Cave Calem

We’re in Porto, the place where Port wine is aged and bottled and offered for tasting. We’ve been here a couple of days, and done a variety of things, including looking at churches, Art Deco and Art Nouveau buildings, going up and down long flights of steps from the center of the city down to the river, getting totally soaked in some annoying rain showers, driving out to the Serralves contemporary art museum and park, and port tasting. Actually we didn’t have much time left this afternoon to go port tasting, but we did get in one tour at Calem, a place we hadn’t heard of, but which seems fairly major. Of course, the tasting on the tour doesn’t give you the good stuff, but we did buy a glass of it last night at dinner (40-year tawny), and bought a bottle to bring home.

The hotel here is nothing special, but it is cheap and well-located. We’ve also gone to a couple of cheap restaurants and one expensive one. The thing they all have in common is that they serve enormous portions. Tonight a cheap restaurant’s roast goat and cod Barga style were offered as half-portions, which turned out to be exactly the right size. (Maybe a little too cheap: the goat and the soup weren’t very warm — my mother would not have approved.)

Last night, we ate at Dom Tonho, an expensive restaurant on the river, which has the interesting behavior of plunking down 50 euros worth of starters before you even order anything. Of course, you can send any of them back — we sent back the cocktail prawns but got some ham instead. Another one of the starters was the assorted cheese plate, which we repurposed as a dessert. One nice thing about having all those starters on the table from the beginning was that we didn’t fill up on bread, which left room for enormous portions of Ray’s Porto specialty of tripe cooked with white beans and rice, and my duck casserole.

Tomorrow we leave Porto and drive up the Douro river valley (where grapes for Port wine are grown in a climate featuring a very warm summer).