Talk about eating with a sense of place! Right by a cavernous rock formation on the Atlantic with an ominous name — Boca do Inferno — Mar do Inferno in Cascais, Portugal capitalizes on the bounty of the sea and other locally produced food products. I was happy to be hosted to experience it!
There’s a reason why films give “best supporting” awards: their special qualities make everything better. In food, locally produced sea salt, locally grown olives, local spring water and a locally crafted fresh cheese act as great openers. The Portuguese take little pots of fresh, soft cheese and top them with olive oil, salt and pepper, eat it with a spoon or spread on fresh bread. What a great little nosh!
Sea-fresh mussels with their version of a mirepoix or Holy Trinity, if you will — two kinds of peppers and onions — are a piquant. light starter.
I soon learned that Portugal has about the biggest shrimp I’ve ever seen! Seriously, they are huge and meat, like lobster tails. With that and their other seafood, they serve fresh lemons and a rich Hollandaise sauce.
With all of these delicacies, I sipped a cool, light and local white wine.
Then came the hot dishes: fresh local clams stewed with leeks, plus a dish with mussels, veggies, little potatoes, sea bream and more shrimp.
Egg-based and meringue-like desserts are super popular in Portugal, as well as the cinnamon that helped fuel their colonial expeditions around the world over 500 years ago. Their lightness and subtlety go well with the simple, fresh seafood. Of course, to finish, an espresso!