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Life

The Epicurean Maturation of Porto

Porto may be the lesser known of Portugal’s cities, but it’s becoming a star on the food and wine scene.

Porto, which takes its name from northern Portugal’s economy-driving seaport, was traditionally regarded as little more than an industrial workhorse. As Lisbon’s blue-collar cousin, it lacked the cultural clout of the capital, and this was only intensified by a king hit during the global financial crisis that left streets bare and spirits low.

But Porto isn’t a city to easily falter and its historical tenacity earned it the nickname Invicta, or ‘undefeated’. Whereas it once resisted monarchists, it is now resisting cultural demise, and has bounced back to attain this year’s title of Best European Destination (an honour it has held twice before).

In tandem with this surge of social energy is a lifting of the city’s gastronomic scene. In 2017, Porto and its cross-river city Vila Nova de Gaia were awarded three new Michelin stars, bringing the tally up to five.

Despite this epicurean maturation, however, one of the most appealing things about Porto is that residents – including the city’s top chefs – still maintain strong food traditions. 

“I think we should fight to keep our traditions,” says Pedro Lemos, who in 2015 became Porto’s first chef to reach Michelin status, and now retains his star for a third year. “When you travel, you want to visit the monuments and experience the history, including through the gastronomy, so I’m not afraid to show our roots,” he says of his exclusively Portuguese menu.

Therefore, while the culinary diversity of other Western European cities might fool you into thinking you were in any number of countries, Porto has a way of always reminding you you’re in Portugal. And that strong sense of place provides precious insight into the city and country’s identity.

Simple fare

The people of Porto are known to eat every part of the pig bar the squeal and are hence dubbed tripeiros or ‘tripe eaters’. Although a reference to ‘poor man’s food’, the locals wear the label with pride and the dish Tripas à Moda do Porto is still widely available on menus across the city in line with a 600-year-old recipe. In the culinary archives, it sits alongside dishes such as the Francesinha, a greasy multi-decker meat sandwich blanketed in cheese, and dried codfish Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá, which are prime examples of Porto’s penchant for simple soul food.

“The food in Portugal has history, it’s an important part of our story and culture; it’s our grandmother’s food,” says Rui Paula, who attained his first Michelin star at Casa de Chá da Boa Nova this year. Hence, he and other high-level chefs still frequent local-run tascas, where the prato do dia (plate of the day) is commonly seen scribbled on paper in restaurant windows. In these establishments, dining out remains a boisterous affair where family recipes are served and devoured with contentment and pride, and it’s an endearing example of the Portuguese saying, ‘there is always room at the table for one more’.

Raising the bar

Porto’s old-style comfort food is still evident at every turn, but a sign of gastronomical progression came in 2011 when The Yeatman Hotel’s restaurant, located in Porto’s neighbouring city of Vila Nova de Gaia, was awarded a Michelin star under the leadership of Ricardo Costa, who proved his salt with a second star in 2017.

In addition to this formidable two star feat, Porto’s smaller players are offering stiff competition in the culinary stakes, with the quaint destination restaurants of Lemos, Paula and Vítor Matos of Antiqvvm part of the star spangled club.

“We used to say ‘we’re lost in Foz’,” says Lemos of his restaurant’s obscure location down a cobbled backstreet in Porto’s fringe suburb of Foz. But a steady stream of locals, followed by travellers, started sniffing out his food creations. “At first people said I was crazy,” says Lemos. “But I wanted my restaurant to grow from its value, and now, the fact it’s a street restaurant makes me even more proud. People don’t stop at the restaurant because they pass it on the street, they come here specifically for us.”

Paula, one of the three judges of MasterChef Portugal, is equally chuffed. “It can be difficult to get a Michelin star outside a hotel, so I’m very proud to have achieved it here,” he says from his 30-seat restaurant hidden amongst the sea rocks in Porto’s coastal outskirts.

“More and more tourists are coming to Porto and it’s pushing for better dining options,” he continues, referencing the city’s growing number of refined restaurants.

Regional influence

Some of Portugal’s best produce is found in the north, so Porto’s restaurateurs can easily tap into quality supplies.

Renowned Portuguese food and wine critic José Silva, whose accolades include television presenter, guidebook writer and columnist, cites the smoked meats of Trás-os-Montes as the best in the country, for instance, and Paula, Lemos and Silva all credit the cold vegetation-rich waters of the North Atlantic for producing second-to-none seafood.

Though top-notch produce is readily available, local chefs aren’t wedded to northern produce, preferring to draw on regional strengths. “I’ll use local where I can, but I’m not fundamentalist,” say Lemos. “Besides, Portugal is a small country, so really, everything is local.”

Costa agrees, saying he prioritises regional products where possible, but also scours the country to find Portugal’s best, such as seaweed from the Algarve region and cheese from the Alentejo. 

A fine drop

While port has long been a household name, Portugal’s table wines are starting to break international barriers as people discover the 14 principal wine regions, including Porto’s nearby Douro Valley.

“In the next few years I think places like the Douro will be one of the 3–4 most important regions in the world for both port and still wines,” says Silva.

Francisca Lobão from Porto’s beautiful chapel-turned-wine bar Capela Incomum agrees. “People already have worldwide references of Italian and French wines, for example, and Portugal is on that path,” she says. 

Confidence in Portugal’s table wines also led husband and wife team Filipa Garcia Fernandes and Moisés Cardoso Campos to keep the focus away from port wine at their riverside bar, Wine Quay. The gamble paid off, as they have since expanded to include the Quay Market next door for patrons wishing to purchase wines offered at the bar.

“People are starting to take Porto more seriously when it comes to food and wine,” says Fernandes. “We have good food, good wine and nice people, and I’m not just saying that because I’m Portuguese,” she laughs. “Oh, and of course, Porto is a beautiful city,” she gushes with true tripeira pride. And, really, what more could you want?

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Life
Hong Kong Top 10 Sights and Tastes
Words by Nicole Gow on 30 Mar 2017
Wine Selectors  Tasting Panellist Nicole Gow  reveals her top ten delicious, indulgent and relaxing reasons to visit Hong Kong   If you’re looking for a destination with diversity, where one minute you’re in a buzzing city, then just 20 minutes later, hiking and swimming in a national park, Hong Kong is for you. Renowned for its food scene, it requires a healthy appetite and as all that eating is thirsty work, it’s handy that the local bar scene is really thriving. It’s a place where the traffic is bustling, yet still flows, it’s warm and welcoming, clean but not sterile, and quintessentially Asia. It’s a city where you can have a fabulous family holiday, or indulge in pure enjoyment as a couple. Whatever your purpose for visiting Hong Kong, here are my top 10 things to do: 1. Live Like a Local
Packed with colour, flavour, scents and action, there are food markets to explore in almost every side street. When you’re ready to eat,  Lan Fong Yuen  in Gage Street, Central, is a popular local haunt. It’s famous for its milk tea, an art unto itself that’s poured through strainers six times and served with evaporated milk, creating a deliciously creamy yet tannic drink. And while you’re there, it’d be rude not to get the French toast and bagel with condensed milk. Then don’t leave the area without a few of the famous egg tarts from  Tai Cheong Bakery . 2. Shop Shop Shop Hong Kong has long been renowned as a shopper’s paradise, but with its abundance of shops, markets and malls, it can be hard to know where to start. I recommend planning your spree along the city’s shopping districts. On Hong Kong Island, you’ll find Admiralty, Central and Soho, Causeway Bay and Sheung Wan, while Kowloon is home to Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon East and West, and Mong Kok. Within each district, getting from one shopping destination to the next is easy, especially with an Octopus card that gets you on both trams and buses. 3. Good Fortune For Your Mouth
In Hong Kong, more locals eat out than at home, as it’s usually cheaper and with more than 14,000 restaurants, it’s a dining mecca. For a special treat, head to  Ho Lee Fook , which translates as ‘Good Fortune for your Mouth’. Taiwanese-born chef Jowett Yu’s Chinese kitchen has a funky bright interior where catchy tunes entertain the throngs of diners. Jowett’s food is a clear celebration of his love of food and travel, encapsulated in the 10 years he spent in Australia at Ms G’s & Mr Wong. With fond memories of shucking fresh oysters in Bateman’s Bay, it’s little wonder his food speaks of freshness. The pork belly and Hong Kong-style French toast served with peanut butter and maple syrup or condensed milk are must haves. He has a great wine list too. 4. Wine & Dine Festival If you’re lucky enough to visit Hong Kong in late October, the  Wine & Dine Festival kicks off the Great November Feast . This month of indulgence includes epicurean culinary events, street carnivals, and wine and dine offers all around town. The Wine and Dine festival is situated next to the stunning Victoria Harbour skyline, so the night time backdrop is particularly spectacular 5. Walk or Run
If you’re looking for more compelling evidence that exercise helps you live longer, a walk or run in  Victoria Park, Causeway Bay  is a must. A memorable sight are the masses of seniors doing Tai Chi across the park to the meditative chimes of Chinese music boxes. Or for something completely different, get up early on a Sunday morning and run around the famed Happy Valley Racetrack alongside the horses. Giddy up. Don’t forget, you’re here to eat so keep active to stay food fit! 6. Sharp Island Part of the Sai Kung District, Sharp Island is a 45-minute journey from Hong Kong city, taking in some regional sights along the way. The short trip from Sai Kung Town Port across to the island on a traditional Chinese junk is a memorable beginning. On arrival at the picturesque national park, you can go on a guided 1.5km walk, taking in the scenic surrounds – an impressive contrast to the city lights and action you left behind less than an hour ago. It can get pretty warm though, so a jump off the pontoon and a swim can be a cool reward – and a great way to burn off a few dumplings. 7. Neighbourhood Night Life
Thanks to its vibrant, world-class nightlife, Hong Kong has become a breeding ground for cocktail mixologists. Cool wine bars are dotted across town – La Cabane a Vin in Hollywood Road is a personal favourite – and the surge in biodynamic and natural wines is pushing things along. A visit to the Soho district is a must to check out the work of Australia’s award-winning bar designer, Ashley Sutton. Hailing from Fremantle, WA, Ashley used to work in the mining industry, and you can seen this influence in the one-off works of art he’s created in bars and industrial spaces. The  Iron Fairies  is Ashley’s third Hong Kong bar and it’s all aflutter. Over 10,000 butterflies on thin copper rods hang from the ceiling in a space that’s dominated by iron, timber and leather features. Around the bar there are 12,000 bottles of fairy dust and in the centre of each table are thousands of iron fairies. Ashley is also the design brains behind  J. Boroski’s , an invitation-only bar hidden off Hollywood Road. Named after the renowned mixologist/owner, it has a windowless, tunnel-like interior where the wall over the bar is decorated with rows of preserved beetles – a nod to Boroski’s fascination with entomology. 8. Repulse Bay
A 20-minute bus ride from the city will bring you to the upmarket yet relaxed, low rise residential seaside resort of  Repulse Bay . Popular with both locals and visitors, and home to several super yachts, Repulse Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in Hong Kong. Soak up the sun on the beach, hit the designer shops or enjoy the many award-winning restaurants. Limewood serves a casual, yet very satisfying lunch – BBQ local seafood in a fusion of Mexican, Hawaiian and Asian flavours. I absolutely recommend the sea urchin guacamole and the freshly shucked oysters with quail egg, calamansi, scallion and ponzu, while pork neck in tamarind, garlic, chilli and charred lime was a crowd favourite. Finish with churros drizzled in caramel sauce and coconut ice-cream. High up on the hill coming into Repulse Bay is  Ocean Park Hong Kong , an award-winning marine-life theme park featuring animal exhibits, thrill rides and shows. A world-class experience, it blends entertainment with education and conservation. 9. Iconic Sites
Nothing beats seeing a city from the air, and the best panoramic view of Hong Kong Island is from its highest point, ‘The Peak’. It has also been the city’s most exclusive neighbourhood since colonial times. It features observation decks, restaurants, a historical gallery and the Peak Tram (the opening and closing scenes of the 1955 movie Soldier of Fortune, starring Clark Gable, were filmed in the Peak Tram). During the day, the view sweeps from the sparkling skyscrapers and Victoria Harbour all the way to the green hills of the New Territories. By sunset, the panorama shimmers as vivid pinks and oranges bounce off buildings and at night, the light show begins as the city comes alive. By day or night, board a Chinese junk boat and set sail into Hong Kong’s scenic harbour. Originally owned and manned by Chinese fishermen, the DukLing is typical of the junks that used to crisscross Hong Kong waterways. This trip sails you past the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, which sits on the spot of the old Hong Kong Kai Tak International Airport, renowned for its dramatic landings over the city. Back on land yet at altitude, another incredible angle of Hong Kong and probably the best tea selection you’ll ever experience are offered at high tea at  The Ritz. The view, service, ambience, décor and tiers of sweet delights on offer are memorable and highly recommended. While you’re there, head up a few more floors for a drink at Hong Kong’s most celebrated roof top skybar, OZONE. It has an impressive wine and Champagne list and the Signature cocktails are extreme. 10. Decent Coffee For coffee lovers, the scene is really on the improve with plenty of funky new neighbourhoods appealing to locals and visitors alike.  Fineprint Espresso and Liquor  in the Hollywood Road district is the place to go and I can see why. Not only is the coffee a hit, but it’s the brain child of Aussie husband and wife team, Jamima and Scotty Callaghan. Scotty, a coffee roaster in Australia, set up a similar ‘roasters’ model in Hong Kong and the chefs came in droves for the decent brew and to purchase his Redback beans for their local restaurant and cafes in Hong Kong. The interest led to the coffee shop opening and it’s been a massive hit. Here’s the twist...at night the shop becomes a wine bar, taking just an hour to ‘flip’. It’s a very clever use of space in a city that doesn’t have much, but which has developed a craving for good coffee and wine. Pack, Plan and Fly
Last few quick tips: bring room in your luggage, room in your stomach or better still, an oversized muumuu. For more on all there is to do in Hong Kong, visit  discoverhongkong.com . Qantas ( qantas.com.au ) flies direct from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Fly Business Class to really kick off your culinary journey with Neil Perry’s in-flight menu and superb Aussie wines and Champagne.
Life
Switzerland: expand your wine horizons
When you think of travelling through Switzerland, images of breath-taking natural scenery and exciting cities full of art and culture no doubt come to mind. But do you also picture stopping at cellar doors to taste world-class wines? If not, you need to expand your Swiss horizons, because this diverse country is home to over 200 types of vines, at least 40 of which are indigenous and have histories dating back to ancient times. What’s more, with only extremely limited quantities made, you’ll only find 1-2% of Swiss wines outside their homeland. There are seven wine regions throughout German-speaking, French-speaking and Italian-speaking Switzerland: Eastern Switzerland ; Geneva ; Lake Geneva Region ; Three Lake Country ; Ticino ; Valais ; and Graubünden . Heritage haven For winelovers who like a dose of history with their tastings, the Lake Geneva region is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Lavaux Vineyard . Dating back to the 11th century when Benedictine and Cistercian monks called the area home, this fascinating site features 14 kilometres of terraced vineyards stretching above Lake Geneva. These incredible vines are still producing wine, with Chasselas, a full, dry and fruity white, the most common. For keen walkers, two routes wend through the region, both taking around two hours and starting at Grandvaux station with one finishing at Cully and the other at Lutry . For a more sedate tour, there are also two miniature train excursions on either the Lavaux Panoramic or the Lavaux Express. In the glass As well as Chasselas, a visit to the Lake Geneva Region will see you sampling unique expressions of Gamay and Pinot Noir. Further south-west in Geneva itself, you’ll also find Chardonnay, Riesling-Sylvaner (Müller-Thurgau), Pinot Blanc, Aligoté via Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris through to Gewürztraminer and Viognier Gamaret, and in the reds, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. For another lakeside wine experience, the Three Lake Country will see you again savouring Chasselas, as well as Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Home to the highest vineyard in Europe at 1,150 metres above sea level, Valais is another region that sees Chasselas at the top of its whites list, while Pinot Noir is the most common red. However, you’ll also find varieties here that few outside the area have heard of, including Petite Arvine, Amigne, Humagne Blanc, Humagne Rouge and Cornalin. Heading further east and south of the Alps is the Italian-speaking Ticino region, where 90 per cent of the wine produced is Merlot. They even make a white called Merlot Bianco. Less common red varieties include Bondola, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and in the whites, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Sauvignon and Semillon. “Great things come in small packages” is the motto of German-speaking Switzerland where Pinot Noir and Riesling-Silvaner are the most common varieties. Local specialties include Räuschling and Completer, along with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.
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Mornington Peninsula must visits
The Mornington Peninsula is a haven for holiday makers hungry for food, wine and adventure. Here’s our list of the best places to visit in the region.
Crittenden Estate The Crittenden Wine Centre offers a unique way of experiencing wine on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula. Originally the home of the Crittenden family, it has recently been renovated to a stylish, purpose built Wine Centre where knowledgeable staff guide visitors through carefully designed wine flights. Sample Crittenden’s exquisite range of traditional styles and unique alternative varietals with views over the lawn, lake and some of the Peninsula’s oldest vines, and just a short stroll to the Stillwater at Crittenden restaurant. Crittenden Estate is a true family operation with founder and living legend Garry overseeing the vineyard, son Rollo making the wine and daughter Zoe running the marketing. 25 Harrisons Rd, Dromana Open daily 10:30am – 4:30pm crittendenwines.com.au 
Yabby Lake Vineyard Cellar Door + Restaurant The Yabby Lake Vineyard offers a relaxed cellar door, restaurant, and wines of exception. Home of the history-making Block 1 Pinot Noir, winner of the revered Jimmy Watson Trophy, Yabby Lake has built a reputation for wines of great purity and character, uniquely crafted by renowned winemaker Tom Carson. Visitors to the striking cellar door marvel not only at the natural bush setting of the vineyard, but their incredible collection of artworks. Chef Simon West’s seasonal and local fare; often picked fresh from the kitchen garden, is best enjoyed on the outdoor deck, taking in stunning views of the vineyard and beyond. 86 Tuerong Road, Tuerong Open daily, 10am-5pm  (03) 5974 3729   yabbylake.com
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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