The One Hungry Pickle Guide to Lisbon–Where To Eat

SONY DSCIt wouldn’t be a Bhabha holiday if much time wasn’t spent deliberating over where and what to eat and planning our activity schedule accordingly. Located right on the coast, Lisbon is a bastion of fresh seafood, so many fish and crustaceans were consumed during the course of the week. Of course, we couldn’t escape many bites of the local specialty bacalhau–salted cod. I’m a sucker for Port as well, so I took it upon myself to finish many a meal with a glass of the sweet, dense stuff. Without further ado, a peek into our alimentary adventures:

SONY DSCCafe Lisboa was our first stop in Lisbon, and it shook me out of my plane haze immediately. The gorgeous outdoor setting–in the middle of a picturesque square in the city’s Bairro Alto neighborhood– combined with the delicious food and thrill of reuniting with my parents on vacation made this a perfect stopping point. It’s one of a slew of restaurants by local celeb chef Jose de Avillez. More on him later…This here is some shredded potato with eggs, bacalhau and some casual spherical (read: liquid filled and crazy) olives on top.
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As I mentioned, seafood is a deliciously unavoidable part of any trip to Lisbon, and we got a crash course in the freshest catches and crustaceans at SeaMe:

SONY DSCDon’t be alarmed by the service staff’s cheesy t-shirts (they say something like “rock and roll and sushi”) or the abundance of tourists–the food is excellent, and the locals are also fans, if less obvious ones. Missing the sardine (also a local favorite) nigiri is not an option: SONY DSCand I particularly enjoyed scoping out all the fresh fish before selecting our meal. SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

If you go to Lisbon without trying a Pasteis de Nata, you’re basically a psychopath and will be relentlessly mocked by any person that has ever visited Lisbon. These classic Portuguese custard-filled pastries are the sweet emblem of the city, and not to be missed under any circumstances. While they are made throughout Lisbon, there is one bakery in particular, in nearby Belem, that has been preparing the universally accepted archetype of the pastry: Pastéis de Belém.SONY DSCAfter waiting in the interminable line, you tell the counter person how many orders of six you’d like. At the speed of lightning, you have a tubular carton, filled with six little dreamtarts. Slightly singed on top, they are still warm, and best served with a sprinkling of cinnamon. Hot custard in a flaky crust…you can’t leave without one…or six. SONY DSC

After an extended stroll through the bougie-chic Principe Real neighborhood, we happened upon this extremely classic, down to earth Portuguese restaurant Tascardoso. No frills, and no need for frills, because it was precisely what we needed: tasty, affordable, and authentic. We all had grilled seafood–I went with octopus, and of course, the ubiquitous boiled potatoes that I’d been gorging myself on throughout.

SONY DSC SONY DSCDid I mention they serve house wine in a jug and present you with melted cheese before your meal has even started?SONY DSCSONY DSCAs I mentioned before, José de Avillez is the Thomas Keller/Grant Achatz/etc food boss of Portugal. Following our delightful experience at Café Lisboa, we managed to score a lunch reservation at his two star Michelin spot: Belcanto.SONY DSCIt was definitely a gastronomical extravagance, but a fabulous one at that. The food was extremely innovative and the vibe, though fancy, was still very warm. I’m still thinking about having a gin apéritif served to me within a orange hard shell (excuse the lack of focus!) SONY DSC, the otherwordly orange sauce accompanying suckling pig heaven and potato chips (top right) whose bag was made of potato starch and thus edible…yeah. I ate the bag. SONY DSCand this “mandarin” dessert my Dad ordered.SONY DSC  I left with every sense satisfied, and wishing that black garlic caramels were a frequent snack in my life (middle right)SONY DSC

Massive food halls have become a trend worldwide in recent years, and Lisbon’s Mercado da Ribeira on the seafront, housed in an old marketplace, is a delightful place to spend an afternoon.SONY DSC On one side is the grocery section, which I’ll get to in my “Where To Shop” post, and then in one massive room are numerous food stalls, many of which are outposts of Lisbon restaurants. We ate a pastry that weirdly resembled a circus peanut, both in texture and appearance: SONY DSC And checked out the salumi area: SONY DSCOur final meal in Lisbon was at a three-story restaurant called Solar dos Presuntos. I was thrilled and surprised to find a plate of cheese and charcuterie already waiting at the table–why is this not a custom elsewhere?! SONY DSCThe standouts at the meal were stewed baby goat (not pictured, alas) and squid ink rice with seafood. SONY DSC

One last place that I sadly didn’t take pictures of: Pap’Açorda. It’s simple, excellent, and the chocolate mousse will blow your socks off. Order the Açorda–it’s a local specialty of stewed bread and various ingredients. Get the tomato one.

And there you have it, fantastic food everywhere. Continue reading

Where I Eat in D.C.

I spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C. Perhaps it’s the fact that my boyfriend, brother, and best friend all live there, or maybe it’s just my unbridled desire to be in our nation’s capital–but in any case, I’m there very frequently.
While it may not have the restaurant density of New York, or longstanding culinary obsession of Philadelphia, D.C.’s dining scene has steadily been on the up-and-up, with increasing numbers of great eateries opening frequently.
Without further ado, my top 6 Washington dinner picks:
New York’s famous for standout Italian food, but the homemade pasta at this hipster joint was absolutely fantastic. We went for a celebratory birthday dinner and were nothing short of thrilled. There are wooden accents and mason jars abound, but it’s truly excellent. Order the Black Paccheri with Calamari, Chickpeas, Pea Shoots, Pickled Fresno Chile & Breadcrumbs OR ELSE.
1822 1st St NW, Washington, DC 20001
(202) 525-3021
[photo courtesy of The Red Hen]
seki358
I haven’t found much fantastic sushi in Washington, but Izakaya Seki is a total standout. Downstairs is a straight sushi bar, whereas upstairs features enticing grilled dishes in addition to raw fish. I love getting the smaller-format omakase.
1117 V St NW, Washington, DC 20009
(202) 588-5841
[photo courtesy of The Washington Post]
Flavored vodka? Check. Accordions? Check. Chicken Kiev? Check. This kitschy Russian place is really fun, and quite tasty indeed. I don’t recommend drinking before a meal at this Soviet stalwart ( I learned the hard way.)
1141 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036
(202) 783-7000
[photo courtesy of Huffington Post]
The food at this French brasserie spot isn’t mindblowing, but it’s consistently delicious. I LOVE the super Parisian decor and the seafood plateau (if you’re feeling flush with cash…or someone else is paying.)
1601 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
(202) 332-3333
[photo courtesy of Le Diplomate]
For excellent seafood in a classy atmosphere, I really enjoy Black Salt. It’s expensive for sure, but perfect for a celebration with very fresh marine fare and fantastic cocktails.
4883 MacArthur Blvd NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 342-9101
[photo courtesy of Black Salt]
littleserow424
Since opening last year, this Northern Thai spot in Dupont Circle has gained semi-cult status, owing both to its fiery tasting menus and almost impossible to get reservations. Here’s what to do: go at 5pm, line up, and pick a time for a table later on. A pain? Yes. Worth it once in a while? Definitely.
1511 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036
No Phone
[photo courtesy of The Washington Post]
Delicious tapas, tasty cocktails (I love the Adonis which involves Vermouth, Sherry, and more) and a fun, ill-lit atmosphere. Don’t miss the grilled scallions with romesco or any of the octopus dishes. There will probably be a wait on a weekend evening, but just have a cocktail at the bar and plan your method of menu attack.
1520 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
202-319-1404
[photo courtesy of Estadio]

Rainy with a chance of Seafood

DSC_0163Growing up in London (and summering there after we moved to the U.S.), I spent many a lovely holiday with my family in the English countryside–specifically the coastal area called Dorset. Returning to England with my family after a number of years, we decided to revisit Dorset for lots of hilly walks, bracing cider, and heaps of super-fresh seafood.DSC_0227While the weather was English summery (read: chilly with a constant backdrop of ominous rain clouds), it was a glorious trip, and we visited many of the fabulous local eateries which all served fish straight from the nearby waters.

A few highlights:DSC_0139 Ploughman’s Lunch: My kind of lunch:DSC_0181More REAL DEAL fish and chipsDSC_0190 Incredible fresh local lobster:DSC_0222DSC_0235

The Hive Beach Cafe (highly recommended):DSC_0238 DSC_0240 DSC_0257We also loved:
The Anchor Inn in Seatown
Our hotel, the fabulous (and 700 year old!) Bridge House

Old Bay and Messy Fingernails

IMG_7445When Quentin and I decided to take a walk down to DC’s waterfront “Maine Avenue Fish Market”, I didn’t envision that just a few hours hence we’d be having our first very own crab steam (I recently learned that “crab boil” is not the appropriate term, but let’s face it “crab steam” sounds pretty silly) complete with Old Bay (a pungent spice mix of mustard powder, paprika, celery salt, red pepper flakes, and a host of other ingredients) and cocktail shrimp.

Photo courtesy of leitesculinaria.comThe market was a sight to behold, with huge counters of fresh fish and shellfish everywhere you looked, and a salty, non-fishy scent wafting from the nearby water. Seemingly unaware of their impending fate in a deathly brew of boiling water and Old Bay, that classic Maryland seasoning, blue crabs fearlessly scuttled around, their claws pinching the sellers at every given opportunity.IMG_7446 IMG_7447 IMG_7452 IMG_7450

We settled for a half pound of large shrimp and a dozen bright blue crabbies.

We went for the classic preparations; I boiled the shrimp in a mixture of cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, pepper and a touch of garlic powder (right) while Quentin tackled the crabs, expertly steaming them in  a combination of water and a can of ever-classy Bud Light and sprinkling them liberally with the Old Bay (left).  I served the shrimp with the classic combo of cocktail sauce and lemon wedges, and we watched as the crabs turned a reddish ochre hue.

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With some side  accoutrements and plenty of cold white wine, we laid out newspaper on the balcony, munched happily on lots of succulent crab, and thoroughly encrusted our faces and fingernails with plenty of Old Bay.

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Seafood Purchased from:

Jesse Taylor Seafood
1100 Maine Ave SW #2 Washington, DC 20024
(202) 554-4173

Old Bay photograph courtesy of http://www.leitesculinaria.com, Cocktail Sauce photograph courtesy of http://www.cavegirlcuisine.com