Restaurant & Hospitality Consultants

September 2014 Newsletter



Happy autumn.  If you know me, you know I take one major trip a year to get renewed, refreshed and inspired.  This year I was lucky enough to visit Portugal and I simply fell in love with this beautiful place. The economic downturn has had an impact there but they are starting to rebound nicely.  The people were amazingly gracious, the food was excellent and the sites were stunning.  You can also get some really great deals!  A big thanks goes out to our amazing local travel professional – Nicola at Lemon Valley Holidays.

Here’s a quick travelogue along with some fun recommendations.

First stop – Porto!  Please don’t tell anyone in Lisbon, but we loved Porto best.  We stayed at the classic Hotel Infante de Sagres in the heart of the city.  They were lovely and gracious.  The city is stunningly beautiful.  We did a day tour and visited all the sites, neighborhoods and of course tasted a lot of Port.  One of my travel companions, Sharee, had a connection to a wonderful local couple (Aurora and Manuel – we love you) and they took us to the gorgeous Yeatman Hotel which overlooks the whole city for drinks. From there we went on to a local seafood spot, Jacome, and had some of the best seafood ever.  The rest of the time we got lost walking in neighborhoods and, of course, doing a little shopping.  I am now the proud owner of my first man purse!

Next stop – Coimbra!  Coimbra is the previous capital of Portugal and is filled with history.  It is also the home of the oldest University in Portugal.  We stayed in a former palace with wonderful gardens – Hotel Quinta das Lagrimas.  It was a great stop to break up the schedule, but we honestly would have loved to stay in Porto for one more night.  The hotel was cool but my travel pals were convinced it was haunted.  It made for a great night of ghost stories.  We ate in a tapas bar (petiscos) called Fangas.  It was packed  and we were blown away that about 60%of the menu came from cans – canned tuna, sardines and other delicacies.  I am not sure if it’s a trend but we coined the term “can-to-table” and had a very interesting meal.Off to the Algarve!  We took trains and buses to get there, but the end result was totally worth a hectic travel day.  Rather than staying in the more touristy Lagos – our travel agent recommended a wonderful place – the Costa d’Oiro Ambiance Village.  It was a short walk from town between two of the most stunning beaches in all of Europe – the Praia D Ana and Praia do Camilo.  The staff at the hotel was so lovely and for four days we hit the beaches, kayaked through the ocean caves and soaked in the sun.  We also spent some time at the beautiful new Cascade Wellness & Fitness Resort which everyone must see if you head down that way.  It’s magnificent.  Nights were spent eating in local village spots and listening to Fado – the sad folk music that is a signature of Portugal.  My travel buddy John fell in love with the music and by the end of our trip was singing his own version of Fado whenever he got the chance.  When our time at the beach came to an end – we were sad (yet gorgeously tanned) but knew we were headed to the bustling center of it all – Lisboa.

The first site we saw as we entered the city of Lisboa made us a bit homesick.  There is a replica of San Francisco’s very own Golden Gate Bridge (by the same designer).  As we drove from the train station to the wonderfulHotel As Janelas Verdes in the Barrio Alto we were immediately absorbed into the energy of this historical city.  Sadly, it is here you see and feel the impact of the economy.  There are many empty buildings and the most graffiti I have ever seen.  It seems the locals are aware of the issues but accept them as part of the day-to day life of living in this vibrant place.  They are working hard to bring it all back and I believe they will.  Our wonderful tour guide Pedro took on an amazing tour of the city that included places that only locals get to see. We had our share of delicious bites and the signature custard tarts that you can find on almost every street corner.What I loved most about Lisboa was the crazy night life of the city.  Everyone loves everyone – gay and straight bars line the streets of trendy areas of the Alfama and Chiado and each night it becomes the biggest street party I have ever seen.  The warmth and welcome that you feel here is unlike anything I have ever encountered.  I admit I stayed out way too late on several nights but I wanted to soak it all in.  I also loved the international style of food – we had dinner one night at an amazing Italian neighborhood spot, Come Prima, which I would highly recommend. It was a nice break from sardines!

On our last day we did a quick trip to Sintra which is a lush mountain town and the former summer residence of the Kings of Portugal. It’s a simple train ride and worth the visit if you have time.  For our last night we had a memorable meal at the legendary Solar Dos Presuntos thanks to a recommendation for our new Portuguese pals Aurora and Manuel. Truly this was the grand finale to a lovely trip with my very special friends.  We were also toasting the end of our 10th trip together!

So there you have it.  Now I am back in the full swing of things!  A huge thanks goes out to the team at AF&Co. who kept things going strong while I was on my journey.  What a fall we have planned for you – it’s a season full of flavor, big openings, hot events and so much more – I can hardly contain my excitement.
Read on for all the juicy details.

Lots of love—

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