Simple Eating: Local Inns in Portugal

August 19, 2008

Portugal is a country shaped by catholicism and any town and village is literally “littered” with churches, many of them in beautiful architecture. There is a lot of interesting things to be detected behind curtains and other visuals blocking the general view.

While looking for restaurants in Porto we were faced with the same camouflage but managed finally to find some small eating places, usually narrow, corridor-type cafes with a dining room in the back, which were extremely charming. One of them I would like to introduce to you. “Pirilampu” is its name and it is located in Rua Firmeza, the same street where our hotel – Hotel Menfis – was located.

The dining room of “Pirilampu” all in blue

The food on offer is simple, harty food, home cooking so to say, not expensive but very tasty and usually served in large portions. Rustique food as above is served usually with potatoes and rice.

Favourite wine in northern Portugal is Vinho Verde, the young, fizzy wine, characteristic for the Minho Region. ‘Muralhas’ is one of the more common Vinho Verde wines on offer in many restaurants and cafes in Porto.

After the meal, cafe is served and then: it’s “Port wine time”, mostly Tawny and Ruby in small eateries and bars and less often vintage port. Delicious, delicious.

Needless to say that the waiters (often the owners themselves) are usually very friendly and that most of the guests are regulars. The homely atmoshere makes you fell very welcome. Try it out if in Portugal.

Rest. Churr. Pirilampo
Rua Firmeza,

The next big thing: Sherry

August 18, 2008

One of the hottest tips if you want to enjoy Sherry, the fortified wine originating from Jerez, Spain in Madrid is “La Venencia” in Calle Echegaray 7, Madrid. Sherry (and water) is the only drink on offer.

In the bar “La Venencia” in Madrid

The bar man writes your order with chalk down at the wooden counter and later calculates your bill there as well. The Sherry is taken from big wooden vats, filled into bottles and served in Sherry glasses. Green olives and other snacks are complimentary.

The place has a great atmosphere with all the patina (on the wall paper and all other furnishings) we expect from a place of character and great character “La Venencia” has. Sherry is not an old ladies drink! The bar was full of people from all walks of life and all ages, mostly male I might add.

We tasted the whole repertoire. Needless to say, all the sherries offered were delicious. One can forget completely that other wines could be enjoyable drinks. I had the feeling that only Sherry would matter to me in the future.

Beautiful Sherry

You will find all colors, from the Fino – pale, fruity, the Manzanilla – blue straw, grass taste, the Amontillado – dark caramel coloured, with a toffee aroma, the Oloroso -darkest colour, light brown, smelling like pralines.

“La Venencia” is such a great place. We did not want to leave but we finally succumbed to our stomachs and left to find a place for dinner.

Heaven must be a place where they serve Sherry, that’s for sure. My resolution included to drink more Sherry in the future.

If you visit Madrid, a visit to the La Venentia is a must, otherwise you have not been there.

La Venencia
Calle Echegaray 7
28014 Centro Modarid
Tel.: 914297313
Opening hours daily 19:30 -1:30 h

Asian Food and Riesling Wines

August 17, 2008

The Riesling wines I selected for Sunday lunch were just the right complement to the Asian food we were having for the last joint family lunch in our Jakarta home. Tomorrow our girls will be laving for Bangkok to attend the opening of the new school year at their new school.

The lunch consisted of a typical Indonesian composition of Kankung (a green water vegetable) with prawns. We ate it with rice using spoons and forks only as it is the custom in Indonesia. The wine we had with the meal was of course not an Asian invention but a Celtic one.

The semi-dry Riesling (“Feinherb” as the Germans say) from the Saar was a perfect match for the food. We had the last bottle of ‘2003 Wiltinger Gottesfuss Riesling Kabinett Feinherb’ , (alc. 11% vol.) from Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt in Trier ( The spicy food was just the right dish to have with this Riesling wine from my home region.

The sun was shining, my garden green and lush despite the dry season, and so 10 years came to a beautiful end for the four of us.

PS: As “dessert” we had a second bottle of German wine (which was also the last one in my possession), one coming from the Nahe wine region where my grandfather used to live, ‘2003 Sitzius Kreuznacher Rosenberg Spaetlese, Scheurebe’ (with only 9.5 alc./vol.) from Weingut Alfred Sitzius in Kreuznach-Bosenheim ( The variety is mainly found in Germany and Austria and produces highly aromatic wines often made into sweet wines but also available in its dry incarnation. It shows honey, blackcurrant and grapefruit flavors but retains also some of the Riesling character, though it is less acidic, in short beautiful wine can be produced from this grape variety.

Wine Promotion the Portuguese Way

August 16, 2008

During our recent holiday in Portugal, we visited the Palácio da Bolsa, the splendid Stock Exchange Palace, in the city of Porto (Oporto). It is the most visited attraction in this historic city of Northern Portugal (more than 200.000 visitors per year). It was used as the first stock exchange in Portugal, among others the results of intensive international trade especially in port and other wines.

Today, it is mainly a museum. The stock exchange has long moved to the capital city of Lisbon. The palace used to house the headquarters of the merchants guild. A modern “guild”, however, is still displaying its products there: Vini Portugal, the Portuguese Wine Trade Association, a mulit-stakeholder trade association to promote and support Portuguese wines at home and abroad ( maintains a small showroom in the basement.

Some of the wines on display

Having a wine tasting and display room in the Palácio da Bolsa is a great asset and a clever public relations strategy given that so many people from all over the world visit the historic building. The guided tour includes an invitation to the free wine tasting in the Vini Portugal showroom. Wine enthusiasts such as us, had no choice but to pay it a visit and check out the place.

Margit in the showroom

Two wines were open for tasting both from the Douro wine region, a ‘2006 Costa do Pombal’, a white blend (‘cuveé’ sounds much better than ‘blend’ which has a slightly negative connotation; even better is the word ‘composition’ which somehow stresses the artistic qualities of the wine maker) of Rabigato, Gouveio, Vions(h)inho and Arinto (that is what the lady wrote down for me) and a ‘2003 Borges Reserva’ (14.5 % vol./alc.) blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Franca. I liked both wines, though they remained a mystery to me. I need to taste more Portuguese wines to develop my palate. Portugal has more than 200 autochthone vine varieties, maybe the largest in the world. Many of them have not been explored outside Portugal and they might be a tremendous potential for future development.

Bye bye Europe – welcome home in Jakarta

August 15, 2008

It was the last time that we should return to our home in Jakarta after a summer holiday in Europe. We are moving countries. After ten years in beautiful Indonesia we are packing up all our belongings. A new beginning awaits us in Bangkok/Thailand.

You can imagine that the emotions of our various family members are on a roller coaster, it ranges from one extreme to the other, varies between the sadness of leaving everything behind to the euphoria of a new beginning in another place.

The hectic of the preparations related to administrative and organizational matters pertaining to the move will not allow me to share with you all the exciting things I experienced in German and Portuguese wineries. I will try to slip in here and there some short notes and some of the many pictures we took on the way. More might come somehow someday.

Please bear with me.

The Mosel valley and its vineyards near Schweich with the “wine villages” of Riol (left) and Longuich, photo taken from the freeway opposite Mehring in August 2008

Wine and Food Expo 2008 – UGWA

August 9, 2008

Our Upper Goulburn Winegrowers Association is holding their annual wine and food expo2008. Please come and visit if you are around.


EXPO from 11.00 AM TO 5.00 PM – COST $15 per head includes wine taster
ROVING Food & Wine Experience – Marysville & District – Saturday and Sunday

The Upper Goulburn Winegrowers’ Association invites you to their annual Expo. Come and meet the faces behind the Upper Goulburn Wine Region – talk to the vignerons, taste their wine, sample local food products – trout, cheese, olives, bread, jams and preserves.

Participate in the free tutored wine tasting sessions presented by Rob Hicks, enjoy the “catch a trout cook a trout” cooking demonstration, and take advantage of the Expo Voucher for your roving experience around Marysville. Don’t forget to take home some fantastic Expo specials.

Alexandra Buxton Eildon Glenburn Jamieson Mansfield Merton Tallarook Yea

Susan Kinloch – Event Coordinator – 5777 3447 or 0418 595 878
Sponsorship Information – contact Alex Gillon on 9596-3043 or 0419 363 794

Wine labels from the region

Barwite Buller View Buxton Ridge Delatite Growlers Gully Kinloch
Larnoo Mt Samaria Murrindindi Nillahcootie Penbro Rees Miller
Rocky Passes Scrubby Creek Snobs Creek St Winifred’s Tallarook
Traawool Two Hills

Have good fun with great Australian wines.
Yours from Portugal

Back from the real world

August 6, 2008

Yes, I am sitting in an internet cafe, how it is euphemistically called, in Porto, Portugal. Finally, after about two weeks absentia from blogging, I am back in the virtual world. Hurra!

The first couple of days that I could not access my beloved internet I suffered tremendously. Not checking my blogg every day caused me severe pain. I felt isolated, deprived of the only important good which mattered. The virtual world was spinning and turning, and I was not part of it. How could that be? Impossible.

Well, it could. I drowned my `pain´ first with beautiful Spanish later with Portuguese wines, visited museums, vineyards, restaurants, many churches, a beach and many more places of interest. I had time for the family, and only for the family which is good since I travel so much professionally.

I will have to sort out my material, my notes, the many photos I took and hopefully I can present you with some more stories about wine, vineyards and food.

I spent four days in Madrid, mainly on an educational visit.

After that I moved on to Porto, the “capital city” of Port wine production, to learn about northern Portugal and its wine regions. So much city exitment (more than one week fwe moved rom “monument” to “monument”) made me retreat to the country side near Penafiel, about 38 km east of Porto, where I enjoyed live on a Portuguese farm, a quinta to be precise. The week on the farm was much too short but our holidays are coming to an end soon.

What I can already say is this: you must visit Madrid and Porto (or Spain and Portugal for that matter). Both the Spanish and the Portuguese are fantastic people. I never experienced so much friendliness, so much help and courtesy and hospitality in my whole live.

And, both countries have exceptional good wines of course, and excellent food.