Updated: Jun 12, 2020
What do you think you can expect from a city which gave its name to a particular type of wine which is exported all over the world? Well, of course to have a nice Porto tasting, but maybe you're not aware of the rich gastronomy that the city has to offer. Let's have a look together!
First of all, Porto awarded as Best European Destination 2017 and as European Leading Destination 2018. Second, I adore Porto.
The spirit of its people, the perceivable calm lifestyle and the old-fashioned narrow streets of the city give Porto a special authentic aura which is rare in the main European cities. I guess it's the attachment to the old traditions, the ones that give a city a particular identity which can't be found anywhere else. The old tram still running in the center, typical music on the pier which makes people of all ages dance in circle, colourful azulejos everywhere, elderly men fishing along the Douro river and playing card, laundry lying on balconies waiting to get dry. In one word, authenticity.
As always, before starting my weekend in Porto I did some researches about the typical dishes and the other culinary experiences that the city offers. I like to have an idea of what I'd like to try once I'm visiting the destination, but I rarely pick a restaurant I want to try. It's more like random choice: opting for a place that catch your attention for its deco, the location, a kind employee showing you the speciality of the day, but usually one that looks a bit out-of-the-beaten track.
Porto's gastronomy is basically Mediterranean: fish, sea food, meat cooked with local ingredients and a great dose of hospitality served at your table for very cheap prices. Some local dishes are Francesinha, a sandwich with meat and cheese covered by a spicy sauce, and Tripas à moda do Porto which gave a funny nickname to the people of Porto, the ''tripeiros'' (the tripe men), Caldeirada (fish stew), Bacalhau fish, Pulpo y Patatas (grilled octopus with potatoes). Porto has it's own tapas tradition called Petiscos: typical cheese and meat, olives, fried calamar, tomato bruschetta, shrimps, anchois and a lot more to share with a group of friends!
And of course, delicious Pastel de Nata - warning they can cause addiction! This Portuguese creamy pastries were created by monks more than 300 years ago and they represent now an icon of the Country.
What I love the most when it come to eating abroad is finding the most hidden and simple restaurants, normally frequented by local people. And this is how we ended up trying the authentic Porto’s specialities in a football fan club (Gruppo desportivo infante d.henrique GDIH) with a local lady taking care of us while a wine bottle exploded inside the restaurant. I can still laugh thinking about the Portuguese ‘mamas’ all trying to clean the men’s white shirts from red wine stains!
Douro river divides the city into two parts. One is full of history and culture with ancient churches, narrow streets, artisanal shops and political buildings (as Palacio da Bolsa). The opposite site instead, Gaia, is dedicated to Porto, the typical liquored wine with a worldwide reputation. Discovering this tradition with local passionate producers, visiting their factories and having a porto tasting makes you realise how this product is part of their culture.
Our tasting wasn't at one of the most famous companies, but at Quinta dos Corvos cellar. We opted for a less international Porto producer with a small cave still very attached to its origins and traditions. After a video that showed us the fields in the Douro Valley and the production process, we visited the cellar and our guide explained us the techniques to fortify Porto through fermentation and we ended the visit with a Porto tasting.
Did you know that Porto was originated by chance? Yes, because in order to preserve wine from the long journeys from Douro Valley to Porto and then to England, it started to be fortified with the addition of brandy. They probably realise it was not so bad with this new touch!
To know more about the highlights of the city, click here!