What I ate yesterday

October 3, 2012 • 1:39 am

I’m taking lots of photos, but haven’t had time to download them or post properly.  But here’s what I ate and drank yesterday in Lisbon.

Mid-morning snack: in the area of Belém, where I visited the lovely Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (a World Heritage Site) and the Naval Museum, there’s a well-known place to get the ubiquitous Portugese pastry pastel de nata (custard tarts). The most famous store to get them in Lisbon is the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, which has been serving the locals since 1837. There was a huge line outside waiting for the specialty, pastel de Belém.

I bypassed the line and took a seat, consuming two tarts and um galão (coffee with milk). The tarts were excellent: warm and especially good with a sprinkling of cinnamon from a handy shaker:

Back into town for a wander and a visit to the fantastic Igrega de São Roque, one of the few churches to survive the devastating Lisbon earthquake of 1755. It contains one of the most elaborate chapels I’ve ever seen: the chapel of St. John the Baptist, full of gold and with columns of lapis lazuli. It was constructed in the Vatican in 1742 and then, after the Pope celebrated Mass in it, dismantled and shipped to Portugal. I’ll have photos of it later.

But I felt thirsty after my wander, and so for only 1.35 Euros I procured a copa of the famous local cherry brandy, ginginha. I had mine “com” (with cherries). It was great (and sweet): just the pick-me-up I needed:

After a preprandial rest, we repaired to a famous local seafood restaurant for crustaceans and molluscs. It was jammed, but we had reservations. Here’s the ambiance (crowded!) and only a part of the seafood on offer:

We began with local raw ham, thinly sliced, with toasted and buttered bread:

My favorite seafood—percebes (in Spanish), or gooseneck barnacles: hard to collect, rare, and expensive, but oh so tasty! Sadly, I overexposed the photo. Oh well; this is The Remains of the Plate:

A luscious plate of baby clams in garlic-butter sauce with coriander:

And a HUGE crab, somewhat resembling the stone crabs of Florida, which had been thoughtfully disassembled. The roe and innards had been made into a delicious soup that filled the shell. Alongside that we got a huge plate of fresh shrimp (this restaurant, whose name escapes me, is famous for the freshness and quality of its seafood):

It was all washed down with vinho verde, the local “green wine,” which was light and refreshing. An estimable meal indeed.

Today I’m off to Porto, where, of course, I’ll visit the vintage port lodges as well as giving two talks. Vintage port and Sauternes are my favorite sweet wines, and I’ll have a full report.

33 thoughts on “What I ate yesterday

  1. Never had goose-neck barnacles, must keep them on the list of things to eat when I get the chance. They don’t really look edible though I must say.

  2. Completely off topic:

    The National trust has announced it’s results of it’s review

    http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/local-to-you/northern-ireland/news/view-page/item981462/ the transcript of the audio can be found here http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/servlet/file/store5/item981488/version1/GC.pdf and you can compare it against the original here https://www.facebook.com/groups/CausewayCampaign/doc/263568703742806/. It’s not perfect, no mention would have been better but at least it makes it clear that the science is settled and the reason for rejecting it is for religious reasons.

  3. As usual with your cultural / food posts you have managed to make me envious!

    Port is also my favorite fortified wine. A glass of fine port is a wonderful experience indeed, especially when accompanied by a fine extra dark chocolate for nibbling. Please let us know about your porto tasting experiences in Porto.

    1. According to WIkipedia, Portuguese presunto (which I assume is what Jerry ate) is not literally raw, but dry-cured like jamón or prosciutto. I don’t know about Portugal, but apparently the USDA considers some forms of commercial dry-curing to be effective at destroying parasites.

      Still, it seems the best technique is to keep the pigs from getting infected in the first place by controlling what they eat.

      Or so I’ve read.

      1. It’s cured, the same thing as jámon. The best one is from free-ranging pigs feeding on grass and acorns.

  4. cruel, how cruel to taunt us. 🙂 I was in Lisbon about 30 years ago and very much enjoyed the food. The one soup that looks ilke it has “easter grass” in it was quite tasty. And ah vintage port, what lovely stuff.

  5. You know, Jerry, you could probably make a decent side living as a luxury tour guide…go to exotic places, lecture on whatever subject in biology brought you there, and wrap it up with a culinary extravaganza.


  6. Regarding those lapis lazuli columns: the iconostasis in St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg has the same feature, along with a couple in malachite. They are, I believe, veneered, not solid lapis/malachite, just as is the huge malachite urn at Windsor Castle.

    The Russians were past masters in the handling of decorative minerals, Faberge being merely the tip of the ice berg. One wonders if those pillars in Lisbon were fabricated in Russia.

  7. You have to eat squid. Portugeses are the best for cooking it. Every region ha sits way. The one I had in Tomar 2 years ago was one of the best meal I ever had…

  8. What is great about the confluence of the world’s cultures is that standards of presentation and health become high everywhere. And then you mix in the local way of preparing food, with ingredients you’d never imagine, and one exults (except in Scotland…so says another reader…no personal knowledge here).

    Side note: Immediately following the 1755 Earthquake, prominent bishops and priests in Lisbon scoured the city, and passed ad hoc judgment on people who had caused the devastation by NOT PRAYING ENOUGH!! Those guilty of NOT PRAYING ENOUGH were summarily executed by hanging (so others could observe their hanging bodies as a reminder to pray).

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised if the catholic church considered this proof that prayer works since there has never been such an earthquake in Lisbon since.

  9. Well, don’t I feel lucky. I spent the last 3 months in Costa Rica on a beach that was very rocky. On the rocks were very large colonies of gooseneck barnacles! We collected large quantities at zero cost to us and boiled them in sea water. Mmmmm! Delicious! And free!

  10. Jerry,

    As a fellow foodie, your “food pron” posts like this one are among my favorite. The pictures and descriptions are a mini-trip for the mind. Though they always make me hungry.

    I’m always amazed when I talk to people who only see food as something that “fills the hole” in their stomach. The equation is mostly “hungry? Fill the hole. Whatever does it is good.” Looking at food as something creative, or to be explored, is puzzling or of little interest to them.

    An example is my father in law, an engineer of British stock, who can eat the same 3 dishes (salmon, steak, baked chicken) every week of his life. For 20 years, dinner at his house has not once diverged from roast beef, potatoes and steamed vegetables. The current woman in his life LOVES to cook and is a foodie. Yet he simply will not eat anything that has a hint of spice, or that diverges much from the foods mentioned above, and hence all her skills mostly are lost on him. When we talk about this there is true pain in her expression because for someone in love with food, the enjoyment of food is so rich and fundamental an experience that it’s like marrying someone who doesn’t share your religion.

    Anyway…please keep up the food posts!


    1. There’s the other extreme. In Portugal at breakfast we talk about what we are going to have at lunch, at lunch on what dinner is going to be about, and at dinner on what we plan to eat on the following day.

      In Porto the traditional dish is beans and rice with tripe and pig’s ears, I don’t expect Jerry to be brave enough to eat that. There’s also the local fast food, the francesinha: prime rib steak packed with a ham slice and a sausage, wrapped in two slices of bread, covered with melted cheese and with a fried runny egg on top, swimming in a sauce made with beer and broth, and with fries on the side.

      If it were February/March I would say Jerry to try lamprey cooked in its own blood.

      1. LOL, fair enough.

        I draw the line at entrails and organs myself (not just the thought of it – can’t stand the taste). So I’d bee seen as too picky by other folks. As you say, there are levels.


  11. That’s quite the feast!

    I must say though, on any other part of the Internet I would have avoided clicking on a link entitled “What I Ate Yesterday”.

  12. > Igrega de São Roque, one of the few
    > churches to survive the devastating
    > Lisbon earthquake of 1755

    Any idea what construction techniques led to the chapel’s survival? Wikipedia has an article on the chapel, but nary a word on its construction other than to say it survived the 1755 earthquake.

    PS: Somewhere in Jack Vance’s SF/fantasy corpus, a protagonist eats “percebs”. Now we know what he was referring to.

    1. Not sure about construction techniques, but it is in a high spot, so it escaped the tsunami that followed the earthquake.

  13. Thanks for opportunity for vicarious living, Dr. Coyne! Oh, there is a nice shot of the gooseneck barnacles in the background of the photo of the baby clams entree. That looks like it could be cropped out and enlarged, to give a better view of the barnacles.

  14. I think this sea food restaurante is called Ramiro, located in downtown Lisboa. (Barnacles taste a bit like sea water but are very cool looking and make for extravagant fingerwear, if one is immature enough to play with food).

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