under pressure

food detective

Categories: Appetizers, Poultry, Dinner for Two, Supper, Lunch, Well Equipped, Posted on January 7, 2019 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (1)

I’m not a fan of gadgets and hyped appliances. Who needs a multi-chopper when one has a knife? Or an egg cooker when one has a pot? But I succumbed on cyber-Monday with what looked like an incredible sale on everyone’s seemingly must-have: the Instant Pot.

I never needed a slow cooker, I have my Le Creuset dutch oven. And flashbacks of pressure cookers from the 70’s still frighten me. So, I’m not sure why I caved. Perhaps it was because it all seemed to be too good to be true- “cook absolutely everything in a single pot with the touch of a button”.

After I took my present out of its box and read the directions about seven times, I gave it a whirl. I must say I was underwhelmed with the short ribs. I followed the directions precisely, but they tasted nothing like my tried and true Marcella Hazan’s braised short ribs. The next day I was lured by the promise of a no-stir risotto. I obviously let sit it in the pot for an instant too long and my al dente grains were quite mushy.

On the third day I thought I’d give it one last shot and tried a recipe for shredded buffalo chicken from the Ultimate Instant Pot cookbook. Well this was an absolute homerun! 

And I was thrilled at how my now new favorite machine perfectly poached the chicken, rendering incredible shredded chicken. I could think of a hundred ways to incorporate this kind of chicken into my monthly menus. 

For shredded buffalo chicken add one cup of water, one teaspoon salt, and two pounds of chicken breasts in a single layer to the Instant Pot.

Secure the lid and set the pressure release to “sealing”. Select the “poultry”, “pressure cook” or “manual” setting and set the cooking time for 15 minutes at high pressure. The pot will take 10 minutes to come up to pressure before the cooking program begins.

While the chicken is cooking, in a small bowl stir together one tablespoon of water with one tablespoon of cornstarch.  Stir in one half cup of Frank’s hot sauce, two tablespoons honey and two teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce.

Set aside.

When the cooking ends, perform a quick pressure release by moving the pressure release to “venting” to release any remaining steam. Open the pot and with tongs transfer the chicken to a bowl or cutting board. Discard the cooking liquid in the inner pot. Return the inner pot to the housing and press “cancel” to reset the cooking program. 

Using two forks, finely shred the chicken. Set aside.

Select “sauté” and add one tablespoon of melted butter with the minced garlic. Sauté the garlic until it is cooked through but before it begins to brown, about one minute. Stir the hot sauce mixture to recombine and add four minced cloves of garlic. Cook for about one minute until thickened. Press “cancel” to turn off the pot. Add the three remaining tablespoons of melted butter. Stir well.

Add the shredded chicken, tossing to coat evenly with the sauce. Taste for seasoning. Add more hot sauce and salt if desired.

Serve hot on soft rolls or slider buns.

And for an outstanding Buffalo Chicken Dip mix 2 cups shredded buffalo chicken with four-ounces room temperature cream cheese until well combined. Transfer to a small baking dish. Spread in an even layer. Sprinkle with one third cup shredded montery pepper jack cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes until the dip is warmed through and the cheese begins to brown. Serve warm with pita chips and celery and carrot sticks.

sleep on this

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Grains and Pasta, Breakfast/Brunch, Posted on December 25, 2018 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (1)

Having loved ones return home is such a happy time. I love planning the dinners, stocking my freezer with hors d’oeuvres, and decorating my mantle. Each year my goal is to plan far enough ahead so that I can truly enjoy the holidays without getting stressed. But there’s one thing that tends to undo me- days of breakfasts for a crowd. 

Morning fare is one of my challenges. I always wake early with the best of intentions. I merrily empty the dishwasher, hand wash what didn’t fit. Clear off and reset the table, throw on my sneakers to hopefully join a family morning walk, mop up the floor from where I dripped drying all those wine glasses then walked through that water with my tennis shoes, quickly feed the dog that’s now glaring at me, put on holiday music… Then just like clockwork as I think I am on top of my game my twenty-minute quiche is taking over an hour to set or as I’m about to place a dozen eggs in boiling water to poach, my gang grabs a cup of coffee and declares that they are off on hike- “Bye mom, we’ll grab something on the road mom” leaving my face to look as pleased as my hangry Norwich terrier’s forty minutes ago.

It was a happy day when I discovered how to make overnight oats. I fell in love with them while staying at a boutique hotel in Brooklyn.

Turns out they are so easy to make. Best part you simply take them out of the refrigerator, dollop them into bowls and serve with fresh fruit.

Combine one and a half cups old-fashioned oats with a pinch of kosher salt.

Stir in six ounces plain Greek yogurt.

Slowly add one and a quarter cups almond or skim milk, stir to combine thoroughly. 

Stir in one to two tablespoons of maple syrup and a quarter teaspoon of vanilla, if desired.

Cover and refrigerate overnight. The oats can be made four days in advance.

Before serving stir well. Thin with a little milk if needed.

Spoon oats into a bowl. 

Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Add fresh sliced fruit. 

Or berries.  Drizzle with honey if desired.  

Willie Claws says having this stowed in your frig is sure to make your holidays merry and bright.

make it your own

food detective

Categories: Appetizers, Cocktail Party, Sources, Fête Fact, Posted on December 8, 2018 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (4)

The other night I was over at my dear friends Maggie and Richard’s for a drink. They truly are entertainers extraordinaire. Their home is so welcoming, their cocktails such fun, and their hors d’oeuvres divine. Those two really know how to make a guest feel special.

As Richard poured a wonderful white burgundy in his crisp white apron, Maggie brought out a spectacular bite to nibble on. It was a prosciutto and truffle lollipop. Not only did it pare perfectly with my wine, it had all the qualities I adore- crunchy, creamy, salty, with just a touch of sweetness. 

After one bite I knew this canapé was going to be holiday feature in my home. I asked permission if I could shamelessly copy it. And being the ever-gracious hostess, she gave me her blessing. Best part with this one there’s no cooking, just a simple assembly.

While this appetizer is a breeze to make, its success lies in top quality ingredients. For prosciutto and truffle lollipops you need a good truffle butter. If your grocery does not carry one, D’artagnan is a great online resource.

Next choose a crisp thin breadstick. Be sure to have extra because the thinner they are the easier they snap when putting them together.

Then for the prosciutto. Have your deli cut it very thin. If you’re market doesn’t carry imported prosciutto you can also order it from D’artagnan.

Tear the prosciutto slices in half lengthwise. 

Smear room temperature truffle butter on the top half of a bread stick. 

Starting at the buttered top wrap the prosciutto around the breadstick at a downward angle. 

Repeat with the remaining breadsticks. Serve within the hour and do not refrigerate, the breadsticks will get soggy. Place on a tray alternating the wrapped breadsticks or top-up in a bottom-heavy glass or vase. 

Treat your guests and yourself with this exception bite. And as you travel the party circuit this holiday season keep an eye out for things you’d like to incorporate into your own entertaining repertoire. For as they say… imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

go west young man

food detective

Categories: Sources, Fête Fact, Posted on November 26, 2018 by Sandy Bergsten - Comments (4)

A few months ago, my husband mentioned that it might be fun to drive from Ohio to our home in California. He had never driven across the country and it was on his bucket list.

Driving 2,312 miles in a car with a dog was never on mine. But as time passed I warmed to the idea. I had never been to many of those states and if we took a slight detour we could stay with one of my favorite cousins in Wichita. So off we went.

Day 1- OH, IN, IL, MO

We were supposed to leave the next morning at the crack of dawn, but the dire warnings of approaching winter storm Avery made us change our plans. After work, we hurriedly packed our car and set out for eastern Missouri trying to outrun the forecasted ice and snow. Our luck ran out in St. Louis. Cars and trucks flew into ditches. The snow was so heavy our windshield wiper broke. My husband pulled over in a truck pull-off and in the pitch black miraculously fixed it as I held a flash light in the blinding snow. At 1am, famished and exhausted, we rolled into our hotel in Columbia, Missouri. That was day one on the road with Willie!

Day 2- MO, KS

My husband and I were excited to sleep in. Our Norwich terrier had other plans.

We roused ourselves out of bed and had an awesome breakfast at the Broadway Diner on 4th Street in Columbia, MO.

The breakfast platter at our shared table with Carl and Deb tasted like heaven.

A couple hours later we pulled off I-70 and 35 for lunch at Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City.

The pulled pork did not disappoint. I tried to shake off the food coma as we approached my cousins’ home in Wichita.

Day 3- KS, OK, TX, NM

Boy is Kansas flat!  As we drove into Oklahoma City and onto I-40 our GPS announced, “stay on I-40W for next 513 miles”. One could almost see Albuquerque from there. The highlight in western Oklahoma- a tumbleweed crossing I-40 while “She got the goldmine and I got the shaft” played on the radio. 

Our adventure continued as we hit the sights on old Route 66. 

We dropped in at the U Drop Cafe and Tower Station in Shamrock Texas. 

Then to the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. 

Where Willie almost blew away. 

We paid a visit to Tee Pee Curios in Turcumcari, New Mexico so Willie could do a little Christmas shopping. 

Excited to have dinner at the Frontier Diner in Albuquerque, we pulled into our hotel and the valet drop-off looked like the entrance to a monster truck expo. Turned out the hotel was hosting a national contractors’ convention. They said they would try to squeeze our car in somewhere but that we couldn’t take it back out that night. Sadly, we missed having some authentic New Mexico fare. Another time!

Day 4- NM, AZ, CA

We were on the road before sunrise, greeted with stunning and desolate views of the buttes going west on I-40. Don’t leave Albuquerque without a full tank of gas and a trip to the restroom!

At 8am we passed through the Continental Divide.

We pulled into El Rancho Hotel in Gallup.

Willie thought for sure they’d want to put his picture on the wall of this historic lodge with all the other B-rated stars and starlets from the 40’s and 50’s.

On our way to Flagstaff we stopped at the Petrified Forest National Park where Willie copped a pose. 

What a gorgeous trip down I-17 toward Phoenix. It was incredible to see all those pine trees replaced in what seemed like a snap of the fingers to cactus for as far as the eye could see.

Then it was onto the 10 toward our desert home. 

While I was more than a little reluctant to embark on this cross-country trek, I must say I had an absolute blast. My appreciation for my two car-mates deepened exponentially. It hit home, once again, that the point of this life is to spend quality time with those you love. And that we should seize those moments whenever, and wherever, they arise.

Ten states in three and a half days… this too, proved to be a trip of a lifetime. 

two from the sidelines

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Veggies and Sides, Sauces and Such, Dinner Party, Fête Fact, Posted on November 11, 2018 by Sandy Bergsten

It’s that time of year. People you love gather. And whether you are hosting a turkey dinner for twenty or a more intimate affair here are a couple tried and true sides guaranteed to add holiday sparkle to any table. No one needs to know you can make these both weeks ahead of time then strategically pull them out of your freezer on the big day. 

Cranberry chutney, an iconic accompaniment to a roasted bird. This bejeweled homemade version is a showstopper. Just make sure you make it at least one day in advance otherwise it will look like cranberry soup. Trust me something magical occurs to this tart-sweet concoction overnight. And an extra bonus it freezes wonderfully.

Mushroom wellington cups. Serve these beauties alongside your bird, beef tenderloin or grilled fillets. Envision deconstructed beef wellington. Once again they freeze perfectly. Just pop them into the oven while your roast rests or your cuts sear over hot coals.

For the cranberry chutney peel two oranges taking care to remove all of the white pith and seeds. Coarsely chop the segments.

In a large saucepan combine the orange, cranberries, sugar, chopped apple, raisins, orange juice, vinegar, ginger and cinnamon. 

Heat until boiling then simmer uncovered until the cranberries just pop.

Remove from the heat. Allow to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The chutney will thicken in 12-24 hours (I promise).

If desired, portion out and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight to serve.

For the mushroom wellington cups slice the cremini mushrooms.

Over medium-high heat sauté the mushrooms in the butter until they throw off their water and continue cooking until they turn golden brown, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon for about six minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Add the wine. Stir and scrape the browned bits off from the bottom of the pan until the wine evaporates, about three minutes.

Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine, cook for one minute more stirring. Add the cream. Cook until slightly thickened, about one minute. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool for 15 minutes.

Lay 1 phyllo sheet on a large cutting board or cookie sheet (keep remaining phyllo covered with a damp towel). Lightly brush sheet with melted butter. 

Top with 1 sheet; brush with butter. Repeat with remaining 3 sheets, top with last sheet and leave unbuttered. Cut phyllo stack into six 5 1/2-by-6-inch pieces. 

Nestle each into a cup of a standard muffin tin. 

Spoon two heaping tablespoons mushroom mixture into each phyllo cup. Continue baking...

or cover filled cups and freeze until solid about three hours. Rewrap in plastic wrap and carefully place in plastic container and freeze for up to one month. To bake preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unwrap mushroom cups and place in muffin tins bake until golden 15-20 minutes. 

Remove and top with a heaping teaspoon of pate.

Be forwarned, your guests might rush the field for seconds.

get cracking

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Fish and Seafood, Sauces and Such, Dinner for Two, Dinner Party, Sources, Fête Fact, Posted on October 28, 2018 by Sandy Bergsten

Each October I travel to Florida to help my dad get settled back into his house after his summer up north. It’s truly a labor of love, filled with a myriad of to-do lists and even more laughs.

Don’t get me started on our perennial wrangle over the open condiments he always seems to leave in his refrigerator for five months. That said, I keep my fingers crossed that the start of stone crab season coincides with my annual trek. While spending precious time with my dad is payment enough, a morning catch from Merrick Seafood in Cape Coral is like winning the lottery.

If you’ve never had stone crabs steamed right off the boat, you haven’t had them. And while you pay dearly for this precious cargo it’s worth every penny. I adore a big plate simply served with a side of coleslaw and my mom’s curry sauce.

My dad has the craziest contraption for cracking his claws. It’s called the “Florida Cracker”. It’s an anodized aluminum vice that perfectly splits the hard shells while preserving the sweet flesh inside.

My mom always called this the dinner of a thousand plates. My eyes tear up each year as my dad brings out the 3 ½ x 5 photos of the table setting my mom always used as a guide. Perle Mesta had nothing on my mom.

She was truly an entertainer extraordinaire. She always knew how to welcome people into her home in a way that made it all look effortless and made her guests always feel at ease. At her side I learned that it was all of her planning and effort beforehand that made her evenings look effortless.

And my mom’s curry sauce couldn’t be a simpler accompaniment. Just combine one cup mayonnaise with a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, another of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and a half teaspoon of curry powder. Whisk until combined. Cover and refrigerate.

Place a generous spoonful into a decorative dish.

Surround with cracked claws.

And never feel like you have to do it all. I always pick up a quart of jicama coleslaw form the Palm Grill. And while cocktail sauce is easy to make- Merrick’s rocks the boat. 

Fun fact about stone crabs is that the fishermen are only allowed to harvest one claw at a time. They return the one-armed bandit back to the sea, so it can grow another one for the following year. Good thing- because next year you know I will be throwing out another open jar of Durkees and laughing it up with this character!

breakfast with a view

food detective

Categories: Breads, Pizza, Tarts, Dinner for Two, Supper, Lunch, Breakfast/Brunch, Eating Out, Posted on October 15, 2018 by Sandy Bergsten

Best thing about Brooklyn? Hands down our grandson, and his equally amazing parents. Next, the views from the Brooklyn Bridge. Close third, 1 Hotel’s avocado toast.

What tops a great dinner? A surprisingly delicious breakfast.

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is an incredible waterfront oasis.

The nighttime panorama from their rooftop bar is worth the stay, as is the morning fare at the Osprey.

After one bite and I knew had to recreate their avocado toast with smoked salmon and roe. Honestly, I could eat this all day. The fresh tastes and textures are perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or supper.  And it all comes together in a New York Minute!

The ingredients are key.

Start with two thick slices of good crusty bread.

A perfectly ripe avocado. 

Quality smoked salmon, thinly sliced. 

Trout or salmon roe from the fishmonger’s refrigerator case, never from the shelf. 

Pickled red onions that are a cinch to make.

And sprigs of fresh dill.

Cut the bread in half and toast. 

Meanwhile mash the avocado with a pinch of kosher salt. 

Spoon a generous amount of avocado onto the toast. 

Drape with pieces of smoked salmon. 

Scatter a bit of pickled onion. 

Top with a dollop of roe. 

Finish with a few small sprigs of dill.

You can see why I packed this one in my bag and brought it home!

fifteen minutes or bust

making it for two

Categories: Grains and Pasta, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Posted on October 1, 2018 by Sandy Bergsten

When summer seems to be drawing to a close, one of the best things about this time of year is that the farmer’s market still has an abundance of fresh fare. Right now, the tomatoes are amazing. And with a slight chill in the air what could be better for a quick weeknight supper than a simple cherry tomato pasta brimming with flavor.

No matter how crazy your week, you’ll be able to make this in less than 15 minutes. Promise!

For this burst cherry tomato pasta start with one pound of cherry tomatoes. If you can’t find good cherry tomatoes, don’t use grape tomatoes as they will not burst and break down properly.  Use large tomatoes cut into one-two inch squares instead.

For the pasta choose a fun shaped tube pasta such as campanelle. I love maccheroni al torchio, which looks like little trumpets. All the ridges and nooks do a wonderful job of grabbing onto the sauce.

To begin, coarsely chop three clothes of garlic.

Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large heavy pot over very low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant but not browned, for about two minutes. 

Increase the heat to medium and add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, basil sprig, and ¾ teaspoon salt. 

Cook, stirring to coat, until the tomatoes begin to burst, about 4 minutes. Smash the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon to help create a sauce.

Then continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until a chunky, thickened sauce comes together and about half the tomatoes are completely broken down, 10–12 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a pinch of sugar if sauce seems tart. Pluck out and discard basil sprig.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain the pasta, and add to the pot with sauce.

Cook over medium heat, stirring, until coated, for two to three minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in one-half ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese.

Divide the pasta among bowls. Top with more Parmesan and one-half cup torn basil leaves. Drizzle with oil and serve.

You’ll find this pasta is as easy and comfy as throwing on a sweater!

amuse bouche

making it for two

Categories: Appetizers, Dinner for Two, Cocktail Party, Dinner Party, Fête Fact, Posted on September 17, 2018 by Sandy Bergsten

Let’s be honest- after a long day who doesn’t want to come home to a little canapé? Please don’t roll your eyes because I make my spouse a small hors d'oeuvre to accompany his Makers Mark. And before you groan, let me show you how something that takes almost no effort can have a huge impact on those you love- be it your husband, wife, significant other, even yourself.

When you go to a fancy restaurant and the waitstaff surprises you with a little bite before you order, doesn’t it instantly set the stage that you are going to adore your entire meal? The reason restaurants do it is simple. It’s an easy way to show off their chef’s skills, in a way that doesn’t tax the kitchen and often increases the tip.

When my hubby comes home he’s usually greeted with a pretty little dish of radishes and sugar snap peas. Every once in a while, I cut off a small wedge of bloomy brie. If I’m feeling festive, I’ll reach into my freezer and pull out one of my ready-to-heat hot hors d’ouerves that I’ve stashed away.

But my recent trip to Portugal got me thinking of ways I could liven up our little pre-dinner routine. At almost every meal you’re brought a little plate to accompany your aperitif. In fact, they call them exactly that- appertifs. This customary starter usually consists of local olives, a little wheel of double creme cheese, fish pate, and perhaps a few pork croquets.

While pork croquets are above my pay grade, I thought a little pot of smoked fish would be delightful. The question was how to make one simply, and ahead of time so all I would need to do was unwrap and scatter a few crackers.

Then as I was trying to clear out my inbox of emails I got distracted by one from Martha Stewart for a simple salmon mousse. Martha’s recipes rarely work for me the first time I follow them verbatim. So, I took a quick glance at all of the reader’s comments and realized if I increased the ratio of salmon to sour cream I might just have a winner. To give it Portuguese flair I poured the mousse into small ramekins. That way I could conveniently bring one out as a little bite to “please the mouth” whenever the urge occurred.

For the salmon mousse place 3 tablespoons cold water in a small saucepan, and sprinkle with gelatin. Let soften, 5 minutes. Gently heat over low, stirring, just until the gelatin dissolves and set aside. 

Coarsely chop four ounces of smoked salmon.

Measure out three-quarters of a cup sour cream and a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the salmon, sour cream, and lemon juice. Puree until smooth, then season with salt.

With the motor running, add the slightly cooled gelatin mixture.

Blend until combined. 

Pour the mousse into decorative ramekins or bowls that hold between four to eight ounces each.

Without touching the surface, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm but spreadable, about 2 hours or up to several days. 

Before serving garnish the mousse with a sprig of fresh dill and serve with crackers or baguette slices.

One bite and your mouth will let you know how amused it is!

you had me at hola

food detective

Categories: Wine Line, Eating Out, Posted on September 1, 2018 by Sandy Bergsten

Here's the second post on my sensational trip to Portugal with my daughter. Previously I touched on the wineries we toured in the Bairrada, Douro Valley, and Alentejo wine regions. This time I’ll write of our incredible meals. Not only is the wine world on an exciting trajectory, the food scene is literally on fire.

While many flock to Portugal because of its perceived travel value. My youngest daughter and I apparently veered in another direction. Almost every day we laughed that we were on our honeymoon, which was fitting given my oldest daughter had just returned from her own. As MOH and MOB, we certainly traveled in style, from the exquisite lodgings to the sumptuous feasts. Everywhere we laid our head, picked up a fork, and raised a glass was truly something to behold. 

Obrigada! I must have said that word thirty times a day. And thankful we were. Each new venture began with hola and quickly morphed into obrigada. Turned out to be the only two Portuguese words I mastered and the only two I really needed.

After landing in Lisbon, we checked into the beautiful Ritz Four Seasons Hotel across from the Parque da Liberdade. Our room and terrace had such incredible views. Before setting out we had a light lunch in the Four Season’s Piano Bar, which would fast become one of our favorite destinations of the trip.

That evening we thought it would be fun to walk the streets and get a glass of rosé before our dinner reservation. Turned out to be a difficult task as it was Sunday and most every bar and café was closed. The one open place we found served only full bottles of wine. As we set off for another place we overheard the owner exclaim to his waiter that “we must get glasses of rosé!” As luck would have it we found an open sports bar and raised a pedestrian glass to the picturesque streets of Lisbon.

Soon we had an outstanding dinner at Tasca da Esquina. We were served aperitifs (a customary starter) of olives, a little wheel of double creme cheese, fish pate and pork croquets. Followed by an incredible cod fish carpaccio with potatoes and egg, cockles in the pan, and octopus with sweet potato and peppermint. We drank a glass of Lybra rosé and then a Curral Atlantis Preco, a dry white with high minerality.

Afterwards we went back to the four seasons and sat on the patio of the Piano Bar with fur throws and were treated with a little Patron signature cocktail and glasses of a full-bodied red under the stars. After being surprised with a plate of chocolate truffles and macaroons we went to bed to start our Portuguese adventure. Our dream had obviously already begun!

We started our second day with the fabulous breakfast buffet at the Four Seasons. Then met our driver and headed north toward the Douro Valley. Again, we are indebted to Nuno. I cannot imagine my daughter and I navigating the winding rural roads of Portugal alone.

We stopped for lunch at Pedro dos Leitoes, a restaurant famous for its Leitao Assad’s a Bairrada. 

There we dined on suckling pig, served with salad, potato chips and sparkling wine. As we found out -it’s tradition!

After lunch we had an amazing visit at the Quinta Luis Pato winery. (Please visit my previous post for the full lineup of all the wineries.) 

Satiated, we set off for the Six Senses Spa in the Douro Valley. The hotel is a renovated 19th-century manor house set high on a hill overlooking the vine covered rolling hills of the Douro Valley and the river below. The hotel is renowned for its spa, selection of rooms, suites and villas, restaurant, wine library, swimming pool and organic garden. It is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed.

That night we had dinner at the famed D.O.C. on the Douro riverfront. The restaurant is named for the exclusive wines of this demarcated wine region and is literally a window over the Douro. The chef, Rui Paula, is a creative master. His dishes focus on the use of genuine regional produce. It’s a kitchen that absorbs inspiration not only from the Northeast-Douro region but the nearby sea.

We dined on a trio of aperitif- shrimp mousse on a wonton, a petite pork “burger”, and carrot purée. Then salmon carpaccio, scarlet shrimp and beetroot scallop’s carbonara. The grilled octopus with infusion of extra virgin olive oil and garlic was sensational, as was the scarlet shrimp on rice with aioli sauce. We finished our meal with a selection of Portuguese cheeses served with grapes, pumpkin jam and nuts.

On our third morning, my daughter set off for a sunrise yoga class and I did laps in the infinity pool looking over the Douro Valley.

Later we met at the Six Senses’ sumptuous breakfast buffet. Afterward we traveled the most beautiful road in Portugal to Quinta Nova. After a fabulous tour of their vineyard and winery we dined on their terrace and enjoyed their degustive tasting menu. 

We began with an aperitif of suckling pig (it’s tradition) and shrimp mouse. Followed by octopus carpaccio, braised sea bream with beetroot puree and a selection of Portuguese cheeses. We had a bottle of their renowned Mirabilis Grande Reserva White. 

Afterwards we made our way down the steep hillside toward Quinta do Vallado for yet another inspirational tour of one of the region’s wineries. We returned late afternoon for saunas and steams at Six Senses.

That evening we had drinks on their terrace. Then dinner at the restaurant where all of the vegetables and herbs are grown on the resort’s estate, assuring ultimate freshness and flavor. Al fresco we dined on salmon crudo, mushroom tagliatelle, salt cod with grilled vegetables and frittes, and finished dinner with a rich chocolate mousse.

On our fourth day we fully embraced all that the Six Senses had to offer. Honestly, we could have stayed a full week there with its beauty and myriad of activities.

To begin the day, we had morning massages overlooking the picturesque gardens. Then a late breakfast on the terrace.

We spent the day lounging at the pool with stunning views.

Before departing, we had flatbread pizza and glasses of rosé as an afternoon snack. We blissfully traveled to Porto, on the north bank of the Douro River.

In Porto we checked into the Intercontinental Hotel. Our room had a direct view of Aliados Square with its stature of Pedro IV, considered the great liberator who became the first ruler of the empire of Brazil.

Later that afternoon we took an Uber to the other bank of the Douro River, home to all of the Port Houses. We had dinner at the Restaurant Barão Fladgate on the roof of the Taylor Port House.  We dined on a typical Portuguese meal of shrimp bisque, tempura fried octopus, and monkfish with shrimp risotto. After dinner we walked up the hill to have drinks at the legendary Yeatman Hotel

The Yeatman is located in the historic heart of Vila Nova de Gaia next to the ancient “lodges” where Port houses have aged their wines for over three centuries. The views were breathtaking and the piano enchanting.

Day five was filled with Porto sightseeing. We began at Livraria Lello, considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the world and featured in several Harry Potter movies. The Igreja do Carmo, a baroque church, is well-known for its tiled facade. And the Clérigos Tower sits on top of a Baroque church, its 75-meter bell tower a symbol of Porto.

We walked toward the river down the fragrant R das Floras to the Palácio da Bolsa. The Stock Exchange Palace was built in the 19th century in Neoclassical style. The Estatua Infante D. Henrique commemorates the prince of Portugal who used Lagos as a launching pad for his many commissioned expeditions. The Church of São Francisco, was built in the 12th century. Famous for its baroque main chapel, cloisters with 18th-century blue and white tiles, and Bones Chapel.

We walked through the 19th-century Sao. Bento Train Station noted for its atrium, covered with over 20,000 blue and white tiles and scenes depicting Portuguese life.

Around the corner we had lunch at Tapabento, a tapas bar and where we enjoyed a mixed salad, mushroom tapas, a plate of fresh mussels, and glasses of rosé- of course.

Before dinner we walked along the Douro River and had drinks at a cafe and watched the boats go by.

We had a fabulous dinner at Cantinho do Avillez, an urban bistro known for its seafood. The chef José Avillez is considered a northern innovative culinary force. We started with sautéed shrimp in a white wine sauce. Then had the king prawns with jasmine rice and the sautéed scallops with mushroom risotto.

The next morning from Porto we drove back to Lisbon to the Four Seasons Hotel. There we had a wonderful lunch of prawn Caesar and caprese salads and a delightful dry rosé on our favorite Portuguese terrace.

After lunch we met our guide for a four-hour private walking tour of Lisbon. We learned much about the city’s rich history, including how an earthquake and tsunami in 1755 completely destroyed Lisbon. We walked through Eduardo VII Park down Liberty Boulevard to Restoration Square. Old funiculars still carry people up the hills near the Avenida hotel, the oldest hotel in the city.

Old Town fascinated with King Philip IV Square, also known as Inquisition Square, the Igreja de Sao Domingos which almost burnt to the ground in 1959, and the Castle of São Jorge sitting high above the city and ever-present from almost any vantage point.

Passing through the magnificent white arch into the trade square we stood on the edge of the ocean along with the stature of King Joseph the First, who ruled during the earthquake.

We visited the new Time Out Market featuring culinary treasures from around the city, afterwards we stopped into an old-world cod market. On our way back up we passed the Pink Street, Literary Square, and visited Saint Rock Church with its opulent Chapel for Saint John the Baptist.

That night we dined at Restaurant Quorum, Michelin star Chef Rui Silvestre’s contemporary restaurant with vertical gardens on its walls. We had a delicious Encruzado white wine from Quinta dos Carvalhais. 

For our meal we began with cod “acordia”, a codfish broth with cod cheek, fried bread, egg yolk and coriander. Followed by ravioli filled with squid carbonara and mushrooms and a parmesan emulsion. Then their unique creamy fish rice. The roasted octopus with white beans, chorizo and smoked paprika was superb. 

After a delicious Quinta Carvalhaaia Encruzado, we finished the meal with a glass of Alambre Moscatel de Setubal and an unusual but intriguing talassa, a red wine vinegar sorbet with sheep’s milk cottage cheese and pumpkin jam.

The next morning, we set off toward Cuba to tour Herdade do Rocim and have lunch at their winery. Our visit there was unbelievable. Their wines were simply the best of our trip. And our traditional Alentejo meal in their winery was beyond incredible. It certainly was worth the trip from Lisbon.

We started with plates of local sausages and cheeses. Then a delicious bean and pork stew. Braised oxtail and risotto cake with a watercress salad. We finished the meal with a marmalade of oranges.

Their wines produced in a sustainable manner, with minimal intervention, and an emphasis on the local terroir make you feel as though you are drinking the essence of the Alentejo. Satiated and floating on a cloud, we traveled to the nearby ancient city of Évora, the capital of Portugal's south-central region. 

In the city's historic center stands the ancient Roman Temple of Diana, regarded as the best-preserved Roman structure on the Iberian Peninsula.

Whitewashed houses surround the Cathedral of Évora, a massive Gothic structure begun in the 12th century.

The Igreja de São Francisco features Gothic and baroque architecture along with the skeleton-adorned Chapel of Bones. 

Back at the Four Seasons we washed off the ancient dust.

Then had an outstanding dinner at the Restaurant Iiimpar, a new concept kitchen in the Rato area of Lisbon. A modern take on classic Portuguese dishes.

We began with the Portuguese cheese and charcuterie selection, followed by their crunchy shrimp dumplings, bulhão style croaker, and a delicious bottle of Antão Vaz from Rocim.

On our last full day in Portugal we set out for Sintra, a resort town and longtime sanctuary for royalty in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains.

The Moorish- and Manueline-style Sintra National Palace is distinguished by dramatic twin chimneys and elaborate tile work. 

The 19th-century Pena National Palace perched on a hilltop is known for a whimsical design and sweeping views. It’s the most amazing combination of architectural styles, colors and shapes one will find in Portugal.

We walked through the old city center, many of its old houses now converted into shops and traditional pastry shops. The Portuguese adore their custardy pastéis de nata.

We ventured to Cabo da Roca, the most western point of mainland Portugal with its beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and cape and waved to our love ones back in the States.

Afterward we had an outstanding lunch at Restaurant Furnas do Guincho. Their amazing Mediterranean cuisine rivaling the views of the Atlantic Ocean

We were greeted with a plate of boiled shrimp and local cheese with olives. We toasted the beautiful coastline with a bottle of vinho verde, the legendary summer green wine. 

Our freshly caught golden bream (literally just caught on the rocky shore) was baked in salt in their oven and served tableside.  It truly was a spectacular feast, and a dish that shouldn’t be missed.

After lunch we set off to Cascais and Estoril, the royal resort towns along the shore of the Atlantic.

We walked the streets of Cascais, King’s and Queen’s Beach and drove along the Estoril coast with its famous casino that many will remember from the first James Bond film.

We took the scenic Marginal Road back toward Lisbon, passing the Geronimos Monastery and Belem Tower.

For our last night in Portugal we had dinner under the stars, wrapped in blankets on the terrace of the Four Seasons Piano Bar. We toasted our incredible mother-daughter trip with a special bottle of clay-aged Rocim wine that we had brought back from the winery.

Before heading back to the states, we had one last breakfast on the scenic terrace of the Four Seasons.

I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel to have experienced this treasured corner of the world. And what a gift to do so with my daughter… sharing beds, meals, and endless glasses of wine. It is something I will forever cherish.

This trip illuminated the importance of seizing the day and taking every opportunity to adventure with those we love. These special moments are truly the ones that become the memories of a lifetime.

A very special thanks to Huffman Travel and Tours for You for making this trip a reality. And to my sweet daughter- thank you for the nudge. Down deep you knew I really wanted to go on a journey with just my baby girl. How silly to think we are too busy to take a beat to spend precious time with those we love most.  Perhaps these one-on-one trips should become tradition. Let’s raise a glass to that!

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