So, what do all the locals do during the winter months? Take vacations! We love the summer time for the high energy and constant movement. However, when October rolls around, we are more than ready for a much needed break. If you’ve visited in the winter months, you’ll notice a number of shops close for certain periods of time. That’s because they are all off exploring the world and adventuring! As the chef at the San Juan Island Inn Collection, I am no exception.
Where Did My Adventures Take Me?
This last holiday season I had the opportunity to visit Lisbon, Portugal and some of the surrounding towns and countryside. It was a great trip, a real nice change of pace, scene and society. I love all the history and culture of Europe, and I have always found their general attitude to food intriguingly different from ours here in America. Sadly, in our national obsession with quick, convenient, and cost effective, we have unfortunately compromised a bit on quality. Our “Family-sized” packaging, preservatives and genetically modified foods differ significantly from their European counterparts
Since I was only in the country for 10 days my exposure to the cuisine was hardly comprehensive. And what I was able to enjoy was frequently modified because of my vegetarianism. The vast majority of what was offered in the “Portuguese” restaurants was an impressive variety of sea creatures – due no doubt to the location of Lisbon right on the conjunction of the Atlantic Ocean with a large river – along with red meats and poultry. The gastronomic style seemed to be a mix of flavorings and preparations from Spain, France, Italy, and North Africa.
Pastries, Pastries, and More Pastries!
Each region is known for some pastry or sweet. But perhaps the most famous and widely spread is the Pastel de Nata. The Catholic monks at Jerónimos Monastery in Belem, an outer neighborhood of Lisbon, created it in the 1600’s. When the monastery closed in the early 1800’s, the monks started selling pastéis de nata at a nearby sugar refinery to support themselves. Later, they sold the recipe to the sugar refinery, whose owners in 1837 opened the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém. Their descendants own the business to this day.
Since then, locals and visitors alike have visited the bakery to purchase fresh-from-the-oven-pastéis, generously sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Their popularity normally results in long lines at the take-away counters, in addition to waiting lines for sit-down service. But there is something irresistible about getting those tasty treats straight from the source, so to speak, and we visited there three times to battle the crowds and emerge victorious with piping hot pastries. Yum yum!
Portugal in Friday Harbor?
Who knows, maybe you’ll see a Portuguese spin on some of our breakfast meals served at the Harrison House Suites. Traveling allows me to bring all sorts of fun ideas back with me to use at the Inn. So come on over to Friday Harbor on the San Juan Island and see for yourself! Don’t forget to ask all the locals for their travel stories. You’d be blown away by the places we’ve all been.