The taste of custard, pastry dough and cinnamon still lingers on my tongue. A crème brûlée like filling is nestled into flaky crust, slightly crystalized and sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. This famous Portuguese dessert called pastel de nata was the theme of my weekend.
My friends and I even got to visit the most famous pastry shop in Lisbon, Pastéis de Belém, where it is believed that pastel de nata was invented before the 18th century!
Lisbon truly surprised me…I didn’t have many expectations about the city, but it was really a fun place to explore! The Portuguese cuisine was excellent, the people were very friendly, the language was so interesting (sounds like a mix of German and Spanish to me) and the city was full of character.
The city is very reminiscent of an European San Francisco. The steep inclines and hills, the yellow trams, a giant red bridge constructed by the same architect as the Golden Gate Bridge, and waterfront view all made me believe I was in California.
One evening for dinner I ate at restaurant called Cervejaria da Trindade, which was originally a 13th century monastery.
The traditional Portuguese dish “bacalhau a bras” was my favorite meal in Lisbon. The combination of salt cod, fried potatoes and scrambled eggs sounds so odd, but it is a match made in heaven. It’s a bit creamy, a bit salty and balanced by fresh chunks of fish. I can’t wait to learn how to make it!
My friends and I were ecstatic to find dozens of roasted chestnut carts in the streets. It felt so much like fall! I really wanted to break out singing “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” but I figured I would look even more like a tourist!
I love the charred exterior of the chestnuts fresh out of the roaster.
The inside of the chestnuts were almost like a sweet, nutty potato flavor. I enjoyed the taste, but honestly the idea of “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” is the best part.
On Saturday afternoon my friends and I ventured to a little fairytale town called Sintra, right outside of Lisbon. The town is known for its grand castles, green hills and charming atmosphere. We felt like we were in a mix of a French and Irish city that was the setting of a fairytale movie!
I had no idea that Portugal takes such pride in their coffee. At a quaint local coffee shop in Sintra, I had the best uma meia de leite, or latte, of my life! I will savor the memory of rich espresso and light foamy milk complimented by a Portuguese pastry forever.
Portugal exceeded all of my expectations and was such a “sweet,” fairytale weekend. I can’t wait to learn how to make pasteles de nata and bacalhau a bras when I return to the States. Next time you are in Europe, make a stop in Portugal…I promise you will be pleasantly surprised!
Love food, love self, love life.