Lisbon's New Dawn

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The Portuguese Capital emerges as Europe's latest culinary hot spot

By Robert Camuto-- Wine Spectator July 31, 2015

Today Portugal is the stage for one of the world's most dynamic wine scenes—but that's only part of the story. Portuguese terroir is booming beyond vineyards and wine, with other produce and the creativity and modern techniques of a handful of innovators helping to transform the nation's lively capital of Lisbon into an exciting culinary destination.

Lisbon is so naturally positioned to be a gastronomic center, one wonders why it didn't happen sooner. Located at the mouth of the Rio Tejo (Tagus River), on the Atlantic Ocean in southern Portugal, Lisbon was the departure point for 15th-century Portuguese explorers. Portuguese ships returned home with not only gold but also culinary treasures such as potatoes and tomatoes, tea and coffee, coriander and curry.

Lisbon cooks have long been practitioners of fusion, blending elements from the old empire, which stretched from Brazil to Goa, with southern Portugal's own larder. Lisbon cuisine is nourished by the vast breadbasket of the Alentejo region, from east of the city to the Spanish border. In addition to producing high quality wine corks, Alentejo is known for some of Portugal's most prized foods, including sheep cheeses, black pork, deep-green olive oils, wild mushrooms and asparagus.

Couple such bounty with wines from 29 appellations, and Portugal is now an epicurean El Dorado. Yet it can be considered Europe's late bloomer, one of the last to discover and unleash its culinary potential. A major obstacle was the dictatorship that stifled Portugal and its capital for most of the 20th century. Though the old regime was toppled in 1974, years of instability and a weak economy followed. The past decade has brought new investment and life to Lisbon, and that has helped reshape not only neglected parts of the city, but... Read the full article at the Wine Spectator (subscription).