Saturday, March 12, 2011

For every season ...

... there is a lamprey?  No, of course not.  Lamprey is only in season in the spring.

Uh, you're kidding, right?

We were vaguely aware of lamprey as food but it became more clear on a visit to the big Pingo Doce grocery store in February when they had a big tank full of them with a banner declaring "Surprise!"  I'm pretty sure they meant that in a good way and I could not resist taking a picture.

Imagine our delight when João invited us to lunch in Porto for his brother-in-law Paulo's annual lamprey lunch.  Paulo had reserved most of the tables at Caracas, one of our favorite restaurants in Porto, and we were eager to see how lamprey is served and how it tastes.  (I should note that I'm using the royal "we".  When I say "we", I mean "I".  Peggy's delight was clouded by an initial queasiness.)

João serving up the lamprey.

The best lamprey in Portugal come from the Minho river, which forms the northern Portuguese border with Spain.  They are big, up to 40 inches long.  They are chopped into sections and cooked in a broth that contains, like quite a few other dishes here, the blood of the main course.  This is then served over rice.  It has mild flavor that is a bit like tuna but a bit earthy.  If you'd like to try this one at home here is a link to a recipe in English.  It may not be the best thing we've had in Portugal but I liked it and Peggy warmed up to it as well.


March 5 was not only the day of the lamprey lunch but also one of the days in which Essência do Vinho was held in Porto at the Palácio da Bolsa, the beautiful 19th century stock exchange building.  The main floor and many rooms overlooking it were filled with wine producers from all parts of the county.

Overlooking the jam-packed main floor.

This is, apparently, the premier wine event in Portugal.  The booths were staffed not just by sales-rep types but also the winemakers themselves and it was a nice treat to hear what they were trying to do with their wines.

In the thick of it at Essência do Vinho.

It made for quite a day of consumption.  But for one of us the lamprey and wine combination may not be one we (and I'm no longer using the royal "we") anticipate repeating too soon.


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