I’ve just come back from an amazing trip, a reunion with London buddies at their B & B in the Algarve. I expected it to be great, but was nearly overwhelmed by all the culinary and scenic delights! Rupert Kirby and Andrew Roberts, once immersed in the magazine world, have transported their hipness and created a utopia in an unspoiled part of Portugal that has so much to offer. Their space features over-sized pristine bedroooms, luxurious baths, and a backyard that is a vacation in itself. The week started off with a tasting menu by Rupert, with lovely Portuguese wines and ports to sip (see details in the photos below). I was totally wowed. Turns out it was only the tip of the iceberg, as I was escorted to all the best places around. Posts to follow: an extended late lunch at Cha com Agua Salgada off the beach; a visit to Sal Marim, where I harvested a batch of pure white flakey salt; pure local grilled flavors at Dom Petisco; and a spectacular Italian tasting menu dinner at Amore Vero in Tavira. It’s a little sad to be back in NYC and not steps from the beach. See all the photos from the trip on my Facebook page at this link. And check out the blog for Casa Rosada for creative recipes.
Cha com Agua Salgada was advertised to me as “modern” Portuguese cuisine, in addition to being near the beach. That’s an understatement. When we arrived, I was delighted to see a cool modern building with an open dining area just behind the dunes—a study in cool. It pays to know the owners, Sandra and Paolo, who treated us to items not on that day’s menu, like Rupert and Andrew’s favorite, the Octopus Carpaccio. This dish, and each one thereafter, arrived as works of art (see photos below) and were light and flavorful, perfect for dining on the beach. The loveliest part of the experience was that we were situated in a non-touristy area, making it even more of a treasure. This trip was loaded with nice surprises, as you will see in the following posts. See all the photos from the trip on my Facebook page at this link.
I am a confessed salt-aholic and do indulge in exotic varieties. So, imagine my delight on being invited to salt flats that are hand-farmed the same way it was done back when the ancients ruled the area. Owner Jorge Filipe Raiado (aka George), an accomplished gentleman-historian, is totally gung-ho about creating his products. According to him, his methods provide a purer sodium content, thereby keeping a singular taste of SALT and nothing else. Local chefs, one a Michelin, agree. George makes sure to maintain a delicate balance of fresh and salt waters, monitors wind direction, temperature and humidity—all factors in the final product. What results are super flaky white crystals. You only need a pinch to get your fix. Sal Marim offers many varieties of salt. The Flor de Sal is unadulterated, Aromatic has added parsley and oregano, Azeitona has added olives and chilis, Pimentao has added garlic, sweet paprika and bay leaf, Limao has added capers and lemon. The salt comes packaged in another of the Algarve’s products, a natural cork, which keep the humidity at bay. The item I am most excited about is a brick of salt rock, called Sal de Tethys. I will be experimenting with cooking on this salty rock on my stove in NYC...so excited to literally have a piece of Portugal in my kitchen. You can purchase the salt at this link. Meantime, check out more photos from Portugal.
Rupert and Andrew are regulars at this spot, and I can totally see why. The location is spectacular—on the edge of the Guadiana River—and our timing perfect to witness the rising of an extra-large, full, orange moon over the coast of Spain (I will always remember that sight!). The menu was simple, featuring the fresh “catch of the day,” beef, chicken, and what I ordered, the “Secretos” Iberian Pork Filet. It was cooked to perfection: juicy, and lightly charred. Everything is cooked on an old-fashioned, picturesque grill which you pass on entering the restaurant (see photo below), whose hot temperatures create the perfect environment for grilling. To top off the fantastic food, our bottle of wine only cost 5 euros! See more about Dom Petiscos at this link, The Portugal News.
Amore Vero (True Love) owner Sara Lopes claimed the restaurant’s name was specifically about the love of food—but once you met this creative husband and wife team, you could tell that the two chefs had a special connection. Appropriately, their food was thoroughly composed with TLC. Sara’s eye as a pastry chef and cake designer combines beautifully with Ricardo’s surprising ingredients and combinations. The Tasting Menu we sampled was over-the-top: a beautifully plated, sexy Italian dinner. It’s so wonderful to travel and meet like-minded people who are just looking for ways to “wow” guests and share the love. Photos below reveal the wondrous dishes we sampled. This restaurant is located in the quaint, medieval town of Tavira, also known as the “Mini Venice” of Portugal, due to the fact that houses come right down to the river that runs through the center of town. I took lots of photos of this picturesque spot, which can be seen at this link.