Culture is about the mix of food, location, and people. Once you start traveling, you start to realize that. We quickly learned in Stockholm and Barcelona how important food is to a culture. Simply being in the location doesn’t give you too much insight into the people and the culture, but once you start eating and talking, it all comes together.
This is the essence of the Taste of Lisboa food tour that took us around the Campo de Ourique neighborhood. Our guide, Filipa, wasn’t just a hired guide who was told what to say. She spent a lot of time in this neighborhood when growing up. The history, the food, the meanings are all part of her own history.
The Campo de Ourique neighborhood
Getting to the meeting point might seem like quite the trek because it’s not really on the tourist route (that’s a bonus point in our book). But it’s really not that far from wherever you are. The famous tram 28 takes you right there. If that’s too full for you, the buses 774 and 701 take you there too. Uber is super cheap in Lisbon if that’s more your style. Though, I highly suggest grabbing a transit card while in Lisbon. Just hopping around without a worry is always nice.
No matter who your guide is, you’ll be introduced to a neighborhood that is incredibly local and just the place you want to be chowing down. This tour doesn’t include the touristy places you can find on your own in the downtown areas, instead it gives you a hyper local flavor.
Starting off the food tour on a sweet note
All of us on the tour were American, so what we ate at the first stop for our mid-morning snack was a bit of a surprise. What better snack could you have other than the World’s Best Chocolate Cake? Yeah. That surprised me too! But me and chocolate? Let’s just say, I wasn’t complaining.
This chocolate cake looks like Heaven, but it’s not the chocolate cake I eat at home. Don’t expect a spongy and moist cake with creamy frosting. This cake a bit crusty like a macaron with a ganache-like filling. Different was very good in this case. I may have finished mine and Sean’s. #noregrets
Onward to the food market
Food markets seem to be making a come-back. From farmer’s market style to food stall markets for prepared foods, having a variety of food in one spot is pretty much the best thing ever. We got to learn about the local fish, where a roasted suckling pig must be roasted to ensure perfection, and a quick lesson on canned fish including its importance to Portugal.
Now, if you’re a long-time follower of this blog, you know I don’t like to spoil everything about a food tour. But I will tell you that I tried something I’ve never tried before (my personal hope for every food tour). It’s something I know some people love and can’t get enough of, but that has never interested me. Fish roe.
Yep. I put it on bread and ate it. Was it fishy? No. Would I order it while I’m out? No. Is it part of the culture and glad I tried it? Abso-friggin-lutely. This is what it’s all about. Learning about people and culture. It’s not a meal made for you. It’s about them. And I love that.
This market though, the Campo de Ourique market, is beautiful and open. Super clean spaces with gorgeous foods on display. Even the canned fish was beautifully set. If you ever go here, you must find Frutos Secos. As someone who can eat nuts if they are in front of her but isn’t a die-hard fan, I got a taste of one of them and was hooked. I didn’t get back to that stall and was quite sad about it. So, if anyone is going to Lisbon and then hopping over to Amsterdam, I’ll happily take a bag of the flavored almonds.
Sit-down restaurant time
While I love a good tour, I love to plop my butt in a chair and have a nice drink while trying the local fare. From pork to mussels, a fish dish, and dessert, we got to discover some of the best spots in the neighborhood of Campo de Ourique.
How many ways can you eat pork? So, so many ways! I hope you get to discover a new way at the restaurant that adores their pork. And the wine. Ohhh, I love trying the wine so much. Great pairing too! It was nice to get a few different takes on what this restaurant specializes in. It’s not just a bite–it’s a collaboration of flavors and textures that caught me by surprise.
In Portugal, you must eat seafood. Must! To accomplish this, we walked to a restaurant all about mussels and craft beer. I’ve got your attention now, don’t I? Since it’s all about Portuguese food, we got the Portuguese style mussels (Moules à Bulhão Pato). Less is more here, folks. Simple ingredients make great flavors.
We even learned a cool trick. Please tell me we are not the only ones who didn’t know this. You can use a mussel as a tool to pick out the other mussels! Mind blown.
Finally we got to the famous Vinho Verde! The wine alongside a cod dish, was *kisses tips of fingers* delicioso! The wine was great, the cod was great and so much better than any other I had in Lisbon. It shocked me. I actually got a bit greedy with the fish. But still, no regrets.
Let’s talk about comfort food. Admittedly, most of the comfort food I’m aware of doesn’t look like that great. It doesn’t have to because it’s about comforting your belly and reviving memories and that feeling of comfort. I don’t have the memories associated with baked beans rice, but I could certainly understand how this dish could make you warm and fuzzy all over while thinking about your grandma’s food.
Gimme some sugar!
Yeah…we started off with sweets, but I am perfect happy to end-cap a food tour with a little sugar. The last stop is always a little bitter sweet (hehe). We made new friends, learned new things, and ate some great and some interesting bites.
With a very yellow treat sprinkled with cinnamon and powered sugar alongside glass of refreshing iced tea, we chatted about our day and what our favorite things were. I thought about the people who lived in that tight-knit area and really enjoyed reflecting on the foods they eat, the places they meet up on a sunny day (which is way more often than in Amsterdam!), and just why they do what they do.
Food tours really are the best. The people, the food, the history and stories all come together to create a unique experience. As usual, I would highly suggest you take a tour like this at the beginning of your trip. Taste of Lisboa gives a great reference sheet listed all the places you went in case you want to go back. But it also has recommendations on where to go during your stay.
Don’t forget to ask questions! We were chatting about going to Mini Bar (which is super amazing) and Filipa told us of a new spot that the same chef just opened up. My foodie friends didn’t even know about it! We went the next day and it was delicious. Your tour guide is your local friend who know all the cool spots, so use that knowledge!
If you are traveling foodies like us, you probably have a favorite city for food tours, so let’s hear it! Share that delicious knowledge.
This was a complimentary tour thanks to Taste of Lisboa, which we thoroughly enjoyed. All opinions are my own and we are so grateful for the opportunity to experience this food tour so we can share it with you!