We are becoming experts in food tours around the world, from Hanoi to Bangkok to Barcelona. It’s something I enjoy doing in order to better understand the local food scene, even in a city that I have traveled to before. When we returned to Lisbon, Portugal, though, I wanted something a little more, well, unique. Lazy Flavors was able to customize a Lisbon culinary tour that was exactly what we had in mind, even though we didn’t know it.
We approached Lazy Flavors, essentially asking them for a food tour. Although we had been to Lisbon before, our diet consisted mostly of shrimp with garlic, and pork sandwiches called bifanans. All good, but we wanted some variety. This Lisbon culinary tour took our knowledge of traditional Portuguese cuisine to a whole new level.
The owner of Lazy Flavors, Mariana, wanted to wow us. Sure, she knew we would be writing about the experience. She figured, though, it would be a perfect opportunity to test out their new customized Lisbon culinary tour, on a willing crowd – a couple of hungry guinea pigs, with big stomachs and open minds.
We met Mariana and Veronica, our tour guide, in the Graça neighborhood of Lisbon, set on one of the seemingly highest hills of the city. After a walk around the neighborhood, learning about its history, we got to work. Food work.
We met professional chef, Chef Patrícia, at her favorite fishmonger in Graca. She explained that she had prepared most of the ingredients ahead of time for our Lisbon culinary tour, but wanted to show us her fishmonger. The historic fish shop still buys most of its fish from local fishermen, who they have been working with for years. It is this sort of buy-local philosophy that I love about Europe, especially when it has become more and more difficult to track a food source in the States.
After a quick stop at a produce shop to pick up the last of the necessary fresh ingredients, Chef Patrícia brought us back to her home. Anytime we can get inside a local’s home I feel special. It is similar to our at-home cooking class in Osaka. I love seeing how the locals live and eat. In this case, Chef Patrícia’s home reminded me of Ubud, with loads of Buddhas on the wall and Indian artifacts. These decorations and her culinary passion, all came together in one cozy apartment.
A Culinary Expert in Lisbon
Chef Patrícia started by cooking with her mother when she was younger. They shopped for meals that often included trips to the market, where she was mesmerized by the sounds, smells, and colors. Although a professional mathematician by trade, Chef Patrícia always knew that cooking was her passion. During a yoga trip to India, she experienced what can only be described as a renaissance, an enlightening based on the assault on the senses that India can be. This also explained the Indian and Asian influences in her apartment.
Chef Patrícia is now completing a master’s degree in culinary science. Although a vegetarian, she also leans towards being a pescatarian, taking advantage of the direct access to the amazing seafood that Lisboetas get from the local sea. She believes in guilt free eating, though, so long as people are cooking local ingredients and appreciating the food that they eat. Easy to do in Lisbon.
Although originally billed as a cooking class, Chef Patrícia was a little over eager and prepared most of the meal ahead of time. This worked well as she was able to explain the ingredients, and how she makes the dishes, as she cooked, and as we ate, which really is our favorite part of a tour like this Lisbon culinary tour. We do not always need to get our hands dirty in a kitchen to learn about the food culture.
Another unique aspect of this Lisbon culinary tour: Manuel.
Enter: A Portuguese Wine Expert
Chef Patrícia happened to mention to her “wine professor” in her culinary sciences school that she was preparing a meal for a couple of bloggers at her house. Professor Manuel invited himself over to the house to meet us, with an offer to select the Portuguese wines for the meal. The wines were his ticket for the Lisbon culinary tour.
Although the food was amazing, and Mariana and Chef Patrícia were wonderful, Manuel kind of made the afternoon. I suggested to Mariana that she include Manuel in a future customized Lisbon culinary tour. She just might. He arrived just after we had opened, and almost finished, the first wine, which we ate with an oozy block of soft Portuguese cheese.
Manuel’s philosophy of wine shies away from the typical way to smell and taste wine, asking people what aromas they smell, or what they taste in the wine. Instead, he asked how we felt drinking the wine.
The first bottle was a Vale dos Barris white wine, served next to a large jug of water infused with orange blossoms. The wine was light, crisp, and to me tasted akin to a sauvignon blanc. It was accented by the brightness of the infused water. Because we had just arrived from Asia, and were feeling wine-deficient, this wine for me was a happy wine, a wine I could drink all day long if given the chance.
Manuel latched onto this description of the happy wine, and each wine we tasted after was either happy, or less happy, or not quite as happy. It was a great way to distinguish between more serious wines, which go well with a particular food, and the happy ones that, like I said, could be drank all day, every day, without food. It was a great way to spend an afternoon wine tasting in Lisbon.
The Menu for Our Lisbon Culinary Tour
As great as Manuel’s wine lesson was, the centerpiece of the afternoon was the menu that the chef put together. We walked through each of the wines with each of Chef Patrícia’s courses.
Before I was able to even disengage myself from the gooey cheese we started with, we moved to the dinning table, which was elaborately decorated with a view over the trees behind the Graça neighborhood. Chef Patrícia had laid out plates of thinly sliced octopus, drizzled with olive oil, layered with fresh fava beans and sliced radish. Octopus caviar and olive powder topped the carpaccio. Eric is not a big octopus fan, but even he enjoyed the freshness.
I watched Chef Patrícia, with her personal blow torch in hand, as she grilled fresh sardines, right in her kitchen. After, she layered the sardines over roasted red peppers, and flakes of crackling red pepper flakes. The plate included some toast points with sweet tomatoes, to be rubbed onto the toast. I am falling in love with the fresh sardines in both Portugal and Spain, and they are nothing like the canned sardines I knew, and avoided, growing up in the States.
Açorda is essentially a traditional bread soup, that has been served at both poor and rich tables through the Alentejo wine region, outside of Lisbon. Traditionally, the clear broth was flavored with fresh cilantro, garlic and olive oil, and would be poured over old, crusty bread. When available, fresh cod was added to the soup. Chef Patrícia added a poached egg and a sprig of lavender. This was my first time eating Açorda, and I loved the mix of the fresh broth and the fattiness of the egg yolk as it melted into the soup.
A cataplana is the name for the copper, covered pot that is used to cook seafood stews in Portugal, namely in the Algarve region. In this case, Chef Patrícia added fish, shrimp, and clams to a boiling mixture of tomatoes, green pepper, olive oil, garlic, white wine, and brandy in order to make the creamy stew. She delivered the cataplana to the table, and when she opened it, the entire table instinctively went “oooooohhhhh.” It was priceless.
Trio of Desserts
To top off the meal, and a perfect way to end our Lisbon culinary tour, Chef Patrícia served a trio of desserts. One of the desserts, a sericaia is another traditional Portuguese dish. A fluffy, cake like dessert with cinnamon and lemon zest. The second dessert was a creamed dessert infused with lavender. The final, and most interesting dessert was a rice pudding, turned into a foam through a whipped cream style canister, covered with shaved plums. Watching Chef Patrícia spray out the rice pudding into each individual glass cup was another “oooohhhh” moment.
The Culmination of our Lisbon Culinary Tour
Chef Patrícia has an amazing zest for life, although I know that sounds a bit cliche. I fell in love with her infectious laugh. She would explain the history or tradition, and ingredients, of each of our courses, often laughing at herself, at something she said. She just seemed happy to be serving her amazing Portuguese cuisine to eager diners. She was as happy as the happy wine, which Manuel was more than pleased to share with us.
Lunch ended around 5. Our tour had started at 10:00. I am sure these results are not typical of a Lazy Flavors customized Lisbon culinary tour. It was just that we all were having way too much fun, eating and drinking together, and learning from each other. Regardless of my “results not typical” disclaimer, the philosophy behind Lazy Flavors is to customize a tour based on the interests of its clients, and this certainly was customized.
Looking For More Great Food and Wine Tours in Portugal?
Check out our recommendations for the best Portuguese food tours, cooking classes, and wine tours. With tours from Lisbon and Porto, these tours cover Alentejo, Minho, and everything in between. Or, for first-time visitors to Lisbon, check out these top Portugal travel tips.
And, for more Portuguese culinary travel inspiration, check out our Portugal food travel guide.[table id=6 /]
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
Lazy Flavors supported us during this afternoon gluttony, but as always, my yummy sounds, are my own. A customized Lisbon culinary tour from Mariana and Lazy Flavors starts at 95 Euros. If you book a Lisbon culinary tour with Lazy Flavors, don’t forget to ask if Manuel can join!
For more tips on traveling Lisbon and exploring Portugal through food, check out our Portugal Food Travel Guide.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.