The gastronomy scene in Portugal is booming with the food scene finally stepping out of the shadow of Spain. While neighboring Spain often steals the limelight as a foodie destination, Portugal shouldn’t be overlooked.
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Michelin has recently awarded 3 restaurants in Portugal with their first star. The country now boasts 20 restaurants with one star, and 6 with 2 stars, demonstrating that exceptional cuisine is served in restaurants across the nation.
To give travelers a taste of the country’s gourmet cuisine, the national airline TAP Air Portugal has introduced a “Taste the Star” program through which Michelin star chefs create exceptional local cuisine which is served to business class passengers.
Now is the time to visit as the best culinary destinations become tourist hotspots. Some of the finest foodie options in the country include exquisite codfish tasting menus in Aveiro to typical Portuguese snacks, known as petiscos, in Alentejo.
Portuguese cuisine hinges on 5 icons. First, the best fish in the world in the opinion of many renowned international chefs. Their habitat and specific geomorphological location in the Atlantic give the fish unique conditions for birth and growth that enable them to acquire a taste and texture hard to match elsewhere.
Second is the cataplana, a utensil that is the delight of gourmets and those who like to conjure up all the senses around the table. Cataplana is the word for both the food dish and the spherical pot it’s cooked and served in. This pork and seafood stew is found in the Algarve in Portugal.
The third icon of Portuguese cuisine is Port wine, considered both sumptuous and sensual. Its unique characteristics come from the soil, man’s hard work, and the sunshine that ripens the fruit. This region was classified as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, as well as the Lodges in Gaia where these wines age.
Next are the sweets of Portuguese cuisine, and they are divine. In the old days, nuns would prepare their recipes of sugar, eggs, and almond in the seclusion of their cloisters. The result of the balance between flavor, creaminess, and crispiness is another icon of Portuguese cuisine, considered a truly heavenly sweet – the pastel de nata (custard tart).
The fifth icon of Portuguese cuisine lies in the human factor. The country’s chefs are increasingly talented and winning more prizes, revolutionizing the richness of Portuguese cuisine with their creativity, boldness, and good taste. Currently, Portugal is proud to have a host of chefs who work at the highest levels of cuisine, using old-established recipes or more unusual methods that often enhance the flavor and quality of local products.
Along with these cultural food icons, are a number of other products that also help to distinguish what is eaten in Portugal. The Protected Denomination of Origin (DOP) meats from local breeds – Bísaro pig and black pig, Arouquesa, Maronesa, Mertolenga, Barrosã and Lafões beef, Barroso kid (charnequeiro and transmontano), Terrincho and Bragançano lamb – whose producers work hard to maintain their succulence and flavor.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are the basis of Portuguese cuisine and of its more Mediterranean characteristics, typical of a healthy, simple, and varied cuisine. They are the product of a fertile land, which is adopting the new organic production processes that are friendly to both consumers and the environment.
For seasoning, there is pure aromatic olive oil that is conquering international markets with every passing day. Fish, soups, salads, and cheeses are all seasoned with it.
And, surprise – there are wonderful mountain cheeses produced in Portugal that the world has yet to discover. The creamy, oily, or dry goat and sheep cheeses will make foodies bless the heavens.
To accompany all this, there is one more delightful secret that is just beginning to be revealed – excellent table wines. Created from a new generation of winemakers and producers with a new vision for the cultivation of vines, Portuguese wines are exactly the right drink to accompany meals with great quality according to the region of the country in which you are dining.
Now all you foodie travelers need to do is plan your trip, and when you arrive sit down at a table and enjoy the food and wine as you toast your delightful experience.