of the cup with a spoon for that coveted foam. Hence, my mouthwatering tactics begs the question: have you visited Portugal yet? Assuming the answer is “no”, what if you were given ten delicious reasons as to why you should take your next vacation to Portugal, would you be convinced? Let’s give it a try: Simple, Fresh Comfort Food I cherish the fact that you can enjoy a delicious, home-cooked meal from any one of the numerous “mom and pop” locales throughout Portugal. Simple and inexpensive – as a result of their locally sourced seasonal meat, fish and produce – you can savor hearty, traditional dishes even in the heart of Lisbon at such family-run establishments such as A Tasca do João. Or if you’re needing a breath of fresh air out in the country, Portugal’s picturesque little aldeias are the perfect spot to sample comfort food at its best; whether you’ve got a free invite to stay with friends or you’re paying to stay at one of the many aldeia guesthouses for a luxurious weekend getaway, you’ll always be treated and fed like one of the family! Intriguing Regional Liquors & Spirits Though having Portuguese wine is a must; you really haven’t had the full Portuguese experience until you’ve tried their colorful variety of liquors and spirits! Whether you end your meal with something sweet, or ease into a nightcap with something dry and powerful, there’s a sumptuous flavor for everyone. Licor Beirão, the “Liquor of Portugal”, from the central Beiras region, is made from a secret 100-year old recipe that shows a delectable sweet, herbal flavor. From the southern Algarve region, you have Licor de Amendoa Amarga, made from bitter almonds and portraying an addictive marzipan flavor, most notably from the brand  “Amarguinha”. Licor de Alfarroba is made from aguardente (brandy) and the seedpods of the Alfarroba (Carob) tree; which is also used in many Algarvian desserts. It has unique flavor that I would describe as a mixture of fig and chocolate and makes an amazing digestive. But if you really want something to knock your socks off then pour yourself a glass of aguardente bagaceira, or Bagaço as it’s commonly called. Consider it Portugal’s version of grappa, made from leftover pomace. The best Bagaço is said to come from the pomace of Vinho Verde grapes in the northern Minho region and is distilled on open flame from small wine producers. However, as this method is illegal, the only way to find it is if you upon a small, local restaurant where the owner generously pours you a shot from his “unmarked” bottle. If this falls upon your lap then you’re in for a treat! Otherwise, you can go for the Macieira Centenário, a legal and respected brand. And last but not least, if you’re in the Lisbon area and can’t make it up North, then try ginja, a traditional cherry liquor from the town of Obídos served in a chocolate cup. We’re talking pure heaven! Meat, Sausage and all Things, well Meat Oriented! Although nearly half of Portugal is coastline, where fish graces the majority of our meals, not an hour inland you can savor roasted, stewed and grilled meats. The most prized meat originates from the southern region of Alentejo, where certified, free-range novilho (beef) and vitelão/vitela (veal) are raised, of which the majority is equivalent in quality to Angus Beef. The region is also well-known for their certified, free-range black pork, made into delicious chouriço de porco preto (black pork sausage), presunto (Portugal’s version of prosciutto) and fresh pork cutlets. A good way to enjoy Alentejo’s meat is on a traditional tabua mista de carne– a mixed meat board. And of course, they still produce plenty of “regular” pork, such as chouriço de sangue (fresh blood sausage) and cacholeira (smoked sausage made with liver, blood, kidneys and pork fat). Many of these sausages can also be found in Portugal’s famous Sopa da Pedra (Stone Soup) or Cozido á Portuguesa (Portuguese stew). But don’t miss out on the northern interior regions of Trás-os-Montes and Beira Alta, which are known for producing some of the best, hand-made enchidos (cured meats) and chouriço (sausage) in the country; such as my favorite alheira – a soft, fresh sausage made from […]

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    The night before I drove down to New Jersey to unite with my mother, aunt, cousin and niece to make “chourico” (Portuguese smoked sausage), “O Lenço da Carolina” by Fado singer Cristina Branco came on via Portuguese satellite TV. Though it’s a song about a person in love, all I could think about (as tears unexpectedly streamed down my face) was the immigrant’s journey. In the song, the person in love is giving Carolina a rosemary-scented kerchief. This very same person has tucked a map with an X over their “ninho” (nest), so that Carolina doesn’t forget it or ever get lost. It made me think of the small things that immigrants pack in their suitcases before adventuring on to unknown lands. The small things that keep us connected to our origins, the small things that we revisit when the “saudade” kicks in. It’s the last, small thing a mother places on top of a suitcase before her son zippers it up and takes off. These small things aren’t always tangibles. For many of us, it’s a feeling, a memory, a song, a scent … I wiped the tears off my face, and realized that the reason I was so eager to make chourico with these four women (the oldest in her 60s and the youngest, 7) wasn’t simply to eat what I could easily buy at a Portuguese supermarket; it was to open up the suitcase of my mind, where I packed all my intangible “kerchiefs.” What I tap to be transported back to that place and with those people during a certain point and time in my life. It was to revive with these women a special custom that reminds us of those that are no longer with us. In our case, this moment evoked my maternal grandmother, Isaura, who smoked sausages every winter (the time of year this meat ritual takes place) in rural Portugal. This was especially sweet because we were sharing this special moment with my American-born niece, Julia. Like every child of Portuguese descent here, she is a Luso-American, and is learning about Portuguese traditions through unique moments like an afternoon of making chourico. Food is undeniably one of the strongest ways for immigrants to stay connected to their places of origin. It’s also an excellent way to help new generations understand their family roots. These moments allow immigrants to recreate in their new homes what they left behind, what they couldn’t pack in that suitcase, if you will. With my family in America, it’s always been that way. This time it was chourico-making, a first for me in America. Growing up, my mother and her family in Portugal made chourico and many other types of smoked sausages that fall under the category of “enchidos” (a topic I’ll elaborate on in a future post) each year after the slaughter of the pig, the annual “matanca do porco.” I recall being present at this annual ritual at a very young age, probably 7 like Julia. It’s definitely been a very long time since my mother has been to a traditional Portuguese pig slaughter—so she (and everyone involved in our chourico-making session) is out of practice, all of us essentially novices at this point. But my mother got the itch to make chourico this February—her saudade was kicking in. And somehow, she managed to convince a few more bodies to join her. A week prior to my arrival from Connecticut, she, her older sister Lucinda and my cousin Sandra (who also live in NJ), seasoned pounds and pounds of cubed pork meat – sans slaughter, which a few days later was ready to stuff into the cow intestine my mother washed, cut and divided up to use as sausage casings. The result: 90 chouricos! Were we satisfied with the results? Mostly yes, but there were lessons learned that we’ll keep in mind next time around (see: How to make it, below). Yes, we’re crazy enough to do this again. Believe it or not, the sausages are all gone! Word to the wise: Don’t post on Facebook that you have 90 sausages. Everybody and their mother will want one. So, until we make mounds of this smoked, meaty deliciousness again, we’ll be paying visits to two of our favorite sausage purveyors in New Jersey: Lopes Sausage Co. and Simoes & Almeida. If you decide to make a trip there, too, here’s what you’ll want to know before you go. WHERE TO FIND IT? The Portuguese supermarket chain, Seabra’s is probably the easiest place to find chourico, since there are several locations in a few different states throughout the U.S. However, two of my family’s favorite places to buy chourico (and other Portuguese smoked sausages) is at Lopes in Ironbound-Newark and Simoes & Almeida in Kearny: Lopes Sausage Co. 304 Walnut St., Newark, NJ 07105 (973) 344-3063 Simoes & Almeida 193 Windsor St. Kearny, NJ 07032 (201) 997-8989 WHAT IS IT? Since Portuguese “chourico” is often confused with its Spanish cousin “chorizo,” I decided to give Lopes’s shop a call to inquire about the differences between the two sausages. The woman who answered the phone explained that the biggest difference is in the amount of paprika used. The Spanish chorizo has a much greater percentage of paprika than the Portuguese chourico, she said. On the other hand, the Portuguese chourico is smokier than Spanish chorizo. She also highlighted Portuguese chourico’s versatility. It can be eaten cold (charcuterie-style), fried, grilled and boiled, which makes it a popular ingredient in Portugal’s hearty soups. The most famous: Kale soup or “Caldo Verde.” While I was at it, I asked about the differences between “chourico” and “linguica,” another smoked sausage term often used by Portuguese immigrants in New England, especially Massachussetts. “Can linguiça be used interchangeably with chourico,” I asked. She said that there’s hardly any difference between the two smoked sausages, except that the linguica is thinner and lends itself best to frying and grilling. By the way, you can usually also buy Spanish […]

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    Alheira is a smoked Portuguese sausage, (pronounced “Al – iyai -rah”), that derives its name from the Portuguese word alho, meaning “garlic”. Different from its pork-dominated counterparts, Alheira is not only filled with poultry (chicken and turkey), but also game meat (duck, rabbit, venison, partridge, pheasant): creating a mouthwatering smokey, garlicky and earthy aroma. Now here comes the interesting part, hold tight! The original Alheira was a pork-free sausage that is rumored to have been invented by the Portuguese Jews during the Inquisition. When the practice of the Jewish faith was outlawed, the Jews, especially the large community in the northern region of Trás-os-Montes, were easily found as they lacked the traditional pork sausages that hung from the smokehouses. To disguise themselves as “New Christians”, they created their own sausage, made from a blend of whatever non-pork product they had lying around. The recipe grew in popularity and eventually spread to the rest of the Portuguese population, who adopted their own varieties made with pork and/or pork fat. Nowadays, you can find Alheira made from almost anything, from bacalhau to vegetarian. The most common varieties are de aves (poultry), de caça (game meat) or de carne de vaca e presunto (beef and Portuguese cured ham). Prized varieties include all the above, or exclusively with javali (wild boar) or prized regional breeds of pig, such as the raça Bísara. As a general rule, Alheira contains a base of pork and pork fat, bread crumbs, olive oil and lard, garlic, salt and sweet paprika, then smoked. The most famous Alheiras of  these types are produced in the city of Mirandela in Trás-os-Montes. Protected with the IGP certification (“Product of Geographic Indication”), the Alheira is confirmed as a traditional enchido (sausage) of the region and must be produced according to strict regulations. Additionally, it’s been selected as one of the Portuguese 7 Maravilhas da Gastronomia – “7 Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy” in 2011. So yes, it is indeed that good! Because Alheira is made from more perishable ingredients, it must be fully cooked before serving. And there are a variety of ways to prepare it. Some of the most traditional methods in the region of Trás-os-Montes are to boil or grill it and serve with boiled potatoes, grelos, cabbage or other boiled vegetables. However the most popular way to prepare it (and one of my favorites), particularly for the Alheira de Mirandela, is to deep fry it and serve with a fried egg on top with french fries, rice and a tiny salad (keyword tiny). Called Alheira de Mirandela, you can find this dish on just about every traditional Portuguese restaurant menu in the country. Though it may be one of the least healthy ways to eat Alheira, it is certainly one of the most enjoyable and highly recommended! In recent years, I have seen a wide variety of both creative and delicious ways to cook Alheira. With its soft filling and thin casing that can easily be removed, Alheira makes for a fabulous stuffing ingredient. It’s great in puff pastry or phyllo rolls, or even used for lulas recheadas – stuffed squid, which is a traditional dish generally made with rice and cured chouriço. I’ve also seen it as a pizza topping, in scrambled eggs and in stir-fry noodles. Personally, I’ve taken creative liberties by making an Italian version at home, “Alheira Taglietelle”, with leeks and mushrooms. So far, I haven’t had an Alheira combination that didn’t work, but I would suggest that if you use it as main ingredient, instead of a stuffing, pan-fry it well so you can get a nice, crispy texture without it getting too soft and sticky. Regardless of the version, I can guarantee you will become an Alheira lover. It’s a unique and versatile sausage, both as an ingredient in dishes and simply delicious on its own.  What’s your favorite type of Alheira and how do you like it prepared?  Tell us about your best or most eclectic combination! Cheers to some smokey, gamey goodness, Andrea Smith

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    Words involving “cured and smoked” in regards to meat in Portugal often leads to thoughts of links of spicy chouriço or subtly sweet legs of presunto hanging in a dark smoke house. Some of the other sausages come to mind such as alheira. The one that has found its way across the globe, from Hawaii to Brazil, and has been integrated into so many cuisines is the robust yet mild linguiça. Linguiça (pronounced “Lin-gwees-sa”) is said to have derived its name from its unique shape, a long slender tongue (lingua in Portuguese), and not from any use of tongue in the sausage itself. This sausage is primarily prepared at home and rarely seen in restaurants, though it’s readily available in stores across the country and in many specialty stores in the US. If you like chouriço, but don’t want the extra spice it often brings then linguiça is a perfect alternative to use in Portuguese soups, arroz de pato (duck rice) or in pasta. One dish where the use of linguiça is a requirement is the Francesinha (Frenchie in Portuguese), the famous Porto sandwich that has origins in the French croque-monsieur. It’s thought that this luscious sandwich originated in the 1960’s in Porto when Daniel da Silva returned to Portugal from France with the notion of adapting the croque-monsieur for the Portuguese palate. This resulted in a sandwich layered with cheese, ham, steak, and linguiça and smothered in a tangy, sweet sauce, essentially making it the ultimate sanduíche portuguêsa and the perfect medium to try some delicious homemade linguiça! Home-made Linguiça Makes about 5 pounds (2.25kg) 5 pounds (2.25kg) pork butt, untrimmed 10 cloves garlic, minced 3 tablespoons (55g) paprika 1 tablespoon (15g) salt 1 tablespoon (15g) ground coriander seeds 1 teaspoon (5g) ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon (5g) allspice 1 teaspoon (5g) black pepper 2 teaspoons (10g) cayenne pepper (optional) ¼ cup (60ml)white wine vinegar ½ cup (120ml) cold water Cut the pork butt into cubes. Do not trim and remove fat. You will want the fat included in the sausage. With a meat grinder or a food processor, grind the meat into a coarse consistency. If you don’t have either machine, you can request the butcher to do it for you. Place ground pork into a large bowl and add in the garlic, salt, coriander, cinnamon, allspice and black pepper. Mix everything together using your hands. Add in the vinegar and water and mix again until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for about 48 hours to allow the flavors to blend. If a sausage stuffer is available, use it to fill sausage casings (about 20) or you can use your hands to form patties or links. Feel free to smoke these if you have a smoker, but it’s not necessary. Most of the linguica I’ve had was cooked with something or grilled either outside on a churrasco or in an assador de chouriço using aguardente to set it a flame. These also can be frozen for later use. Francesinha Makes 1 sandwich 2 slices of good bread 2 linguiça, grilled and each cut into four pieces 2 slices smoked ham 3 slices of your favourite Portuguese cheese ¼ inch thick grilled beef steak Sauce ¼ cup milk 1 tablespoon corn starch 12 ounces beer 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons tomato paste ¼ cup Port wine 1 cube beef stock 1 bay leaf Salt and pepper to taste Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). In a small bowl, dissolve the corn starch in 2 tablespoons of the milk. Stir to make certain there are no lumps. Set aside In a sauce pan melt the butter on medium low heat. Add in the tomato paste and stir well. Pour in the rest of the milk, beer, Port, and add in the bay leaf and beef stock cube.  Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Turn off the heat and discard the bay leaf. Stir the corn starch and milk mixture again and add it to the sauce, stirring well. Set aside. Assemble the sandwich by placing a slice of cheese and one slice of bread on top of it on an oven safe dish. Lay another slice of cheese on the bread and then layer a slice of ham, four pieces of linguiça, steak, the last four pieces of linguiça and top it with the other slice of ham and a slice of cheese. Lay the other slice of bread on top and top with cheese. Secure the sandwich with toothpicks if you like. Pour the sauce on top of the sandwich and place the dish into the preheated oven and allow the cheese to melt, about 5-10 minutes. Remove the Francesinha from the oven and remove the tooth picks before serving.  Rochelle Ramos

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    Spanish may not be the language of love, but investing the time to pick it up is certainly a labor of love. It is a commitment to learning both the language and the culture where it’s spoken, and while it’s not always easy, it’s nevertheless one of the most rewarding experiences I know. In my opinion, there’s no better place to picking up a new language than in the place where it’s spoken. Immersing yourself in a language and a culture can make all the difference in achieving true fluency. If you’re open to the idea of traveling abroad to learn Spanish in Spain, then there are some things you need to consider while choosing a language school. Many make the choice of where to study abroad based on scenery alone, and it’s not a bad one by any means. The right environment often makes all the difference, and you want to spend your time digging into and enjoying the local culture of the area where you choose to study. Those who want to experience a bit of island life while they’re away might choose on the Balearic or the Canary Islands, while those seeking an adventure in the city would do well to head to Barcelona or Madrid. With its year-round warm climate, the south provides its own unique cultural experience, between its lively tapas culture and its miles of white sand beaches to spend the afternoons on. (photo by Miguel Ángel García) Where you choose to study Spanish is a matter of personal preference. You will learn Spanish no matter which region you choose to visit, despite conflicting regional languages and accents. Spanish accents vary wildly throughout the country. If you don’t speak Spanish yet, this might not be something you would necessarily note on arrival. However, it does mean that you will likely pick up the accent of the place where you choose to study. While most language schools tend to teach a clean version of the language, without regional accents and influences, you will nevertheless become accustomed to the accent and manner of speaking after a duration of time, especially if you choose a home stay as your accommodation. This may not be high on your list of considerations when choosing a location, but it’s a good idea to know what to expect before you go. It is also important to consider that there are several other languages spoken throughout the country. These may not be a matter of consideration to you, but regional languages and dialects will influence how much Spanish you actually hear in the streets and in your everyday life in your city of choice. For example, Catalan is spoken in the region of Catalonia, including the Balearic Islands Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca, and by almost half of the inhabitants in its capital, Barcelona. Valenciana, a language very similar to Catalan is spoken in and around Valencia, while in Galicia, locals speak Gallego. In the northern part of the country known the Basque region, which includes Bilbao and its environs, the locals speak Basque, a language very different from Spanish, with no known common European roots. If you head south to Andalucía, they may not speak a different language, but locals speak Spanish but with a strong regional accent that is difficult for even natives to understand. These way these southerners drop the ‘s’ in many words it sometimes sounds as if they could be speaking a different language altogether. Choosing a language school shouldn’t be difficult, considering the sheer number of schools concentrated in the cities throughout the country. However, the wide range of choices can be overwhelming to those who have never traveled to Spain. The guide below should give you a good idea of the best places to study Spanish in a country with such a wealth of landscapes and cultural experiences to choose from. SAN SEBASTIAN San Sebastian is a great place to consider taking a Spanish course, especially if you love to eat. Nestled into the top of Spain, along the Bay of Biscay, this beautiful city combines European romance with the laid back vibe of the surfing culture for which it is known. If you travel there during the summer or early fall, you’re assured to spend your mornings in the classroom and your afternoons on the beach soaking up the sun. Nights you will likely find yourself crowded into one of the many exquisite pinchos bars racking up empty sticks and tossing your napkins on the floor–a sign of respect for the food. Be sure to try the modern take on pinchos at Zeruko and any of the small plates at Borda Berri, just two of the best places in the city to eat. El Aula Azul–meaning the blue classroom–is only one minute walking from La Concha Bay, perfectly situated for enjoying the best the city has to offer. It offers a wide range of classes, and houses its students in local homestays, hostels, or hotels. To help students integrate, they organize activities from gastronomic outings to outdoor sports. What’s even better is that they offer a unique opportunity to study in both of their schools, so that you can spend half your time in San Sebastian and the other half in Cádiz, under a southern sun on the other side of Spain. The school arranges all the details so that you don’t have to register twice and helps to arrange flights. Participants in this shared program spend two or three weeks in each of their schools, ensuring a varied introduction to Spanish culture. (photo by Manuel Quiroga) SALAMANCA Salamanca is probably the closest Spain will ever get to a college town, well known for the beauty of its local university–the oldest in Spain–and the vibrancy of its youth. It has the all the charms of a small city but with the grandeur of an intellectual capital and lies close enough to Madrid for an easy visit. Nestled into the highlands, Salamanca is a great place to […]

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    Though it had been one of the rainiest and foggiest weeks I had ever spent in Portugal, on this particular day, the dreariness gave new meaning to the word “melancholy.” In no way was this suicidal ambiance any match for my mission to discover! I was booked for a trip to Viseu and absolutely nothing was going to deter my journey. I was invited by the legendary winemaker Carlos Lucas, a fellow foodie, who produces notable wine in the Dão (his Ribeiro Santo Branco 2014 sits regally on Gordon Ramsay’s wine list in London) as well as other regions throughout Portugal and abroad. This was undoubtedly an excellent incentive to visit! But there was more to it… Though most of my family is originally from Castelo Branco, my father’s maternal side comes from Viseu. What these two cities have in common is that they’re both part of the Beira region in Central Portugal – the latter is in Beira Alta (upper) and the former in Beira Baixa (lower). I grew up visiting the lower region, but never the upper where we no longer have family. This fed my intrigue about the area for years… It felt like a family member I’d never met, a missing link to my story. This, I realized later, was in fact what was fueling my deep desire to visit Viseu. It was a matter of identity. In the end, I didn’t get to see much of the city, or the rest of the area due to the poor weather, but it worked out really well for my taste buds a.k.a my compass to exploring identity. You see, this visit included one of the most satisfying and soulful meals I have ever had in Portugal, paired beautifully with wines produced and poured by the charismatic Carlos. Earlier in the day, we met up with Carlos at a small factory dedicated to producing the region’s prized Serra da Estrela cheese, then made our way to his Quinta do Ribeiro Santo in the town of Carregal do Sal, where he took us on a personal tour of the spacious and elegant winery. The fog unfortunately veiled its bucolic mountain backdrop of the Serra da Estrela. In good weather, Carlos says it’s a lovely location to go bike riding and exploring nearby Roman ruins. We bet! For dinner, Carlos reserved a table at one of Viseu’s beloved restaurants, Santa Luzia. Housed in a contemporary space, I would never have guessed that what’s served inside is complete comfort on a plate. Open for more than 30 years, much of what this family-run restaurant offers its patrons is grown and raised right on their very own farm. The freshness of the food is mouthwateringly memorable… I can’t get the juicy slices of Coração de Boi (giant tomatoes) doused in fleur de sal and drizzled in extra virgin olive oil out of my mind. The black eyed peas and shredded toothy kale covered in crumbled Broa (cornmeal bread) is unforgettable – an ideal wintry salad. And my favorite, rice with wild Miscaros, mushrooms so meaty I kept confusing them with the slivers of pork belly. Along with a bevy of wholesome dishes, our feast was replete with locally smoked meats and sausages, mountain cheeses and a medley of olives. The region is a must for meat and vegetable lovers! We finished with the staple pairing of Requeijao from the mountain village of Seia – a ricotta-style cheese that in the Beira region is produced with the upmost quality – and silky pumpkin jam. I fell so head over heels for this combo that I searched for it everywhere else I went in Portugal after that dinner, but nothing came close to the creaminess of that night’s cheese and the earthiness of that jam. Each bite was enriched with Carlos’s personal selection of graceful red and white wines including his Vinha da Neve 2011, a mineral yet mouthfilling white made from the Dão’s emblematic Encruzado. The Dão is the only region making white wine with this grape. “Encruzado is THE varietal of the Dão. We should continue to promote it, because it does extremely well here,” explained Carlos, a passionate host on par with the high quality of everything on our table. Throughout this emotive meal, I couldn’t help but connect the gastronomical dots between this region and the Beira Baixa, which fascinates me as the bridge between north and south with its influences from Alentejo below and Beira Alta above, sprinkled with bits of Serra da Estrela. Eating in Viseu helped me put in place yet another piece in my food identity puzzle. The off-the-beaten-path menu that Carlos carefully and appropriately selected for our late harvest dinner that night also confirmed what I had so often felt in the Beira Baixa: there’s so much more beyond the summertime and the coast (that understandably sell Portugal so well) to discover. These hidden places, many at the foothills or in the cradle of enchanting mountains, are in significant need of some serious exploration. Viseu, we’ll be back! Are you as hungry as we are to explore Viseu? Let us take you on a customized tour through the gastronomical gems of this bountiful region. Cheers, Sonia Andresson-Nolasco

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    Editor’s note: Everyday, we come across fantastic articles on an Iberian food, wine or cultural experience by a blogger. Some are based here in Spain and Portugal, while others are chiming in halfway around the globe with a new Portuguese recipe or Spanish wine. So in the spirit of sharing quality content, we’re featuring a section on Catavino called, “Iberian Spotlight”, highlighting articles we feel are too great to pass by. Many of these bloggers aren’t getting the recognition they deserve, and by spotlighting them, we’re hoping to show added appreciation for their effort! Catalan food, as observed by my friend Sebina, can be a little heavy sometimes. This mainly comes down to a love of recipes involving beans, especially in conjunction with lots of pork products. A classic combination is Botifarra amb Mongetes, sausage and beans… but that’s a tad dull if you ask me. Instead, I prefer ‘Beans a la Catalana‘, made with either mongetes (big white beans) or fabes (young green broad beans). This is my made up recipe for Mongetes a la Catalana, another great rustic dish for wintry days and evenings. The measures are based on serving four or five people. (photo by JaulaDeArdilla) What you will need: About 700g of good Mongetes blanques. Go for ‘ganxet’ type as these seem to be better. When I say 700g, I mean when they’re still in their water, in the jar. Strain them but do not wash them. 3 strips of good panceta/cansalada/pork belly, cut into large postage stamp-sized pieces. Not too large, mind you. Sausage. Go for about 400g of botifarra sausage (chopped up as well). I used some mini chipolatas with black truffle but I don’t know how easy these are to come by 2 cloves garlic, minced (or whatever you call it) Handful of chopped parsley Dash of white wine Salt Good olive oil About 15 mins What you need to do: Heat a nice amount olive oil to medium-high temperature (around level 5 on my cooker) in a large, heavy frying pan. Add the panceta, making sure to add plenty of salt (it’ll be a bit tasteless otherwise). After a minute or two, add the sausages. Fry the meat for 5-10 minutes, until it browns. Ensure the oil doesn’t get too hot and that the meat doesn’t burn. It might well spit a bit at this point (the fatty panceta does like to ‘pop’ from time to time). When browned, remove the meat with a slatted device, and place in a bowl. Let the oil cool down a little bit before continuing. Get the heat down to medium/medium-low. Now throw the garlic and parsley into the pan. If you got the oil temperature right, it’ll fry but not burn immediately (that happened to me the first time I tried this). Fry for about a minute. Now add the strained beans and stir together for another minute. Here, I like to add a dash of white wine, just to provide a bit of liquid to the dish. Don’t add more than a glass. When the wine has reduced down, add the meat again. Cook it all together for about four or five minutes (keeping the heat really low), and that’s it. Serve a fairly small portion in a bowl with pa amb tomaquet and a glass of decent red wine. This dish is filling, warming and really yummy. Hope you enjoy it! Catavino Wine note: We would highly suggest you pair the food with a wine having a touch of body. Personally, we love old vine Carignan from Montsant or Garnacha – something with a bit of “beef ” to it so it can stand up to the rich unctuous fat and thick sauce. Conversely, we have found that a Brut Nature Cava is often times the best pairing you can choose. In fact, while in Catalunya, any Cava is a good option! 🙂 We think it might be a Catalan conspiracy to make all their food Cava friendly! Cheers, Tom Clarke Tom Clarke lives in the suburbs of Barcelona and blogs in his spare time. He loves Catalan cuisine and is a fierce proponent of the qualities of Bujorn 2007, his most recent discovery from the Priorat DOQ.

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    Finding a quality “wine bar” in Barcelona is like finding a tapas restaurant without cured Spanish ham, challenging! For me, a quality wine bar isn’t about pomp and flash, nor is it about who can have the most wines from Rioja. A quality wine bar doesn’t need an attractive metrosexual god donned in a pressed black apron with his hair perfectly gelled to one side serving wine enveloped in a Riedel goblet, nor does it need trendy chillout music in the background to set the mood. What the ideal wine bar does need is quality and affordable wine by the glass served by a knowledgeable and passionate host who’s created a low key and friendly environment for all walks of life to experience. Owner of the famed cheese shop, Formatgeria la Seu, Katherine McLaughlin has launched an understated and hidden wine cave with her sister Mary and business partner Francesc Mas Gutierrez called, Bar Zim. According to Katherine, “My sister Mary has kindly given us the bar.  She is the owner of the building, lives upstairs and even helps us clean the bar!! Francesc Mas Gutierrez is originally from a restaurant-hotel family in La Seu d’Urgell. He has a good nose,  a good palate, and at times, it’s a pity it [Bar Zim] is so small as his cooking skills are going to waste.” Literally squeezed into a tiny little space the size of a Smart Car, its conspicuousness will taunt you as you frantically search the windy Barcelona streets in vain. But once your wine loving radar does hone in, take a moment to revel in its quaint and cozy environment. Exposed brick walls, wooden bar stools and the smell of cured meats and cheeses linger in the air. With a total of 12-14 wines of various styles on display, each and every one available for tasting by the glass, it’s an opportunity to get your palate acquainted with fun, innovative and interesting wines that you normally won’t find either on a menu or by the glass. What do I equate with interesting? What about a stellar lineup that includes a wine or two from Seville?! Seville is located in Andalusia, southern Spain, and internationally renowned for producing amazing sherry wines, but not table wines. Historically, table wines from this area have lacked in quality, but we’re happy to announce this is changing, and at Zim. Colonias de Galeón is run by Elena Viguera and Julián Navarro in Cazalla de la Sierra, the very center of Seville’s Parque Natural de Sierra Norte is a modern project using international grapes. It’s an ecological winery that produces 4 table wines: 2 reds and 2 whites. Having tasted both their Chardonnay and their Roble made with Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah, I can attest to their surprising quality. While the Chardonnay is nice the Roble is still a bit too…Roble (roble means oak and refers to wine that are only briefly aged in barrel). “I chose these wines because I like them. I don’t care that their not from a famous Spanish wine region, or that the winery is unknown to most people. They’re good, they’re the right price, and I like to drink them.” To see Katherine’s face as she speaks these words with both determination and pride is unforgettable. Part of the reason why we adore her is because, like her cheese shop, she only sells what she loves. And what she and Francesc both love are high quality products made naturally and priced fairly. The most expensive wine on their list was the 2006 Corbatera from Montsant priced at 18.00 euros. It’s a 100% Garnatxa and well worth its price. Bar Zim also served us a 100% Verdejo from Bodegas Shaya. Overflowing with aromas of lime, orange blossom and raw almonds, this wine is bright, festive and seductive with a round, rich mouthfeel and a long, lingering mineral and citrus finish. The perfect pairing with Bar Zim’s ‘petó’ (small kiss), a small housewarming tapa filled with varying concoctions. Ours consisted of a chorizo and sobrasada stuffed roll. And guess what, it was delicious! What’s truly unique about this tapa is the mere fact that tapas don’t come for free in Catalunya. This is a Spanish, not Catalan, tradition; hence, the gesture alone should be recognized. One must also consider that Bar Zim went through several trials and tribulations to find the perfect bread, and breadmaker, for their creation. To the layman, baking a small little roll should be a piece of cake (or bread, as it were), but according to Katherine, it was anything but “easy”. But no matter how the creation came about, we’re thankful for its savory, spicy and tender interior perfectly balanced by its sweet and slightly crunchy exterior. And if hunger still grips your innards, why not savor one of their rustic sausages or chorizos from Cal Rovira located in the Pyrenean foothills (on our list of places to visit), juicy pimientos piquillos from Navarra, hot guindilla peppers from Pais Vasco or simply, a hunk of delicious cheese from her shop not a few doors down?! So with all this fabulous gushing about Bar Zim, there must be some drawbacks, right?! There are a few. Bar Zim doesn’t have a phone and lacks internet presence of any kind, as exemplified by my Flickr photos coming up on the front page of Google, instead of their website. However, the domain name has been bought, and evidently, a website is in the works. So stay tuned. Additionally, it can get crowded quickly when you only have enough space in the entire bar for you and a few friends. So as long as you’re in the right frame of mind, as you should be for any bar in Spain, all is well! Keep in mind, however, that drinking on the streets is illegal if you are not within a certain distance of the bar. So even when the temptation strikes to bring a glass of wine […]

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    Have you ever heard the tale of Stone Soup? The legend of how this hearty soup came about is a popular one told throughout most European countries and was adapted to an American version by Marcia Brown. Each version is slightly different depending on your country or region and is usually influenced by varying historical or cultural references. However, at the base of each and every one is a uniting and heartfelt lesson about working together in times of need. The story of Stone Soup was told to me when I was very little, but remained a simple childhood story until I landed in Portugal several years ago. The Portuguese hold this tale very near and dear to their hearts, in part due to their insatiable appetite for soup in both restaurants and around the family dinner table. However, Sopa da Pedra, as it’s called in Portuguese, seems to be the best tasting and most readily available in Almeirim, the birthplace of the story. This small city, or “capital da sopa da pedra”, is located in the heart of the Ribatejo region, just accross the river from the city of Santarém and about a one hour drive East from Lisbon. According to the people of Almeirim, a poor friar who was on a pilgrimage stopped in the village of Almeirim and knocked on the door of a house. He was too proud to beg for a bite to eat, so instead, he requested a large pot in which he could make “a delicious and filling…….stone soup”. With arched eyebrows and curious glances, the family invited him into their home and set up a large pot over flickering flames and filled with water. Slowly walking up to the iron clad cauldron, the friar reached into his deep pocket to produce a smooth and well-cleaned stone that he promptly dropped into the boiling water. A little while later he tasted the soup and said that it needed a touch of seasoning. So the wife brought him some salt to add, to which he suggested that maybe a little bit of chouriço (sausage), or pork belly, would be better. Graciously, she obliged and dropped several thick slices into the pot. Then, the friar asked if she might not have a little something to enrich the soup, such as potatoes or beans from a previous meal. With a broad smile, she agreed, and added a healthy portion into the bubbling water. This banter continued back and forth between the family and the friar before he finally announced that he had indeed made a very delicious and filling soup. When the soup was done, the friar fished the stone out of the pot, washed and dried it off, and plopped it back in his pocket for the next time. After hearing this version of the story, it sounded exactly like the one I had heard when I was a child, so it leads me to believe that the Portuguese Sopa de Pedra is the true story of Stone Soup. But now, decades later, I finally had the opportunity to taste the soup itself! At the beginning of this month, we took a leisurely trip to Almeirim in search of Sopa da Pedra for lunch, a very easy task when the majority of the local restaurants boast of their authentic recipes. There is even a restaurant called Sopa da Pedra, located at the beginning of Rua de Coruche, where all the other sopa da pedra restaurants are situated and continues down the street until you hit the bull-fighting arena. Although tempting, we did not choose the restaurant named after the story; instead, we chose “O Forno” (The Oven), a little restaurant located at the end of the street and highly recommended by a local friend. We ordered Sopa da Pedra for two, which was served steaming hot in a small metal soup terrine with a ladle. I would best describe Sopa da Pedra as the heartiest bean and sausage soup I’ve had the pleasure to savor; with its mouth-watering aroma and my big hunk of thick, Portuguese fresh bread and slice of Queijo da Nisa cheese. It was the perfect way to warm up on a cold, November day! Though not surprisingly, one could easily deduce that this soup was a truly a poor man’s soup in origin, due to the less-than desirable cuts of pork used for flavoring and removed prior to serving. But what I really loved about Almeirim’s (O Forno’s) version was the three distinct types of sausage. One was a local chouriço negro, a firm variation of blood sausage – a personal favorite as a result of to the richness it gave the soup – while the other two were a basic chouriço/sausage mix. You may be wondering if we found an actual stone in our stone soup but alas, we did not, though we heard other restaurants do put a small stone in theirs. Can you make this hearty soup at home? Absolutely! Additionally, Sopa da Pedra can easily be prepared as a meal in and of itself or as a hefty starter. And with the addition of any full-bodied red from the local Tejo, or Alentejo, you can’t go wrong. On this particular day, we enjoyed a simple house red, which perfectly complemented the meal. If you find yourself in Almeirim, having enjoyed a warm and filling lunch, don’t forget to visit the Sopa da Pedra friar himself, whose statue and soup pot have been made into a monument to commemorate the generous hospitality of the people and the man who taught them the lesson in giving back to others. He can be found just down the street from Restaurante O Forno.  And if you like to carry on the legend and try making the soup yourself, I have included the translated recipe of Sopa da Pedra de Almeirim for your reference.  There are also variations of the recipe from other regions in Portugal which include cabbage, carrots and […]

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    WARNING: This post is extremely graphic; however, it does depict the very real act of processing an Iberian pig after the Matanza(Killing). If you are someone who is an animal lover, or gets squeemish at the site of bodily fluids, we might suggest you skip this article and await happier articles of drinking wine by the sea. Please read part 1 here: La Matanza if you want better context to this story.   Part 2: Cutting up a pig Now that the dead pig has been cleaned and prepared, the fun begins. Before the massive corpse is transported a few hundred metres to a shed to be butchered, Luis and I hold a rear leg each while Alvaro takes a knife and slices down the animal’s belly. On this occasion, the blade nicks an edge of the beast’s lower intestine and an intense, gagging smell of pre-fecal matter is up our nostrils within seconds. Everyone groans, curses Alvaro, and then laughs through the stench. . Placing a very large container on the side of the skeleton bed on which the pig has been prepared, we tip the sow on her side and her innards spill out of the cut and into the bucket. There are distinct jobs during the matanza and generally, I have noticed, they are divided up by sex. Men kill and butcher. Women clean tripe and make blood sausage. Everyone comes together to make the chorizo at the end. Selfishly and shamefully, I am glad to be a man in a chauvinist’s world as I watch Alvaro cut the colon that keeps the innards attached to the pig and cart the whole, foul-smelling, wobbling mess off to the women waiting in a backyard with hot water and vinegar. We bundle the pig onto a trailer (although I have known it be strung up again by a tractor and paraded down the street to the waiting garage) and drive it 50 metres down the road. As we’re walking Luis taps me on the arm after he’s lit a cigarette. ‘You know those hooves Alvaro gave you?’ I nod. Alvaro had pried the burned cones off the animal’s feet and handed them to me, saying they were important, and for the vet. ‘Well, that’s a bit of a joke. They’re rubbish. They’re not for the vet. Alvaro plays that one on people. You know what he’s like…’ I feel into my pocket and bring out eight blackened hooves that smell of toasted faeces. My intense humiliation turns into brief anger which turns, as it must, to a resigned smile and then, indeed, to vengeance. As we walk into the garage, I slip the hooves into Alvaro’ coat pocket hanging in the doorway. It takes a while for my eyes to accustom themselves to the darker surroundings. A short bench, whose edges are rounded and notched, stands across the middle of the garage. Large plastic buckets and wooden troughs line the walls. A large cigar box – probably a relic from a wedding – lies open on a chest freezer, its contents an assortment of knives, some of which look like they were homemade by the inmates of a prison. The pig is hauled in and its back laid along the bench. The head is the first to be removed. Then the sirloins are stripped from it. Once these are removed, Juan produces a small axe similar to a tomahawk and with a mallet he and Alvaro remove the spine from the carcass. Then follows a bout of cutting, slicing, whacking and tearing. Unnervingly the meat is still warm and within seconds everyone’s hands are greasy with animal fat. There is a special technique for removing each side of the ribcage more or less intact. It involves a slice between two upper ribs to gain a handle and while one hand lifts, the other cuts the ribs free, turning them into a rack of ribs. All such bits are thrown into a bucket or trough, depending on their further use. No one really makes jamon here (the climate is not as dependable as it is in the mountains further south) so trotters are cut free and whole legs put to one side. The trotters land in the trough with the head and spine. Once the pig is in more manageable chunks deboning and the like take place on a black table that has been brought in and placed in the centre of the room. As I’m deboning a leg as best I can (one finger in the tuber calcaneus the other whipping around the bone with a slim knife) I look up to see three generations in tableau. Alfonso the granddad has relegated himself from cutting up to sharpening knives and his gently trembling hands work the blunted blades on a belt sander. His son is dealing with the other rear leg opposite me and behind him, his niece is looking on with curiosity. When all the meat is removed and the fat trimmed as best it can be, it all goes through a coarse mincer. This is where it gets divided up between people and styles. The meat destined for chorizo is mixed, by hand, with endless packets of Pimenton (Paprika). Each family has its own recipe for salchichon but we used a good dose of white wine, a touch of mace and whole black peppercorns. Once each 15kg mash of flesh and ingredients is mixed up by hand and patted down, it sits in the cold garage overnight to be fed into the casings (read cleaned ‘intestines’) the next day. This is the job where everyone comes back together to tie up the sausages, prick them with a set of forks so old they probably date back to the French occupation in the early 19th century, and hang them up in a cool, airy attic. For now, though, most people light up a cigarette and have a beer – some are more unconscious than others that they are flicking tobacco ash liberally […]

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    It’s been almost four years since I called Portugal my “home away from home”, translating to a half decade of savoring Portuguese food and wine on a regular basis – something I’ve never taken for granted. Consequently, while searching for information on Portuguese gastronomy, I stumbled across Catavino’s Facebook page. Immediately drawn to Ryan and Gabriella’s story, it echoed many similarities to my own adventure. So, I reached out, expressing my shared enthusiasm and appreciation for Iberian wine and food. (photo by Ryan Opaz) The shock came soon after when Gabriella hinted that I write for Catavino. Me? A writer?! Are we speaking of the same person who dreaded school writing assignments, or even writing thank-you letters?! The idea was dreadful, as I neither thought myself qualified, nor that my writing would be interesting enough for people to read. But Gabriella gently coaxed me into the fold, with the help of her editing magic and continued support; I’ve been pecking away at the keyboard for well over 3 years now. Aided by the research I was required to do for Catavino, I have developed an appreciation for some relatively off the wall flavors; dishes that I would’ve stayed clear of if they weren’t ordered by fellow diner. What a shame it would have been to miss out on so many extraordinary flavors. Portugal has brought out the proud “foodie” in me, the person who spends ten minutes deciding on the cake or tart I should savor at the pastelaria; the person who requests additional bread to mop up the garlic, cilantro, butter and white wine sauce from the ameijoas á bulhão pato; and the person who lingers over every single drop of their (espresso) café, scraping around the inside of the cup with a spoon for that coveted foam. Hence, my mouthwatering tactics begs the question: have you visited Portugal yet? Assuming the answer is “no”, what if you were given ten delicious reasons as to why you should take your next vacation to Portugal, would you be convinced? Let’s give it a try: Simple, Fresh Comfort Food I cherish the fact that you can enjoy a delicious, home-cooked meal from any one of the numerous “mom and pop” locales throughout Portugal. Simple and inexpensive – as a result of their locally sourced seasonal meat, fish and produce – you can savor hearty, traditional dishes even in the heart of Lisbon at such family-run establishments such as A Tasca do João. Or if you’re needing a breath of fresh air out in the country, Portugal’s picturesque little aldeias are the perfect spot to sample comfort food at its best; whether you’ve got a free invite to stay with friends or you’re paying to stay at one of the many aldeia guesthouses for a luxurious weekend getaway, you’ll always be treated and fed like one of the family! Intriguing Regional Liquors & Spirits Though having Portuguese wine is a must; you really haven’t had the full Portuguese experience until you’ve tried their colorful variety of liquors and spirits! Whether you end your meal with something sweet, or ease into a nightcap with something dry and powerful, there’s a sumptuous flavor for everyone. Licor Beirão, the “Liquor of Portugal”, from the central Beiras region, is made from a secret 100-year old recipe that shows a delectable sweet, herbal flavor. From the southern Algarve region, you have Licor de Amendoa Amarga, made from bitter almonds and portraying an addictive marzipan flavor, most notably from the brand  “Amarguinha”. Licor de Alfarroba is made from aguardente (brandy) and the seedpods of the Alfarroba (Carob) tree; which is also used in many Algarvian desserts. It has unique flavor that I would describe as a mixture of fig and chocolate and makes an amazing digestive. But if you really want something to knock your socks off then pour yourself a glass of aguardente bagaceira, or Bagaço as it’s commonly called. Consider it Portugal’s version of grappa, made from leftover pomace. The best Bagaço is said to come from the pomace of Vinho Verde grapes in the northern Minho region and is distilled on open flame from small wine producers. However, as this method is illegal, the only way to find it is if you upon a small, local restaurant where the owner generously pours you a shot from his “unmarked” bottle. If this falls upon your lap then you’re in for a treat! Otherwise, you can go for the Macieira Centenário, a legal and respected brand. And last but not least, if you’re in the Lisbon area and can’t make it up North, then try ginja, a traditional cherry liquor from the town of Obídos served in a chocolate cup. We’re talking pure heaven! Meat, Sausage and all Things, well Meat Oriented! Although nearly half of Portugal is coastline, where fish graces the majority of our meals, not an hour inland you can savor roasted, stewed and grilled meats. The most prized meat originates from the southern region of Alentejo, where certified, free-range novilho (beef) and vitelão/vitela (veal) are raised, of which the majority is equivalent in quality to Angus Beef. The region is also well-known for their certified, free-range black pork, made into delicious chouriço de porco preto (black pork sausage), presunto (Portugal’s version of prosciutto) and fresh pork cutlets. A good way to enjoy Alentejo’s meat is on a traditional tabua mista de carne– a mixed meat board. And of course, they still produce plenty of “regular” pork, such as chouriço de sangue (fresh blood sausage) and cacholeira (smoked sausage made with liver, blood, kidneys and pork fat). Many of these sausages can also be found in Portugal’s famous Sopa da Pedra (Stone Soup) or Cozido á Portuguesa (Portuguese stew). But don’t miss out on the northern interior regions of Trás-os-Montes and Beira Alta, which are known for producing some of the best, hand-made enchidos (cured meats) and chouriço (sausage) in the country; such as my favorite alheira – a soft, fresh sausage made from […]

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    The night before I drove down to New Jersey to unite with my mother, aunt, cousin and niece to make “chourico” (Portuguese smoked sausage), “O Lenço da Carolina” by Fado singer Cristina Branco came on via Portuguese satellite TV. Though it’s a song about a person in love, all I could think about (as tears unexpectedly streamed down my face) was the immigrant’s journey. In the song, the person in love is giving Carolina a rosemary-scented kerchief. This very same person has tucked a map with an X over their “ninho” (nest), so that Carolina doesn’t forget it or ever get lost. It made me think of the small things that immigrants pack in their suitcases before adventuring on to unknown lands. The small things that keep us connected to our origins, the small things that we revisit when the “saudade” kicks in. It’s the last, small thing a mother places on top of a suitcase before her son zippers it up and takes off. These small things aren’t always tangibles. For many of us, it’s a feeling, a memory, a song, a scent … I wiped the tears off my face, and realized that the reason I was so eager to make chourico with these four women (the oldest in her 60s and the youngest, 7) wasn’t simply to eat what I could easily buy at a Portuguese supermarket; it was to open up the suitcase of my mind, where I packed all my intangible “kerchiefs.” What I tap to be transported back to that place and with those people during a certain point and time in my life. It was to revive with these women a special custom that reminds us of those that are no longer with us. In our case, this moment evoked my maternal grandmother, Isaura, who smoked sausages every winter (the time of year this meat ritual takes place) in rural Portugal. This was especially sweet because we were sharing this special moment with my American-born niece, Julia. Like every child of Portuguese descent here, she is a Luso-American, and is learning about Portuguese traditions through unique moments like an afternoon of making chourico. Food is undeniably one of the strongest ways for immigrants to stay connected to their places of origin. It’s also an excellent way to help new generations understand their family roots. These moments allow immigrants to recreate in their new homes what they left behind, what they couldn’t pack in that suitcase, if you will. With my family in America, it’s always been that way. This time it was chourico-making, a first for me in America. Growing up, my mother and her family in Portugal made chourico and many other types of smoked sausages that fall under the category of “enchidos” (a topic I’ll elaborate on in a future post) each year after the slaughter of the pig, the annual “matanca do porco.” I recall being present at this annual ritual at a very young age, probably 7 like Julia. It’s definitely been a very long time since my mother has been to a traditional Portuguese pig slaughter—so she (and everyone involved in our chourico-making session) is out of practice, all of us essentially novices at this point. But my mother got the itch to make chourico this February—her saudade was kicking in. And somehow, she managed to convince a few more bodies to join her. A week prior to my arrival from Connecticut, she, her older sister Lucinda and my cousin Sandra (who also live in NJ), seasoned pounds and pounds of cubed pork meat – sans slaughter, which a few days later was ready to stuff into the cow intestine my mother washed, cut and divided up to use as sausage casings. The result: 90 chouricos! Were we satisfied with the results? Mostly yes, but there were lessons learned that we’ll keep in mind next time around (see: How to make it, below). Yes, we’re crazy enough to do this again. Believe it or not, the sausages are all gone! Word to the wise: Don’t post on Facebook that you have 90 sausages. Everybody and their mother will want one. So, until we make mounds of this smoked, meaty deliciousness again, we’ll be paying visits to two of our favorite sausage purveyors in New Jersey: Lopes Sausage Co. and Simoes & Almeida. If you decide to make a trip there, too, here’s what you’ll want to know before you go. WHERE TO FIND IT? The Portuguese supermarket chain, Seabra’s is probably the easiest place to find chourico, since there are several locations in a few different states throughout the U.S. However, two of my family’s favorite places to buy chourico (and other Portuguese smoked sausages) is at Lopes in Ironbound-Newark and Simoes & Almeida in Kearny: Lopes Sausage Co. 304 Walnut St., Newark, NJ 07105 (973) 344-3063 Simoes & Almeida 193 Windsor St. Kearny, NJ 07032 (201) 997-8989 WHAT IS IT? Since Portuguese “chourico” is often confused with its Spanish cousin “chorizo,” I decided to give Lopes’s shop a call to inquire about the differences between the two sausages. The woman who answered the phone explained that the biggest difference is in the amount of paprika used. The Spanish chorizo has a much greater percentage of paprika than the Portuguese chourico, she said. On the other hand, the Portuguese chourico is smokier than Spanish chorizo. She also highlighted Portuguese chourico’s versatility. It can be eaten cold (charcuterie-style), fried, grilled and boiled, which makes it a popular ingredient in Portugal’s hearty soups. The most famous: Kale soup or “Caldo Verde.” While I was at it, I asked about the differences between “chourico” and “linguica,” another smoked sausage term often used by Portuguese immigrants in New England, especially Massachussetts. “Can linguiça be used interchangeably with chourico,” I asked. She said that there’s hardly any difference between the two smoked sausages, except that the linguica is thinner and lends itself best to frying and grilling. By the way, you can usually also buy Spanish […]

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    Alheira is a smoked Portuguese sausage, (pronounced “Al – iyai -rah”), that derives its name from the Portuguese word alho, meaning “garlic”. Different from its pork-dominated counterparts, Alheira is not only filled with poultry (chicken and turkey), but also game meat (duck, rabbit, venison, partridge, pheasant): creating a mouthwatering smokey, garlicky and earthy aroma. Now here comes the interesting part, hold tight! The original Alheira was a pork-free sausage that is rumored to have been invented by the Portuguese Jews during the Inquisition. When the practice of the Jewish faith was outlawed, the Jews, especially the large community in the northern region of Trás-os-Montes, were easily found as they lacked the traditional pork sausages that hung from the smokehouses. To disguise themselves as “New Christians”, they created their own sausage, made from a blend of whatever non-pork product they had lying around. The recipe grew in popularity and eventually spread to the rest of the Portuguese population, who adopted their own varieties made with pork and/or pork fat. Nowadays, you can find Alheira made from almost anything, from bacalhau to vegetarian. The most common varieties are de aves (poultry), de caça (game meat) or de carne de vaca e presunto (beef and Portuguese cured ham). Prized varieties include all the above, or exclusively with javali (wild boar) or prized regional breeds of pig, such as the raça Bísara. As a general rule, Alheira contains a base of pork and pork fat, bread crumbs, olive oil and lard, garlic, salt and sweet paprika, then smoked. The most famous Alheiras of  these types are produced in the city of Mirandela in Trás-os-Montes. Protected with the IGP certification (“Product of Geographic Indication”), the Alheira is confirmed as a traditional enchido (sausage) of the region and must be produced according to strict regulations. Additionally, it’s been selected as one of the Portuguese 7 Maravilhas da Gastronomia – “7 Wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy” in 2011. So yes, it is indeed that good! Because Alheira is made from more perishable ingredients, it must be fully cooked before serving. And there are a variety of ways to prepare it. Some of the most traditional methods in the region of Trás-os-Montes are to boil or grill it and serve with boiled potatoes, grelos, cabbage or other boiled vegetables. However the most popular way to prepare it (and one of my favorites), particularly for the Alheira de Mirandela, is to deep fry it and serve with a fried egg on top with french fries, rice and a tiny salad (keyword tiny). Called Alheira de Mirandela, you can find this dish on just about every traditional Portuguese restaurant menu in the country. Though it may be one of the least healthy ways to eat Alheira, it is certainly one of the most enjoyable and highly recommended! In recent years, I have seen a wide variety of both creative and delicious ways to cook Alheira. With its soft filling and thin casing that can easily be removed, Alheira makes for a fabulous stuffing ingredient. It’s great in puff pastry or phyllo rolls, or even used for lulas recheadas – stuffed squid, which is a traditional dish generally made with rice and cured chouriço. I’ve also seen it as a pizza topping, in scrambled eggs and in stir-fry noodles. Personally, I’ve taken creative liberties by making an Italian version at home, “Alheira Taglietelle”, with leeks and mushrooms. So far, I haven’t had an Alheira combination that didn’t work, but I would suggest that if you use it as main ingredient, instead of a stuffing, pan-fry it well so you can get a nice, crispy texture without it getting too soft and sticky. Regardless of the version, I can guarantee you will become an Alheira lover. It’s a unique and versatile sausage, both as an ingredient in dishes and simply delicious on its own.  What’s your favorite type of Alheira and how do you like it prepared?  Tell us about your best or most eclectic combination! Cheers to some smokey, gamey goodness, Andrea Smith

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    Words involving “cured and smoked” in regards to meat in Portugal often leads to thoughts of links of spicy chouriço or subtly sweet legs of presunto hanging in a dark smoke house. Some of the other sausages come to mind such as alheira. The one that has found its way across the globe, from Hawaii to Brazil, and has been integrated into so many cuisines is the robust yet mild linguiça. Linguiça (pronounced “Lin-gwees-sa”) is said to have derived its name from its unique shape, a long slender tongue (lingua in Portuguese), and not from any use of tongue in the sausage itself. This sausage is primarily prepared at home and rarely seen in restaurants, though it’s readily available in stores across the country and in many specialty stores in the US. If you like chouriço, but don’t want the extra spice it often brings then linguiça is a perfect alternative to use in Portuguese soups, arroz de pato (duck rice) or in pasta. One dish where the use of linguiça is a requirement is the Francesinha (Frenchie in Portuguese), the famous Porto sandwich that has origins in the French croque-monsieur. It’s thought that this luscious sandwich originated in the 1960’s in Porto when Daniel da Silva returned to Portugal from France with the notion of adapting the croque-monsieur for the Portuguese palate. This resulted in a sandwich layered with cheese, ham, steak, and linguiça and smothered in a tangy, sweet sauce, essentially making it the ultimate sanduíche portuguêsa and the perfect medium to try some delicious homemade linguiça! Home-made Linguiça Makes about 5 pounds (2.25kg) 5 pounds (2.25kg) pork butt, untrimmed 10 cloves garlic, minced 3 tablespoons (55g) paprika 1 tablespoon (15g) salt 1 tablespoon (15g) ground coriander seeds 1 teaspoon (5g) ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon (5g) allspice 1 teaspoon (5g) black pepper 2 teaspoons (10g) cayenne pepper (optional) ¼ cup (60ml)white wine vinegar ½ cup (120ml) cold water Cut the pork butt into cubes. Do not trim and remove fat. You will want the fat included in the sausage. With a meat grinder or a food processor, grind the meat into a coarse consistency. If you don’t have either machine, you can request the butcher to do it for you. Place ground pork into a large bowl and add in the garlic, salt, coriander, cinnamon, allspice and black pepper. Mix everything together using your hands. Add in the vinegar and water and mix again until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for about 48 hours to allow the flavors to blend. If a sausage stuffer is available, use it to fill sausage casings (about 20) or you can use your hands to form patties or links. Feel free to smoke these if you have a smoker, but it’s not necessary. Most of the linguica I’ve had was cooked with something or grilled either outside on a churrasco or in an assador de chouriço using aguardente to set it a flame. These also can be frozen for later use. Francesinha Makes 1 sandwich 2 slices of good bread 2 linguiça, grilled and each cut into four pieces 2 slices smoked ham 3 slices of your favourite Portuguese cheese ¼ inch thick grilled beef steak Sauce ¼ cup milk 1 tablespoon corn starch 12 ounces beer 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons tomato paste ¼ cup Port wine 1 cube beef stock 1 bay leaf Salt and pepper to taste Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). In a small bowl, dissolve the corn starch in 2 tablespoons of the milk. Stir to make certain there are no lumps. Set aside In a sauce pan melt the butter on medium low heat. Add in the tomato paste and stir well. Pour in the rest of the milk, beer, Port, and add in the bay leaf and beef stock cube.  Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Turn off the heat and discard the bay leaf. Stir the corn starch and milk mixture again and add it to the sauce, stirring well. Set aside. Assemble the sandwich by placing a slice of cheese and one slice of bread on top of it on an oven safe dish. Lay another slice of cheese on the bread and then layer a slice of ham, four pieces of linguiça, steak, the last four pieces of linguiça and top it with the other slice of ham and a slice of cheese. Lay the other slice of bread on top and top with cheese. Secure the sandwich with toothpicks if you like. Pour the sauce on top of the sandwich and place the dish into the preheated oven and allow the cheese to melt, about 5-10 minutes. Remove the Francesinha from the oven and remove the tooth picks before serving.  Rochelle Ramos

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    Spanish may not be the language of love, but investing the time to pick it up is certainly a labor of love. It is a commitment to learning both the language and the culture where it’s spoken, and while it’s not always easy, it’s nevertheless one of the most rewarding experiences I know. In my opinion, there’s no better place to picking up a new language than in the place where it’s spoken. Immersing yourself in a language and a culture can make all the difference in achieving true fluency. If you’re open to the idea of traveling abroad to learn Spanish in Spain, then there are some things you need to consider while choosing a language school. Many make the choice of where to study abroad based on scenery alone, and it’s not a bad one by any means. The right environment often makes all the difference, and you want to spend your time digging into and enjoying the local culture of the area where you choose to study. Those who want to experience a bit of island life while they’re away might choose on the Balearic or the Canary Islands, while those seeking an adventure in the city would do well to head to Barcelona or Madrid. With its year-round warm climate, the south provides its own unique cultural experience, between its lively tapas culture and its miles of white sand beaches to spend the afternoons on. (photo by Miguel Ángel García) Where you choose to study Spanish is a matter of personal preference. You will learn Spanish no matter which region you choose to visit, despite conflicting regional languages and accents. Spanish accents vary wildly throughout the country. If you don’t speak Spanish yet, this might not be something you would necessarily note on arrival. However, it does mean that you will likely pick up the accent of the place where you choose to study. While most language schools tend to teach a clean version of the language, without regional accents and influences, you will nevertheless become accustomed to the accent and manner of speaking after a duration of time, especially if you choose a home stay as your accommodation. This may not be high on your list of considerations when choosing a location, but it’s a good idea to know what to expect before you go. It is also important to consider that there are several other languages spoken throughout the country. These may not be a matter of consideration to you, but regional languages and dialects will influence how much Spanish you actually hear in the streets and in your everyday life in your city of choice. For example, Catalan is spoken in the region of Catalonia, including the Balearic Islands Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca, and by almost half of the inhabitants in its capital, Barcelona. Valenciana, a language very similar to Catalan is spoken in and around Valencia, while in Galicia, locals speak Gallego. In the northern part of the country known the Basque region, which includes Bilbao and its environs, the locals speak Basque, a language very different from Spanish, with no known common European roots. If you head south to Andalucía, they may not speak a different language, but locals speak Spanish but with a strong regional accent that is difficult for even natives to understand. These way these southerners drop the ‘s’ in many words it sometimes sounds as if they could be speaking a different language altogether. Choosing a language school shouldn’t be difficult, considering the sheer number of schools concentrated in the cities throughout the country. However, the wide range of choices can be overwhelming to those who have never traveled to Spain. The guide below should give you a good idea of the best places to study Spanish in a country with such a wealth of landscapes and cultural experiences to choose from. SAN SEBASTIAN San Sebastian is a great place to consider taking a Spanish course, especially if you love to eat. Nestled into the top of Spain, along the Bay of Biscay, this beautiful city combines European romance with the laid back vibe of the surfing culture for which it is known. If you travel there during the summer or early fall, you’re assured to spend your mornings in the classroom and your afternoons on the beach soaking up the sun. Nights you will likely find yourself crowded into one of the many exquisite pinchos bars racking up empty sticks and tossing your napkins on the floor–a sign of respect for the food. Be sure to try the modern take on pinchos at Zeruko and any of the small plates at Borda Berri, just two of the best places in the city to eat. El Aula Azul–meaning the blue classroom–is only one minute walking from La Concha Bay, perfectly situated for enjoying the best the city has to offer. It offers a wide range of classes, and houses its students in local homestays, hostels, or hotels. To help students integrate, they organize activities from gastronomic outings to outdoor sports. What’s even better is that they offer a unique opportunity to study in both of their schools, so that you can spend half your time in San Sebastian and the other half in Cádiz, under a southern sun on the other side of Spain. The school arranges all the details so that you don’t have to register twice and helps to arrange flights. Participants in this shared program spend two or three weeks in each of their schools, ensuring a varied introduction to Spanish culture. (photo by Manuel Quiroga) SALAMANCA Salamanca is probably the closest Spain will ever get to a college town, well known for the beauty of its local university–the oldest in Spain–and the vibrancy of its youth. It has the all the charms of a small city but with the grandeur of an intellectual capital and lies close enough to Madrid for an easy visit. Nestled into the highlands, Salamanca is a great place to […]

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    Though it had been one of the rainiest and foggiest weeks I had ever spent in Portugal, on this particular day, the dreariness gave new meaning to the word “melancholy.” In no way was this suicidal ambiance any match for my mission to discover! I was booked for a trip to Viseu and absolutely nothing was going to deter my journey. I was invited by the legendary winemaker Carlos Lucas, a fellow foodie, who produces notable wine in the Dão (his Ribeiro Santo Branco 2014 sits regally on Gordon Ramsay’s wine list in London) as well as other regions throughout Portugal and abroad. This was undoubtedly an excellent incentive to visit! But there was more to it… Though most of my family is originally from Castelo Branco, my father’s maternal side comes from Viseu. What these two cities have in common is that they’re both part of the Beira region in Central Portugal – the latter is in Beira Alta (upper) and the former in Beira Baixa (lower). I grew up visiting the lower region, but never the upper where we no longer have family. This fed my intrigue about the area for years… It felt like a family member I’d never met, a missing link to my story. This, I realized later, was in fact what was fueling my deep desire to visit Viseu. It was a matter of identity. In the end, I didn’t get to see much of the city, or the rest of the area due to the poor weather, but it worked out really well for my taste buds a.k.a my compass to exploring identity. You see, this visit included one of the most satisfying and soulful meals I have ever had in Portugal, paired beautifully with wines produced and poured by the charismatic Carlos. Earlier in the day, we met up with Carlos at a small factory dedicated to producing the region’s prized Serra da Estrela cheese, then made our way to his Quinta do Ribeiro Santo in the town of Carregal do Sal, where he took us on a personal tour of the spacious and elegant winery. The fog unfortunately veiled its bucolic mountain backdrop of the Serra da Estrela. In good weather, Carlos says it’s a lovely location to go bike riding and exploring nearby Roman ruins. We bet! For dinner, Carlos reserved a table at one of Viseu’s beloved restaurants, Santa Luzia. Housed in a contemporary space, I would never have guessed that what’s served inside is complete comfort on a plate. Open for more than 30 years, much of what this family-run restaurant offers its patrons is grown and raised right on their very own farm. The freshness of the food is mouthwateringly memorable… I can’t get the juicy slices of Coração de Boi (giant tomatoes) doused in fleur de sal and drizzled in extra virgin olive oil out of my mind. The black eyed peas and shredded toothy kale covered in crumbled Broa (cornmeal bread) is unforgettable – an ideal wintry salad. And my favorite, rice with wild Miscaros, mushrooms so meaty I kept confusing them with the slivers of pork belly. Along with a bevy of wholesome dishes, our feast was replete with locally smoked meats and sausages, mountain cheeses and a medley of olives. The region is a must for meat and vegetable lovers! We finished with the staple pairing of Requeijao from the mountain village of Seia – a ricotta-style cheese that in the Beira region is produced with the upmost quality – and silky pumpkin jam. I fell so head over heels for this combo that I searched for it everywhere else I went in Portugal after that dinner, but nothing came close to the creaminess of that night’s cheese and the earthiness of that jam. Each bite was enriched with Carlos’s personal selection of graceful red and white wines including his Vinha da Neve 2011, a mineral yet mouthfilling white made from the Dão’s emblematic Encruzado. The Dão is the only region making white wine with this grape. “Encruzado is THE varietal of the Dão. We should continue to promote it, because it does extremely well here,” explained Carlos, a passionate host on par with the high quality of everything on our table. Throughout this emotive meal, I couldn’t help but connect the gastronomical dots between this region and the Beira Baixa, which fascinates me as the bridge between north and south with its influences from Alentejo below and Beira Alta above, sprinkled with bits of Serra da Estrela. Eating in Viseu helped me put in place yet another piece in my food identity puzzle. The off-the-beaten-path menu that Carlos carefully and appropriately selected for our late harvest dinner that night also confirmed what I had so often felt in the Beira Baixa: there’s so much more beyond the summertime and the coast (that understandably sell Portugal so well) to discover. These hidden places, many at the foothills or in the cradle of enchanting mountains, are in significant need of some serious exploration. Viseu, we’ll be back! Are you as hungry as we are to explore Viseu? Let us take you on a customized tour through the gastronomical gems of this bountiful region. Cheers, Sonia Andresson-Nolasco