“The team behind ‘A Loja dos Pastéis de Chaves‘ have truly succeeded in reviving this old baking tradition from the north of Portugal here in Porto … Hugo & Patrícia of ‘Bolhão Wine House‘ have single-handedly managed to restore their own charming market space here at Bolhão Market … Joana & Sofia have been on a year-long trip around Portugal, sourcing only the best of local produce before opening ‘Taberna do Largo‘ in downtown Porto, as much a delicatessen as now a popular bar with the locals & visitors alike …”
I remember being mesmerised. Spellbound, even. Infused with the sound, smell, sights & taste of this very particular place on Earth before I even knew what was happening. Every time I close my eyes and think back of my very first encounter with Porto, memories of my Taste Porto Food Tour and all the passion & enthusiasm of lovely André Apolinário come to mind. In fact, coming to think of it, I first ate Porto before I even visited it. Properly, that is. We arrived very late on the night before our Taste Porto Food Tour, travelling from Ericeira & our surf camp experience by the ‘Blue Beach’, Praia Azul all the way up north to Porto. We did not take time for breakfast the following morning, thinking we’d be on a food tour shortly anyway. We arrived on a notion that Porto was known for its port wine cellars, the surely pretty, nearby Douro valley – and for being the location of our upcoming Optimus Primavera Sound Music Festival. In short: We anticipated nothing that Porto was to change our minds, and hearts, forever by what what was about to follow – a culinary love affair of a kind.
“So why should Porto be on the hot list for foodies worldwide? Because the future of European gastronomy is in Portugal. And Porto will be its champion.”
Says Nelson Carvalheiro, himself the author of the internationally renowned travel & food blog Nelson Carvalheiro Travel & Food and perhaps the greatest ambassador of the local Portuguese food scene – together with André, that is. Meeting both of them again at this year’s World Food Tourism Summit in Portugal (there are no coincidences in life, you see!), I am pleased to see André and his team getting closer & closer to achieving their very own mission statement with Taste Porto Food Tours: “To be the Nr. 1 place to come across when experiencing the local gastronomy & food scene of Porto. Trust me”, he says, smiling and full of confidence, “you will not find anyone more passionate about Porto and its food than I am. Just as passionate, maybe. But more passionate? Never!” True, if you have a look here. And here …
So where really does all this pride, passion, buzz & excitement about Porto as a top foodie destination come from?
One answer lies in the “democratic rise of the ‘little guys’, the real local heroes who are practicing the same recipes over and over again, for centuries, because it is their family tradition.”
Again, I find myself confirming & quoting Nelson Carvalheiro in one of his speeches here, who has put into words what I have also perceived about Porto from the very beginning: An excellence in food quality & delivery matched with a genuine sense of hospitality expressed by just about EVERYONE. Not only the top industry professionals, but also the so-called ‘little guys’, the owners & (family) chefs of O Golfinho, Taberna Santo António or Taberna do Avô in downtown Porto. And that, my dear readers, that is Porto’s quintessence. It cannot be institutionalised, nor prescribed. It simply is – or isn’t (felt) by us travellers, who we have ended up loving Porto just as much as the locals do. And Porto just lives, breathes and celebrates its food. Let me whet your appetite as to why, and how.
CreativElena, however, is not alone in this quest for finding out about “food love from Porto”: Let’s hear what more renowned food travel writers have to say!
First of all, there is word from dear Rita Branco, who on her internationally renowned blog about the city of Porto, ‘O Porto Encanta‘, dedicates a proper category to the art of “eating & drinking out in Porto“. She has also written extensively as to why she thinks Porto is the next hot foodie destination in Europe, and her photos will simply make your drool over wanting to book your next trip to Porto: “Travelling to Porto … To eat, drink & be enchanted!”
Both Nelson Carvalheiro & Vera Dantas have also added their say, writing on “Why Porto is Europe’s next Food Mecca” and “Portugal as the next Food Capital City of Europe – and why“. Love the food photographs & messages in both articles: Do take the time to read them, but do not look there hungry! 😉
There are other important voices too, however. “Anita’s Feast” Tom Fakler & Anita Breland are, by now, even ready to move to Porto – such is their (food) love for the city. Similar is the story of Yishyene C. And Julie Dawn Fox? She has already started calling Portugal home many years ago. Need any more prove? Here it is!
“Porto has an inventive hold on Portugal’s northern food culture. Tripeiros love their Tripas à moda do Porto (tripe with white beans), their Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (casserole of bacalhau, potatoes, eggs, olives, olive oil and onion) and the startlingly caloric Francesinha (a meaty, cheesy sandwich with “secret sauce”). Importantly for foodies, Porto also provides a window on Portugal’s northern regions of Minho and Tras-os-Montes. Corn is important here, as are seafood from cold Atlantic waters, river fish and meat from the mountainous and rugged north. Squat in the midst of three great wine regions, Porto is the perfect place to taste Vinho Verde from Minho, incomparable port wine, and unfortified Douro wines and sparkling wines from Bairrada. Porto is ripe for innovation, with its supply of incomparably fresh ingredients from local producers. My taste buds are trained on the chefs and restaurateurs of Porto as they riff on centuries-old traditions! My travel tip: Taste Porto Food Tours provides a fine introduction to Porto’s food culture.”
Anita Breland publishes regularly about food & her experiences of the cultural traditions of the places she visits on AnitasFeast.com. Thank you so much for your contribution, dear Anita!
Next up is Julie Dawn Fox, whose renowned travel blog is all about inspiring you to “delve deeper into Portugal with trusted travel tips” – in particular with regards to food & drink. She explains her food love for Porto in the following way:
“One of the reasons I love going to Porto is the opportunity to eat ‘different’ food. I live in rural Portugal where restaurant menus appear tediously similar after a while so it’s a real treat to go to a city that has such variety. If you are keen to try traditional tripe or bacalhau dishes, Porto will satisfy your curiosity. And if you’ve ever had a hankering for a heart attack sandwich drenched in beer sauce, i.e. the francesinha, where better to try one than its home town.
However, if you’re looking for more contemporary, internationally inspired dishes made with fresh local ingredients you’ll be spoilt for choice at all price points. Over the last few years, the city centre has been spruced up and a host of trendy restaurants and gourmet cafés now grace the streets. Each time I visit, I stumble across new eateries where creativity and passion collide to surprise and delight my taste buds. I even learned to enjoy alheira, a Portuguese poultry sausage, at the Porto Cruz restaurant. My repeat guilty pleasure, however, is the port wine tonic at Mercado Ferreira Borges.”
Yishyene, too, has written (and fallen) “head over heels” for Porto’s natural flavours:
“Porto taught me to eat fish and seafood! Before I ever went there (unexpectedly and on a whim – phew, how lucky was that!) I didn’t enjoy fish very much and when it came to seafood I’d only stick to a small selection of shellfish (crab, lobster, clams, prawns). Now I enjoy almost everything – even the fishy fish such as SARDINES (though I prefer the small ones – ‘petingas’).
And you? What is your take on Porto being Europe’s next foodie capital?