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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Portugal - The 2010 FIFA World Cup Bites and Boozes


Portugal is one of the World Cup nations that I have actually been to so it's nice to be able to write about cuisine and beverages that I've actually consumed.  In the summer of 2006 I spent a week finding my way from Oporto (Porto) in the North all the way down to Faro on the South coast of Portugal.  The trip also included a little time in Coimbra, Lisboa (Lisbon), Cascais, and Fuseta along the way.  With a long Atlantic coastline, seafood clearly belonged as a major staple of Portuguese cuisine.  I recall eating grilled sardines that had just been pulled out of the ocean, among other fresh dishes.  Still, the food brings back the recurring dreams from my memory is the authentic Francesinha sandwich that I ate in Porto.  Oh, and don't forget the Port wine itself!

First, as an introduction to the famous Francesinha, I found this video to show you.  If it doesn't make your mouth water then perhaps you don't like sandwiches.  This is easily one of my top 10 sandwiches that I've ever had in my life and certainly belongs in the same discussion as the very best New Orleans Poboys and Darrell's Specials that I've eaten.

Our first Francesinha from Nando Cuca on Vimeo.

Francesinha (meaning Little Frenchie or simply Frenchie in Portuguese) is a Portuguese sandwich originally from Porto, made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiƧa, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat and covered with molten cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries.  Essentially it is a grilled sandwich that comes loaded with delicious meats and cheeses, then gets topped with more cheese that is melted all over it, and then smothered again with a house-specialty tomato-beer sauce.  It can also be topped with fried egg, just for that extra bit of ridiculousness.  I've seen very few more beautiful sights in the world.

I really had never tried Port until I visited Portugal.  After learning about the fortified wine, how the grapes are shipped down the Douro River to Porto, and how the caves serve has chambers for the wine before they are shipped, I decided that I should give it a try. Port is produced from grapes grown and processed in the demarcated Douro region. The wine produced is then fortified by the addition of a neutral grape spirit known as aguardente in order to stop the fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine, and to boost the alcohol content. The wine is then stored and aged, often in barrels stored in a cave before being bottled. The wine received its name, "Port", in the latter half of the 17th century from the seaport city of Porto at the mouth of the Douro River, where much of the product was brought to market or for export to other countries in Europe. The Douro valley where Port wine is produced was defined and established as a protected region, or appellation in 1756 — making it the third oldest defined and protected wine region in the world after Chianti (1716) and Tokaj (1730).

For some information on Portuguese beer, check the BR Beer Scene!

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