Friday, September 23, 2011

A Flor Do Sal - Dining out in Braga

Ahhhh..... glorious food. During my current Portugal stay, I have not pursued food blogging. My focus has been to save money therefore spending the least amount possible. Dining out has been sacrificed. That is why my Braga, more specifically Palmeira, food adventure September 22 at A Flor Do Sal was such a treat.
A good friend of mine works for N-Escapadinhas as a photographer. She photographs restaurants, resorts and more so they can be advertised on this website. For example, you can view pictures of A Flor Do Sal's interior that I can't display.

Their restaurant abuts a small church in Palmeira. You can tell the restaurant utilized an older existing building. Their black, light blue and silver, and red colors mesh well with the exposed stone walls.
Dinner started with a bolsa (bag) of bread. There were medium sized rolls, thin breadsticks, and tiny toasts. This was paired with a tuna salad and herbed olives in olive oil. The presentation is muted much like most of their interior. While muted, there is still life evidenced via the colors. In this case, the light gray/silver was the perfect backdrop for these food colors.
The second course was goat cheese encased in phyllo dough topped with a light pumpkin compote. The goat cheese was slightly warm. The goat cheese's natural tang and the pumpkin compote's fleeting sweetness were the perfect complement of each other.
The main course was an amazing platter of steak cooked medium accompanied by potatoes, green beans, and two pineapple pieces. You must forgive me for this picture because my dining companion and I ate so much before I remembered to photograph it. The steak was savory and topped with rosemary. Our non-steak knives cut through the meat easily. The beans and potatoes had great flavor profiles (no tasting notes) as they also soaked up the meat's juices. Our red wine was also a great match with our hearty steak. It was the perfect platter for two.
This is a typical Portuguese dessert called Trouxas. It featured thin flaky layers of dough encasing soft, warm cheese. It is topped with cinnamon and powdered sugar. A cinnamon based syrup decorates the plate. As your fork cuts into this, cheese oozes out and soaks into the cinnamon syrup. Naturally, you crave more and soon the dessert is finished.

A Flor Do Sal struck perfect notes in three main categories. 1. The decor. 2. The amazing food and presentation. 3. The service. Our waiters were very helpful and discreet. I appreciate one's willingness to translate directly to me and suggesting I don't try the octupus since I've never had it before.

A Flor Do Sal

Tipo: Cozinha Tradicional Portuguesa
Preços: 25€
Address: Rua do Rio, 79 - 4700-736 Palmeira-Braga
Telephone: 253 692 513
Fax: 253 692 513

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lost in Translation - Gerês, Portugal

My language skills are bad. They are nearly non-existent. Actually, my language skills are so infinitesimally small, they should be considered non-existent. I took a couple years of Latin and also Spanish which I mandatory continued at my university for one more year. I could read, write, but my listening and speaking skills were awful;. So, of all the non-English speaking countries I could have gone, I fortunately arrived in Portugal.

There are many English speakers here in Portugal. The students are willing to practice and receive instruction in mostly English. American movies and television shows also feature Portuguese subtitles instead of dubbing. If any translation needed to occur during swing dance classes, Abeth would translate. I quickly learned to speak slowly and enunciate better (though I could still slow down), demonstrate better, listen for certain Portuguese dance related words, and become more observant.
However, all this English meant I was spoiled. A spoiled Kenny could and did lead to a lazy Kenny. Though I'm perfectly content sitting through a dinner or a party with Portuguese language swirling about, I'm missing out on so much. My typical defense is to A. Read a book. Anyone that has attended a party with me knows this is typical. B. Get lost in my own thoughts. C. Find someone willing to speak English with me. D. Hope someone draws me into conversation.

The new defense? Just learn the language. This is my third trip to Portugal and I enjoy it here. The city is really compact, so it's easy to navigate via walking or metro. The winding streets aren't the most pleasant, but you eventually get used to them. Then there are areas like Aliados (pictured above) that open up nicely. You should have seen this area after FC Porto won the championship.
Have I mentioned they have beaches? And people dance or do aerials on them?
However, I'm digressing off subject. This is about language and discovering Peneda-Gerês National Park. The above image features my weekend language instructors, Nuno and Helena. As you can see, they take themselves very seriously, demanding that I stay focused as they are. The language lesson made the drive seem very short. I asked for key phrases, Helena provided. Nuno picked apart polite forms, Helena picked apart my handwriting, and they both picked apart my pronunciation. I need work, but it was fun, they were patient, and my notebook has translation information along with conjugated verb forms.
This was the payoff. Welcome to Gerês, home to rocky mountains, hot springs, waterfalls, livestock, and more. Our first destination was a crystal clear pool of water that alternated between warm and cold depending on your location.
Fortunately our path was marked by obvious cairns. Sometimes, as Daniel discovered, there were too many cairns.
Notice the super clear water as you peer through a rock opening. This was the ideal way to enjoy an afternoon lunch. We swam, ate and soaked up some sun.
 Afterward, we decided to go off course and discover a new path. Along the way, we discovered three horses grazing which led to me planking in one of the few manure free zones.
There were some moments when we had to evaluate our next move. However, this led to new discoveries such as more crystal clear pools and small waterfalls.
Though a fun adventure, climbing back out resulted in my right arm looking like it lost a fight with a fierce kitten. Following this river was not looking like a good idea. There were too many steep drops where we would have to take another route, so we searched for higher ground.
This direction led to finding scattered quartz along with this uniquely uniform straight quartz line. Notice how far it extends.
Finally, we discovered a two tier waterfall with a segmented pool. The pool was divided into three portions by two rocks that extended end to end about 20-30 centimeters below the water's surface.
You'll see what I'm referencing if you follow Nuno's sight line. The water was cold, but well worth the exposure. There was river god posing, planking, Portugal's planking version (not sure what to call it), and more.
It was a successful hike overall. We capped it off by discovering castanhas (chestnuts) and riding on the back of tall Nuno's van. We spent the rest of the weekend camping, laying in the sun and kayaking. Here are some more pictures.
Some Portuguese wildlife for you. There were grazing cows and horses and many elusive lizards also.
Portugal planks upright!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Carlos Leaves for London

Carlos Carvalho, Porto dancer, is leaving for London this weekend. He's been a huge supporter of Porto's swing scene while I've been here. You can find him amongst the last to leave at the Maus Hábitos' swing parties. He's also been known to take Level 2-3, Level 2, and Level 1 classes during the week. That's a great help because classes seem to always need more leaders. That is certainly one reason he will be missed. 

Overall, he's a great guy. He's introduced me to sarralbulho and tripas. If you want to eat animal insides, eat with Carlos. I appreciate him because he's fun to hang out with, he's letting me stay in his small flat while I'm here in Porto, he does aerials, he's driven me home from classes, and because he dances so much. I hope you enjoy the pictures below. Get to know the many faces and poses of Carlos, Porto dancer!
Intense Paintball Carlos!
Super Bock Supporter Carlos!
Stern Though Surrounded by Beautiful Women Carlos!
Headless Carlos!
Head over heels Carlos!
Counting Carlos!
Carlos attempts sign language!
Stunned Carlos!
Focused Carlos!
Pool shark Carlos! This is how we digested Serralbulho.
 Carnival Camel Game Carlos!
Awkward aerial position Carlos!
Chillin' Carlos!

 Toasting Carlos.
 Group hug Carlos.
 Cake cutting Carlos.
 Dancing Carlos.
 Chef Carlos
Sugar vampire Carlos.
 Blurry Carlos!
 Sweaty Carlos!
Aerial Base Carlos!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Portugal Return - short stories

I arrived in Lisbon on Friday, September 2 and Porto Saturday, September 3. Here are some short stories.
First, I've been asked by a couple Portuguese if America has barbers. Yes, regardless of my shaggy appearance, there are barbers where I live.

Second, when I arrived Sunday for the beach dance, two dancers (Carla and Toni) started waving in my direction when I was still quite far away. Apparently, my 5 liter water jug carrying profile is quite recognizable.
Third, Carla and Toni were trying the lindy flip at the beach dance. She took a bad back twisting spill. If any old Skidoo reads this, think back to Jamie Cameron learning the lindy flip. It was very similar. 10 minutes later they are trying the aerial again because as Carla reminds me "you must try again soon after or you'll be afraid."

Fourth, Papajj Ek (rhymes with Star Trek), comes over to me Saturday night exclaiming about how wonderful blues dancing is and how he found a follower who can do multiple pirouette turns. Him and his wife, Martuska, will soon start practicing blues dancing.