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Day 1 – Cara DeLavallade’s Wine Tour of Portugal

Cara DeLavallade, Advanced Sommelier at the Barking Frog, shares her travels and tastings during her tour of the wine regions of Portugal.

I landed in Lisbon and was promptly scopped up by Carlos, the driver and general do-it-all guy who works for the folks who own my airbnb. Extremely kind and hospitable, he even greeted me with a bottle of wine!  On the ride into town, Carlos gave me his opinion on the local wines.  Carlos says everybody thinks only white wine can pair with fish.  He explains that Portuguese white wine goes well with a simply prepared grilled fish and red wine pairs with the more complicated, richer fish preparations which are common in Portugal. Anything with a rich, oily sauce is usually paired with red wine.  Carlos says that wines from Alentejo go particularly well with food and that red wines from the Douro, although they are delicious, are a bit trickier to pair with food.

My apartment is in Barrio Alto, just a block away from the Mercado.  From the kitchen window, you can see the Tagus (Tejo) River and loads of orange rooftops.  You can smell meat grilled and hear people partying late into the night.  The Mercado is a hip foodie space with dozens of restaurants, a Garrafiera Nacional, one of the city’s top wine shops, a florist, a deli, and a massive product and seafood market.  At Garrafiera Nacional, I found some very old Colares wines for very cheap.  It was all the self-control I had not to buy all of them. When I asked the very helpful sales attendant what she was most excited about, she said the red wines from Dao.  She explained that many compare the finesse of these wines to that of those from Burgundy.  Looking forward to tasting through some of them on the trip.

The food court in the Mercado is a great place to sample dishes from some of Lisbon’s top chefs.  Alexandre Silve, Miguel Castro Silva and Henrique sa Pessoa all have booths there, and all have top-rated restaurants in the city.  Espresso, smoothie and cocktail stands are sprinkled throughout the room.  The market is packed full of people from all over the world and the incredible aromas of grilling seafood abound.  I planted myself at a seafood counter that was completely empty (like most of the restaurants before 9 or 10PM).  An order of sauteed garlic prawns, octopus salad, grilled bread, and a delicious glass of vinho verde came to less than $25.  The next day I enjoyed a giant serving of Bacalao (salt cod) over turnip greens and roasted potatoes with a glass of rose $15.

Tonight I’ll be dining at Bairro do Avillez, another kind of market/bar/restaurant space owned by Jose Avillez, one of the hottest chefs in Lisbon.  I couldn’t get reservations at his Michelin-starred spots, so I’m dining more casually at his open-air patio restaurant that is rumored to serve some of the best seafood in town.img_20161110_200323


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