Food and Wine Tour – Porto, Portugal

We decided on plan C for the dogs today to do our Food and Wine Tour in Porto – I got up at 06:30 and took them for a 4.75 mile run along the seas front 🤣 Therefore suitably tired and with a good breakfast, we could leave them in the shaded and cooled motorhome whilst we went on our tour.

Views to the iconic Ponte Luis I bridge in Porto from our run this morning

We therefore set off in a taxi for our meet up at the C’Alma Coffee Shop (R. de Passos Manuel) for our tour meet up. We got to cross the Duoro river on the next bridge up river from the landmark Ponte Luis I bridge, looking down over the steep sided valley over which Porto presides. The C’Alma coffee shop was apparently a ladies retiring room for the gentlemen’s club which was upstairs and is a grand building with lovely original features and tiling.

We soon met up with Craig and Ali from Los Angeles who were sharing the tour with us plus Eduarda our guide. Eduarda is a Porto local for all of her 24 years and amazingly is a tour guide as her second job. Her first job is as a dentist which apparently in the early years post qualification in Portugal does not pay well. We settled down to coffee and pastel de nada pastry, not unlike an English egg custard tart but with a light Filo pastry. I understand the monks to use egg whites to make communion wafers and this was a by product whose popularity soon spread across Portugal. It was delicious and light and went well with our espresso.

We were hoping for a reasonable amount of walking to walk off our early pastry but we next walked literally round the corner to Rua de Santa Catarina (one of the main shopping streets in Porto which was bustling) to a cafe there made famous for surreptitiously serving ladies wine in teapots when drinking in public was banned during the heavily Catholic dictatorship era. Here before even 11am we started with our first alcohol of the day with Vinho Verde (green wine) which is matured for a shorter period, hence green, rather than the colour. It is slightly sweet and has a slight frizante, not to strong and a gentle start to our drinks tour. This was served with bolinhos de bacalhau, a kind of croquette made with salt cod, which in Portugal they soak for 2 – 3 days in fresh water to remove the salt before eating. Very tasty, just tastes like fresh cod with very soft potato and herbs.

For our next stop, again we did not have far to stroll to an extremely retro locals cafe. In the same ownership and management since the 1980’s and the decor has not changed at all with very retro black / orange patterned tiles all over the walls. The proprietors now considerably past usual retirement still run the place 7 days a week which is very much a regular local’s haunt. Here the meat eaters were served with a traditional bifana classic pork sandwich, spiced with home made Piri Piri sauce made from real peppers, a long way from the Nando’s supermarket bottled option. This was served with a glass or Portuguese Super Bock beer (which we had already sampled on our trip so far!). The consensus was the sandwich was very tasty with just the right amount of spice. Though no one took the optional additional Piri Piri available on the table in a jar complete with hand written health warning!

Bifanas and Super Bock

Next we managed to walk a little further down the lovely Rua das Flores (flower street) to a lovely delicatessen Queijaria Amaral (established in 1928 and appeared to be little changed) run by a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable lady where were served a local meat and cheese board with cured ham and sheep and goats cheese. Served with a lovely smooth red wine from the Duoro valley where the grapes that make the famous Porto Port wine comes from. Kevin enjoyed both meats and cheese so much we bought some to take home to the van.

Now for our biggest walk of the day to by the riverside for our final stop for some obligatory port tasting. Luckily it also meant that we passed some of the great sites of Porto. The beautifully ornate Porto main train station decorated by hand painted tiles which took 11 years to complete and tell the story of some of the key events in Portuguese history. Including the marriage of the Portuguese king John I to Philippa of Lancaster (sister of Henry IV).

We also passed the impressive Porto Cathedral, the former Stock Market building (ironically almost attached to one of the oldest churches) and the famous Torre dos Clérigos tower which has views across Porto as no building is now allowed to be built taller.

Finally we joined a really informative port wine tasting in a cellar bar. We learned a great deal about port I never knew. It was apparently developed for the British for the British market. The fermentation is stopped early by the addition of a specific brandy which is imported from Spain due to its specific taste which does not interfere with that of the port, which is heavily regulated by the port industry body. The grapes come from the Duoro valley and can be as many as 100 varieties, grape skin included, the different colours white and Ruby being from white and red grape. The tawny port is a variety of the ruby port with a different level of oxidation. We tried dry white port which was a little too like sherry for my taste (apparently produced as a competitor to sherry). Sweet white port which was very nice and has been a Christmas favourite in our house for a few years, served chilled after being introduced to it be friends. Tawny port which was my favourite and a very smooth Ruby.

We had a great tour and really enjoyed the experience. It was great to chat to Ali and Craig who were on the same tour and here in Portugal for a couple of weeks which they had been planning clearly for sometime and had some great tips. Eduarda did a great job and the whole thing was really interesting and not in the least rushed. We had a great morning but we were very keen to go back and check on our dogs. So we grabbed an Uber and dashed back to find they had clearly just woken up!

So we took them for a walk on the beach and settled down in the sun by the van for a lovely picnic with some of our local produce.

Great end to the day

Tomorrow we head to the Duoro Valley after hearing so many great things about it today!

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