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Sunday, May 21, 2017

A Brief History of Creme: Portugal

Welcome to a "Brief History of Creme."  In this series, we explore the great creme traditions of the world.  Today's exploration will take us to the shores of Portugal, off the coast of...Portugal.  Sit back, relax and enjoy A Brief History of Creme: Portugal.

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A stunning April day in Lisbon.  The sky is vivid, crisp blue.  There is a lovely breeze.  It is going to be a comfortably warm day, and the morning freshness is invigorating!  There is a tiny district called Belem, west of Lisbon's city center, known for its pastry houses.  Lisbon is a city of incredible pastries, and the Pasteis de Nada is the city's great creation, an egg tart of tender crust and creamy, fluffy egg custard.  Pasteis de Belem is known for its Pasteis de Nada's and all other manner of pastries.  It's a quaint, lovely pastry shoppe and cafe.  We order some excellent coffee with milk and tell the waiter to bring us an onslaught of various treats. "Sir, I want to be frontal assaulted by creams!" I scream. The egg tarts are incredible, so delicate and flavorful!  This custard is so heavenly, it tastes as if it had been slowly beaten and whipped for years.  It is slightly sweet but not too sweet.  There is another pastry filled with a creme paste - yes, it has the consistency of a thick paste, with a nutty, excellent flavor.  It is basically the best creme donut you've ever had.

Next stop, the lovely town of Porto.  Now, I must say, Porto does not have as many bakeries and pastry shoppes as Lisbon, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a delicious creme there.  One day I was strolling along the coast, a few miles from the town, and it was a misty day.  As I stroll amidst the mists, I notice an incredible smell.  "Wait, there must be some delicious cremes nearby!" I cry out.  I follow the pleasant odors until I reach a cute little bakery specializing in French eclairs! Yes, Leitaria da Quita do Paco is literally a cremeria which makes eclairs in the finest French tradition. I order a classic and a hazelnut eclair, the latter, which the shopkeeper rightly points out, is much like a Ferrero Rocher come to life in eclair form.  The cremes are exquisite.  I sit outside in the mist and eat my cremes.

Finally, another noteworthy creme is also of the hazelnut variety.  My companion and I dine at the trendy Cantinho do Avillez in downtown Porto.  It is a great meal, and for dessert we order the "Halzenut³" - that's right, it's cubed. What arrives is the one of the finest cremes I've ever tasted.  There are three hazelnut cremes of various consistencies layered in a glass, and each creme interacts and builds off the other, creating a cacophony of cremes! "This is an incredible creamy crescendo!" I blurt out, unable to contain myself.  Many of the patrons in the bistro drop their forks and stare, but the professional server staff seem accustomed to such creamy outbursts.  This Hazelnut cubed dessert is an amazing finale for a trip filled with wonderful cremes.

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We hope you've enjoyed the continuing saga of cremes.  Join us again!

Pasteis de Belem
Lisbon, Portugal

Leitaria da Quita do Paco
Porto, Portgual

Cantinho do Avillez
Porto, Portugal




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