The Food and Wine of Porto, Portugal
Oporto, in the GreenCoast or Costa Verde region, lies at the mouth of the Rio Duoro, in the north-western part of Portugal. It is a land rich with history, dense vegetation and culinary tradition. Porto, as it is known in Portuguese, is the wine capital of the country, and lends it name to the famous Port wines that are aged in lodges along the Duoro. The cuisine, heavily influenced by the abundance of fish and seafood, is simple, rustic and yet manages to achieve a level of elegance admired by even the most sophisticated of palates.
Tourists and nationals alike flock to Porto to sample and buy Port wine, the city’s largest export. Across the river from OldTown are the Port lodges, many of them dating to the sixteenth century. After the wine is vintified in the wineries along the Duoro, it is transported to the lodges to be aged for several years. Port is usually served as an aperitif with wines and cheeses, or as a dessert wine. WhitePort, however, is often enjoyed throughout a meal.
FerreiraPort is the most notable of all the Port lodges or houses, and is the home of Port Wine. It is the only Port house founded by a family of vintners from the region. The Ferreira Lodge, founded in 1715, is housed in an old monastery located on the banks of the river.
In addition to the robust Ports, vinho verde, or green wine (referring to its youthfulness and not color) is a popular wine served with traditional Portuguese fare. Although it can be a red wine, the most popular variety is white. Fresh, aromatic and somewhat effervescent, vinho verde is the favored pairing for chourico and clam celebrations.
Dishes common to the area center around a variety of seafoods including cod, mackerel, stone bass, eel, octopus, sole and, of course, the famous sardhinas. Caldeirada, often called Portuguese Monster Fish Stew, prepared with a variety of fish, shellfish, potatoes, tomatoes and onion, is very popular, as are tripas and clams which are served in the many bars and restaurants on the waterfront.
The traditional dish of Porto is called Tripas à moda do Porto (tripe with white beans and chourico). It is believed to have originated during a period of war and famine in the 14th century, and remains a staple of the city. Their fondness of this tripe stew is the reason residents of Porto are often called tripeiros, or tripe eaters.
The Portuguese believe that their traditional dishes are among the most visually appealing, attractive and flavorful foods in the world. Their reliance on simplicity and ease of preparation, in fact, is what makes the foods of Portugal so delightful. Olive oil, onions and garlic are indispensable in Portuguese cuisine. Figs, almonds, citrus fruits and peppers are also widely used to provide color as well as flavor. Presentation is as important as flavor, which is evident in the beautiful dishes abounding with local produce.
Porto is far from wealthy by European standards, but the foods and famous wines are anything but lacking. While many of the offerings may be simple and rustic, the fare is refined, rising to a level of sophistication that only the most traditional of cuisines, those passed down through the ages, ever attain.