FELL IN LOVE WITH FOOD & WINE

Taste Porto Food Tours: Savoring a Magnificent City in Small Bites

October 5, 2016
A queijadinha (cheese pastry)
Taste Porto Food Tours (Screenshot)

Taste Porto Food Tours (Screenshot)

We meet Luis, our guide with Taste Porto Food Tours, on a sunny street corner close to the central market, Mercearia Do Bolhao.

Luis (pronounced Lu-ish, in Portuguese) explains that during our 3½-hour Saturday morning walking tour, we won’t necessarily be seeing the “best of” Porto or the places most often frequented by tourists. Instead, we will be introduced to the real gastronomy of the city via stops at six key tasting spots. He gives us a simple printed map we can follow along this food trail.

A well-educated marine biologist by training, not only does Luis introduce us to tastes but he also intersperses information about the city’s history, architecture, customs and culture.

Stop 1 – Loja Dos Pasteis de Chaves

We start the morning of our Taste Porto tour with a tasting two types of flaky, filo dough pastries shaped like shells, called pasteis de chaves, along with coffee. Eaten as a quick snack at any time of day, the buttery pastries derive their name from the city of Chaves in northern Portugal, close to the border with Spain.

Our table awaits us

Our tasting table awaits us

We taste a savory one filled with minced veal (the original flavor) and another sweet one filled with rich chocolate. The recipe for this traditional product is controlled by the European Commission. While we chat and nibble, Luis teaches us a few essential Portuguese words and phrases (e.g. obrigada, f. and obrigado, m., for thank you.

Two types of chaves

Two types of pasteis de chaves

Stop 2 – Bolhao Wine House

Once housing 400 vendors, the century-old Bolhao open-air market now hosts only 80. Many vendors have died and don’t have the right to transfer ownership outside their families. Those remaining sell fish, meats, cheese, baked goods, flowers, linens and other products, most of which is grown or produced locally.

View of the Balhao Market from above

View of the Balhao Market from above

The name Bolhao means “big bubble.” Of course, numerous stalls sell Port wine, the namesake of the city. Luis explained that Porto is a city “ruled by women.” Even its patron saint, Our Lady of Vandoma, is a woman. We observe the market from the second floor and then walk through the crowded aisles.

Situated at the confluence of the Douro River and Atlantic Ocean, fish and shellfish are a mainstay of local cuisine. Traditionally, Portuguese men went out early in the morning on fishing boats and women sold the catch when they returned. The market is still predominately run by women. Although the most popular fish dish in Porto (and most other parts of Portugal) is bacalhau (dried and salted cod), it typically comes from Norway, Iceland and Newfoundland.

One of the female fishmongers at the market

One of the female fishmongers at the market

We meet Leandro, the most famous butcher in the market. Here, shoppers purchase his handmade sausages made in wood-fired smoke rooms. We see many unusual cuts of meat because the Portuguese have traditionally used every part of the animal.

Butcher at Leandro

Butcher at Leandro

When we reach our destination, the Bolhao Wine House, we meet Hugo who inherited this stall from his grandmother (who owned a flower stall) and has since renovated it into an attractive wine bar. Here we get to sample low-acidity, cold-pressed olive oil and sweet Moscatel wine from the Douro Valley and delicious hand-cut sardines boiled and dressed with oil and oregano. Dessert is a cheesecake-like specialty called queijadinha.

Table setting at the wine bar

Table setting at the wine bar

Bread and sardines

Bread and sardines

A queijadinha (cheese pastry)

A queijadinha (cheese pastry)

Stop 3 – Flor Dos Congregados 

One of the benefits of taking a food tour at the beginning of a visit is that you discover places to which you would love to return (ones that may not even have websites). Flor Dos Congregados, one of the oldest restaurants in Porto, is one of them.

Bar at Flor Dos Congregados

Bar at Flor Dos Congregados

Outside the small family-run restaurant is a sign signaling the establishment’s association with the “slow food” movement. It is known especially for its delicious meat sandwiches, called sandes Terylene, which have two layers: pork belly and cured ham roasted in spices. Traditionally, working people who lived on the outskirts of the city ate these sandwiches before their long commutes home. The savory meat is cooked in a wood-fired oven for 24 hours and pairs perfectly with a fruity, red sparkling wine, Vinho Tinto Bruto da Quinta de São Domingos.

Sandes Terylene

Sandes Terylene

Stop 4 – Café Guarany 

Cafes have played an important role in the political and social fabric of Porto. Intellectuals, journalists, artists and revolutionaries met here, exchanging ideas over coffee when the country’s dictator, Antonio Salazar, forbid outdoor congregations of more than three people that were considered a rally. Open since 1933, the elegant art deco-style Café Guarany is one of the oldest cafes in the downtown business area.

Exterior facade of Guarany

Exterior facade of Guarany

Interior of Cafe Guarany

Interior of Cafe Guarany

It is situated at a corner of the wide street, Avenida dos Aliados (Street of the Allies), one of the most important streets in the city, which is anchored by the municipal hall at one end and Palacio das Cardosas (now the Hotel Intercontinental Porto) on the other.

The café has been beautifully restored with some of the original furnishings and art, including a marble relief of a South American Indian. After all the food and wine, we stopped here to sip a cup of richly brewed coffee. The “pick-me-up” is called cimbalino, named after one of the first Italian espresso machines brought to Portugal. The coffee blends two types of beans, Arabica and Robusta. Ours is served with a piece of delicious dark chocolate.

A cimbalino

A cimbalino

Stop 5 – Leitaria da Qta Do Paco 

When we think we can’t eat one more morsel, we find ourselves sitting at Leitaria de Qta Do Paco. Originally a dairy shop when it opened in 1920, it produced milk that was delivered on the heads of the dairy ladies. The graphics on the wall are reminders of its history.

Now, this contemporary patisserie features whipped cream sweets. We taste two types of delectable eclairs, lemon curd and chocolate, both served with a hefty side of whipped cream. Bottom line: Irresistible.

Luis tells us the story of the Dairy

Luis tells us the story of the Dairy

OMG eclairs with whipped cream

OMG eclairs with whipped cream

Stop 6 – Taberna Do Largo        

Because Porto isn’t only about Port, we stop at this taberna to sample wines from other regions of Portugal along with small plates (petiscos) of meats and cheese. (Petiscos are the Portuguese version of Spanish tapas.) This unique wine bar is owned by two women who went on a yearlong food tour to find the best small-scale producers.

Wine bottle chandelier at Taberna Do Largo

Wine bottle chandelier at Taberna Do Largo

Our table at Taberno Do Largo

Our table at Taberno Do Largo

We taste two other Portuguese specialties: olives (azeitonas) and Lupin beans (tremocos). You shell the salty beans, which pair well with beer, right in your mouth. One of the highlights of the tour was when a woman in our group accidently flipped her bean out of her mouth and into my wine glass!

All good things come to an end

Map of our Food Tour of Porto

Map of our Food Tour of Porto

Before we say goodbye to our new friends in the group and waddle back to our respective hotels on very full stomachs, Luis reminds us that we now have another friend in Portugal. Taste Porto Food Tours maintains a staffer who responds by email to any questions participants have about food or any other questions they have during their stay in the city. He also tells us that on the other side of our maps is a list of meal/food discounts at various places, negotiated for us by the company.

This tour was fantastic, very reasonably priced given the quality and quantity of food and drinks provided, and we highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city.

What we liked about the tour:

  • Before we arrived, everyone was queried about their food sensitivities, allergies and aversions and the company followed up on its promise to provide alternative tastings to those with gluten intolerance and seafood allergies.
  • The tour group sizes are kept small, always 10 people or less. People on food tours are usually interesting people, from different walks of life, all sharing a common passion for food and learning.
  • The tour was extremely well-organized. Each stop was prepared for our arrival with a special table and a warm greeting, even during the busy lunch hour, so there was no time wasted waiting for tables or service.
  • The selection of stops was varied and interesting.
  • Food samples were full-size—much, much more than ample.
  • Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, engaging, and fluent in English.
  • The pacing of walking, tasting, talking, and give and take was perfect. We got to see some of the most important monuments and areas of the city, clocking about a mile and a half, in total, on my Fitbit.

IF YOU GO

Taste Porto Food Tours

  • Tours are offered Tuesday to Saturday, excluding holidays, at 10AM, 10:45AM and 4PM
  • Taste Porto is a socially responsible business and 5% of each ticket sold is donated to a local charity that helps feed the poor.
  • Also recommended: The company maintains an excellent blog chock full of information about gastronomy in Porto.

Disclosure – We paid a discounted media rate for our tour.

  • Reply
    Mary Charlebois
    October 5, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    I love food tours. Thanks for sharing this one. I’m hungry now! –MaryGo

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 6, 2016 at 9:18 am

      Yes, food tours are a great way to learn about a people and culture.

  • Reply
    Laura
    October 6, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    What a great way to sample authentic local cuisine and culture, and get a lot of steps!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 7, 2016 at 8:46 am

      Yes, thank goodness we got to move between courses! It was the perfect blending of walking and eating:-)

  • Reply
    Jackie Smith
    October 6, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    Looks like a tasty tour alright and will keep it in mind, should our travels take us that direction. Great post, Irene.

  • Reply
    Doreen Pendgracs
    October 10, 2016 at 11:04 am

    The food tour of Porto looks amazing, Irene. I love food tours in different destinations, as they truly give you a glimpse into what the area is best known for and gives you a chance to taste some of the local specialties. Glad your tour offered a taste of chocolate as well! 🙂

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 11, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      The chocolate was good but the whipped cream was to die for! 🙂

  • Reply
    Anita
    October 10, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    So glad you enjoyed your tour with Taste Porto Food Tours, Irene! We loved our own tour with them, and learned about several places in Porto through a food walk. We are now happy regulars for those wonderful eclairs of Leitaria da Quinta do Paco and the petiscos at Taberna do Largo.Yum.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 11, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      Yes, food tours are a great way to get a “taste” of a town!

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    October 10, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    What a delicious tour this must have been! The food looks so yummy. It made me want to go down for dinner early tonight. I agree that it makes sense to do a food tour early in your visit so you can go back to some of the places you particularly liked.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 11, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      This one was especially nice because we learned about so much more than food, too!

  • Reply
    Julie Dawn Fox
    October 11, 2016 at 5:59 am

    You’ve made me hungry, especially for those cakes. I must say I’m not a fan of those Pasteis de Chaves though. They seem to have become really popular in Porto and I can’t quite understand why. Each to their own, I suppose!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 11, 2016 at 10:13 pm

      I thought the chocolate ones were quite good, tasted much like a chocolate croissant. But I would choose a Pasteis de Nata over that any morning (given the chance:-)

  • Reply
    Debbra Dunning Brouillette
    October 11, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    I haven’t been to Portugal but have heard it is an amazing destination. If I ever make it there, I would love to do a food tour of Porto. It’s too bad to read about the Wine House and how the families of those who have died cannot transfer ownership outside the family.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 11, 2016 at 10:15 pm

      In a way, it does preserve the traditions for those who remain~
      There’s no McDonald’s in that market:-)

  • Reply
    noel
    October 12, 2016 at 12:38 am

    This is so right up my alley in terms of food tours and exploring a fascinating city. I loved every stop and want to do this food tour when I visit Porto some day.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 12, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      We so enjoyed our time in Porto. I think you would love it!

  • Reply
    Karen Warren
    October 12, 2016 at 8:52 am

    I love going on food tours, as you get to try so many different things. The food of Porto looks delicious, especially the queijadinha and, of oourse, the chocolate eclairs.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 12, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      We had a great culinary experience in Porto…both on this tour—and before and after:-).

  • Reply
    Marilyn Jones
    October 13, 2016 at 1:36 am

    I think the best way to be introduced to any faction of a city is on a tour and this one looks amazing. My mouth is watering!!

  • Reply
    Denis Gagnon
    October 13, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    The Porto Food Tour seems to be top notch, not only in terms of the quality of the establishements, but also in terms of the organization behind it. But it seems odd to me that the tour was in the morning. Do they offer it at lunchtime or in the late afternoon? That would have been my preference. Thanks for a wonderful article!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      October 13, 2016 at 8:06 pm

      Yes, they offer it at various hours, morning and afternoon. I imagine that they might avoid the lunch hours as the businesses/restaurants could be very busy around that time. They thought of that, too!:-)

  • Reply
    Kristin Henning
    October 14, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    This looks like it should be a required activity for any visitor (or resident)! What better way to get to know a place?!

  • Reply
    alison abbott
    October 14, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    Nothing better than a good food tour to discover the inner secrets of a new destination. After visiting the Azores, the mainland jumped up high on the list and Taste Porto would be a yummy place to start. You’ve made me so hungry for some of their small bites!

  • Reply
    Sue Reddel
    October 14, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Obrigada! This tour is right up our alley. I don’t know what I’d like more everything looked so delicious. Small bites is definitely the way to taste your way through a yummy destination.

  • Reply
    Nathalie
    October 15, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Food tours are such a great way to learn about food, culture, history, etc… This Porto food tour looks like a great way to spend a few hours.

  • Reply
    Bola
    October 15, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    Porto has recently been placed on my bucket list. Would love to do a food tour like these and this ishould a wonderful way tof get to know the region. Lovely photos.

  • Reply
    Michele Legge
    October 21, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    We spent a couple of weeks in Portugal but I feel we did not get a real feel for it. This tour sounds amazing (and now i am hungry) will save it in case we manage to get back.

  • Reply
    Patti Morrow
    November 4, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    This tour looks like the perfect way to sample such a wide diversity of foods available in Porto! The flaky pasteis de chaves with a steaming mug of coffee is right up my alley!

Leave a Reply

Share
Tweet
Share
Pin
Flip