Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Because Bourdain

In addition to the quirky entrance of my apartment, during breakfast I noticed a lovely old wooden picture frame on the wall near the corner of the living room. It's empty. Hmm-k.

I headed to the Belém neighborhood this morning with two objectives:

Mission 1) Visit Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (a monastery from the mid-1400s)

Not only was I impressed by the architecture of the monastery's church, but also by the fact that it is older than my country. While I've stood in older places, something about the magnitude of Portuguese innovation and achievement gripped me. In this same place, now-famous explorers paused to pray before boarding caravels to hopefully see shores of yet-unknown lands. Phenomenal, when you think about it.

Mission 2) Eat a pastel de nata at Pastéis de Belém. Both of these are worthwhile pursuits.

Speaking of phenomenal, I didn't expect to be blown away by the pastel... I'm just not that into custard. Mas bah Tchê! Incredible! Right up there with the Ruszwurm Kreme in Budapest. Neither should be missed if you find yourself within a continent or two.

For the next culinary delight, I followed Anthony Bourdain's lead and found my way to Cervejaria Ramiro.

You know I'm quite particular when it comes to seafood. I eat sushi and things that come in certain shells. No shrimp, and nothing with scales that has been cooked. But when the catch is this fresh and this hyped, one must allow for a little adventure. I started with baby clams in garlic and olive oil broth. (Olive oil, here, is otherworldly.) Then, a lagostina (crayfish), boiled and plain--it didn't need the mayonnaise they served alongside.

Then--and here's where I started to just go with it--I ate some percebes, or goose barnacles.

Once sucked from the shell, these chewy cylinders taste like the sea itself. And finally, since this was all going so swimmingly [snare! cymbal crash!], I ordered just a few of the white prawns on the advice of the waiter. Self-imposed rules be damned. I was extremely novice at extracting the flesh, but I ate them, brains and all.  I finished my wine with "dessert": prego (a small steak pounded thin with fresh garlic, smooshed inside a soft roll, and squirted with the cheap mustard). Really. Go there.

I walked it all off roaming the zig-zag streets of Alfama.

Why isn't everyone coming to Lisbon?