bon appetit!

Without hesitating, nearly a year in advance, I signed up for an ACE CAMPS learning vacation that promised a week in Provence, staying in Julia Child’s home, cooking recipes inspired by the famous cookbook author and potentially hitting up some of her well traveled haunts as we explored the region. As I’d never been to the South of France before and am a huge Julia Child fan, I was all in.

If you haven’t heard of ACE CAMPS travel, it is a company out of Canada that offers small group, mostly educational vacations to interesting spots all over the globe. Their offerings are highly fascinating, unusual, centered around one theme or activity and a great way to travel alone but not be alone, with a friend or even to book out the entire trip as a family affair  — as one family did for a second week at Julia’s house, and i thought what a great idea!

ACE trips are small group tours — we were five women and a chef/guide, the maximum that could fit in Julia’s house with shared accommodations. The itinerary was a good balance between far reaching tourist activities and cooking. After the first day of traveling around by car, it became clear that this trip had been planned by somebody back in Canada who wasn’t terribly familiar with the logistics of the local surroundings. The good news was, we discussed it over dinner that evening and after one phone call back to the main office, the group quickly agreed to change things up a bit picking out items from the original itinerary that seemed do-able, mixed with suggestions from our own research on the area. Everything we added to the itinerary was cost covered by the things we removed, the wine & food flowed throughout and all ‘n all, we had a great time — I think made easier by the fact these trips attract like-minded creative types. The head office just wanted us to be happy (this was a first time itinerary so learnings to be had) and our guide was endlessly amenable. She cooked amazing breakfasts each morning, cleaned up afterwards, planned and taught hands-on cooking classes every other day resulting in fabulous dinners, drove us around everywhere (not an easy feat if you’ve ever driven in the South of France) and handled all the details. Although on the costly side, I wouldn’t hesitate to take another of these vacations — indigo dying in Japan anyone?

So let’s talk Provence  — Round-abouts abound and people drive like maniacs. I don’t know how people found their way around before GPS (even with it, we got lost more often than I care to admit), not to mention everything is hidden and if you don’t know about something, you’re unlikely to just stumble across it. Made me glad, I was traveling in a group, actually, and that we had the internet and GPS to help us find some good stuff.

Julia Child’s Home — Known as La Pitchoune, Julia vacationed here with her husband Paul and amazing a-list of guests rolling in and out on a regular basis. The 1500 square foot, 3 bedroom, quintessentially French cottage was built on the property of their friend and fellow cookbook author, Simone Beck. The Child’s visited often over a 20 year period up until the time of Paul’s convalescence in the 80’s. A few years ago, the property was purchased by a Smith College alum (where Julia attended) who turned it into a vacation rental and even runs her own cooking school out of the house — not associated with ACE CAMP.

Julia’s kitchen remains exactly as it was with all the original cooking instruments lining the pegboard walls, while the rest of the place was lovingly updated at some point along the way. On the coffee table is a little black binder with Paul’s sketched house plans that show the slight differences from then ’til now, detailed instructions on how to work everything in the house, and lists of where to go in the area to purchase just about anything complete with Julia’s opinions and notes on each, circa 1970. Adorning the mantle is a photo of her and Paul who have to be the cutest couple in the history of love.

Best Home Decor Shop — With designers amongst us, we were constantly on the hunt for great shopping. And I think we found what may be my favorite shop of all time in the little town of Mougins. Called Envers Du Decor, it’s a mother daughter affair with the most beautiful country French style furnishings & accessories you have ever seen. We all purchased something and one interior designer even arranged to ship a host of objects back to her studio in Chicago. I would go back just to shop here, if nothing else.

Eat the Socca — a local street food found at markets throughout the region made from chickpea flour and water, cooked on a flat griddle and dusted with sea salt. It is supremely simple and delicious!  We found the best at the market in Valbonne (located just at the base of the stairs on the way up to the parking lot). It’s surprising that something as good as this hasn’t taken off in other parts of the world as a healthy treat — which just goes to show, you’ve got to travel to find the good stuff.

One Michelin Star — there are probably many Michelin starred restaurants in the area but one great original itinerary item I was thankful for, was dinner at Restaurant Lou Cigalon (an old-time restaurant recently taken over by a new chef). Just one year in and already star-adorned at the time we dined, the restaurant has just a handful of tables in a charming stone building along the main road in Valbonne. We dined in private and had a tour of the kitchen afterwards — up a narrow and winding staircase, clean as clean can be, no freezer, only a tiny refrigerator and a single chef for the evening. The food was amazing as were the local wines.

Art & Architecture — located just outside the fortified and uber-touristy village of Saint Paul de Vance is Foundation du Maeght. A visit here was our addition to the itinerary and the highlight of the trip from a culture perspective. A mid-century, architecture dream come true with a sculpture garden by Miro, modern artworks and views to die for stretching all the way to the sea. This is a true treasure not to be missed!

Wine Tasting — We had two completely different wine tasting experiences complements of ACE CAMP planning. One, a tiny little family run vineyard producing a few thousand bottles a year complete with hand drawn labels by one of the brothers. High up in the St. Jeannet hills, Vignoble Rasse is a chance to taste wines made from the ancient technique of sun aging. The six of us sat around the matriarch of this family run operation, trying one wine after another with healthy pours, while listening to stories about each vintage all while overlooking the hills of vines as far as the eye could see.

Our second experience was a large scale winery that by contrast produces millions of bottles a year, Chateau de Berne in Lorgues — a commercial winery with a Chalet & Relais hotel & spa, a restaurant, a mammoth gift shop and regular tours & festivals on the property to keep the tourists coming throughout the year. But to our surprise, we received a great tutorial on how to taste wines, what notes were what and the signature rosé wines weren’t half bad. Their bottles, a patented square design, are beautiful and I may have one that I now use as a water bottle with a little glass stopper, since polishing off the original contents.

Vacherin Mont d’Or — cheese glorious cheese! This buttery and oh so velvety cheese is only in season a few months of the year starting in November. Actually Swiss by origin, our guide made sure we were well stocked in the house at all times. I think we went through at least 4 of the small rounds in their little spruce boxes (and I may have polished off another on my own in London the following week). If you’re lucky, Murray’s cheese shop in NYC may have some available if in season but it will cost you.

get ’em while it’s cold

She doesn’t ship during warm weather months — for good reason as chocolate melts and you wouldn’t want to waste something as special as these treasures!  Gâté Commes Des Filles the chocolate company by Alexandra Whisnant in Sommerville, Massachusetts may just be the best chocolates this side of the Atlantic.

Paris trained, Laudurée and Chez Panisse (CA) bread, Alexandra hand makes chocolates using only the freshest ingredients — often out of her mother’s garden — and highest quality chocolate that need to be consumed within days before the freshness fades. The date stamped boxes make perfect gifts but be sure to get some for yourself to make the $28 overnight shipping worthwhile.

Available in 4pc/$22, 9pc/$43 and 16 pc/$75 boxes. (shipping extra)

And if you are lucky enough to find yourself in the Boston area, stop by her new shop in the very hipster Bow Market. There you can not only get boxed chocolates but a giant cone of chocolate mousse or a chocolate frappe topped with fresh whipped cream!

I’m sensing a road trip!

all images courtesy Gâté Commes Des Filles

 

holiday gift guide — vermont edition 2019

Last Christmas, everybody on my list got a bottle of pure Vermont maple syrup. But Vermont has lot’s of locally made goods worthy of gift-giving. Here are my top picks for the 2019 holiday season.

Clockwise from upper left:  Simon Pearce Burlington Moss Glen serving bowl. 10.5 inches. $125   |   17″ Solid Oak French Paddle by Vermont Farm Table  $115      Hand made French Ticking Half Apron by Red House Vermont  $98     A Vermont twist on the classic s’more  — Shelburne Farms S’mores gift basket contains their 2-year waxed cheddar, local liquid honey and locally produced salted maple crackers. No fire required.   $33      Stacked Shape Butter Dish with antique wooden handle, hand made by Sugar House Ceramic Company   $58   |    Waxed Canvas Weekender Bag in true black. Also available in red, brown, green and grey by Red house Vermont  $268     Jam made with all local fruits and honey (instead of cane sugar) in the cutest little 2 oz jars so you can try lots of flavors.  $6.99 each at V. Smiley Preserves

 

favorite places northern vermont

I haven’t been in Vermont all that long or done all that much but I have managed to find several gems to make up a favorites list in and around the Burlington area:

Philo Ridge Farm Market & Kitchen
2766 Mt. Philo Road, Charlotte

Home to the best breakfast sandwich in town this charming cafe & market (part of a real working farm) is my most favorite place to go hang out by the fire in the winter or overlooking beautiful Charlotte farm country in the summer. Serving breakfast & lunch, dinner during summer, the baked goods and especially biscuits, are wonderful. The accompanying little high end market stocks produce and meats from the farm along side locally produced pantry staples and gifts.

Shelburne Farms
1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne

People flock to Shelburne Farms during the summer for its educational farm program and of course to stay at the inn — a sprawling mansion that was once a Vanderbuilt summer house and the original homestead on the property. I say, skip the farm and take advantage of the several miles of walking trails that snake through the spectacular grounds between the road and lake Champlain. As a town resident, I get free admission during the summer (otherwise $8.00 a head to enter) but from November to May, the programs cease, the Inn closes and you have free reign to the property. Or visit the farm store open all year round to purchase some Shelburne Farms Cheddar Cheese — I’m partial to their beer cheese, a partnership with local favorite, Fiddlehead Brewery. One more note — skip the outrageously expensive and just mediocre restaurant at the inn. If you want to see the view and the inside of the house, grab a drink at the makeshift bar inside and sip away outside on the veranda. (open only in summer, no entry fee necessary)

Vergennes Laundry
247 Main Street, Vergennes

A charming little restaurant in the cutest little one horse town. Open for brunch on weekends and dinner Wed-Sat, the food is fresh, local and yummy!  Known for their baked goods and coffee served French style in bowls, i am partial to their weekly omelette special for $10.

LuLu
185 Main Street, Vergennes

For somewhere so cold, there is no shortage of ice cream in Vermont. No complaints here! LuLu creates scrumptious, unusual flavors in both hard and soft forms, from local farm-raised ingredients. Well worth the drive out to Vergennes for a creamy treat. Also available in pints at the Philo Ridge Farm Market.

Tomgirl
266 Pine Street, Burlington

This place is crazy expensive BUT the best place to get fresh pressed juices, smoothies, soups, salads and yes, those gluten free banana nut muffins. Everything is super fresh, healthy and the juices are all sold in glass jars. No plastics. No sugar. No packages. Just good, healthy fare. It may or may not become a habit so beware!

European Touch Spa
928 Falls Road, Shelburne

Simply the best facialist I have ever been to. Krystina, the owner of this one-woman body spa tucked into a back room of a multi-vendor house turned beauty enclave, is Eastern European born and trained. Her prices are amazingly affordable and she really knows her stuff. This is the place for hard core skin care not the fluffy, relaxation type facial. Just put yourself in Krystina’s hands, and she’ll tell you exactly what you need. Watch out though, she gives a mean (interpret: hard) foot massage.

Dedalus
388 Pine Street, Burlington

A surprisingly sophisticated wine bar and provisions shop for a town like Burlington. The restaurant decor is timber barn Vermont meets Ikea for a homey feel. And they really do know their stuff. Great for a group or intimate evening for two.

Miss Weinerz Donuts
Around Town

Like donuts you have never had before .  .  . doughy and yeasty, they’re heavy vs. fluffy, oozing of local flavors and come in both glazed and filled varieties. You can find them at only a handful of shops around town just three days a week. You can order in advance on her website or take your chances there will be any left at your local City Market. Get there early!

Honey Road
156 Church Street, Burlington

By far my favorite restaurant in Burlington and a go to for any occasion, any night of the week. Greek influenced small plates — meaning it’s not cheap because when are small plates anything but expensive!?!  The difference here is you will walk away full and satisfied. Take the advice of your server on how much to order. And whatever you do, don’t miss the chicken wings. I’m not a wings girl but these are amazingly sweet, sticky, unusually flavored and addicting. Haven’t had a bad thing yet so you are safe with anything on the menu. Book in advance if you can or be prepared to wait.

the perfect hostess gift

Who wouldn’t love to be handed this beautiful opaline glass jar when you arrive at their home? Doesn’t even matter that it is filled with tiny little sour cherries in syrup from the province of Emilia-Romagna in Italy that make a perfect ice cream topping, or cocktail add-on. It’s just one of the most beautiful packages I have ever seen that only gets better as the red syrup drips down and stains the sides with each serving. A truly classic kitchen find!

And at $22.50 for a hefty 1KG jar, it really is the perfect hostess gift, thank you gift or just because sometimes a beautiful package is hard to resist.

Amarena Fabbro Sour Cherries found at The Larder in Beverly Hills, Ca. Also available at Amazon because what isn’t?

new & notable in melbourne

Just a quick stay in Melbourne this trip, I didn’t have time for a whole lot of new but made a point of getting to some of the places I’ve been dying to get to for awhile. Melbourne never disappoints!

NEW

The Hub General Store:  Down a back street in Collingwood there’s a charming little brick building that houses a million and one basic treasures from around the world. Need a scrub brush? A bar of soap? A bunch of clothespins? How about a loaf of freshly baked bread and a jar of local creamed honey? Or maple syrup from America? A children’s book or miniature stuffed animal? A notebook and a pen or pencil perhpas?  You get the gist.

Piled high and a bit of a treasure hunt, the every day is elevated to the sublime. And before you get to those everyday treasures, there’s a small gallery in front where invited artists treat visitors with a different sort of sensory experience. When I was there the gallery was overstuffed with big, round, white balloons — a stark contrast to the slowly deflating black balloons creeping up and around the exterior facade. Simple objects raised to the level of art.

36 Cambridge Street, Collingwood

Higher Ground:  The new CBD restaurant brought to you by the same folks that own Kettle Black. It’s another beautiful space with unique all day dining. Located in an old power station just across the way from the Southern Cross station, it has soaring ceilings and various seating arrangements from traditional tables, to common tables and cozy lounge areas across multiple floors. Look for their signature beautiful brunch dishes like this polenta porridge offering

and some unusual and interesting fare. Expect a wait even on a weekday. But worth it.

650 Little Burke Street, CBD

NOTABLE

Lune Croissanterie:  Not new but certainly notable, Lune might just be a national treasure if that can be said of a bakery in Australia that specializes in signature French pastries. Proclaimed as being the best croissants in the world by The New York Times no less, the lines can snake out the door and around the block to purchase croissants that can cost upwards of $12+ each. Open from 7:30 AM until sold out most days, get there early, stand in line and make sure whatever concoction of a croissant you indulge in, your box of goodies (yes, you will purchase many because each looks better than the next) includes at least one classic ham & gruyere — it’s buttery, crunchy, salty and cheesy goodness not to be missed.

119 Rose Street, Fitzroy

Meatsmith:  This absolutely fabulous (and beautiful) butchery is from my favorite local chef, Andrew McConnell, where you can get the best cuts of meat from local farmers, Australian wines, spectacular condiments in simple glass jars (they make great gifts!) and other specialty grocery items. But I am here to tell you about the house made lasagna.

If you need a heat and serve meal, this one is sublime. Ready in just 30 minutes, it’s rich, meaty, creamy, tasty and the perfect accompaniment to a bottle of red — or maybe that’s the other way around. At any rate, it will only set you back $22 and serves 2-3. My recommendation — leave it in the oven a bit longer to crisp the top to a crunchy charred finish. (My little heat and serve disaster actually turned out to make it that much better!)

273 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Bobbie Burns Shiraz:  No it’s not a place in Melbourne. But If you’re looking for a nice bottle of wine to pair with your lasagna, consider this 2013 vintage from Victorian winery Campbells

I am not a wine connoisseur but I do know what I like. I found this smooth and easy to drink. I liked it so much I came home and bought 6 bottles here in America. And don’t be fooled by the twist top bottle — it’s an Aussie thing.

 

hail yes!

A splurge to feel good about!  Have you heard of Hail Mary tarts, cups and bites? Available in your grocers refrigerated section, they are raw indulgences that are free from dairy, wheat, gluten, grains, soy, corn, and are all certified NON-GMO.

I’m partial to the cups. The lemon ones to be exact. Puckery, yummy and the perfect combination of creamy filling to crunchy crust. Sooooooo gooooood!

If you are a chocolate lover there’s a cup for you too! I don’t want to poo poo the tarts and bites but there is something about that ratio on the cups that I promise is just about perfect. I dare you not to eat both cups every time you open a package.

To find a store near you check out the Hail Merry store locator

breakfast for the foreseeable future

I’m a smoothie girl. I have one nearly every morning for breakfast. My Vitamix blender is one of my favorite possessions which says a lot. But I do tend to whip up the same combination nearly every day. So, a little variety in my morning blend sounded like a good idea. Enter Daily Harvest. They do the mixing, chopping and freezing of ingredients for 15 different smoothie combinations. You add the liquid and do the blending. How’s that for easy with a good amount of variety?

Here’s how it works — the last Thursday of every month I receive 24 cups — actual paper cups with plastic lids and a straw hole (my favorite part because I always drink my smoothies with a straw!) filled with a combination of nutritious flash frozen fruits, veggies, nuts and other flavor boosters. You add the milk alternative or other liquid of your choice, dump it in your blender and blend. Pour it back in the cup, cover with lid, pop in a straw and drink.

Ahhh, but that’s not all. They also offer soup cups, chia cups, overnight oat cups and what is my favorite, sundae cups — tasty combinations of healthy-ish ingredients to which you add a small about of almond milk to make an ice cream textured treat that gets topped with crunchy and delicious toppings. They are a bit hard on my blender (yes, even my Vtamix) but pretty ingenious for this ice cream lover. I always include four sundae cups in my smoothie delivery for a weekly Friday night treat.

Let’s talk cost — I started with the 9 cup per week delivery on a promotion. But then switched to the monthly delivery to get the ongoing cost per cup down to $6.99 each. Nearly restaurant prices for sure, especially since you still need to add the liquid on top of this cost. However, for ease and variety I’m good to pay the premium price. I just pick up a jug of unsweetened almond milk with my weekly grocery shop and breakfast is sorted.

This is not a promoted post — just my current breakfast choice. But you can get three free cups with your first order by clicking here.

Enjoy!

eating, sleeping & shopping lisbon

This, my friends, is how I prepare for a trip. Pins, maps, lists, more lists, spread sheets. I do my research. Make a plan. And then execute — albeit sometimes completely differently than planned. But for me, researching and planning is half the fun!

For this trip, I pretty much skipped the hotel research and requested bookings at two places I had pinned in my “one day” file figuring whichever could accommodate me would be the right place. That place was Santa Clara 1728, a small, 6 room, boutique hotel beautiful beyond compare  — if minimalism is your thing (it’s mine but I know not for everyone).Pricier than my other option (and indeed pricier than many accommodations in a very affordable city), I was willing to take the plunge. Just look at that view! That bathtub! That dining room! In addition to all that unparalleled beauty here is what you get:

  • An incredibly comfortable bed with a view, made with the most luxurious, crisp white linens. You won’t want to get out from between the sheets each day, but do . . .
  • The best reason to get out of bed in the morning, has got to be the hotel breakfast. Normally I don’t advocate eating in the hotel but here my friends — do not miss breakfast! A multi-course affair served at a 20 foot common table:  yogurt with homemade granola, fresh pressed juice — a different combination each day, fresh baked bread (honestly the best bread ever!) with your choice of cheese, jam, butter, curds or all of the above, a savory egg dish, followed by a fresh fruit course.
  • The most beautiful collection of wares to eat and drink from. I was so taken I immediately researched the brands and ordered a teapot, drinking glasses and dishes for my own home.
  • Free airport transfers in both directions. I love not having to worry about transport when i arrive in a foreign city.
  • Home made cakes and savories each afternoon along with wine, tea or coffee as desired from the help yourself pantry. It can even substitute for a light dinner if need be — and indeed one night, a piece of lasagna followed by a slice of almond cake was just what the doctor ordered instead of a night out.
  • A charming garden to read, chat, eat or just relax in.
  • Kind owners who live upstairs with their family and promote a “my house is your house” type atmosphere.

All that said, there are a few things you should be aware of before you spend the extra money.

  • This is Europe — no AC at the inn. Which should have been OK for a late October visit except it was unseasonably warm with 97% humidity when I arrived. The rooms all have ample french windows for fresh air, but no cross ventilation. Copious amounts of raw wood in the rooms added to the humidity lingering. I would think high summer might be quite challenging.
  • If you want to leave those windows open at night to take advantage of the fresh air, be warned there is an event venue across the street (which amounts to two car widths away) that can be quite loud. Two of five nights had very loud events, including a wedding that went until 4:30 AM. Even closing the sound proof windows and wooden shutters didn’t block out the loud music and booming PA system — and only resulted in a very hot room.
  • Two days a week, the largest flea market in Lisbon sets up on the streets of the neighborhood. Set up starts around 5:30 AM meaning once again, noise. The neighborhood becomes impassible other than by foot on those days until late afternoon.
  • The rooms are natural light filled during the day but artificial lighting is as minimal as the design. Most are narrow spot lights, soft floor lights or otherwise non-existent. You’ll find yourself showering in the dark, struggling to put make up on (luckily I had brought a lighted mirror just by happenstance which turned out to be a godsend). You can bathe by candlelight if you supply your own matches.
  • When I’m paying double the going rate to stay in luxury, I expect impeccable service. For the most part I would say the service was good, the small staff friendly. But something felt off to me in this area. Just little things that struck me again and again but were easy enough to ignore as I’m pretty self-sufficient. However, when at breakfast on my 5th day, I heard the guest relations girl telling new arrivals how they offer a day trip to Sintra with a lunch stop along the beach to guests staying more than 3 days, I was floored. Nobody offered any day trips to me.

Depending upon your budget and preferences, you may wish to check out The Lisboans. Well designed and appointed apartments that are more centrally located and offer a charming breakfast service of their own — a bag of fresh goodies left on your doorknob each morning — soon to be a part of a larger complex including a shop, restaurant and grocery.  But as I said, Lisbon is a very affordable city and there are a plethora of lovely and surprisingly affordable accommodations to choose from all over town.

I tried not to make this vacation all about food for a change. Although a girl has got to eat! With the ample morning meal, I opted for just a small afternoon snack each day instead of lunch — more of that fantastic bread swiped from the breakfast table, a couple of egg tarts (don’t be fooled they are heavy little suckers) and one day, a chocolate sorbetto that might just be one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life.Thanks to my research I headed straight to a tiny little coffee/chocolate shop in Principe Real called Bettina & Niccolo (Rua da Escola politécnica 4). A place i easily would have passed by without having read about it first. Research pays!  Imagine my surprise when I saw their chocolate was the same single origin chocolate from a small maker in Africa (turns out a previous Portuguese territory) that I had profiled back in 2013 here. They put that chocolate to good use with an entire chocolate menu. But trust me, order the sorbet. Somehow this made to order frozen concoction was both cool and warm at the same time. Incredibly rich but not overly sweet. For an afternoon treat on my final day it was between here and nearby Nannarella Gelati (another research find, seconded by my hotel staff). But I think I made the right choice!

From sorbet heaven I walked down the street (also downhill — well planned indeed!) towards downtown, stopping and shopping through a series of neighborhoods along the way. A nice stroll, I wouldn’t say the shopping is great but you will definitely find things to look at if not buy. Here’s just a handful of stores I can suggest:

Equador Chcolate Shop
Rue da Misericordia 72 — from their main shop in Porto these chocolate bars are filled with flavorful ganache inspired by local flavors (Port Wine, Cherry Ginja, etc…) and come beautifully wrapped. They were my gift of choice for friends and co-workers. And that white chocolate passion fruit combo is the bomb!

 

 

  • Mini by Luna, Rua Dom Pedro V 74 — a sweet clothing, homewares and baby boutique mix with both local and international brands alike. I bought a recycled blanket from Japan (I’m a big advocate – if you see it, like it, buy it regardless of origin)
  • Fabrica Features, Rua Garret 83 — on the 5th floor in the heart of Chiado above  Benetton of all places, is this little design shop with a graphic leaning, specializing in Portuguese goods. It felt akin to a small, museum gift shop.
  • A Vida Portuguesa, Rua da Anchieta 11 — with stores dotted around the city, it’s like a general store of all things Portuguese. Great for gifts and souvenirs from food to baskets to books and more . . .
  • +351 Designed in Lisbon, Rua da Anchieta 7 – a local label of casual t-shirts and beach inspired clothing mostly for men but easily unisex.
  • Teresa Pavao, Rua de São João da Praça 120 — I found out about this artisan from the one fine dining establishment I went to during my stay. Every single diner  inquired about the beautiful tiles and dishes the food was served on. Locally made, wonderfully minimal and modern ceramics with the workshop right in the Alfama district. (Closed Mondays)

The meal served on Teresa’s dishes at a little place called Leopold was phenomenal. An eight course tasting menu (plus a special treat) created in an open kitchen before your eyes from local ingredients. The restaurant is all of 4 tables, including a 10 seat chef’s table — making it easy for singles to partake. Heavily umami leaning thanks to an abundance of seaweed, each course was better than the last. The beef was the most tender I have ever, ever had. The mushroom broth with the fish — you’ll want to lick the plate. We were a collection of Brits, Americans, Italians and one Singaporian all enjoying the meal together. I would say the locals don’t know what they are missing out on. Sublime!

Lastly, what’s a vacation without a little pizza. Just down the hill from the hotel along the river (and often a cruise ship) is a nice little pizza joint with authentic Italian thin crust pizza of the knife and fork variety. The place gets mighty busy so be prepared for a wait. Restaurante Casanova, Av Infante Dom Henrique Loja 

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