A Hotel, the Douro, a Kitchen and 4 luxury hands

A few months have passed since our last visit to Douro, however, it’s always good to notice that any excuse is good to return! Even more when returning to a riverside paradise – Six Senses Douro Valley – this time to the occasion of a very special dinner.

A dinner by the enfant terrible of Portuguese cuisine, Ljubomir Stanisic, no need for introductions, and the quieter Alexandre Silva, the creative and starred chef behind Loco.

Water and olive oil, who molded together and became friends and for the first time cooked together, an accomplishment for the most Yugoslavian “alentejano” in the country (that’s right cause Ljubomir considers himself an Alentejo pureblood) who says he doesn’t like people.

With the best scenery, a wide table for around 14 guests, an open kitchen and a big team focused on giving us a unique experience of haute cuisine in Douro.

And the 14 courses show started very well, with a “mata-bicho”, aka beef tartar between two crispy slices of bacon. Refreshing the combo’s greasiness was some great lime caviar.

“Mata-bicho”

After the meat, the sea flavors, in a disruptive but right order. A crunchy vine leaf with caviar for the first kick of ocean. Followed by a uni hosomaki: sea urchin rolled in nori.

An umami and sea bomb that worked very well.

Followed an oyster with green curry, balanced and mild, in which the oyster was able to keep the spotlight.

On the glass was a great level Vértice Cuvée, which bubble and acidity made of it a good partner for these first snacks.

Then came an egg, meaning, cockle, grape gelatin, and wild garlic.

On a high level was the prawn tartar with mustard seeds and garlic pickle.

Mussel, Apple, and Thyme 

Still on sea flavors comes the Mussel, in its sauce, refreshed by the apple and flavored by the thyme, in a good game of flavors and textures.

For a toast was, and nicely, the young Encruzado 2016 O Oenólogo from Casa da Passarela.

In a pause from the sea flavors, that dominated this dinner, comes a kind of “ravioli”, breaded and fried, filled with queijo da serra (Portuguese cheese from Serra da Estrela), served like a carbonara along with some generous black summer truffle slices. Tasty and delicate with earthy notes, already needed in this phase of dinner.

Red mullet sashimi

And then we dove into the ocean again, with a fresh and delicate red mullet, masterfully prepared by Alexandre Silva, before coming down to earth again with poultry livers and Resende cherries, like a grown-up lollipop. Delicious!

 Meanwhile, on the glass, it was time to taste the Encosta do Bocho with a Grande Reserva 2014. A classic Douro blend well paired with the wood.

We continue with a great pink prawn, accompanied by the heads sauce, a rich razor clam tartar, and coconut curry. Good textures and cooking of the prawn, contrasting nicely with the intensity of the sauces.

Followed a sardine soup with leek. A comforting warmth in this stage of dinner, elevated by the intensity and richness of flavors, hard not to notice.

The Turbot was so big it was enough to create two different dishes. First the flap, my favorite part, that the Portuguese insist on living on the side of the dish. Here accompanied by a small but intense fermented meat paste. The dish had everything to go wrong but in the end, positively surprised us.

Turbot, seaweed sauce, and goose barnacles 

Perfectly cooked turbot (would it be so hard for our restaurants to stop killing the fish on the grill?), accompanied by a dive on its habitat, a seaweed sauce, goose barnacles and a bit more seaweed, bringing an ocean explosion to our palate.

Elevating the history of the dishes, we also leveled up on wines, with these past dishes being accompanied by the brilliant white of Cristiano Van Zeller, the Quinta Vale D. Maria Vinha do Martim 2016. A white of rare beauty, full of citrus, minerality and great integration of the wood. A presence in the mouth that leaves no one indifferent!

John Dory, Resende cherries and spinach 

If by now you’re thinking there were no crazy moments by Ljubomir during this dinner, this moment might be the biggest of them, and the worst – or best, depending on the point of view – it was backed up by Cristiano Van Zeller. Well, the john dory dish, perfectly cooked, accompanied by raw spinach and cherries was harmonized by a “modest” 1870 Port, a sample of cask from the Van Zeller estate.

If it worked? Strangely, yes! But I must confess it didn’t last long in my memory after the Port, a simply sublime wine!

A summer truffle of considerable size 

Bísaro pork cheek, mushrooms, vegetables, and black truffle 

There were many dishes, many highlights, and surprises before arriving at this capable pork cheek dish, with forest flavors, not heavy, nor exaggerate, just what was asked for that moment.

As imposed and asked of both chefs, the ending of this long dinner was light and refreshing. Firstly with herbs and leaves in a sorbet style to cleanse the palate, and after with strawberries and red fruits, full of flavor, well paired with a granita and a sorbet. Perfect ending!

A unique and unrepeatable dinner, marked by dishes that merged, as rarely happens in these 4 hands dinners, where it isn’t always easy to recognize the dishes of one or the other chef, both by the style or the cuisine.
Here Ljubomir and Alexandre Silva merged like no one else, for the pleasure of the guests who were able to enjoy top quality products worked masterfully and surprisingly.

This series of dinners continued with Hugo Nascimento and Henrique Sá Pessoa and promised to return in 2019 to brighten up, even more, the evenings at Six Senses Douro Valley, and always with the motto of quality and sustainability that characterize the hotel.

Now we just need to return to Six Senses and get to know the Terroir, the vegetarian restaurant Ljubomir fell in love with and where they try a cuisine based in a reduced ecological footprint, working with small producers and taking maximum advantage of the kitchen gardens at the hotel and its surroundings.

See you soon!

Hotel Six Senses Douro Valley
Bedrooms from 290€
Quinta de Vale Abraão– Samodães, Lamego
+351 254 660 600 
reservations-dourovalley@sixsenses.com

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Six Senses Douro Valley – Back to Paradise

When you love the experience at one of the most beautiful places in the world, what do you do?

Well, obviously, you go back!

We first discovered Six Senses Douro Valley in the Autumn of 2016 (see) and we were blown away with that we consider one of the best hotels in Europe. So, last summer we decided to return!

The colors of Douro are completely different at this time of the year, and so are the hotel’s activities.

The reason we came back to Six Senses (not that there needs to be one) was the four-hands dinner by Ljubomir Stanisic and Alexandre Silva.

Approaching the hotel we could observe the Douro and its perfect combination with the surrounding environment. The green from the vineyards and their format descending in terraces to the river make of it one of the world’s prettiest postcards.

The hotel keeps the grandiosity of the manor-house from the XIX century, but this time my perspective of it was even more perfect, the Sun was part of the picture!

 

We were welcomed with the elegance and courtesy so characteristic of  Six Senses Douro Valley.

 A room with a view

We went to our room, the Quinta Panorama Suite with an astonishing view over Douro that seizes the entire atmosphere through the floor to ceiling windows, in the bedroom and the living room.

The combo of hi-tech, comfort and decor really make justice to the awards the hotel gets every year.

The afternoon was already long in one of my favorite places of the hotel, the Wine Library & Terrace,  where life is really all about books and wine when we decided to extend it a bit more to enjoy a great relaxing moment at Quinta Bar & Lounge. 

The night ended with a beautiful dinner, in the perfect company at the Restaurant Vale do Abraão, where Ljubomir and Alexandre Silva presented all the guests with a fabulous gastronomic experience. But João will talk about that in detail in another article.

I must confess it was not an easy task to get to my bedroom that night!!!

The morning after, the light was entering the room in an almost magical way through our huge window, Douro was calling me, but what really took me out of bed, after that long night, was the Six Senses breakfast!

This is guaranteed one of the best hotel breakfasts I ever tasted, and you know I’ve had the privilege of trying a few!

Perfect place and perfect company for an outdoors breakfast 

I know pictures don’t talk, but looking at these you’ll be salivating for sure!

And with a full tummy, it’s time to relax!
The first time we stayed at Six Senses the cold and rain wouldn’t let us even get to know the outside of the hotel so we stayed at the Spa, and very well.

This time, the sun invited us to the gardens, the terraces, and the pool. We went for a walk, saw Ljubomir’s vegetable garden and relaxed by the pool all morning! Every morning should be this way!

The hotel staff was as nice as the first time, caring for each guest needs, always smiling.

It was a pleasure to return and a privilege to again be welcomed by the sweetest Joana Van Zeller and the entire staff.

Once again…

See you soon Six Senses Douro Valley!

Hotel Six Senses Douro Valley
Bedrooms from 290€
Quinta de Vale Abraão– Samodães, Lamego
+351 254 660 600 
reservations-dourovalley@sixsenses.com

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Il Falconiere *

There’s not much more I can say about Il Falconiere, after two memorable stays that Cíntia talked about here and here. So I’ll talk again about the starred restaurant, the reason we heard about this wonderful refuge in the first place.

Silvia was born in the kitchen, in a family of restauranteurs. Her husband, Ricardo, was born oenologist in a farming property, in particular, wine and olive oil. The motto was set for them together to rebuild the former family house and create a restaurant, which future they couldn’t begin to imagine.

We were living the blazing years of Frances in her “Under the Tuscan Sun” – actually it’s easy to find the author around there –  and everybody had the dream to travel to Tuscany, and Silvia’s restaurant was a mandatory stop in the distant area of Cortona.

By Silvia’s side is Richard Titi, executive chef, who’s been heading the stoves and kitchen of Il Falconiere since the winning of the Michelin star in 2002.

The Baracchi’s idea is to bet in Tuscan tradition, mostly from the Abruzzo region, and create a cuisine that lives all the atmosphere we feel when entering their property. Classic, with the comfort and knowledge of traditional cuisine, with contemporary aesthetics and technique.

Arriving at the restaurant we quickly realize where we are and what we’re here for while appreciating the historic arcades and paintings assuring us we’re in Tuscany.

Comfortably seated we are quickly welcomed with the Baracchi’s classic sparkling wine, and a large selection of bread, even gluten-free options (that villain!).

Among the several menu and tasting options, we chose a menu dedicated to game dishes, that caught our eye on our previous visit, us being in a region with a strong hunting tradition.

Amuse Bouche

To start, an interesting amuse bouche, that combined a ricotta souffle with eggplant, courgette, and pepper, contrasting with the quinoa and a cuttlefish ink tile, elevating the textures and contrasts.

Game terrine, juniper crumble, cocoa and visciolino sauce
A much more complex dish than I remembered from our last visit. Nice combination of flavors around the forest with the complexity of the terrine. Highscore to the visciolino sauce – a sweet wine with a slightly bitter ending – homemade there, that elevated all the harmonization.

Fried boar meatball with quince puree and hazelnut cream 
It would never be my first thought when thinking of eating boar (one of my favorite meats). However, the good frying, the moist and juicy meat, turned into a tasting above the expectations.

Pheasant Tortellini, its broth and marsala wine
At a much superior level, this perfect tortellini – perfectly cooked pasta, good pheasant filling and a broth that warmed our souls. A great way of improving traditional cuisine!

Venison filled pasta, chestnut, and chickpea soup 
Another excellent dish, full of flavor cream, great venison ragu and an aromatic fennel seed olive oil refreshing the aroma of the combo. Another authentic dish, purely Italian, presented at a very high standard.

Quail with dried figs and finocchiona, chicory leaves and potato 
Much more interesting in flavor than in looks, with a surprising filling of dry fruits with finocchiona (a typical Tuscan salami). Classic and tasty!

petit fours 

Followed the petit fours, the Italian way, arriving as a pre-dessert. A combination of classic flavors, with the presence of the great cantucci.

 Dark chocolate biscuit, nutmeg caramel, chestnuts, and coffee ice cream
You can’t fail with chocolate! Here presented as biscuit crumble, nicely combined with the flavors of the season and the nutmeg notes, the chestnuts and a good coffee ice cream. A simple and nicely accomplished ending!

Harmonizing was a Baracchi family wine, as expected, this time the Ardito 2012, produced with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Top notch, as the previous harvest, complex and concentrated, full of dark and ripe fruit, balanced by the black pepper notes. A wine of strong personality, a good company for the meats of our menu.

Heading the service is still Luigi Pipparelli, and just by that, you can expect an efficient service, without any rush or complications, but also with no detail left to chance.

Final Remarks
As Cíntia so nicely wrote in her last article about Il Falconiere (see), it is always nice to return to where you were happy. But even more so when you realize things are not still, nor stuck in the past. The cuisine of Silvia Baracchi and Richard Titi shows precisely that, a technical evolution, bigger aesthetic care, and attention to small details, but also the same tradition of rich and comforting flavors that always transport us to a soul and authentic cuisine.

A space you can always trust to come back and enjoy the purity of Tuscany!

Il Falconiere – Relais & Châteaux
Average price: 70€ pax/without wines
San Martino a Bocena, 370 – Cortona
+39 0575 612 679 
info@ilfalconiere.it

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Montepulciano

2018 was a great year, full of changes and also lots of success, but success comes with a lot of work, so it was also a very exhausting year! And sometimes that exhaustion doesn’t allow us to do what we like the most, in my case, traveling.

We were already planning a big trip to South Africa (that completely changed our lives!) but we also wanted to do some smaller travels before that, so we decided to return to one of our safe places, one that never lets us down! We came back to Italy!

We chose the Il Falconiere in Cortona (see article) as our refuge because we believe in coming back to where we were happy! And revisited some cities like Cortona (see article), Pienza (see article) and Florence (see article)!

Once we were staying in Cortona, and it is right next to Montepulciano, we decided to go on an adventure to see another typical Tuscan village, where wine has also an important role!

Montepulciano comes under the Siena province (see article) and can be visited in a day (like the majority of the towns in Tuscany).

The city is located on top of a hill, between two beautiful valleys, Vale di Chiana and Vale d’Orcia (one of the most amazing places in the world).

So right here we have already one of the highlights of the city – the views!

Its origins are Etruscan and date back to the IV century BC.

Besides being a mandatory stop it is also a strategic point to those visiting Tuscany, for its proximity to places of excellence like Pienza and Siena.
It has become more touristy these days because of both the Médici series and the Twilight movies that were shot there.
Montepulciano is one of those medieval cities we really want to discover and explore. With its Renaissance palaces, the elegant squares, the little corners, and views, it is easily one of the most beautiful towns in Tuscany.

What you can’t miss:

• Enter the city by one of its doors – Porta al Prato or Porta delle Farine – and from there on cars are not allowed, and that really makes the city unique, and a bit like time traveling!

• Before entering the city walls you can visit Chiesa and Convento di Sant’Agnese, the patron of Montepulciano.

Chiesa and Convento di Sant’Agnese

• Walking around the streets and looking at the noble and elegant houses that take us back to the rich and important families that lived here during the XIV and XV centuries. Despite the fact that true richness arrived after that in the XVI century when the Médici took the city.

• Caffè Poliziano – Montepulciano’s historic cafe dating back to 1868. Elegant, refined and full of history! Its name is due to a famous poet, humanist, and dramaturge from the XV century, Poliziano, one of the right hands of Lorenzo de Médici, the Magnificent.

• FInd the Heraldic Lion of Florence (symbol of strength, power, and prestige) – at Colonna del Marzocco or at Palazzo Avignonesi –  one of the most beautiful palaces in Montepulciano.

• Discover the facade close to the floor of the Palazzo Bucelli – where you’ll find tombs and Etruscan and Latin inscriptions.

• The elegant church of Sant’Agostino and even without entering observe the Madonna con Bambino on top of the door and Saint Agostino and Saint John the Baptist.

• Listen and observe, at each hour, the bell of the Tower dell’ Orologio o della Pulcinella.

• Visiting the Museo Civico Pinacoteca Crociani – in a palace from the XIV century where we can find archeologic findings, paintings from the medieval and renaissance period, and works from Andrea della Robbia.

• Spend time in the true heart of the city – Piazza Grande, stage of the main events of the city.

At the Piazza:
– Palazzo dei Capitano del Popolo and the myhtical Pozzo dei Griffi e dei Leoni – a renaisance work representing the power and prestige of the Médici family and Florence.

Pozzo dei Griffi e dei Leoni

– Palazzo Comunale – similar to the one at Piazza della Signoria, and not by chance because it was ordered by Cosimo I di Médici!
– Duomo – Catedral di Santa Maria Assunta with fine works from Siena school.

• Walk around the fortress and stop and enjoy each corner, look at the valleys that go for miles and miles of splendor.

Still at Montepulciano but outside the fortress:

• Templo do San Biagio – Where a fresco from the XIII century of Madonna con Bambino e San Francesco, was once erected in a millenarian to which some miracles were attributed in 1518. Miracles so important that Poliziano decided to build a temple. The project was in the hands of Antonio da Sangallo, the Elder (one of the most important architects of Renaissance), that projected the temple in the form of a Greek cross and right in the center put the miraculous fresco!

San Biagio Temple

Montepulciano is one of those places with the gift of transporting us back in time, a village capable of carrying the beauty and history of a sacred and imposing place with a touch of mystery and magic!

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Il Falconiere – To return to where you were happy once

“For sure a place I’ll miss and to where we’ll return in the future!”
Two years ago I finished my article about Il Falconiere with this phrase, and it’s how I’ll start it today!
In a short trip around Tuscany, last Autumn, we decided to return to Il Falconiere in Cortona, and if the first time we fell in love, this time we were conquered for life!

It is for sure one of the most magical places to stay in Tuscany! Because it represents all Tuscany is in its essence.

Tradition, family environment, Dolce far niente atmosphere, food and wine, lots of wine!
When we arrived, the Autumn colors were glowing in the sun. A very windy day, that seemed to play with all the surrounding nature!

We were welcomed like family, with that kind of care of a relative that we haven’t seen for a long time. The other guests in the reception had the same genuine care, and we could see some of them were repeating their experience just like us!

While being accompanied to our bedroom we laid our eyes on the area around us, and what happiness it was to be back, such nostalgia! The vineyards, the olive trees, the cypresses were once again my confidants.

Tuscany is my favorite refuge for six years now, nowhere in the world makes me feel so serene and complete.

When we arrived at our room, I mean home… I realized that we should’ve brought all our friends and family!

A bedroom that could easily be a house 

We stayed in one of the family houses of Il Falconiere! Right by the side of the Cellar, and in time of harvest the aroma felt in the air was rejuvenating!

Two huge bedrooms, one with a living room, and another floor also with bedrooms. The decoration follows the theme of rest of the hotel, extremely cozy and comfortable, where you can find historic pieces and furniture from the Baracchi family.

The terracotta ceiling with the wood beams, along with the antique furniture, give the space timeless charm.
The hygiene products in the bathrooms are organic and produced with a base of olive oil, giving a texture and aroma to the skin you want to touch.

In bedroom we had fruit, coffee, sweets and tea waiting for us. Everything you need when arriving at a space that is our home away from home.

That afternoon we opted for enjoying a leisure moment drinking some of the wines produced at the farm. We thought about the terrace that I love with a view over the vineyards, but it was very windy, so we opted for the bar that welcomes us with a bucolic environment. Here we enjoyed good wine and had some interesting snacks from the restaurant.

In Rome do as Romans do, in a cellar drink wine!! 

Later, we had a great time in a pizza workshop in one of the Baracchi family’s restaurants, Locanda del Molino, where we literally put our hands to work!

Yes, I made my own pizza!!! 

This restaurant serves Italian food, good, with a great quality/price ratio. It has a traditional and familiar environment that welcomes us and makes us feel relaxed during the entire experience. But João talks about it here.

Besides this restaurant, we also went back to the starred restaurant of Sílvia Baracchi where we had an even greater experience than last time.

The success of the restaurant, that became one of the greatest attractions of Cortona, was one of the main reasons why Silvia and Ricardo Baracchi transformed Il Falconiere in a refuge of all and for all.

The mirror room is always prepped for a nice and homemade breakfast 

And since more and more people are discovering this paradise on earth it was necessary to increase the number of bedrooms, and for that reason Il Falconiere is suffering some work to assure 8 additional bedrooms, to join the present 22, right in the area above the pool.

At Il Falconiere,  despite the constant peace, there are activities for every taste, for mine in particular, the vineyards, the cellar, the wines and the spa are all that I need to be happy.
And speaking of Spa, there it was, the Thesan Etruscan Spa, waiting for me, almost like untouched for these last two years.

I entered the chromotherapy jacuzzi and forgot the rest of the world existed. Nature was my only company at the time (well, and João as well, I admit!).

Here he is!

But for those more active, you can always walk around the immense property, or ride a bike, do different equestrian trails or visit the village of Cortona (see), all taken care of by the staff.
Or even dedicate yourselves to Falconry, the activity that names the property.

Il Falconiere is a paradise you can find right here on Earth. One of the places that make you forget about the world and just be in communion with Nature.

People say perfection doesn’t exist, but yes, there are perfect places and perfect moments, and that’s the feeling you get at Il Falconiere.

Thank you Sílvia, thank you Anna Maria, thank you to the entire team of Il Falconiere for simply being who you are!

Once again I say…

I’ll keep coming back to where I was happy! And hoping this said return may happen in a near future!

Il Falconiere – Relais & Chateaux
Bedrooms from 200€
Loc. San Martino a Bocena, 370 – Cortona
+39 0575 612 679
info@ilfalconiere.it

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Locanda del Molino

A few free days are always a good excuse for a quick visit to Italy, in this case to the enchanted valleys and hills of Tuscany. I believe it’s always good to return to where you were happy, so we went back to the lovely city of Cortona to another stay at Relais Il Falconiere (see).

Wishing for traditional cuisine, to the good style of Italian nonnas, we ended up at the Locanda del Molino, a small restaurant and charm hotel, a property of the Baracchi family. 

Located in the family’s former olive oil mill, this space is an anthem to a good Italian renovation, keeping its roots and history, a comfortable space in which you want to be and really feel at Tuscany.

But on to what took us there, una vera cucina italiana. The surprise was soon felt, arriving early to the restaurant we caught a pizza making class in the middle, for the Locanda guests, and we decided to also take part in it.

An even bigger surprise only just when Cíntia awarded us with her very own first pizza.

 Cíntia and her first Pizza

Among pizza slices, wine glasses and some tips about dough and the oven work, we went to the table.

Being in a former olive oil press the bread and olive oil couldn’t be missed at the table while choosing the dishes that would reveal to be a very good choice!

Courgette flower filled with ricotta and basil sauce
What a perfect and Italian way to start our meal, great flowers with the right amount of filling and the notes from the basil and the olive oil take the dish to another level. Very good!

Tagliatelle with rabbit ragù and pink Tagliolini with parmesan and black truffle sauce
Since we couldn’t decide for one of the fresh pastas, we opted to share two of them. And gladly we did, both perfectly cooked, with a special remark to the delicate and tasty rabbit ragù, moist and full of nuances, and also to the rich and generous flavor of the truffle and parmesan sauce.
Ossobuco with peas and pancetta
For secondi, we chose a pot dish, also good on terms of flavor and cooking. Melting apart meat, still moist, very well accompanied by the classic combo of peas and pancetta.

Blackberries and pinions Crostata
A “rough” looking pie, very familiar, just what you ask for in a space like Locanda del Molino. Great filling of blackberry and pinion, its only fault was the excess dough of its base. A bit more thin and it would’ve been a success!

Tiramisù
Not a very Tuscan dessert, but we were in Italy at least, balanced in terms of coffee and with great mascarpone cream. Accompanied weirdly well with the fresh apple slices that balanced its sweetness. A great ending!

The chosen wine was a Syrah Smeriglio from the Baracchi family, a DOC from Cortona, of intense color and well-marked nose, with spices, red fruits, and some coffee and vanilla notes. In the mouth, it follows the same pattern, with good persistence and richness of fruit flavors. A good company for the dishes of richer flavors, the case of our dinner.


Friendly and familiar service, without any rush or stress, very Italian, making us feel part of a family dinner.

Final Remarks 
The Locanda del Molino is a mandatory stop for those passing through that region of Tuscany, both for sleeping in or like us, to just have a nice familiar meal. The environment is authentic as well as the dishes created by Silvia Baracchi (*Michelin, at Relais Il Falconiere). The prices are fair for the quality of the food and the products, which is not always the case in spaces very frequented by tourists.

Now I just need to return to Cortona again and continue to be happy!

Locanda del Molino
Average price: 30€/ pax without wines
Località Montanare 10, Cortona
+39 0575 614 016

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Lausanne – what you must do in the most beautiful town in Switzerland!

Lausanne was founded by Romans next to the lake, in the I century. Later, the population would move to the hills, to be safer.

Here is nowadays located the beautiful and magical Old Town (Vieille Ville).

It’s one of the most beautiful cities in the country and one of the main economic and cultural areas in francophone Switzerland.

We were there for three days, enough to fall in love with every detail.

What can’t you miss in this beautiful city on the north side of Lake Geneva?

The stay at Lausanne Palace
A memorable hotel with unpaired refinement, where I certainly intend to come back in the future! But I tell you all about that in here.

Tour Bel-Air and Salle Métropole
The building gives a cosmopolitan touch to the city and was very controversial by the time it was built! The architect, Alphonse Laverrière, wanted a touch of Wall Street in Lausanne and built, in 1931, the first skyscraper in town, but the people raised against it (and very well, in my opinion)  because they were afraid it would be higher than the cathedral, and because Wall Street was one of the epicenters of the economic crash.

However, today, it’s one of the city postcards.

Eglise St-Laurent
The facade is the only example of neoclassic architecture in the city.
A Protestant church built between 1716 and 1719 over the ruins of an old church from the X century.

Place de la Palud
One of the most beautiful squares in town, home of the renaissance Lausanne County building and of the Fontaine de la Justice, from the XVI century.
Here is where you feel the city as if you’re part of it.
There’s a market every Wednesday and Saturday, and once a month te square gets filled with crafts.

It’s worth a visit to just be there and appreciate life!
After the fountain, there’s a simple wood staircase – Escaliers du Marché – which leads to another staircase that goes up to the most beautiful spot in the city, the Cathédral Notre-Dame.

Cathédral Notre-Dame
To me, it was the highlight of this trip to Lausanne. I confess luck was on my side, as usual! We decided to go up to the tower, and for the few good minutes we lost climbing, the weather outside changed and it started to snow, and we got an amazing view of the city painted in white and the feeling time stopped just for us. One of the most beautiful moments of all my travels.

But, back to the Cathedral: it was started in the XII century and finished only in the next century. It’s the most imposing Gothic building in the country.

Palais de Rumine
A neo-renaissance building built between 1896-1906 that was once the University of Lausanne.
Nowadays it’s the library of the university and five museums. The Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, the History and Archeology Museum, and three other dedicated to Geology, Numismatic and Zoology.

Walking around Rue du Bourg
An area of antique houses, with jewelry stores, designer stores, bars and jazz clubs.
One of the most alternative and fun places in town.

Around Lausanne
A bit outside Lausanne, direction Crissier, you find the Hôtel de Ville with three Michelin stars. A great experience for those visiting Lausanne.
And something we didn’t get the chance to do, that’s why we must urgently return to the city!

Olympic Museum
Where you can feel the history of the Ancient Greece athletes through to modern days Olympic games. We didn’t visit so we could have another reason to return!

I must confess that Lucern got to me more in this first trip to Switzerland, but Lausanne is definitely a place to return to, I want to go back to the Lausanne Palace, visit the Hôtel de Ville Crissier and I want to go back to the Cathédral Notre Dame.

To those preparing a trip to Switzerland, Lausanne is definitely a place you can’t miss.

 

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Monte da Ravasqueira – very unique wines from Alentejo

The Monte da Ravasqueira, very near to Arraiolos, is a project by the José de Mello family, that has been focusing for decades in developing a unique property, 3000 hectares of a rare and idyllic landscape in Alentejo.

Among hills, different levels and several dams, Monte da Ravasqueira has been transforming itself throughout the years.
From a property famous for horse breeding, fruit production, to the first vineyards in 1998 and to the revolution of its wines with the arrival of the young oenologist Pedro Pereira Gonçalves. Who has been innovating the company project since 2012, from wine tourism to the vineyard, precision viticulture, to the wines.

Pedro Pereira Gonçalves 

But on with what really matters, the wines and their tasting. The scenario couldn’t have been any better: a table at The Yeatman, along with signature food by Ricardo Costa (** Michelin).

After a series of well-accomplished snacks and a light, relaxed tasting of the simpler wines from Monte da Ravasqueira, we went to the table where the wines started flying to other levels.

MR Premium Rosé 2015

MR Premium Rosé 2015 – Clearly one of the most interesting Rosés in the country, made 100% of Touriga Nacional and undergoing a battonage phase and a stage in wood. A complex and sophisticated wine, showing that rosé can be more than a light wine for Summer moments. With a less intense aroma than the previous edition, it still had a beautiful fruitiness in contrast with some light smoky notes. It gains dimension, power, and exoticism in the mouth, with the minerality, freshness, and complexity of the light notes revealing a beautiful wine that asks for a table and food.

And it was so very well accompanied by a bolder and technical interpretation of the classic Caprese salad, where Ricardo Costa mixed the three classic ingredients in a series of Spanish avant-garde techniques. To that “molecular” experience followed an umami bomb, with a dish of cuttlefish, scarlet shrimp, whey and smoked eel. A dream!

Ravasqueira Family Reserve 2016 and MR Premium White 2014

Ravasqueira Family Reserve 2016 – A white with many awards, that despite the combination of Alvarinho with Viognier, results in a classic profile, with a stage in French oak, revealing some citrus and peach notes, while the mouth brings us complexity and richness.

MR Premium White 2014 – A great white, better when tasted at a slightly higher temperature than usual for white wines. A combo of the Viognier, Alvarinho, Arinto and Marsanne castes, with a stage in sur lies wood, resulting in a fresh and complex enough wine, with white fruits and citric notes, and a light touch of kerosene. It shows a fantastic acidity and a minerality that lasts through its entire long ending. A great Alentejo white!

 Two beautiful wines that accompanied very well the greasiness and richness of the chef’s proposal, a codfish, low-temperature egg, prosciutto, and coriander dish.

  Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha das Romãs 2014 and MR Premium 2014

Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha das Romãs 2014 – Where once existed pomegras, nowadays are Syrah and Touriga Franca strains, that combined result in an impressive wine, with a certain classic character, through a long stage in wood, allied to the freshness and lightness of a more modern wine. Great concentration of dark fruit, very ripe and clear, contrasting with the spices and vanilla notes of the wood. In the mouth it still reveals fruit, with freshness, acidity, and lightness, unusual for a wine that spent 20 months in recent wood. A strong wine, full of personality, living a great tasting phase, but with a good future in a cellar.

MR Premium 2014 – One of the most powerful wines of Alentejo, resulting from the Syrah, Aragonês, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca combo. MR Premium is one of those wines you want to keep for a long period of time, its immediate tasting promises an even greater future. A wine of great concentration, bringing to the nose a good complexity of aromas, from dark fruit to spices, forest aromas, and herbs. In the mouth, it’s clearly a wine of strong emotions, lots of fruit accompanied by great tannins and a rare finesse. A wine you should keep for a good amount of time.

Here the choice was consensual, Vinha das Romás, it’s readier for consumption, elegant and easy; harmonizing nicely with the suckling pig dishes.

Two suckling pig dishes according to Ricardo Costa 

Speaking of it, high score to the perfect roasting of the suckling pig, with a crystal crispy skin and juicy, tasty meat. And, if the combo of avocado and Mexican mole was good, the brothy rice with suckling pig and black truffle was simply delicious.

Pineapple, Green Tea and Pistachio 

Monte da Ravasqueira Late Harvest 2015 – Producing a Late Harvest in the Alentejo heat seems like a contradiction, but the result of precision viticulture combined with high winemaking techniques is somewhat modern and surprising. Inspired in an Ice Wine process, this 100% Viognier wine, lives and reflects the caste with its citrus and apricot notes, combined with syrup fruit and honey. It’s beautiful that this wine reveals a surprising and pleasant freshness besides its sweetness, showing the care to follow more modern trends.

A wine that went really well with the dessert, light and fresh, as I always like to finish my tastings.

After dinner was time to yet another nice surprise of  Monte da Ravasqueira, its liqueur wine.

Monte da Ravasqueira Vinho Licoroso  Alentejano 

Monte da Ravasqueira Vinho Licoroso Alentejano – An Alentejo liqueur wine of rare pleasure, inspired in a classic “Ruby” Port Wine, where it gets its main castes and in aguardente (distilled beverage). A fruit rich liqueur, with marked tannins, but very elegant and also a bit fresh, good for the tasting. A wine to drink right away, and keep the pretty bottle.

All in all, the Ravasqueira wines are booming and showcase one of the most interesting projects in Alentejo. Proving it’s possible for a big company to create distinguished, bold and different wines.

Monte da Ravasqueira

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Ammar

“Amar e Mar” (Love and Sea) is the motto giving the name to one of the restaurants in the renewed city of Leça da Palmeira, open since 2016 by young Matilde Silva, whom after a good experience at Nova Tendinha decided to embrace a bigger and bolder project.

For that she challenged Pedro Silva, one of the youngest of his generation, he passed through several starred restaurants, Pepe Vieira, Serge Vieira or even the classic Villa Joya. But he made himself a cook in Ricardo Costa’s kitchen at The Yeatman, and alongside João Vieira at Vista he got the weight of responsibility and the commando voice; with a short but intense career in fine dining restaurants it was seemingly easy to define the path of the restaurant, good produce, technique, comfort and signature combinations, almost like casual fine dining.

The space, right next to the ocean, combines an interesting terrace for the evenings and two comfortable and nicely decorated rooms, besides a private room in form of a sphere that made a lot of ink run in the national media.

But let’s focus on our experience, that fortunately is yet what makes us visit restaurants! Decided to put ourselves in the hands of the chef we opted for a small tasting of several moments of the menu, in smaller portions than usual.

Toroshimeji, carrot and turnip pickles and Asian vinaigrette  
And we started well, with a dish of well-tunned flavors and contrasts, revealing a good hand in the kitchen. Excellent balance of textures and acidity. It could benefit from a thicker cut of the toro, for it to release all its richness and greasiness into the combo.

Water and Soap
Followed the bread moment, based in the water bread recipe, served warm and accompanied by a good “soap”, a butter with hazelnut. One of the best bread proposals in town!

Foie Gras, caramelized apple brioche  
They call it foie gras brûlée because it is caramelized before being transformed and molded into a parfait. Great presentation in form of a fresh liver, served with a nice caramelized apple brioche. Nice texture and pleasant combination of flavors, although it could’ve benefited from a more intense foie gras (coming from an addict!).

Accompanying the appetizers were two cocktails, in a good level, a tiki and a classic, that went very well to initiate the meal.

 Signature cocktails 

Steamed sea bass, pig’s ear, crustaceans, shrimp, squid and roasted fish broth  
A dish that showcases this young cook’s school, and happily, a very sharp sense of flavor! Rare in a chef of his age! Good pasta on the ravioli, good filling, tasty broth connecting the elements, especially the contrast between the ear and the remaining elements. The fish was on the limit of its cooking but still giving a nice tasting.

We recently tasted a new and delicate version of this dish, excellent in shape and presentation with a thin noodle.

Harmonizing was a hard to find in the market proposal, the Maldito Branco, made by Dirk Niepoort for Ljubomir Stanisic, a wine with a strong mineral component, fresh, light and with a captivating aroma. A pleasurable wine to drink!

Ox cheek, mushrooms, carbonara ravioli, veal tendons sauce, and cheese foam
Again high score to the sauce, full of flavor and class. Well-accomplished dish in terms of flavor contrast and textures, all very well balanced. However, the cheek was lacking some succulence.

Linguini, chanterelles, and truffle
Fresh pasta, nicely worked in a comfort dish, full of flavor and good products, where the cheese, mushrooms, the aroma of the delicate truffles melted into perfection.

On the glass was another wine from the Dirk & Ljubomir duo, the Éclair 2011, a classic year of powerful wines and full of body, elegant and fresh, combining very well with the richness of the dish.

Pineapple, rum, and lime
As a palate cleanser, we got a pineapple “lollipop” semi-frozen, with a rum and lime sauce. Different, interesting and accomplishing very well its purpose.

Bubble – banana mousse, popcorn, chocolate and samphire 
The desserts are on the same level as the starters and the mains. With a special care in presentation, using molds and haute cuisine techniques and the result is very positive, like on this particular dessert where a good banana mousse combines with the chocolate sauce, the crunch from the popcorn and the samphire salt to create a very interesting result in the mouth.

There was still time to taste the Ammartier with a “diamond” arriving at the table, a well-accomplished combination of white chocolate with tropical fruits, coconut, and lime.

Lastly, and forgetting the night was long, we finished with excellent bonbons produced in-house. A nice surprise!

Some of the bonbons at Ammar  

Service was efficient, calm, good treatment and knowledge about the dishes served. To improve, just the timing between some dishes.

Final Remarks
“Há mar e mar, há ir e voltar…” (“There is sea and sea/There is ‘going’ and there is ‘returning'”), Alexandre O’Neill wrote this famous phrase in form of a warning for those adventuring into the ocean, but pun intended it’s easy to want to return to Ammar when we get to know the work this young duo is taking to good port. A restaurant where comfort cuisine and signature cuisine live together in a very peculiar way, and that I really like!

Sure, there are always details to improve, but the care, the flavor, and detail that chef Pedro Silva already puts in his dishes are synonyms of an auspicious and smiling future!

Ammar Restaurante Cocktelaria
Average price: 35€ per person without wines 
Rua de Fuzelhas Nº 5, Leça da Palmeira
+351 229 958 241

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Metropole Genève

This past winter we discovered the elegant Switzerland, and along with it, its wonderful hotels and flawless services.
After Lucerne and Lausanne, we adventured into Geneva, and here found one of the most emblematic hotels in the country, the Hotel Metropole Genève.

This historic building is more than a century and a half old and its located at the iconic Rue du Rhone.

Located right in the heart of town, it has a privileged view over the lake and it’s surrounded by the most luxurious stores. Being relatively close to the Old town and the financial area makes it the best option both for those traveling for work, or for pleasure.

First Impression
What can you say about a neoclassic building from 1854?!
The red awnings outside give it the charm of timeless elegance, the reception follows the same line.
The reds predominate, mixing with some beige and brown, but even the Christmas tree salutes us with the color of passion!

The inside is also neoclassic but with a certain touch of comfort and coziness.
We were welcomed by a nice team that quickly took care of our check-in and showed us around the hotel.
The Metropole was renewed in 2016, however, some changes weren’t possible because the hotel is City Heritage. And, being a former hospital, some bedrooms are a little smaller. But, the renovation, despite keeping the original design, brought more modern and bigger rooms and areas.

 

Bedrooms
There are 111, plus 16 luxurious suites.
We stayed in a Lifestyle Lake-Side Room.
Ours had a view to Lake Geneva and the famous Jet d’eau, one of the most iconic postcards from Geneva (I don’t really get why, but can’t argue with tastes!), it had a special focus in home automation, without putting comfort aside.

Once again, bright colors are used to create an interesting chromatic game, assuring a perfect symbiosis with the wooden floor.

The tv in the mirror, the inclined Turkish bath in the shower or the handy smartphone system (fast, unlimited internet, local and international calls, useful info about the city, exclusive promotions, and 24h concierge), made our bedroom even more appealing.

 The view over the Jet d’eau

 The terrace of restaurant Gusto

Restaurants
There are four excellent options at Metropole. Close to the lobby, we have the eclectic The Mirror Bar. A space that transports us to a trendy and vibrant ambiance, with its red tones and mirrors.

The Mirror Bar

It works on a daily basis as bar/restaurant for a snack or simpler dishes accompanied by wine or cocktails, a hot chocolate on cold afternoons, or simply enjoying a nice leisure moment. The bustle of guests and locals in the evening is impressive, among work meetings or just pleasure moments.

 The view over the lake from the MET Rooftop Lounge

On summer months, there’s also the MET Rooftop Lounge, a space that assures the most enjoyable sunsets in town, very cosmopolite, with a great view to the lake, the city, and the mountains.

Gusto, of classic Italian cuisine, is the perfect place for a relaxed lunch, or a romantic dinner, where the Chef, a true ambassador of the Italian cuisine, Alessandro Cannata, delights us with his creations.

Here we had the chance to experience one of the most creative and innovative tasting menus of Italian base served outside the country.

Among good bread, champagne, and light snacks we started a surprising meal, where there was time for a delicious cuttlefish tagliatelle with puttanesca sauce, small raviolis “capeletti em brodo” which combo and broth left me good memories, and of course, a delicate venison loin, with a delicious sauce and crunchy veggies.

 To finish, a nice deconstruction of the classic Tiramisu, and an obvious Mont Blanc (as seeing it through the window…!).

Gusto has a simpler version, downstairs, the La Cantina del Gusto,  where breakfast is served, and also a self-service lunch.

La Cantina del Gusto

 And for two years now, it also serves one of the most famous brunches in town.
Besides these spaces, the hotel has another space outside, the La Brasserie du Parc des Eaux-Vives, a traditional French cuisine restaurant located a few km from the center of town.

Services
Besides the usual services, like room service, wi-fi, laundry, and concierge, Metropole has also a few other services for its guests.

The location is probably one of the best in the city, making it easy for those traveling for fun, but also for business travelers.

It is equipped with six rooms, prepared for any kind of event. And the Restaurant Hotel du Parc des Eaux-Vives, 5 min away by car, also has 5 rooms.

The hotel has a nicely equipped gym, with natural light.

Service
Big hotels, business style, rarely are my first option when traveling, however, some show me that a hotel can have a lot of movement without losing its identity.

And Metropole is an example of that, even with wide spaces, full of guests, you can feel special.

A good example of the service quality was when we realized we left our macbook cables on a hotel we previously visited, and the staff (some of them portuguese by the way) quickly took care of our problem with the other hotel.

These small details really do make the difference!

And it is always a privilege to stay in a building so iconic and full of history!

See you soon Geneva!

Hotel Metropole Genève
Bedrooms from 270€
Quai General Guisan, 34 – Geneva
+ 41 223 183 200
hotel@metropole.ch

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