I must confess, I'm a closet foodie. I love everything about food - I like eating out and trying new restaurants; I like talking about food; I like shopping in farmer's markets; I like watching cooking shows; I like cookbooks; I seek out food blogs and frequent them; I sometimes even buy a magazine because I want to read the recipes (knowing full well that I'm never going to try them); and I would love to travel to France or Italy to attend a cooking class (a perfect vacation!). It's unfortunate that I'm not a good cook (LOL). Don't get me wrong if you come to my house for dinner you won't be served McDonald's as I have a few recipes that I've mastered over the years (because I like to invite people over) but I am aware of my limitations.
Last night I traveled south to Setúbal and had a fab dinner in a cute little restaurante called "Champanheria" (the Champagne Shop - loosely translated). It was such a good experience that I just had to share . . . The owner is a very warm Brazilian woman who makes everyone feel welcome. The Champanheria markets itself as a "Restaurante/Tapas Bar" - but it's tapas with a twist.
Tapas (which are basically starters) is typically Spanish. When in Spain I love to frequent the tapas bars and gorge myself. It's so much fun and you don't have to speak Spanish to order - most of the items are on view at the bar so you can just point and eat! (What a relief!) Evidently each bar has its own speciality but you see a lot of smoked ham and cheese plates, olives, boccadillo (little open-faced sandwiches), and calamari.
The cook at the Champanheria has re-invented tapas and taken it to the next level. The restaurant serves an array of interesting and appealing appetizers. It offers some old favourites (like warm camembert with blackberries - yum) and interesting new combinations (baked apple stuffed with a special Portuguese sausage, alheira, garnished with a reduction of balsamic vinegar - to die for!) artistically presented. Just when you've finished one starter another one arrives - like culinary magic. We didn't "order" the starters individually - they just "showed up", each tastier and more original than the other. They did wonderful things with oysters, foie gras, and salmon. Then there were these amazing little nests topped with melted cheese and honey... The nests were crunchy threads made from potatoes. (Potatoes? - How did they manage that? It's beyond me!) All this was complimented by their signature drink - champagne sangria.
If the saying "you are what you eat" is true, then I'm interesting, magic, original - not bad, not bad at all. Thanks Champanheria!
For a pleasantly different kind of Portuguese dining experience - check out: Chamnpanheria, Av. Luisa Todi, 414, Setúbal.