For our last dinner in Porto we decided to eat at Cantinho do Avillez, the more casual and relaxed restaurant of Chef José Avillez. Chef José Avillez is the most famous chef in Portugal and is most famous for his restaurant Belcanto, currently ranked #75 best restaurant in the world. Whereas Belcanto is pure Portuguese cooking, Cantinho do Avillez is Portuguese with inspiration from trips abroad. The cherry gazpacho and green bean tempura were the best!
Koen and I decided beforehand that we needed to visit at least two port lodges, so after some research we made reservations at Graham’s for a tour and tasting (visits are reservation only) in addition to Taylor’s. Grahams is smaller and a bit further away, but worth it! The tour is smaller and more intimate, and the tasting is great value for what you pay. We decided on the Super Premium Tawny Tasting and the Super Premium Vintage Port Tasting – which means we were able to sit in the Vintage Room for our tasting.
Of course being in Portugal, we really wanted to spend some time doing wine tastings. Because Lisbon is a big tourist destination, we wanted to do some research to really find the best place and discovered Wine Bar do Castelo. If we didn’t know about it, based on its appearance and proximity to the São Jorge Castle, we most likely wouldn’t have gone inside – but what a mistake that would have been! Wine Bar do Castelo has an amazing wine selection and a really enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff. Before ordering a glass you’re able to have a discussion about what you’re looking for and receive a bit of history lesson from the sommelier. You’re also able to taste a few bottles before making your choice which we really appreciated! Definitely recommend if you’re in Lisbon!
Every couple of months Koen and his friends have a Boys’ Weekend. This time Koen was the host, so I was very happy to escape the boys and stay with Hannah in Leuven for the weekend. We had beautiful, sunny weather and decided to explore the Belgian vineyards of Hageland.
We visited the heart of the Hagelandse wines – Wezemaal (Rotselaaar). They have a visitors center in a 19th century neo-gothic building where you can learn about the Hagelandse landscape and watch a video of the winemakers themselves sharing their passion. We didn’t realized you needed to make an appointment and were lucky we were able to join another group!
For Koen and my big trip this year, we planned a three week trip from Moscow to Beijing, traveling by train on the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian Express. After a ton of research, an intinerary was made and we were ready to go off and explore!
The first day we arrived in the late afternoon and wanted to start off slow, to save our energy because the next day we had a lot of planned to do. So we decided to head to Sahli for a delicious Georgian meal.
Because my mom was celebrating her birthday in Antwerp, of course we wanted to go out for dinner. I feel like over the years my parents have really gotten to know Antwerp the city, but not really Antwerp the province, which comprises of many smaller cities. For the birthday dinner we decided on Orso Pizzeria in Berchem. Berchem is most famous for its art nouveau style architecture. On our way to dinner we were able to look at all of the beautiful houses!
Day three began with another delicious breakfast at Brødflov on the Falkoner Allé in Frederiksberg. We were the only none Danish people in the crowded organic bakery, so we felt like we made a great choice. The staff was super friendly and helpful. Koen ordered the big breakfast that came with your choice of two types of bread – in Koen’s case a sourdough roll and a tebirke. Tebirkes are a sort of Danish poppy seed pastry that are flaky and a little sweet and sticky thanks to the butter and marizipan. In addition to the two types of bread, Koen received three types of Danish sausage, two types of Danish cheese, and a portion of skyr (Icelandic yoghurt).
I ordered the smaller version which also includes two types of bread and chose the spelt sourdough and kanelmonster (giant cinnamon roll). With our breakfasts you’ll see a portion of homemade raspberry jam. As an American I thought it was just to eat on my bread. But then I looked at the girl next to me and realized I was eating my breakfast completely wrong. First of all the bread comes sliced in half and you receive two slices of cheese. So you put one piece of cheese on each slice. Then you put the jam on top of the cheese. Yum! Luckily it wasn’t too late and I enjoyed the rest of my meal the correct way. Both the big and small breakfasts came with a cup of coffee and the fresh juice of the day, which was carrot, apple, and ginger.
Because we spent the first day at the house relaxing, for Saturday we planned a day trip to Beaune, known as the “Capital of Burgundy Wines”. Where better to take a walk through the vineyards, visit a chateau, and taste a few wines?
We began our day in Beaune with fuel for the rest of the day – aka coffee! After our caffeine boost, we headed to the Parc de la Bouzaize for a family picnic. We already packed the necessities – French cheese and fresh vegetables – and picked up fresh baked baguettes while walking through the city.
After lunch, we took a walk through the park which ultimately led us to the vineyards. What a breathtaking view. This was the first time I’d seen a vineyard. In Beaune, there are many routes you can walk through, and we took the one up a hill and were able to overlook not only the vineyards, but also the city of Beaune. The sun was shining, the sky was clear and blue, I had to keep pinching myself to know it was all real.
This was the perfect precursor to our tasting. We visited Bouchard Père et Fils, one of the oldest wine estates in Burgundy (founded in 1731!). Taken from their site, here is a description of the Château de Beaune:
In 1820 Bernard Bouchard purchased the Château de Beaune, a former royal fortress built in the 15th century by King Louis XI.
Four of the five original towers of the fortress, as well as parts of the ramparts, still stand today, and have featured on the list of historic monuments since 1937.
The cellars run deep underground beneath the property providing ideal natural storage conditions for Bouchard Père & Fils’ fine wines.
Up to 10 metres deep, the wines develop and age undisturbed. These include a unique collection of over 2,000 bottles from the 19th century. A priceless historical legacy with, as its icon, the oldest wine – a Meursault Charmes 1846 which still retains its luster.
After our tour of the Château, we were able to sample 6 wines – 3 red and 3 white. Koen and I couldn’t leave without buying a few bottles!
A trip to Burgundy wouldn’t be complete without a typical Burgundy meal – boeuf bourguignon, a meat stew made with red wine (from Burgundy, of course). For dinner we made reservations at 21 Boulevard, a restaurant specializing in the food of the region, located in a 15th century cellar. It was a great way to end our day in Beaune!
I love experimenting with soup and was excited to try the Watermelon Gazpacho from Green Kitchen Stories. It was a relatively warm summer day in Antwerp and a cold soup sounded refreshing. Although the soup tasted delicious, it was a bit much as a main course. I think it would be better as a starter – strained and served in drinking glasses for a party, perhaps with a shot of vodka.