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Portugal: Europe’s best-kept foodie secret

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The cooking of mainland Europe’s westernmost country is deeply rooted in the heart of local ingredients.

Superlative seafood, sun-ripened fruit, lamb raised on flower-speckled meadows, free-range pigs gorging on acorns beneath oak forests.

Without them, it just doesn’t taste the same.

So while diners worldwide crowd Italian trattorias, French bistros and Spanish tapas bars, Portuguese restaurants abroad generally cater to melancholy emigrants seeking in vain to matar saudades (kill their longing) for mom’s home-cooked food.

Things are changing.

The success of Portuguese chefs like George Mendes in New York and Nuno Mendes (no relation) in London is generating a global buzz and their creating a legacy in food industries about the cooking of their homeland.

Regular visitors have long been in on the secret, but here are 20 reasons why Portugal should be on every foodie traveler’s list.

 

  1. Piscivore perfection

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In Europe, only Icelanders eat more fish than the Portuguese.

Superstar chef Ferran Adria says seafood from Portugal’s Atlantic waters is the world’s best — and he’s Spanish.

Markets glimmer with a startling variety, from baby cuttlefish to U-boat-sized tuna.

If your food heaven is fresh seabass expertly barbequed with a hint of lemon, garlic and olive oil, this is the place.

Best eaten by the sea in restaurants like Sao Roque in Lagos, Restinga in Alvor, Furnas in Ericeira, Azenhas do Mar or Restaurante da Adraga west of Sintra, Ribamar in Sesimbra, or Doca do Cavacas on Madeira island.

 

  1. Liquid gold

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Drive the backroads of the Alentejo, Beira Interior and Tras-os-Montes regions and you’ll weave through endless olive groves.

Olive oil is the basis of Portuguese cooking, whether it’s used to slow-cook salt-cod, dribbled into soups or simply soaked up with hot-from-the-oven bread.

Exports have quadrupled over the past decade as the world wakes up and smell the coffee to the quality of Portugal’s liquid gold, either from big-time producers like Gallo and Oliveira da Serra, or hand-crafted, single-farm oils.

The latest prize: a gold medal for Olmais Organic oil at the World’s Best Olive Oils awards in New York.

      3.The national boiled dinner

Portugal’s cooking is rigorously regional: meaty and robust in the north, Mediterranean in the south.

Yet one dish unites the country: cozido.

Best eaten as a big family lunch, this is a boiled one-pot featuring a hunk of beef, various piggy bits, sometimes chicken, always cabbage, potatoes, carrots, turnips and an array of sausage, including paprika-spiced chourico and cumin-flavored blood pudding.

  1. Lisbon’s gourmet awakening

A new generation of chefs is shaking up the capital’s restaurant scene with ultra-modern takes on gastronomic tradition.

Leading the charge is Jose Avillez.

His Belcanto restaurant facing the Sao Carlos theater won a second Michelin star in 2014.

Its menu features braised red mullet with liver sauce, clams and cornmeal; oxtail with foie gras, chickpeas and creamy sheep cheese. Rivals include Henrique Sa Pessoa’s new Alma restaurant, just round the corner and wowing diners with the likes of hake with burnt leek and hazelnuts; or Joao Rodrigues, voted chef-of-the-year with his riverside Feitoria.

   5.King cod

They say Portugal has 365 recipes for cooking salt cod.

In fact there are many more.

Bacalhau is served “a bras” with scrambled eggs, olives and fries; as fish cakes (pasteis de bacalhau) alongside black-eyed-peas; barbequed, oven-baked or simply boiled with cabbage and carrots, then drizzled in olive oil.

Crumbled with cornbread in the university city of Coimbra, baked under mayonnaise Ze-do-Pipo-style in Porto, chopped into a favorite Lisbon salad with chickpeas and onion, bacalhau is always close to the Portuguese soul.

It’s available everywhere, but Lisbon’s Laurentina restaurant may just serve the best.

  1. Say Queijo

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Why Portugal’s cheeses are not better known is a mystery.

True, amarelo da Beira Baixa — a herby goat-and-sheep-milk mix, was judged the world’s greatest in a tasting organized by Wine Spectator and Vanity Fair a few years back.

Yet creamy Serra da Estrela from the milk of ewes raised in Portugal’s loftiest mountain range; hard, pungent cow’s-milk cheeses made on the precipitous mid-Atlantic slopes of Sao Jorge island; or peppery Terrincho produced in remote Tras-os-Montes, remain largely unknown.

Such dairy delights may be served as appetizers or after a meal with red wine or port, sometimes accompanied with quince jam (marmelada).

    7.So much wine

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For a small country Portugal makes an astonishing variety of great wines.

Summery vinho verdes from the green northwest.

Full-bodied reds and fruity whites from Douro, Dao and Alentejo.

Bubbly from Bairrada; legendary Port and Madeira vintages.

Honeyed moscatel from Setubal.

Rare tipples from odd places like the Lisbon surfer suburb of Carcavelos.

Or the World Heritage vineyards clinging to a mid-Atlantic volcano on Pico Island.

    8.Porto’s tasty trinity

In the 15th century, patriotic Porto donated all its meat to Prince Henry the Navigator to feed his soldiers when they sailed off to do battle in Morocco.

Left with just offal, they concocted a dish which remains the city’s signature: tripas a moda do Porto.

It’s not for the faint-hearted: a stew of butter beans, calves’ feet, pigs’ ears and peppery chourico as well as the tripe — the chewy white lining of cow’s stomach.

Ever since, inhabitants of Portugal’s second city have been known as tripeiros — tripe-eaters.

Porto’s other best-known dishes: slices of deep-fried octopus and monster meat sandwiches smothered in spicy sauce and named francesinhas — or little French girls.

   9.Bifana vs. prego

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To make a bifana, marinate thin slices of pork in white wine and garlic, fry, slap it into a bread roll, add mustard or hot sauce to taste.

For a prego, the process is pretty similar, but the main ingredient is beef steak. These are Portugal’s snacks of preference.

Done right, with quality meat and juices that soak into the soft white bread, they are unbeatable. Accompany with cold beer. Pregos are also customarily used to round off a feast of clams, shrimp or crab in marisqueiras — specialized seafood joints.

Those at Lisbon’s Ramiro are legendary.

Wefornews bureau

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Religious tourism in India: Royal Orchid Hotels opens a new property in Somnath

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With the growth in religious tourism in India, Royal Orchid Hotels one of the fastest growing hospitality chain in India adds a new property ‘Regenta Central’ in Somnath.

Nestled in the coastal city of Somnath, Hotel Regenta Central is suitably located on the main highway of Veraval and a 5 minutes’ walk from main Somnath temple. Hotel is well linked and located within 5 km from Veraval and Somnath Railway Station.

Regenta Central offers a comfortable stay in well-appointed rooms which incorporates the highest service value along with unique design and modern facilities. The hotel offers spacious banquet halls and plush lawns which can accommodate up to 2000 people for various occasions such as large scale family social gathering, business presentations, seminars and confidential corporate meets. The guests can also indulge in various relaxation activities at the hotel’s gymnasium, spa and swimming pool.

The hotel includes two restaurants PINXX and Sugar N Spice. PINXX – a multi-cuisine restaurant, serves vegetarian and kathivyadi delicacies. Sugar N Spice – is an à la carte multi – cuisine restaurant offering a delicious range of fast food and quick bites.

Somnath meaning “Lord of the Soma”, an epithet of Shiva, is first of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines. It is located on the western coast of Gujarat and is one of the oldest temples of the country. Reconstructed in the Chaulukya style of architecture, it portrays the fine skills of the oldest and best temple architects. The modern day Somnath Temple was built over five years, from 1947 to 1951 and was inaugurated by then President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad.

Apart from the magnificent temples of Somnath, it is also known for its picturesque beaches. Somnath beach which is located at the southwest end of the Arabian coastline is a perfect way to enjoy a serene evening after a long day of travelling. Both the locations are just 6kms away from the hotel, providing travelers the perfect blend of divinity and serenity.

Chander K. Baljee, Managing Director, Royal Orchid Hotels at the launch of the hotel said, “We are excited to add another property to our portfolio, continuing our ambition of expanding hotels across India. With a constant surge in domestic travelers, not only we are benefitted but also the consumers have an advantage of having affordable stay with finest facilities and services.

The current year looks promising for the hotel industry and we plan to make the most of it by expanding our brand all over India.”

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Travelling to US this summer? Apply for visa early

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Photo Credit: New Media Travel

New Delhi, April 17 (IANS) The US Embassy here on Tuesday said that Indians planning to visit the US this summer should apply early for visas due to heavy demand.

In a statement, the Embassy said that applicants across India may have to wait 30 days or more for a visa interview appointment to become available and that it expects this wait time to continue for at least the next few months

“Mission India’s non-immigrant visa workload is one of the largest in the world, processing over a million visas a year,” the statement said.

“In the last five years, the demand for visas to travel to the United States has increased by over 60 percent.”

According to the statement, the Embassy in New Delhi and the four Consulates across India “are constantly working to improve service and meet demand, but applicants should be aware that the summer is a peak travel season and there will be delays in getting visa appointments”.

It also advised applicants are to beware of scams and fraud and reminded them that the only way to get a US visa is through official channels.

“Someone can either apply and have an interview at a US Embassy or Consulate, or if they have had a visa before and meet certain criteria, they may qualify to have their visa renewed,” the statement said.

“Anyone claiming they can guarantee a visa in exchange for a fee is attempting to defraud you. Applicants should be smart and apply the right way,” it added.

IANS

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The unexplored Indian paradise

While travelling through the North East, also experience a safari with a difference on yaks. Get a chance to explore the breathtaking beauty of Sikkim on one of the colourfully-adorned yaks, an experience definitely beyond compare!

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Sikkim Tourism

When you end up with some time for yourself, an escapist spirit awakens among many of us. Such is the chaos of our cities that we cherish even minor respites from it. One such respite is the Spiti Valley in the Himachal where the journey is just as blissful as the destination.

Once you hop onto your bike, you can choose between two routes to reach the scenic town of Spiti. The first option is entry from Manali via Rohtang and Kunzum La. Once you have passed Rohtang, it’s truly a heavenly experience, with the highest point being the snow-covered Kanzum pass with a breathtaking view of the Shigri Glacier. Alternatively, you can also opt for the more comfortable, yet longer, road from Shimla.

An absolutely breathtaking land, Spiti is a treat for all travellers, but especially bikers, with the majestic Himalayan landscape, amazing views, rich history and warm and friendly people. Also, be prepared for an overnight stay along the way preferably at Reckong Peo which is known to be a calm and serene stopover.

A ride through the beautiful barren landscapes of the Himalayas is the biggest draw of the valley. Another highlight of Spiti is the magnificently rich cultural past that is still alive in the ancient Gompas (monasteries) of the region and the enlightened monks that reside within them. Though they can be reserved initially, your curiosity for their culture and few smiles can win their hearts enough for them to offer you some refreshing cups of teas and insight into the Gompas like no other could. Amongst others that you might choose to visit, Key Gompa, Saskyagongmig Gompa and Dhankar Gompa are a must visit. If your curiosity for the local culture still refuses to subside, head over to the Tabo Monastery. 50 Kms from Kaza, it is one of the oldest functioning Buddhist monasteries in the world (est. 996 AD), with extremely well-preserved wall paintings and artifacts!

The Seven Sisters, as the North Eastern Indian states are commonly known, are where lush green forests, picturesque valleys and vibrant cultures come together to create magic. Each state has something special to offer and we are sure that these places will be the high points of your trip to the vibrant North-East.

Starting with Arunachal Pradesh, the Siang River is a must visit. A tributary of the mighty and ferocious Brahmaputra River, it’s a great spot for river rafting, an adventure that few can match up to in terms of thrills.

Moving on, situated in the valley of the Tawang River in the northwestern part of Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang Monastery is the largest monastery in India and second largest in the world after the Potala Palace in Tibet. Founded in 1680-1681 in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, it is known as in Tibetan as Galden Namgey Lhatse, which translates to ‘celestial paradise in a clear night’. Surrounded by lush green hills, the monastery provides a visually colourful contrast with the colour-rich murals on its walls, exquisite architecture and vibrant atmosphere. With peaceful serene atmosphere so strong, the monastery possesses an otherworldly quality to it that drives away all worries and stress you had.

From the ferocious avatar, we move on to Brahmaputra’s calmer side in Majuli. The biggest river island in the world, it is home to a number of tribes, each with a colourful vibrant culture that will enchant you on your visit here. While there, you can enjoy yourself with fun activities like pottery making, mask making or just soak in the natural beauty of its magnificent sunsets.

Talking of Meghalaya, you have your pick of nature with lush green hills and breathtaking views, quite a refreshing break from the city’s chaos. But look closer and you’ll find an experience that much richer. Littered among these hills are limestone deposits and a number of caves that will enthrall the explorer in you. Considering that many of these caves are some of the longest and deepest found in India, you are sure to feel all Indiana Jones during this once in a lifetime trek.

While travelling through the North East, also experience a safari with a difference on yaks. Get a chance to explore the breathtaking beauty of Sikkim on one of the colourfully-adorned yaks, an experience definitely beyond compare!

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