Sunday, October 21, 2012


Since the food in Portugal seemed to be prepared in the same way, with the same classic dishes, no matter where we went, we needed a break. While in Lagos, in the Algarve, we succumbed to a need for some heat and spice and entered Shalimar, an Indian restaurant. In the heat of the noon day sun, it seemed like a good idea, and it was.

Naan, glistening will melted gee was like manna from heaven. The minute we bit into it, we knew we had made a good call. Remembering that the Portuguese colonized India, it seemed fitting to find an Indian restaurant here in Portugal.

Just to eat something not indigenous to Portugal was enough of a change for us, so we settled down to  our favorite Indian curry selections. This photo depicts a Lamb Vindaloo, which was exceedingly spicy, more so than what we are typically served at home. Because the Portuguese have such a longstanding relationship with Indian food, the cooks here evidently do not need to temper their recipes for European tastes.

Lamb Korma is difficult to find fault with anywhere, however, the best I have tasted was in Amsterdam. Shalimar's interpretation was more than adequate and I was grateful to eat what has easily become a comfort food for me.

Our only disappointment was in the steamed rice. It was plain, with nothing to flavor it, not even one cardamom seed, nothing.

Rua Cândido dos Reis 8
8600-681 Lagos Portugal
+351 282 180 743

O Cofre Churrasqueira

Not much to look at from the outside, this churrasqueira, or grill, and meat/fish market packed a whole lot of punch for a hole in the wall near the port of Lisbon. We found it by accident as we were working our way from the lower part of the Alfama towards downtown.

We arrived just as the lunch rush was over, and they were out of lamb and rabbit, my first two selections. Grilled chicken seemed a good enough choice, so I ordered it at $8 for the plate. As my companion was deciding on his order, the waiter was encouraging him to order a $10 chicken dish from a different part of the menu. Since they were both grilled chicken, it seemed odd to push for a larger dish, but my companion ordered it. This was tasty and an excellent value. How much better could it get for $2 more, a 3rd piece of chicken?
This is how much better! When the order arrived we were both in shock that a platter with three times as much food was placed on the table. With the language difficulty, we suspected that the waiter was encouraging us to order only the platter. What a bargain!
Rua Bacalhoeiros 2
1100 Lisbon Portugal
+351 218 868 935

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Le Ragueneau

For us, Le Ragueneau was a port in the storm, a rain storm. On our way to the Louvre, it made a convenient stop for a quick bite before starting our day. In truth we were searching for Gosselin Boulangerie, that I had read made the best baguettes in the city, but couldn't find it. Time was awasting and Le Ragueneau was there, so we walked in and sat down. No service within the first 10 minutes lead us to believe that it was bar service, so I walked up to the cashier, waited in line, and was told that the waitress would take our order at the table.

Back to the table, we placed our order within a few more minutes and waited. The napkin caught our attention and subsequently I discovered that the bistro was located in the very place where the friend of Cyrano de Bergerac, Ragueneau, owned a bakery. Up until the Google search I had thought them both fictional characters.

We received our petit dejeuner and it was adequate but a bit pricey for 9 euro. The comfort of being out of the rain was well worth the cost and the slow service was actually beneficial to our particular need. After reading more about this bistro, a return trip to try the first floor dining room may be a better bet.

202 Rue Saint-Honoré
75001 Paris France
+33 1 42 60 29 20
Metro: Palais Royale - Musee du louvre

Monday, October 15, 2012

La Consigne

Every once in awhile, we find ourselves staying near Gare de Lyon in Paris at the Palym Hotel. The hotel serves breakfast for 9 euro per person and although I've never tried it, I still prefer to eat at restaurants, if the breakfast doesn't automatically come with the room price. On our first stay we found La Consigne just around the corner, well, around two corners to be precise.

It's hard to go wrong with a croissant for breakfast when in France, in fact, most hotels serve them with juice, a hot drink of your choice, and occasionally they'll even throw in a small baguette to sweeten the deal. This deal was sweet enough for 5 euro and 20 cents, and filling too. There were two of us, so don't get over excited by seeing two croissant; we had to share them.


Not having tried a meal there, I can only recommend it for breakfast or a light snack. Their Nutella crepe compares favoribly with any other we've eaten on the streets of Paris. My partner in crime liked his Dame Blanche.

2 bis rue de Lyon
75012 Paris France
01 43 43 2107
Metro: Gare de Lyon or Ledru-Rollin

Osteria Al Bomba


While on our honeymoon, my husband and I were wandering the Cannaregio neighborhood one evening and noticed people lining up in a very small doorway. Our curiosity got the better of us and we decided to go inside to see what was attracting so many people. It was a cichetti bar with a small osteria in the back room. At that time we were only vaguely familiar with the Venetian custom of having small plates of appetizers with an "ombra" (small glass) of wine.

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All the cichetti were lined up behind the bar like regiments of toy soldiers, one company of vegetables, the next of fish, the next of meats and so on. So we stayed and have gone back several times since. There is always a list of wines by the glass and I encourage everyone who drinks dessert wines to try the Fragolino, a wine made from grapes of the same name. It seems it is only available in Venice and Naples. It tastes like strawberries and one sip brings me back to the first time I entered Al Bomba. I never leave Venice without a bottle to bring home.

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The bar itself is as long as the room, but people flow through quickly and many stay on for dinner in the dining room to the left of the bar. On our first visit the bar was filled almost exclusively with locals and that was an important part of its charm for us. The owners spoke very little English, but were happy to try, so in my worst Berlitz Italian I pointed to a cichetto and said, "due, per favore". The owner placed the small meatballs on a plate and handed it to us. I asked what it was called and he responded "polpette". I asked if he knew the English word for it and he leaned close, as if divulging a state secret and said in a hushed tone, "special meat". It wasn't until I got home and was reading one of my Italian cookbooks that I realized that polpette was the Italian word for meatballs. The business was sold to the chef by the original owners within the last two years. There are more tourists there now and fewer locals. The new owner's wife attends to the cichetti customers and speaks English. While we can still order polpette there, we will never again be served "special meat".

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On my 2nd to the last trip to Venice I spent the day showing off my favorite places to my nephew, in hopes of encouraging him to go back on his own one day. We stopped by Al Bomba in the early afternoon for a glass of Fragolino and a zucchini fritter. We were going to Trattoria Ca D'Oro for lunch, so we limited ourselves to only one cichetto, a pity. On my last trip, his sister was in tow and we made Al Bomba one of several cichetti bars we visited that night. It was an all cichetti dinner and we had a variety of items including cod fritters, tuna fritters, ricotta cakes, and a chicory patty, all fried, all delicious.


As you can see by the photos in this post, there were many temptations in this bar's assortment of cichetti. Of all the cichetti I have tried over the years, I would recommend that anyone interested in them should try the mantecato, cod (baccala), whipped into a frenzy with olive oil, into a very fluffy spread that is placed on toasted rustic bread. this was not in the case, but the osteria was willing to make it for us, at a price of 3 euros. If you look carefully at the cichetti photos you will see a range of prices starting at 1 1/2 euros and going to 3 euros. This is not a range of current pricing, but a chronological look at the pricing over a period of 4 years. Most other cichetti bars charge 1 euro per cichetto. I see a major correlation between the increase in tourists and the decrease in locals as patrons.

Calle di Oca 4297/4298
Cannaregio Neighborhood, Venice, Italy
Telephone +39 041 520 5175
Vaporetto stop: CaD'Oro
Walk up to Strada nova, turn left and look for Ca D'Oca on the far side of the street to your right.

Restaurante Tulhas

I went to Sintra on a sentimental journey, since having been there many years earlier, I had a distinct memory of this romantic little hideaway. It was a journey to see how the memory held up. Nothing was recognizable, but it was still a charming and romantic village. Surrounded by two palaces, it must have been a place of great importance at one time. Currently, it's a day trip from Lisbon, so it has become a big tourist destination. If you're looking for atmosphere while dining in Sintra, you'd be hard pressed to find a more cozy place than Restaurante Tulhas. With its Portuguese glazed tiles and hewed timber ceiling it oozes old world charm. 
It also reminds one that "We are not in Kansas anymore." The lack of a green vegetable on this plate did not go without notice. The restaurant specializes in grilling, so this pork steak had good flavor, it just needed less carbohydrates to surround it and a little color on the plate for eye appeal.

Their portion of the grilled lamb was as generous as their portion of the pork, but again no vegetable. Perhaps they wanted to encourage side orders, but there was entirely too much food to order more. However, the French fries were very tasty, but not so the rice, as it was bland. From my experience, Portuguese food in general is simply prepared and not very adventuresome, so I can't fault the restaurant, but the service was good and the waiter very accommodating.

Rua Gil Vicente 4
Sintra 2710-568 Portugal
+351 21 923 23 78