Posts filed under ‘Taste of Travels’
Once in awhile, if we’re lucky, we stumble upon heaven right here on this dusty dodgy earth. I found just such a place while I was trotting around southern England last week. Petersham Nurseries is located in a peaceful vale next to the river Thames just outside the London suburb of Richmond. It’s so much more than a nursery though, and thus I felt I should share it with you all. It houses a delightful tea house and a very fine restaurant, both of which serve outstanding local fare, much of which is grown within a stones throw from the table at which I dined. My portion of sweet potato soup and homemade bread with local butter was sumptuous. Scattered throughout the nursery and glasshouses are tables and chairs, many antique and charmingly mismatched, where diners can visit and eat or just have a meditative cup of tea. The details of this treasure trove engaged me for hours. Everything was seemingly perfect and poetic. It’s just my kind of place and I hope you enjoy having a glimpse of it too.
Ah, what a glorious day it was here in southeastern Pennsylvania. How about where you are? I spent all evening in my garden until the darkness nudged me to finally go inside. And now I’ve just remembered that I didn’t share with you my latest travel photos from Puerto Rico. I hope that no one minds when I put up a post of photos unrelated to food. I know you all come here mostly for the food. But pretty pictures are worth a visit too, right? Enjoy and dream of lazy days beside the pool or on the beach. They’re nearly here!
Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention my favorite gastronomic experience in Puerto Rico: the coffee! What amazing cups I had from several of the local grower’s beans. Intense flavor and notes of spice and vanilla, but absolutely no bitter after taste. Maybe that after taste comes from all the fumes when it gets shipped hundreds of miles away… nah, but there is surely a difference between coffee gathered just an hour away and that which comes to us in an airplane.
I think when people travel, they tend to get more attuned to their senses. Or at least I do. It makes sense that turning off the autopilot routine while in a foreign place would turn up the volume on your ears, eyes, and nose. For me though, the most noticeable sensual enhancement comes to my taste buds. Everything tastes better when I’m traveling. Walking and hiking around all day to work up a monstrous appetite certainly accentuates the enjoyment of a tasty dinner.
Now, with my disinterest in carnivorous dishes, some might think there would be slim pickings for me in Portugal, land of fish and meat. I didn’t find that to be the case at all. Thanks to my Lonely Planet Guidebook and the blog, In Love with Lisbon, I had several fine dining experiences, the two most notable being a long leisurely lunch at quirky Chapito in Lisbon and a much-needed peaceful dinner at sexy Malagueta Afrodisiaca in Leiria. I had the best (both looks and taste) cocktail ever at Malagueta Afrodisiaca – it was freshly squeezed bright green kiwi juice, little seeds and all, mixed with some high quality gin. I only wish I’d had the foresight to bring my camera to dinner.
Wonderful vegetarian meals eaten at hidden gems aside, I really took the most delight in sampling local food that I bought at markets or small shops. One of my favorite finds was the most delicate-tasting creamy honey gathered from wild beehives in the Tras-os-Montes region. I now slowly nibble one small teaspoon of it a day, never mixing it with anything else for the sake of retaining its purity…
Then there were the pastries and the cheeses. Oh gosh, how can I begin to describe how much I enjoyed some of each of these? Let’s begin by saying I ate several pastries a day and still managed to loose 10 pounds over the course of the trip. Illogical, I know, but true. I also ate ridiculous amounts of cheese too. I couldn’t help myself. There was fresh local cheese and pastries everywhere! Instead of dragging you into all the details about each and every one, the smattering of pictures in this post should serve to whet your appetite. If not, go here to see the full collection of my pictures from Portugal.
I will go into detail about my favorite pastry and my favorite cheese. First is the pastry, pictured above. I don’t know what it was called since I bought it from a very busy stand at the Mercado do Bolhao in Porto and there was only time to shove my 10 cents across the counter and grab the pastry and run to escape the press of bodies desperate to do the same. My good friend, Gintoino, who’s a native of Portugal, tells me it looks like it is a type of “folhado” made with a special traditional flaky pastry. All I know what it was heaven, and I want more!! Gintoino has been kind enough to provide the pastry base recipe and I’ll see what I can do to duplicate this wondrous slice. Oh, you want to know what it tasted like? Why, of course you do! The flaky, slightly sweet pastry base was topped with a very creamy coconut custard and, while it didn’t look like it, the whole thing was covered in crunchy toasted coconut slivers that contrasted perfectly with the creaminess of the custard. It was like coconut cream pie x10. I need a minute…..
Do you ever get the sensation you’re spinning your wheels? Metaphorically speaking, of course. I can’t seem to shake that sensation since I got back home, with floundering productivity here on the blog and other facets of my work. Last night I had a frighteningly vivid dream, illustrating just how deep my spinning mental wheels had sunk into my subconscious.
The Dream : I was fast asleep (yes, I dream sometimes that I’m sleeping, I’m that desperate for it), slowly becoming aware of a pain in my hip. I thought I’d get up to walk it off. Groggy, I managed to stub my toes four times as I made my way out of the dark bedroom. Between the pain in my hip and the pain in my toes, I decided to just roll down the stairs, landing smack dab on a cat (couldn’t tell which one since all of ours are gray tabby cats). I freaked out, thinking I had smooshed my cat to death! I ran outside into the parking lot, which was eerie in the moonlight and ice cold, sobbing and swinging the smooshed cat around, trying to get air back into its lungs. After what felt like hours of dizzy spinning and terrifying panic, I suddenly realized the smooshed cat was really just the fuzzy rug from the bathroom that had gotten gray from all the cat hair I’d been failing to clean off of it. Nearly hysterical with relief, I began to make my way back into the house, only to find my hip and toes hurt even more, so much so that I couldn’t walk. So, for whatever wacky dream-state reason, I just rolled myself down the driveway (because it goes downhill, unlike the walkway to my house) instead and the last I knew, I was rolling along some littered side street in my neighborhood, clutching a cat-hair infested bathroom rug.
See what I mean? You’d feel like you were spinning your wheels too if you had dreams like that! Luckily I woke up right then and found my beloved cats safely snoozing at various locations around the bedroom. But I did resolve to get another post up on the blog pronto to prove that I wasn’t just some unproductive rolling slouch with only a dirty old bath mat to her name.
I’m here! I’m here! I swear I’m here! I realize it’s been three whole days and then some since I got back from my trip, and I haven’t dished out the goods yet. I’m despicable, I realize. I’d use excuses like “major life change in the midst of unfolding” and “200+ emails waiting for me in my inbox when I got back that I’m still addressing” and “600+ pictures that still need edited and uploaded” and so forth. But really, I need to get my priorities straight.
First and foremost, you need to know how wonderful Portugal is.
Beautiful offerings of Lisbon’s market
So let’s start with the markets I saw during my tirp. The Portuguese culture is one rich in agrarian heritage and is still rooted in bringing fresh local produce to market every day. I was astonished by how many markets there were, one in every single town I visited to be precise, usually matter-of-factly known as “mercado municipal” and centrally located so residents could stop by every day to pick up whatever it was they needed for dinner that night. It seemed so natural, this town produce market system, but it frankly puts American farmers markets to shame in many ways.
Farmers markets here are still rather novel – growing, but still not the standard way everyone gets all their vegetables and fruit, let alone their meats, cheeses, and baked goods. In towns up and down Portugal, large and small, these markets are a long-standing way of procuring seasonal produce and just about every other food commodity that can be made locally. Most of the produce found at these mercado municiples was locally grown on small farms in the surrounding outskirts of town. I have never seen so many wonderful little urban farms, most less than half an acre in size but all highly productive. I’ll talk more later about the farming I observed. For now, just know that the goods you see for sale in these market pictures are proof of sustainable agriculture at its best; a sustainable system that’s been withstanding the test of time and turbulent Portuguese politics, some that have included taking farms away from their individaul land owners in times past, with great fortitude.