A PIGGY IN PORTUGAL

I just arrived home from a two-week Piggy vacation and, although I feel sad to have left the sunshine and adventure behind, I feel incredibly inspired to get back into my own kitchen. Portuguese cuisine is everything I had heard and hoped that it would be and I'm now more determined than ever to incorporate it into my Vancouver diet! From olives to oranges, chicken to pork, dried figs and apricots, and some of the freshest seafood I've ever had, this Piggy just traveled through culinary heaven.

There were a few exciting and tasty firsts for me on this trip: grilled sardines, percebes (gooseneck barnacles), and caldo verde (traditional tender-leafed cabbage soup). But it was the Piri-Piri chicken, the fresh fruit, the coffee, and my new favourite sweet treat, pastel de nata, which really blew me away. And I must say, the extremely low price on a bottle of Vinho Verde was a pleasant piggy surprise!

Shopping at the farmer's market in Armacao de Pera is where I found the juiciest of oranges and dining with the locals in Guia is where we sampled the best of Piri-Piri chicken. Never would I have imagined that olive oil, vinegar and minced chillies would compete among my favourite of sauces. Sipping bica, a strong espresso-type brew, on the patio of a kiosk in Lisbon is where I sampled my first pastel de nata and I will never forget that first bite! These famous custard tarts are light and delicate and usually flavoured with cinnamon, lemon or almond. Whichever combination you chose, there is no doubt in my mind that the Portuguese have taken egg yolk and sugar and created an unforgettable masterpiece.

In addition to all of this deliciousness, there was one culinary experience that I will truly never forget: dining at Vila Joya's hotel restaurant in the beautiful town of Albufeira. Recently listed as Number 22 on the World's 50 Best Restaurant List, this little piece of paradise has won two Michelin stars 15 times in a row. This luxurious experience, which was made up of 11 courses by the way, deserves a Fat Pig post of its own, so please stay tuned. If the pictures don't get your mouth watering I don't know what will.

If the opportunity ever arises for you to visit the beautiful country of Portugal, I hope that you seize it. If not solely for the culinary adventure, then for the beaches, the wines, the history, and the warm and friendly people.

Until my next out-of-town adventure, I'll be in my kitchen sipping Port and trying to master the perfect Piri-Piri sauce. You know where to find me. Obrigada, Piggies! ...

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Central de Cervejas has been producing Sagres Beer since 1940. Known as the most popular beer in Portugal, drinking a pint on the beach is a Piggy must!

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A fresh raspberry in your sparkling? why not?! Oh, and did I mention that this was the view from our hotel deck?!

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Our table setting at the Vila Joya Hotel Restaurant, in Albufeira. Just moments before our first 2 Michelin star dining experience!

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After shopping at the Saturday farmer’s market in Armacao de Pera we prepared a picnic style lunch on our patio. Fresh fruit, bread, cheese, Oh my!

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Boiled in fresh ocean water, our group all tried percebes (gooseneck barnacles) for the first time, at a local restaurant in Sagres. Oink Oink!

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Dining with the locals in Guia is where we sampled the best of Piri-Piri chicken. Served traditionally with shoe-string cut fries, all of us Piggies were left licking our fingers!

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Pastel de nata – oh how I love thee! These famous custard tarts are light and delicate and usually flavoured with cinnamon, lemon or almond. The Portuguese have taken egg yolk and sugar and created an unforgettable masterpiece.

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Do as the locals do! We ate sardine sandwiches at a small cafe in Monchique.

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