Posts Tagged ‘Portugal’

How to Fit Three Weeks Into Two

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

Joan and I left Los Angeles on the “Windstar Express” carrying a load of chocolate at about 6 am on Friday morning headed for our favorite chocolate show—The Fourth Annual San Francisco International Chocolate Salon held at Fort Mason. We knew that we had won several more awards that had been pre-judged and already announced. On the trip up, I spoke with my editor, Geoff Stone, about the new adventures of Old Ed—an editorial device that is another way to describe some of my world travels in search of great chocolate to be featured in the upcoming Ed Engoron’s Choclatique by Running Press.

Fisherman's WharfAfter checking in at the Hilton on Fisherman’s Wharf, we met up with my brother Roy and chef Wayne, fielded telephone calls from clients, customers and the office and finally took some time to have a great dinner at North Beach Restaurant and then to bed to prepare for the morning onslaught of chocolate lovers. The alarm went off at 5 am and it was up and at ‘em to set up for the salon. The doors opened and we served nearly five thousand pieces of chocolate and sold many more between 10 and 6. Then it was time to break everything down and pack up. Before collapsing for the night, we had a horrible dinner at Castagnola’s on the wharf—disgusting food and despicable service. After all, it is a tourist trap. What were we thinking?

Sunday morning we were on the road back to Los Angeles, arriving at 3pm, just in time to get caught in the Los Angeles Marathon traffic. When I got home, I had just enough time to change and repack my suitcase for two weeks in Portugal.

Monday morning Joan and I arrived at the office at 7am and spent the whole day taking care of everything that we didn’t do the week before while preparing for our client meetings in Lisbon. It was an all nighter on Air France to Paris and another two and a half hours to Lisbon. We had just enough time to check into our hotel rooms, clean up and meet our client for dinner.

I brought samples of CHICKS and Chocolate Almond Butter Toffee Bites—our best in show toffee. The next morning it was back-to-back meetings for nearly 12 hours. Our clients like to get their money’s worth. We visited Colombo, a beautiful upscale shopping mall for dinner before retiring for the night.

Portuguese BacalhauThe next day and each succeeding day it was store visits, kitchen inspections, checking the competition and eating lot of traditional Portuguese food from the far north to the south like Duck Rice, Cozido (don’t ask) and Bacalhau. Bacalhau is made from salted Icelandic cod. The Portuguese claim that there are 1001 ways to make Bacalhau, but oddly enough, none of the recipes include chocolate.

On Monday we headed up to Braga near Porto to see their newest hyper store—a 3-hour drive in each direction. The entire trip was peppered with chocolate from Hustle, chocolate mousse from Pingo Doce and other chocolate delights from flans to brûlées and from truffles to tablets—everything chocolate.

EriceiraThe last day was preparing for a board meeting in a picturesque fishing village, Ericeira, about 30 minutes outside Lisbon. Many Portuguese families have summer homes there and why not… it is just what you would think Portugal should look like. We feasted on a lunch of Tiger Prawns, locally-caught steamed prawns, and char-grilled Dorado which my client claimed tastes just like lobster. It didn’t, but was good just the same.

Ericeira, PortugalThe board meeting was cancelled at the last minute, but undaunted, my client and I found time to check out two more supermarkets and then find a great pizza joint that served wonderful Italian wines, fantastic chocolate tiramisu and a wheat berry cheese cake, better than Mario Batali’s; you can find my recipe in the recipe section of our blog. The only thing that would have made it a little better would have been a drizzle of Choclatique Prestige Milk Chocolate. Oh, by the way, the wood-fired pizza was pretty terrific, too.

So, after over two weeks on the road, here I am on Flight 063 Paris to Los Angeles, writing my adventures before I forget any of the details. Tomorrow it will be business as unusual (as it always is) and, of course, no day is ever complete without a visit to the Choclatique Chocolate Studios and a tasting of our latest production. This job is tough, but someone has to do it. Welcome home, Ed!

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Choclatique Goes To Lisbon

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

Portugal AirlinesIt was my first trip to Lisbon in over 30 years and I was thrilled to be traveling back to one of my favorite cities with great food and excellent chocolate. No time for planning. The phone call came in, arrangements were made within two days, and then I was off.

Lisbon

I sort of remember Lisbon being a smaller, sleepy, more romantic city, but I was in for a surprise. Lisbon is the vibrant capital and the largest city in Portugal, with a bustling population of around 2.8 million inhabitants. Greater Lisbon is the wealthiest region in Portugal whose GDP is well above that of the European Union, producing 37% of the Portuguese national GDP. It is also the political center of the country as seat of government. It is an exciting place to be.

Lisbon Under Roman Rule

There is a lot of history to discover in Lisbon; it is everywhere you look. It was under Roman rule from 205 BC, when it was already a 1000-year old town. Julius Caesar made it a municipium called Felicitas Julia, adding to the name Olissipo. The area was ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the 5th century until captured by Moors in the 8th century. In 1147, the Crusaders re-conquered the city for the Christians. Since that time, it has been a major political, economic and cultural center of Portugal.

Portuguese Seafood

I love the foods of Lisbon because they are inspired by the sea and so many of the dishes contain fish, especially, a national favorite salted cod. A lot of the food is just the simple fare of fishermen and farmers. In my four-day visit, I managed to enjoy fish, meat, rice and potatoes (usually fried) combined with olive oil, wine and plenty of warm hospitality and friendship—the older the better, as the Portuguese proverb goes. I was surprised that Portuguese food, especially in the capital, is generally inexpensive and served in large quantities, with €8 buying a hearty meal in an outdoor café and under €25 in most of the upper end restaurants in Lisbon.

Portuguese Coffee

What I truly loved was starting my day at breakfast which I enjoyed at a café or pastelaria (pastry shop) located across the street from my hotel where hot croissants and other such pastries were freshly-baked and served along with a cup of espresso to wash it down. I am not a big strong coffee drinker, but I did discovery um galão—Portuguese Coffee, which is a milky coffee beverage served in a glass. I topped my cup each morning with broken pieces of dark chocolate, making it mocha-style.

Portuguese Chicken

As always, I packed in as many tastes and flavors as I possibly could. For lunches I sampled various soups, such as the caldo verde (a thick vegetable soup) or sopa à alentejana (a garlic and bread soup with a poached egg in it).Bacalhau I also tried a great rice, fish and shellfish soup. I rediscovered that the fish and shellfish dishes are unsurpassed in Portuguese cooking. I tried anything and everything offered from crabs, clams, barnacles, prawns or crayfish to mullet, tuna and the ubiquitous bacalhau (dried, salted cod). Portuguese bacalhau can be cooked in many different ways and is much tastier than it might sound, particularly when cooked as bacalhau à Gomes de Sá with potatoes, onions, olives and hard-boiled eggs. I usually don’t care for the types of sardines (sardinhas) found in the United States, but I found that they are close behind bacalhau in popularity. They don’t come packed in a can but are grilled or barbequed. There is great local soup, arroz de marisco, which is a bit like a seafood risotto crossed with a soup.

Most meat entrees I sampled were served with piri-piri sauce, a sizzling chili concoction very popular in both Portugal and in many South American countries. No churrasco (barbequed chicken) was so very popular there were whole restaurants dedicated to preparing it. Pork in Portugal is from unique, pot-belly pig whose extended stomach can touch the ground (kind of like me at the end of this trip). The meat from pork is rich, tender and flavorful. I tried it cooked with clams (porco à alentejana) and simply grilled—both great.

So what about chocolate you ask?

Chocolate Truffles

The largest food retailer in Portugal, Jerónimo Martins, created the Hussel candy stores which I found to be a real chocolate temptation. They offer over 300 permanent and 200 seasonal items. Everything from gumdrops, fruit drops and lollipops, gourmet chocolate truffles (packed in fancy boxes), chocolate-coated almonds chocolate bars and chocolate cookies.

There is a wonderful two-week long annual international chocolate festival in the Portuguese city Óbidos, located about 40 miles (70k) to the north of Lisbon. It is usually the first and second week of February just in time for Valentine’s Day. The festival is both exciting and entertaining for both adults and children. After all, the world’s most popular food is dark, sweet, rich and delicious—it’s chocolate, of course. There are chocolate sculptures, fashion shows, recipe contests and lots of chocolate eating. So, whether you like deep dark, velvety milk, rich semi-sweet, deep bittersweet or creamy white, you can fill that gap of indulgence and then some with chocolate treats from all over the Portugal.

Chocolate Tartlet

One of the dishes that I fell in love with was a Portuguese Chocolate Tartlet which had been one of the festival prize winners. I love finding a national treasure recipe and enjoy sharing my discoveries with our readers. These chocolate tartlets can be a great change from a traditional Thanksgiving Apple, Pecan or Pumpkin Pie. They are quick and remarkably easy to make. I think these are the most wonderful tasting chocolate tartlets I have ever tasted. They are fantastic served with ice cream, whipped cream or crème anglaise. Try out this recipe for Maladassas, Portuguese Doughnuts, as well.

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