November 22, 2011

Piggin' Out In Portugal - Part 2

View from back porch of the family restaurant
 So the feasting in Portugal continued the very next day where we went to visit Lisa's uncle who owned a small restaurant with his family near Vigo, Spain, for lunch.  Lisa's parents are from one of the northernmost towns in Portugal, and the Galician region of Spain was so close you could actually throw a stone there.  After a 30 minute drive up and down some curvy mountainside roads, we made it to the quaint restaurant that sits amongst a few countryside houses.  I didn't know it at the time, but this was about to be my favorite meal of the trip.

Something that I learned very quickly was that the Portuguese are willing to uncork a bottle of wine for just about any reason.  So of course this meal started with more homemade wine with some freshly baked bread to nosh on.  Then the appetizers came out, and if we ate these alone, I would have been able to die a happy man.  The appetizer course consisted of tortilla Espanola bites (Spanish Omelette) and the most wonderful empanadas I've ever had.  The omelette was like fritatta that was a little fluffy from being finished off in the oven but not overdone at all.  Caramelized onions floated throughout the dish that gave it a unique sweetness not often found in egg based dish that isn't desert.
Tortilla Espanola
  Now the empandas were the showstopper.  I've been fortunate enough to have tried empandas on past trips abroad in places like Argentina and southern Spain, but this rendition was unparalleled by my past trials.  Inside the slightly crisp and chewy dough, that had a somewhat doughnut flavor, resided a lavishly rich beef stew that had been slow cooked in a tomato based sauce with onions and garlic.  There was an ethereal balance of sweet, salty, and savory, and I nearly filled up on these alone.

This is definitely on my last meal menu.
I basically ate this entire plate.
 Despite being nearly stuffed, I was able to drink my way to a jovial buzz that must have also opened up a secret compartment of my stomach, because I didn't stop there.  The entrees came out soon after and included an assortment of grilled proteins accompanied by freshly made Spanish fries (like a beefier version of a potato chip that is deep fried but not quite as crunchy), and they did not disappoint.  There was skin-on grilled chicken that was crispy and juicy all at once.  The char-grilled pork ribs were intensely porky and the grilled sardines (not the kind you find on your pizza), the item I was dying to try for the first time, were briny and salty, and gave me that fresh from the ocean taste I was looking for.  You could find me looking like a crack addict trying to sop up any juices that remained on the plate with the Spanish fries and bread.  Everything was on the bone and well seasoned.  Each bite reminded you that you were sitting amongst the beautiful rustic countryside of Galicia.

From left to right - chicken, pork rib, Spanish fries, grilled sardine
For dessert, because the Portuguese NEVER forget dessert, we had an assortment of cakes, including a cloudlike Tiramisu, and a buttery flan that had a silky texture that still held up in your mouth.  We washed all of this down with port wine and scotch.  We would spend the rest of the afternoon on the back porch of the restaurant drinking every type of local alcohol we could imagine and enjoying the company of family.  

Like I really needed to consume any more calories...

...but I just couldn't help myself.

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