Gastronomy and wines at Porto and Northern Portugal

Land of sea, plains and mountains, Porto and the North of Portugal's gastronomy is as diverse as the landscape where its ingredients are produced and tasted.

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Land of flavours

Land of sea, plains and mountains, Porto and the North of Portugals gastronomy is as diverse as the landscape where its ingredients are produced and tasted. Known for its hospitality, the region is generous when it is time to provide a good table service. And it has a wide variety of dishes (of fish, sea food, meat or regional and convent-made confectionery), cooked with local ingredients. With four demarcated wine regions, the region also supplies a wine for each occasion. In the many wines of excellent quality that are produced here, there is one that is known all around the world the Port Wine, produced in the world's oldest demarcated region but there are others waiting to be tasted, such as the reds and whites of Douro and the greens of the Minho Region.

The dishes

Porto and outskirts

A visit to Porto almost always involves a taste of a "francesinha" and a "Tripas à Moda do Porto" dish.The second dish appeared when Infante D. Henrique (Henry the Navigator), who needed to supply his ships for the taking of Ceuta, in 1415, asked the people from Porto all kinds of foods. The population was left with only the meat offal, including the tripe. Thus, the Tripas à Moda do Porto (Porto Tripe) dish was born and also the nickname given to the people of Porto: the "tripeiros" (the tripe men). The francesinha is more recent. It is supposed to have been born in the 1950's and consists of a sandwich with meats and cheese, all covered by a spicy sauce whose recipe varies from restaurant to restaurant. One of the preferred discussions of the people of Porto is: Where can we eat the best francesinha of the city? It is almost always accompanied by a fino, a beer served under pressure in a thin and tall glass. Before the meal, a Porto Tónico is recommended, which is a cocktail made with dry white Port Wine, tonic water, ice and a lemon slice in a tall glass. It is one of the new ways to try the pleasures of Port Wine.Also in Porto, there are good fish dishes, particularly codfish, for example the à Gomes de Sá, à Brás, à Zé do Pipo, à João do Buraco and other variations. In Gaia, the neighbouring city of Porto, the meals demand the Broa de Avintes (Avintes corn bread), which goes really well with the caldo verde, a northern typical kale soup. The city of Matosinhos, also a neighbouring city of Porto, is widely known thanks to its various restaurants that transform the confection of fresh fish that comes from the local fish markets, into an art. Experiment accompanying the fish and the sea food with green wine. Also in Espinho the fish reigns, but the sea food (the shrimp, the lagosta suada (sweated lobster) and others) is equally known. A caldeirada (fish stew) with several fishes is a good option. Still in the coastline, north from Porto, the fishing city of Póvoa de Varzim owns a rich cuisine based on fish the pescada à poveira (poveira haddock) is a proof of that. The meal can end with a sweet French toast from Póvoa. In Felgueiras, there is a sweet that stands out: the sponge cake of Margaride. Once served on the royal family table, nowadays it is a democratic delicacy cooked in a clay pot, which goes really well with a Port Wine chalice. Santo Tirso is also a city expert in confectionery: the jesuítas (puff-pastry cake), limonetes (small lemon tarts) and the cookies of the Mosteiro de Santa Escolástica (Santa Escolástica Monastery) Close by, in Amarante, the papos de anjo (angel's chin), the brisas do Tâmega (Tâmega breezes) and the toucinho-do-céu (bacon from heaven) are famous. In Arouca, the arouquesa veal reigns, tender as few others and with a unique flavour.

In Minho

The king of Minho's kitchen is the "caldo verde". Crumbled cabbage, potatoes, garlic, onion and olive oil are the ingredients of this soup, which is accompanied with slices of good chorizo and maize bread. In the fishes, the dishes based on lamprey and shad share the honours of Minho's fine cuisine with the codfish. But it was the "cura amarela" (technique to dry codfish) codfish that gave fame to the region's gastronomy. The bacalhau à Gil Eanes (codfish à la Gil Eanes) and the "truta à minhota com presunto" (minhota trout with smoked ham) are other famous dishes. In the meats, the sarrabulho (in papas or rice), the rojões and the perna de porco à Clara Penha (pork leg à la Clara Penha) are delicacies very much appreciated in the pig slaughter season, around Christmas, but they are tasted all year. The cozido (boiled food), the cabrito da Serra (Serra roasted lamb) and the caldeirada de cabra nova (young goat stew) of Gerês also deserve highlighting. And how well these delicacies go with a green red wine... Accompanying it, you can snack a ham from Castro Laboreiro and the home made sausages. In Monção, Melgaço and other lands in the municipality of Viana do Castelo, it is almost mandatory to eat the lamprey of the Minho River, generally served with rice. In Esposende (Braga), the Clarinhas de Fão (pastries with pumpkin squash) rule the confectionery. Also in this district, in Barcelos, confectionery is also famous (because of the brisas do cavado, the queijadinhas, the sonhos), but the land's symbol, the rooster, also usually appear on the table. Still in the sweets, Braga is the land of the "Abade de Priscos" pudding, made with eggs, bacon and Port Wine. The bacalhau à moda de Braga (codfish à la Braga) and the pica-no-chão rice (chicken blood rice) are other dishes of the diverse local gastronomy.

In the Alto Douro and northeast

Portugal's northern interior has a very rich gastronomic tradition.In the northeast, in the Trás-os-Montes region, the mountains determine the flavours. It is actually on them that the meat for many juicy dishes of the region is bred. The Mirandela's alheiras have an almost unique status. They are a traditional oak smoked sausage made with various meats, Trás-os-Montes' olive oil and wheat regional bread. The alheiras can also be tasted in Miranda do Douro, land known for the posta mirandesa (veal steak from Minho).The alheira is only one of the many smoked foods known in the region: thick pork sausage, chorizos, botillo, ham... In the Vinhais annual fair, they are all for sale. In Montalegre, several smoked meats (from pork) are used in the cozido à barrosã (boiled food from Barrosã). It is all tempered in the Barrosã style and cured with oak firewood and with the healthy cold of the ground. In Mondim de Basto, it is essential to taste the carne maronesa (maronesa meat) and the wet sponge cake, specialty and symbol of this region. It is made with sugar, wheat flour and homemade eggs.

The wines

Vinho Verde

In the northwest of Portugal, there is the region of the Vinho Verde, cradle of the famous Alvarinho variety.Unique in the world, the greens are slightly acid, light and fresh, with medium alcohol content and with good digestive properties.They are easy to drink wines, fruity, that go very well with appetisers or accompanying light meals such as fishes, sea foods, white meats, salads and other dishes. The Vinho Verde production is marked by the granite soils, the Atlantic breeze (the sea winds have an easy penetration due to the orientation of the valleys of the main rivers) and the high levels of precipitation. In the region of the Vinho Verde, the vineyards occupy 21 thousand hectares of area, 15% of the Portuguese winegrowing area.

Trás-os-Montes

In the extreme northeast of Portugal, to the north of the Douro region, there is the wine production region of Trás-os-Montes, which divides itself in three sub-regions: Chaves, Valpaços and Planalto Mirandês. The region is marked by its dry weather, very warm in the summer and very cold in its long winters, season in which the thermometers reach negative values many times. The varieties planted in the granitic soils are practically the same in the three sub-regions. The dominant white varieties are Côdega do Larinho, Fernão Pires, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, Síria and Viosinho, while the more planted red ones are Bastardo, Marufo, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. The red wines of Trás-os-Montes are generally fruity and slightly bitter. White wines characterize themselves by their smoothness and floral aroma. There is evidence that the wine in this region is produced at least since the Roman occupation.

Douro

The Demarcated Region of Douro is considered to be the first demarcated region of the world it exists since 1756.The terraces scattered throughout the region notably mark the Alto Douro landscape, in the northeast of Portugal, built in a fantastic dialogue between Man and nature. The region is World Heritage, title given in 2001 by Unesco. To the west, the Douro Valley is sheltered from the humid winds by the granitic mountains of Marão and Montemuro.In the Douro, the winters are very cold and the summers very hot and dry. Nove meses de Inverno e três meses de Inferno (Nine months of Winter and three months of Hell), it is what the popular wisdom says. The region, 250 thousand hectares marked by a large number of microclimates, is divided in three sub-regions that vary greatly in terms of temperature and precipitation: Baixo-Corgo, Cima-Corgo and Douro Superior. It is here, in poor and schist soils (difficulties joined by the slopes of the ground), that the Port Wine, a liquorish wine, ambassador of the Portuguese wines, is produced but also, and increasingly more, red and white wines of superior quality. The difficulties arising from the ground are beneficial for the longevity of the vineyards and originate more concentrated grape musts of sugar and colour. The most used varieties for the production of Douro and Port Wine are the Aragonez, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cão, Trincadeira and Souzão. The white wine production sustains itself, mainly, by the plantation of varieties such as Malvasia Fina, Gouveio, Rabigato and Viosinho. For the production of Moscatel, the variety Moscatel Galego is used.

Demarcated Region of Távora-Varosa

This small region produces some of the best national table white wines (distinguished by their freshness) and red wines (their softness is praised), as well as exceptional sparkling wines, ideal for party occasions. The white varieties are predominant in the region (Cerceal, Chardonnay, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina). The most planted red varieties are Pinot Noir, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Francesa and Touriga Nacional.

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