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Taste Porto

Bacalao for sale!

Bacalao for sale!

While in Portugal a few months ago we took part in a Taste Porto food tour.

If you look on Trip Advisor, this tour is very highly rated. If you love history AND food and wine, this is the perfect activity for you. Andre, the guide, will teach you how the city’s culinary scene has been shaped by its vibrant history over several courses in different establishments.

Bolhao Market

Bolhao Market

If you’re budget travelers like us, you might be wary spending €55 on one activity. What if it’s awful? We were concerned about the kind of value we’d be getting for €55.

We’re generally not big into guided tours; we like to explore on our own. But I have to admit, this tour is not only interesting but also good value for the money you pay. By the end of the day I was so full I could hardly walk (and a bit tipsy from all the wine we drank).

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We started at a café specializing in a pastry from a small town in northeast Portugal called Pasteis de Chaves (Chaves being the name of the town). Once it was explained to us, we tasted two types: the traditional pastry of minced, seasoned veal and a sweet version filled with molten dark chocolate. And my mind was blown. But this was just the beginning.

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We made our way to Porto’s open-air Bolhao Market (which is well worth a visit in itself) and tasted a sprightly white moscatel galego paired with spicy sardines and bread. The sardines were so good and went perfectly with the wine.

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Andre then took us, in a roundabout way so he could explain some of the city’s architecture, to a restaurant called Flor dos Congregados. This restaurant is found down a tiny alleyway and has rustic, traditional Portuguese decor. Very cozy. They specialize in a pork loin and cured ham sandwich which we gobbled down with a glass of Douro sparkling red (tasty!).

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Our next stop was for something sweet. I had no idea eclairs were a thing in Porto, but apparently they are! We went to the eclair shop Leitaria da Quinta do Paço where we indulged in both lemon and chocolate, with a massive side of whipped cream.

I was getting full at this point, but we had a good walk through the old part of the city to get to our next and final stop.

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Taberna do Largo is an upscale eatery, wine bar and fine food shop in the heart of Old Porto. This place specializes in the very best of Portuguese terroir – the loveliest vinhos verde and Alentejo wines, the ripest sheep’s and goat cheeses; the most perfectly cured charcuterie and briniest olives. We got to taste a little bit of everything and had a few more sips of wine before saying goodbye and heading to our hotel for an afternoon siesta.

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Andre is such a fabulous food guide. He is so passionate about his hometown and knows Porto’s food, chefs and restaurants inside and out. He even made dinner reservations for us that evening (talk about going above and beyond). If you’re interested in Portuguese cuisine you need to do this tour!

Pat and Andre

Pat and Andre

Jewish Quarter, Old Porto

Jewish Quarter, Old Porto

Tip* Don’t throw out the information sheet he gives you – there are several other great restaurants (not on the tour) listed on the back. Use this for lunches and dinners for the rest of your trip.

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Coffee, Walnut & Meringue Squares

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I got the recipe for these sweet bites from a familiar source: the Middle River Hospital Auxiliary’s Cookbook, published in the year 2000, to raise funds and also commemorate my tiny Cape Breton community.

When I say tiny, I mean minuscule. I come from a minuscule place. The valley where I grew up stretches out over a wide expanse of land, but is so sparsely populated you wouldn’t even know you were driving through a community. That is, save for the “Welcome to Middle River” sign that greets travelers as they zoom down the side of the mountain.

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Yes, the name of my community is Middle River. Because of the river running through the middle of it. Not the most creative of names, but I don’t think my ancestors were too concerned with place names as they got to know the local Aboriginal tribe, felled trees, dug massive stones out of the earth to make fields, built log homes and scary makeshift bridges and tried not to get scurvy during the long, cold winter.

They were just a touch busy.

Back then, women would have to wait for weeks on end for peddlers to come visit and sell them the things they could not make. Sugar, tea, pots & pans – the peddlers would trek on horse or by foot and the families they visited would feed them and put them up for the night. They brought not only house and farm-wares, but news and stories, too. In such a remote place, their visits were always eagerly anticipated.

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It’s not so difficult to get sugar now, although you still can’t get any in Middle River (we don’t have a grocery store). You need to hop in your car and drive for 20 minutes to the town of Baddeck. Still, no biggie. Most people have to go there for work and school, anyway.

So getting back to this Millennium Cookbook and these tasty little squares. In the book, this recipe is called “Yum-Yum Squares”. I find it a little bit vague, however true the statement. So we’ll break it down into it’s delicious components and call them, for the sake of clarity, Coffee, Walnut & Meringue Squares.

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I should also confess at this point, just in case someone from home, with the same cookbook, is reading this. I messed with the recipe. Like – a lot. There was initially no coffee in these squares. It was just walnut and meringue. But hear me out:

There’s a popular type of cake in Ireland called a coffee cake. I know what you’re thinking – “We have coffee cake in Canada, too, dummy.” Well, no we don’t; not like they have here.

In Ireland, coffee cake is literally flavoured with coffee. It also consists of two layers of moist, dense, buttery cake and chopped walnuts. The majority of the coffee flavouring is in the buttercream, which is delicious. This flavour combination makes me really happy, which is why I added the coffee to these squares.

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Aside from adding coffee to the mix, I also upgraded the amount of walnuts in the recipe by about a bazillion. There are now chopped, toasted walnuts in each layer, as well as a generous sprinkling on top. Lots of crunch and nutty flavour result.

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Coffee, Walnut & Meringue Squares

Ingredients:

1st layer:

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups AP flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/3 cup crushed, toasted walnuts

2nd layer:

2 egg whites

1 cup superfine sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 tbsp instant coffee granules

1/3 cup crushed, toasted walnuts

3rd layer:

1/3 cup crushed walnuts (don’t toast these – they’ll toast in the oven while baking)

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius, no fan) and line a small cookie/baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.
  • Using a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Mix. Add the flour, salt & baking powder. Mix until just combined. Fold in the toasted, crushed walnuts.
  • Spread the dough onto the lined cookie sheet and gently press down with your fingers until the dough is evenly spread out along the bottom.
  • This time using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar until soft peaks are reached. Add the vanilla & coffee granules. Gradually add the superfine sugar while continuing to whisk. When stiff, glossy peaks are formed, your meringue is ready. Gently fold in toasted, crushed walnuts.
  • Spread the meringue mixture evenly over the cookie dough base. Top with the remaining, untoasted crushed walnuts.
  • Bake for 45 minutes. Check after 30, if you have a hot oven the walnuts on top may brown too quickly. If this happens, just place a sheet of tin foil over the top until the base is fully baked.
  • Allow to cool completely before portioning into squares or bars.

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My Favourite Places #4: Butlerstown Farmer’s Market

Caolan Harrington, market founder and vendor at Crough Farms Venison

Caolan Harrington, market founder and vendor at Crough Farms Venison

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I love farmer’s markets.

I’m sure I’ve talked about the Brickworks in Toronto or the Wolfville Farmer’s Market in Nova Scotia, where I went to university. These are the two best markets I’ve ever been to – as far as what’s sold, the level of community support and how much of my weekly shopping I can get done, these two win out for me every time.

It took me awhile to find a market in Waterford. Not that there’s any shortage of markets; just the contrary: there are so many on different days of the week and with different vendors, it’s hard to find a market where I can consistently get a lot of my weekly shopping done.

Also, I need a weekend market in my life. I don’t drive, so midweek marketing in another town is not an option. I’ve heard good things about the Thursday market in Dungarvan, but since Pat works during the week I can’t get there.

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This all leads to the Butlerstown Farmer’s Market, which is this month’s favourite place!

It takes place every Saturday and Sunday from 10 am outside the Harvey Norman on Waterford’s ring road. A consistently great bunch of vendors gather here every weekend. There’s great banter – always music playing and picnic tables set up. There’s hot food, baked goods, venison and a really talented espresso slinger on hand. Really, it’s what I was looking for in a market.

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Caolan Harrington, one of the founders of the market and also a vendor, strives to make Butlerstown Farmer’s Market a one-stop shopping destination and is always on the lookout for new vendors.

I personally love the baked goods and specialty products that are on offer here. I like the fact that I can grab a cup of coffee and a bite to eat before getting my veggies and meat.

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Vendors include (but are not limited to):

There are always fresh, seasonal vegetables on offer, too. A great way to do your weekend shop!

You can find The Butlerstown Farmer’s Market on Facebook and Twitter – they update regularly!

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Taking Part in Bumbles of Rice’s A Week in Dinners

Bumbles of Rice is a parenting and lifestyle blog I like to read. Lately, the author’s been posting some of her family’s real life dinners – the good, the bad, and everything in between. I think it’s cool to see how food bloggers really eat – especially since you usually only see the successful dishes on the blog – so here’s my family’s last week in dinners (please note: I’m a mom of one and am still technically on maternity leave, so my dinners probably haven’t changed too much since before Maeve was born).

A week in dinners from April 27th to May 3rd:

Sunday

I had planned a big Sunday roast. We still try to avoid bad stuff during the week (though we fail a lot more these days as you’ll soon read) so Sunday was going to be our big dinner day. But then Maeve hadn’t slept well the night before and I suddenly felt ill and exhausted. Sooo Pat got us Supermacs. That would be a quarter pounder burger with all the fixins and chips with garlic sauce on the side, please. I was “good” and got a bottle of water instead of coke. Maeve had rice porridge for dinner and then complained until I gave her a chip (bad mommy).

Monday

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Maeve goes to a child minder on Mondays and Wednesdays now (as I am flat out busy working on the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada for Vacay.ca). Since she was out of the house, I had a bit of extra time and made that pork roast I had planned for the previous day. So much for eating healthy during the week! I stuffed it with breadcrumbs, lardons, onion and apple. I made mashed potatoes, roasted cauliflower, green beans and a rich gravy to go with. Maeve loves cauliflower and green beans – not so keen on the pork.

Tuesday

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I had some ground lamb in the freezer and we were pressed for time last Tuesday so I made my never-fail, 30 minute baked lamb koftas. Ground lamb, spices, garlic and ginger – mix, shape and bake. I served them with some brown rice, a small salad and a tahini-buttermilk sauce. This is one of my favourite dinners. Maeve had fruit and porridge earlier since we ate past her bedtime.

Wednesday

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I had some leftover spice mix from the koftas, so I sprinkled it on some salmon filets, placed some sliced lemon over top and baked them for about 10 minutes. I served the salmon with sriracha-mashed sweet potato. Maeve loves both salmon and sweet potato – we just have to make sure there are no bones in the salmon before giving her a piece.

Thursday

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I made my version of cashew nut pork. It’s so quick to make, healthy and, in my not-so-humble opinion, better than a takeaway. Broccoli, sliced pork, onion, garlic, ginger, toasted cashew nuts, chili, a sprinkle of brown sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar and you’re good to go. We had leftover rice in the fridge from the koftas so I fried it with an egg. Simple. Maeve had already eaten at this stage but wanted some broccoli. I sucked off the sauce and let her chew on a floret (gross, I know, but that’s me).

Friday

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I had been craving a curry all week, and as it was the Friday before the bank holiday weekend I went all out and made Vij’s Chicken Curry and homemade naan bread. Vikram Vij is one of Canada’s greatest chefs. His restaurant was #1 on our Top 50 list a few years ago and remains a contender – it is just so good. His chicken curry is full of depth, has a touch of heat and is full of melt-in-your-mouth chicken pieces. You don’t need rice with it – just scoop it up with the naan. Maeve loved her naan bread, but the curry was a bit too spicy for her.

Satruday

We were in Tipperary for the long weekend and it was quite late before Pat and his dad came home from the farm. A new chipper had opened in the village so we tried it out – as suspected, it was pretty terrible. I got curry cheese chips. Blah. Maeve was sound asleep by the time we sat down to supper.

So there you have it – a typical week of dinners for me and my little family. Looking back, I think we eat too much junk on the weekends. That will have to be remedied! Thanks Bumbles of Rice for inviting your fellow bloggers to take part in the real life dinners series! If you want to share your dinners and see what others have shared, click here.

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