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Jul 1st, 2014, 07:50 AM
  #1
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of food and restaurants in Portugal

I have to say that in general food was not the highlight of our trip. Perhaps we are used to a more highly spiced and varied cuisine. We found Portuguese food somewhat heavy and bland in general. My favorite dishes were the Alentejo black pork and some of the duck dishes.

As noted by others the portions tend to be huge and we soon learned to split an appetizer if we were having one. I can't imagine how the Portuguese stay so slim with such large portions (we usually couldn't finish what we were served). I don't think though that I saw a single overweight Portuguese person - how do they do it?!!

If you want water on the table you need to ask for it and you will pay for it (specify with or without gas (bubbles)). Most restaurants will put bread and perhaps olives, cheese, or butter on the table. If you eat it there is a charge. They are not trying to trick or cheat you (I know it seems strange to Americans), it's just how they do. If you ignore it they don't charge you. A few of the restaurants in the more touristy places were pushy about it - most just left it for us to decide, or asked first. If we were hungry or in the mood for bread or olives we ate it - and if not no problem. In a couple the offered little appetizers looked really special and we decided to indulge (a dish of cod and garbanzos in olive oil in Arreilos, and in Evora Tasquina de Oliveira specialized in the little appetizers - we indulged in crab and a cheese with honey mustard, both of which were amazing). In the more expensive restaurants they will put on the menu the "cover" - bread, butter and some kind of spread and it will say how much it is (between 2 and 5 E usually), sometimes a glass of champaign is included - took us a bit to figure that out.

In general the service was impeccable except in the most touristy lunch places.

We had four really special meals and highly recommend the following:
Lisboa - Xapuri (a small tapas place in the Chiado) and Eleven, (has a michelin star), extremely expensive, we did a big gulp when we saw the prices, and then gave ourselves permission to enjoy it and oh my it was one of the best meals ever.
Evora - the above mentioned Tasquina de Oliveira
Obidos - Cozinha Das Reinhas. - awesome service and food

Honorable mention goes to O Italia in Belem, and an Italian restaurant in Tomar whose name I don't have, Mindi Indian restaurant in Porto, the restaurant in the Grand Hotel in Luso where we stopped for lunch, and the restaurants in the Pousada in Evora and at the Palace Hotel in Bussaco.

and finally, all the hotels served amazing breakfast spreads - perhaps my favorite meal of the day, with fresh bread and rolls (all the bread in Portugal that we ate was incredibly fresh), cheeses, meats, yogurts, fruit and just in general lovely offerings.

hope that is helpful to folks. bon appetitie
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Jul 1st, 2014, 09:33 AM
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"If you want water on the table you need to ask for it and you will pay for it (specify with or without gas (bubbles))"

nah, you can get tap water for free. If you want bottled water you pay for that. Yes you have to ask for stuff except those weird starters that I believe should be left well alone as you don't know how many tables they have been on
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Jul 1st, 2014, 09:53 AM
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"As noted by others the portions tend to be huge"
You can ask for a "media dosa" usually half the food of the regular menu at a little bit more than half the price.
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Jul 1st, 2014, 11:14 AM
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I remember wonderful vegetable soups, Açorda and Cataplana. The food ,however, did seem more plain as you suggested. The Vinho Verde was a great hot weather wine and so cheap too.
We expected to find the sweet Portugese breads we enjoy in New England but never found them. I have to guess that they are actually typical of the Azores where many of the immigrants came from.
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Jul 1st, 2014, 01:50 PM
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I did wonder about how many tables the little appetizers and bread had been on - especially worrisome in the very hot weather. I know in the US that would be against health regulations - wonder what the rules are in Portugal.

and we did have a wonderful corriander soup - forgot about that - it was really cool and I want to try to make it here.

and wish we had known about ordering tap water and the media dosa - good advice for those to follow
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Jul 1st, 2014, 02:06 PM
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Portuguese breads, though unlike the muffins Happy refers to airy and moist and quite rewarding.

Portuguese cuisine is filled with interesting combinations. I think laura may not like that the food varies little from region to region.

The last meal we had in Portugal was when our cousins drove from Santiago to some place in northern Portugal woods for half of a dinosaur. They liked it more than we did.
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Jul 1st, 2014, 03:35 PM
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Dinosaur? you are pulling my leg right? the breads were indeed very fresh - and I think in retrospect that we did miss the variety we are used to. We are both avid cooks and have a lot of fun trying new dishes. thinking about it my favorite parts of the meal were often the appetizers or tapas. Towards the end of our trip I started ordering salads for lunch and really enjoyed having something light and fresh.

Also forgot to mention that every meal came with tons of fresh vegetables.
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Jul 1st, 2014, 04:09 PM
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Of course, dinosaur was metaphor for eating half a horse.

I am hopeful one of the culinary or linguistic experts will chine in. But if the menu is Portuguese than small plates are called Petiscos. They are tapas, raciones, or pintxos in Spain depending on the type, size, and the region. (This could turn into a how many angels can fit on the head of a pin type of conversation.)
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Jul 1st, 2014, 05:15 PM
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so that is so interesting IM as on the menus they were definitely labeled as tapas - cultural creep?
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Jul 1st, 2014, 08:08 PM
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Could be. In the US anything that is a small plate is now called a tapa.
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