Joined September 2015 Message
  • Day25

    Rosa da Rua

    October 24, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    On one of our many jaunts through the streets of Lisbon, Roch noticed an interesting restaurant called "Rosa da Rua" on Rua da Rosa. They offer a buffet for 10€ that included several vegetarian/vegan items.

    Our first attempt to eat at Rosa da Rua on Monday got sidelined by a trip to the emergency...

    Our second attempt to eat at Rosa da Rua was on Wednesday. We arrived at the restaurant shortly before noon but it didn't open until 12:30 pm so while we waited, we poked around the many frutarias in the vicinity. We went back just shy of 12:30 only to be told that the only table that wasn't reserved was just given away to the couple ahead of us. We could take our chances and go back after 13:30 but there was no guarantee that a table would be available. We later learned that the Wednesday buffet was extremely popular because they serve traditional Portuguese dishes.

    At this point, feeling starved and defeated, we decided to go back to one of the frutarias that had a small pastry and lunch counter attached. Yes, it was a moment of weakness because we knew we were going back for the quiche we had spotted. We got there just in time because the restaurant became quickly packed with locals, standing room only, all of us leaning against the counter or one of the bars along the walls. We started with a vegetable soup made with chickpeas and spinach; it was one of the yummiest of many yummy soups in Portugal. This was followed by a slice of quiche each. No, the quiche was not vegan. It wasn't even vegetarian since it contained tuna but OMG, it was so delicious. Overall, a truly amazing and memorable dining experience. Total bill for lunch for the both of us, 5€!!! (1€ for the soup, 1.50€ for the quiche). We tried to find the name of the frutaria/pastelaria but couldn't see anything displayed so Roch snapped a photo of the street corner for reference.

    We did make it back to Rosa da Rua the next day, and yes the buffet was very good. For meat and seafood eaters, it would have been a really good value but the choices for vegans was a little limited. We did try the vegetarian spinach lasagna but instead of a traditional tomato-based lasagna, it was made with a very heavy cream - too rich for my blood. The soup, which was velvety smooth, was once again the highlight of the meal for me. (Food photos are from Rosa da Rua.)
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  • Day25

    Belem

    October 24, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    We took a tram ride out to Belém on Wednesday. The "pasteis de nata" that we see throughout Portugal originated in Belem and are known as "pasteis de Belém".

    A little history: At the beginning of the 19th century in Belém, next to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, there was a sugar cane refinery linked to a small general store. Following the liberal revolution of 1820, all convents and monasteries in Portugal were shut down in 1834 and the clergy and labourers were expelled. In an attempt at survival, someone from the monastery offered sweet pastries for sale in the shop; pastries that rapidly became known as 'Pasteis de Belém'.

    In 1837, the baking of the 'Pasteis de Belém' began in the buildings adjoining the refinery, following the ancient 'secret recipe' from the monastery. This recipe, passed on and known exclusively to the master confectioners who hand-craft the pastries, remains unchanged to the present day.

    The pastry on these Pasteis de Belém are wonderfully flaky and a little crunchy. The custard is not too sweet. Sprinkled lightly with cinnamon, they are divine. I have no idea how many millions of pasteis they bake up and serve each day but one went happily into my belly and another into Roch's.
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  • Day22

    Happy 5th (9th) anniversary!

    October 21, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    Waking up in the hospital after a blood transfusion is not the ideal way to start an anniversary. Sadly, the meal we had at "Princesa do Castelo" did not brighten the day. We started the meal with nachos and hummus but the cumin they put into the hummus was just... weird. For our mains, we shared a tagine (over rice rather than couscous) and a veggie dish done in a tomato coconut sauce. I liked the latter well enough but the tagine was only OK. Both dishes were verging on cold which was a little off-putting, and the whole dining experience was underwhelming ;-(

    We stopped off at the mercado to get a bottle of Portuguese bubblies and we also picked up some pastries on the way home. All's well that ends well.
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  • Day22

    Lisbon

    October 21, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    We've been hanging out in Lisbon for just shy of a week. This city has its ups and downs... literally! Lisbon has got to be the hilliest city I've been to. There is no getting from point A to point B without having to go up one hill only to have to go down another. That being said, Roch and I both love the vibe of Lisbon. It's a good place to hang out a while.

    The choices for vegans are much better here than in a small city like Figueira da Foz but we've not really come across anywhere to rave about in terms of quality and price combined.

    Our first night in Lisbon, we dined at "Jardim das Cerejas". They had a mainly vegan dinner buffet for 9.50€ which is an amazing deal. We found the food to be quite good, particularly the lentil soup, but nothing was knock-your-sock-off wow.

    We had lunch one day at Santapiadina. They make a vegan piadina with hummus and grilled veggies which is absolutely scrumptious. The portions aren't huge though... or maybe we were just really starved. In any case, we found ourselves still hungry after we scoffed down a whole piadina each so we hiked up the hill to a little pizza joint that sells pizza but the weight. Roch had a slice of pizza margarita and I had a slice of mushroom pizza. Both were quite delicious but they were no bargoon either. The piadinas were 6€ each which Roch had with a pricy glass of wine at 3€. The two slices of pizza came out to $11.24 CAD.

    We've become regulars at the "Pingo Doce" supermarket where we can buy ready-to-eat salad greens and fresh soups that taste homemade. Occasionally we buy cooked broccoli or spinach or rice at the deli counter as well.

    We've shopped at the Mercado da Ribeira but generally find that the prices at the frutarias to be just as good if not better. There's a frutaria on Avenida Infante Santo that we like in particular. They have the most amazing persimmons and the best prices for chestnuts. We've been happily taking advantage of the small oven we have at the "quirky" apartment we rented through AirBnB to roast our own chestnuts rather than pay 2.50€ for a small bag of 10-12 chestnuts from the street vendors.
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  • Day13

    Happy Thanksgiving

    October 12, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Today is Canadian Thanksgiving and I have a lot to be thankful for, beginning with Roch, our families and friends, and after my bike accident, I am very thankful to be alive.

    Today is also the first day I’ve had a chance to get out and walk around Figueira da Foz since arriving here after the accident on October 7. Up till now, I’ve mainly been resting and recuperating in the hotel.

    I’ve been staying on a raw vegan diet to give my body foods that are as nutritionally dense as possible. The exception has been a big bowl of soup a day. I can’t count how many times we’ve been saved by soup here in Portugal. Almost every restaurant big or small has vegetable soup on the menu, some for as little as 1.25€, rarely for more than 2.50€, all of them without exception have been good, really good, or amazingly good.

    While I rest at the hotel, Roch has been bringing me a double portion of vegetable soup from one of the local restaurants. You can tell that this soup is home-made, there is a depth of flavour you just can’t get with bullion cubes. Some days there’s more carrots, other days there’s more cabbage, some days there are chickpeas, other days there are beans, every day the soup is scrumptious.

    I was looking forward to getting out and about today so we first went to the municipal market to stock up on more fruit. We wandered rather aimlessly afterwards, just enjoying the day. Since today was Thanksgiving, we decided to have a Thanksgiving meal out and as such, while strolling the streets of Figueira, we made a point of peeking at the various menus we passed along the way. We ducked down a small side street and noticed a quaint little home-grown restaurant with a billboard menu on the sidewalk. We went to take a look but there wasn’t much on offer for vegans… but looking inside pass the front bar area of the restaurant, we saw a back room filled with locals. We had to eat there.

    Roch managed to convey to the very sweet woman who came to greet us that we were vegan and after she asked us to wait for a moment, she came back to seat us. We started the meal with yet another delicious bowl of vegetable soup, followed by rice, potatoes, chickpeas and a mixed salad of lettuce, carrots, beets, corn and onions. Everything was simply prepared without any pretention, just down to earth goodness that we happily ate up with much thanks and gratitude. The total was 12€ including bread, a little carafe of red wine for Roch and a bottle of water for me.
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  • Day7

    Dux - Petiscos e Vinhos

    October 6, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    The sun was supposed to come back out today so we decided to visit the university and its library dating from antiquity. Since the botanical garden was virtually next door, we went in for a stroll. The sun, however, remained shy behind the clouds and we had to duck under trees for rain cover on more than one occasion.

    We eventually strolled through the botanical garden and emerged on the far side and took a roundabout route to get home so we could see more of Coimbra.

    We needed to stop for a washroom break so we went into Dux, a "petiscos & vinhos", which is the Portuguese equivalent of a tapas & wine bar. The restaurant looked rather bland from the outside but inside, it was quite swank. They provided us with an electronic menu in English and we ended up ordering all their veggie options: soup, sautéed vegetables, cabbage greens, rice cooked with onions, and fried potatoes.

    We were so happy to see veggie options other than soup and salad on the menu. Everything was delicious but I must say the cabbage greens sautéed with garlic was exceptional. Total cost for our veggie fare was 16€, including a generous glass of red wine for Roch.

    PS: I later discovered that Dux is rated #1 out of 267 restaurants in Coimbra on TripAvisor
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  • Day6

    A Toca do Gato

    October 5, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 20 °C

    Another rainy day in Coimbra and a good day to curl up with a book, do laundry and take a nap.

    We managed to get out in the morning to visit the municipal market before the downpour. The fruit stalls at Coimbra's market had the best prices we've seen since arriving in Portugal. We couldn't resist buying a big bag of the juicy sweet green figs on sale for 1.99€ per kilo. On the way home, we stopped for some roasted chestnuts, 10 for 1.50€.

    Later in the afternoon, we once again ventured out, this time in search for a late lunch. Our intention was to go to a vegan restaurant we found on the Happy Cow website but we got sidetracked by "A Toca do Gato", a little mama-papa restaurant with only 3 tables. We asked if they could serve us something vegan and they offered up vegetable soup, salad, and rice with beans. Sound great, we thought, so in we waltzed and sat ourselves down on 2 of the 3 bar stools since all 3 tables were full.

    I've been wanting to go to a mama-papa restaurant since arriving in Portugal and this one did not disappoint. The place was quaint and unpretentious. The other patrons were all locals and as tiny as the restaurant was. The food was simple but delicious. We each had a home made vegetable soup followed by a plate of beans and rice, followed by salad... then followed by another plate of beans and rice and another salad! Oh what gluttons we were! The total including a glass of wine for Roch: 10.60€
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  • Day5

    La dolce vita

    October 4, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    In the short week that we've been in Portugal, we couldn't help but notice the abundance of "pastelarias" or pastry shops there are in every city, town and village we've come across... and they're always full of locals.

    So what do you do on a rainy Sunday when almost everything is closed? You join the locals for a moment of indulgence because the pastelarias are open! After returning to Cafe A Brasileira for a big bowl of yummy vegetable soup, we fell off the vegan bandwagon and sat ourselves down at the award winning Pastelaria Briosa where Roch ordered a bolo formigo and some almendrado cookies to share.

    The bolo formigo was a very moist cake that tasted of walnuts, coconut and chocolate chips. The almendrados are gluten-free cookies made with mainly almonds, eggs and sugar, and they have a wonderful chewy texture.

    Coming out of the cafe, ohh sweet serendipity, we see a poster for a pastry show at the Antiguo Convento de Sant'Anna... happening today. How could we not go?

    With determination, we trudged up and up and up the hill and eventually found the Sant'Anna convent. On display and for sale were pastries from some of the best pastelarias in Coimbra. We ogled and drooled at every table, tasted free samples or simply feasted our eyes. At Doçaria Paula Rosa's table, we even found gluten-free treats so as we left the convent, down and down and down the hill we skipped swinging our little pastry box of "bolo rançoso" and "toucinho do céu".

    PS: Bolo rançoso is made with pumpkin, ground almonds, egg yolks and sugar. We mistakenly thought "toucinho do céu" meant touch of heaven but later learned that it meant 'bacon' of heaven! The name was so derived because the traditional version of the cake was made with lard. Thank goodness the modern version is more Esther-the-wonder-pig friendly!
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  • Day4

    Coimbra

    October 3, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    We cycled from Aveiro to Coimbra today with many a 'up-the-hill' and 'down-the-hill' and 'up-the-hill' and 'down-the-hill'. As much as I liked the descents, I started to dread them knowing that what goes down, must come up.

    We arrived with quite a hunger around 2:00 pm and were very pleased to find a fruit store just around the corner from where we're staying. Many of the fruits were on special for 2€ for 2 kilos. For 5.86€, we bought a large melon, a huge bunch of grapes, 6 persimmons, 2 big peaches, 2 nectarines and a plum. This was the best fruit deal we've had since arriving in Portugal.

    After lugging all the fruit back up the 2 flights to our little apartment, we went in search of a sit down meal. Our apartment is located right in the historical centre where restaurants abound and luckily, we found one offering vegetarian options within minutes.

    We took a seat at one of the outdoor tables at Cafe A Brasileira and we both ordered the "caldo verde", a popular soup in Portuguese cuisine which we had been looking forward to sampling. The basic traditional ingredients for caldo verde are potatoes, kale, olive oil and salt. Additionally garlic or onion may be added. If all caldo verdes taste as good as the ones we had today, I want a caldo verde everyday of my life! What's more, the large and generous bowls at Cafe A Brasileira cost a mere 1.20€ each.

    The vegetarian special of the day which we thought was asparagus with tofu was actually a type of pasta with tofu. Boy does our Portuguese suck! The pasta was rather disappointing and the grouchy waiter we had was hardly Mr. Charming... but still, I'd go back tomorrow for another caldo verde!
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  • Day3

    Restaurante Ki

    October 2, 2015 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    We started our 2nd day in Aveiro visiting the Mercado Manuel Firmino. Maybe the Market is busier in the early morning but we didn't start our day till close to 1:00 pm - ahhh, the joys of retirement! We weren't sleepy in the early afternoon but the market was.

    Nonetheless, at one of the three produce stalls, we found strawberries on sale for 1.49€/kilo so we got a bag and started selecting the nice ripe ones. We were picking from the various crates till we were tsk'ed tsk'ed and told that only the crates containing the "small" strawberries were on sale. The big strawberries were regular priced, 3.49€/kilo. No worries. We're not into size!

    After the market, we went for lunch at Restaurante Ki, a macrobiotic restaurant offering a daily-changing 2-course set menu for 8€. We started with a chickpea & sweet potato soup, followed by a plate composed of polenta, veggies and seitan. The tea was complimentary. Everything was very enjoyable, especially the soup even though it could have been a tad hotter. The set menu was a good deal but the desserts at 3€... not so much.

    We sat out in a beautiful piazza after lunch and with the warm sun upon our faces, we felt truly blessed as we gobbled our small succulent strawberries.
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