Local Heart, Global Soul

December 13, 2010

Tourist Joints and a Fortress Lunch…

Filed under: PORTUGAL — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Family Kiwidutch have been busy exploring the Fort that stands inside the northern Portuguese town of Valença. Inside the historic Fort walls is what might almost be called a “sub-town” since it is separated from, but still within Valença.

Of course parts of it cater to tourists, but other parts, local houses and businesses are just like in any suburb of any town.

It would be easy to forget that if ever the great doors and entranceways to the outside world were slammed shut,  you would be barricaded for better or worse  instantly within the thick walls. It’s both a weird and magical idea when you think about it.

Our walking has given us an appetite so we are keen to stop for a bite to eat.

Our family face a culinary obstacle at this point in our lives…  it’s a familiar one for many parents of small(er) children. If this was just Himself and I, then the options are simple, steer clear of the tourist joints, ask around to see where the locals eat and hopefully find a little family run local business and discover some local culinary gems.

At the other end of the scale are people who go abroad and spend their entire dining experience in International Fast Food chains… only because the familiar burger and fries in the photos are well within their comfort zone. But for us, who (a) despise these chains and (b) love getting to grips with the excellence of  different local cuisines and taste experiences, this option is truly the option of last resort.

The obstacle is that our kids are not yet discerning culinary giants, they have very simple tastes and a limited palette which we are steadily working on extending but which is far from our final goal.

Therefore middle ground is to try and find a local place that serves both local and kid friendly food. This usually ends up in practice being a place that caters for tourists and well to be blunt, these place can often have what  I call a ” passing through” attitude.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

So many tourist places serve exceptionally mediocre food and don’t care because the tourist is passing this way today, in all likelihood will never come back, their word of mouth doesn’t matter so much as their friends live far away and so these establishments grin, take their money tuck it into the till and wave goodbye as the tourists file en masse back to the tour bus/mini van/rental car.

These places do food to please the masses, it’s guaranteed to be fairly quick, recognisable and it fits into the schedule of an hour for lunch and then off to the next place. It’s a quick turn-around of tables for the eatery too.. win win. No?

Well not for us it isn’t. In fact these are probably the single biggest reasons I would never be found on an organised tour, (actually tours and cruises are so not our style for many reasons), give us instead: at least ten words of a foreign language, a place far away from the crowds and let us take our chances with the highlights and pitfalls of going solo any day.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The problem of adding kids into the equation is simply that compromise is an inevitable fact until they are capable of mastering what I call “joined-up-food“. Fortunately this place, whilst clearly catering for tourists at least offers half decent fare, friendly staff and is better than many establishments of it’s type.

I forgot to get the exact names of the dishes we ate, but they were more “tourist” fare than real Portuguese and  I had the Portuguese version of a Tuna sandwich, the kids wanted the perennial kid favourite of toasted sandwiches and that Himself had a  paella style main dish.

Additionally, Himself and I shared a single  appetizer and an entrée between us…

It’s baking hot and the shade umbrellas are massively appreciated.

I have no clue what this appetizer of oblong balls are called but contained bacalhau (salt cod) and was the best we have had anywhere so far this trip… seriously good.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The fish entrée was good in an “ok’ kind of way, very edible but nothing mega special. That’s probably how I would sum up most of the meal… simple, sufficient, … nice.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I wouldn’t mind to have the tuna sandwich again, but with 20/20 vision would skip the entrée and ask for a double portion of the appetizer as it was definitely the best thing on the menu.

Himself enjoyed his paella without raving about it and well, for a tourist outfit they actually did better than I expected.

There is a cafe element to the restaurant too so naturally I was drawn to photograph the selection of sweeter options , but today we were too full and too hot to indulge.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Note to self: looks divine….gotta search for a recipe in my Portuguese cookbooks for these…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

plus old favourites, naturally…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

1 Comment »

  1. the appetizers you tried are called “bolinhos de bacalhau”, something like cod little cakes, and besides the salted cod they are made with mashed potatoes, eggs and parsley. They are very common and very appreciated by Portuguese people, definitely you found something on that menu that was not for tourists only 🙂

    Comment by Raquel — September 28, 2012 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

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