Taste Porto 'Vintage Food Tour' Review
Updated: Nov 3, 2020
💶 Cost: 72 Euros
👪 Max People: 10
🍲 Number of Food Tastings: 11
🍷Number of Drinks: 6
🛒 Market Stop: ❌
⏲ Duration: 3 hours 30 mins
🌎 Languages: 🇬🇧🇪🇸
📅 Closed on: Sundays
🥕 Vegetarian/Vegan/GF: ✅ ❌ ❌
🎟️ Link to Book: Click Here
💰Taste Porto Promo Code: ❌
The first tasting was a little disappointing but each stop afterward just got better and better. If you want to try some of the best pastries, sandwiches, and home-cooked food in Porto, then this is the tour for you. Not only will you experience some excellent food you'll hear some amazing stories along the way.
🍽️ Food Score: 42/50
💵 Cost Score: 19/25
💁 Guide Score: 21/25
Overall Score: 82/100
Taste Porto Vintage Food Tour Review
This was my first food tour since COVID shut down much of the world and I was eager to see how tours were coping. My primary concern was not COVID-related however but finding the starting point of the tour.
I had found the closest metro station using the provided directions, but the beauty of the city and the traditional Portuguese tiles were hypnotizing, causing a wrong turn. I was now trying to renavigate myself using Google Maps.
Just as I was getting my bearings, the screen on my phone transformed and started vibrating.
"Hello?" I answered. "Hello. This is Rita from Taste Porto. Is this David? Do you need any help in finding the starting point?"
"I'm very close, I should be there shortly" I replied semi-confidently.
"Great, you can't miss me" Rita said. "See you soon"
I returned to Google Maps to find the wrong turn I had taken. As I backtracked, I took a photo of the tiles that had caused me to lose focus:
30 seconds later, wearing a highly visible "Eat Porto" T-shirt I saw Rita. I couldn't see her mouth because she was wearing a Facemask but I could tell by her eyes that she was happy to see me.
Despite Portugal's success in containing COVID, tourism has been massively affected, and this was only the second food tour that Rita had guided since COVID. As I was the only person to book the tour today, it would be my own private tour! Usually, food tour companies will cancel your booking if there aren't any other guests registering, so I was grateful for Rita for accommodating me, despite the lack of demand.
I was curious to learn how a food tour would work wearing face masks. Rita informed me that we only needed to wear them as we walked around the city, once we sat down at a cafe or restaurant we could take them off.
With the formalities out of the way. Rita gave me some background on the local area:
In front of us stood a big construction site and I was a little disappointed to learn that this was where the local market usually stood.
A number of underground viaducts crisscrossed the market, and sometimes a big bubble would emerge. Not to let a natural phenomenon stop them, the market vendors would simply set up their shops around the bubble! Because of this interesting occurrence, the area was named "The Bubble".
As we started to walk, Rita told me about the history of the market and how shops that couldn't afford a space would popup nearby. These shops were often some of the oldest in the city. Our first stop would be on one of these shops:
🍽️ The Food
Food Score: 42/50
1st Stop: Mercearia do Bolhao
Mercearia do Bolhao opened in 1817, and it is one of the oldest continually running grocery stores in Porto.
As I entered the shop it reminded me of an old pharmacy. It had the character, feel, and smell of how shops used to be, the opposite of the corporate and sanitized grocery stores that are all too common now. The shelves, rising to the ceiling, were stocked with unique foods, each one individually priced and lovingly arranged by the owner Señora Vita.
The shop used to stock all kinds of household items but now it only focuses on food. However, in the back corner, there is a small section with a few cleaning products which seem a little out of place compared to the rest of the shop. Rita told me that some of the local ladies had shopped here all of their lives and they would be forced to break their decades-old, daily shopping routine if Señora Vita stopped selling cleaning products, so he kindly agreed to keep selling them.
The antique coffee grinder in the shop isn't for decoration, Senhor Vita uses it to grind the coffee he imports from former Portuguese colonies. As we walked through the narrow corridor towards the back, I could smell a mix of spices, coffee, and cured meats. It reminded me of the smell from my grandmother's house in Germany that I would visit as a boy.
Like a magician, Rita unveiled a napkin that covered our first tasting that has been by Senior Vita.
(1) Queijo Saloio de Sicó, (2) Marmalade, (3) Cured Pork & (4) Grandma Crackers.
Queijo Saloio de Sicó looks like feta but it's actually a mix of three types of milk: sheep, cow and goat.
Accompanying the cheese, cut into Trivial pursuit sized blocks, was Marmalade.
In England marmalade would be made from oranges and other fruit. It is sweet but with a bitter aftertaste. In Portugal marmalade is made from quinces, a fruit, like a gnarly apple, but inedible. The Portuguese found a useful solution for this inedible fruit creating their own version of marmalade.
"In Portugal, we call this combination Romeo and Juliet. I suggest you try each individually and then combine them to compare the difference" Rita said.
Using a toothpick, I placed one of the cubes of cheese into my mouth.
The cheese had a fresh, creamy taste. The texture was spongy with a slight watery texture, like a hybrid between cottage cheese and goats cheese. It was certainly unique and interesting and I was glad to experience some Portuguese cheese that I wouldn't normally have tasted, however, I was neutral about the taste, not good or bad.
Now that I had experienced 'Romeo', I was ready to try 'Juliette'. I placed a piece of the glowing marmalade into my mouth.
It had a slightly gritty texture and the taste of apple, fig, and apricot. It was subtly sweet but not nearly as sweet as an English marmalade or chutney.
Now that I had tried each individually I was ready to combine the two. On its own, the cheese was subtle, fresh, and creamy. When you added the quince, the contrast enhanced both, it was 1+1 = 3. The contrast between the slightly salty cheese and the sweeter marmalade worked perfectly. I can see why the Portuguese call it Romeo and Juliet. When people vacation in Portugal they normally bring back Port as a gift, in my opinion, Marmalade makes for a more interesting and unique present.
The Italians and French are known for their cured meat, but Portugal is also a humble competitor. The next tasting was the perfect way to highlight this with a cured ham from Lamego called Salpicão.
Cured in red wine to give it both a rich taste and with a beautiful marbling that enhances the flavor, this traditional cured meat is a perfect starter into Portuguese charcuteries.
Our final tasting was a cracker which didn't look anything special but it had an endearing background story:
Grandma crackers are named because all grandmas in Portugal have them in their houses. Rita told me that some people also nickname these crackers 'shards', because they are made using leftover pieces of pastry that look like shards of glass. They have a slightly sweet taste and I can imagine them being given to children who are craving a snack before dinner.
I placed some cheese on the cracker and a cube of quince marmalade on top. I finished my tower with two slices of the cured meat. It was an impressive sandwich, the semi-sweet crackers, the fresh creamy cheese, and the quince marmalade. The perfect combination.
As I was the only person eating, there was more than enough food. I was hungry but I also wanted to save my appetite so we left, wishing Señora Vita farewell.
As we walked the cobbled streets, I realized that this was the first time I had been In Porto during the Summer and as much as I liked Porto from my previous visits, the city was transformed with the Summer sun bouncing off the buildings and ornate tiles.
2nd Stop: Confeitaria Moura
Our next stop was a bakery. Confeitaria Moura has been perfecting it's baking skills since 1892, producing 5 generations of bakers, all learning and improving from the previous one.
As we stepped into the bakery the sweet smell of freshly baked bread, yeast, and sugar hit me.
A glass counter of pastries greeted us but two Crown Jewels stood out from all the other sugar-glazed desserts. These two crown jewels are the specialties of this bakery and I was excited for the opportunity to experience the best version of how these Portuguese treats should taste.
As we sat down, a waitress brought over a plate, barely big enough to contain the two pastries.
(4) Jesuíta Pastry + (5) Espresso
The jesuíta pastry was ordained with its religious name, not because of its heavenly taste, but because of its origin with the Jesuíts who created it.
With a unique triangle shape and a powdered sugar glaze, this pastry is light, airy and has a satisfying crunch, which usually results in an avalanche of puff pastry crumbs.
Each layer is crafted individually and I was told that the top layer is the most difficult to perfect, taking many years to master.
After I finished the last satisfying bite I set my eyes on to the next Portuguese pastry that awaited me.
(6) Limonete Pastry
The Limonete has a lemon curd and sugar glazing. As I lifted it from my plate, I was surprised by its weight. As I took a bite I noticed the inside contained a lemony-creamy filling but It was not as sweet as I was expecting.
It can be a little intimidating going into a Portuguese bakery, it's difficult to know what to order with the abundance of choice. The Limonete isn't the most glamorous of pastries and it doesn't get as much attention as the Pastel de Nata, so I had never taken the opportunity to try one before.
Rita could see I was interested in how these unique pastries were made and she kindly asked the waitress if I could go into the kitchen. Unfortunately, they had just finished cleaning after the morning baking session so there wasn't much to see but I appreciated the offer.
I had a renewed sense of energy from both the espresso and sugary pastries, which was fortunate as we now had some walking to do. As we left the bakery and walked into the main square of Porto known as Praca de Liberdade, Rita told me about the city and its history. This big plaza was previously a garden but since the metro was installed it was converted into an outdoor venue. It is now the place to be for any big celebration such New Years' eve or when Porto wins the football league.
One of the most iconic symbols of Portugal are its stunning tiles. Porto has some of the best opportunities to see these tiles and many people say that there is no better example than the station at Soa Bento.
Maybe it was the summer light or the time of the day, but the light shone on the titles, like a halo lightening a renaissance painting. Photos can never capture these moments but I sent one to my family in America and they were blown away by the beauty of the station.
Built at the start of the 19th century using 20,000 tiles which depict much of Portugal's history, I loved the idea that you get a mini-history lesson every time you take a train from this station.
Rita and I were so engrossed in our conversation that we actually walked past the restaurant that was the next stop on the tour. In our defense, it was easy to miss as the shutters were half down and the restaurant was closed to the general public. As we stepped under the shutters, I felt like a VIP getting exclusive access before the restaurant officially opened.
3rd Stop: Tascö
With filament bulbs and cladded wood walls, this restaurant had the feel of a modern speakeasy. Behind the scenes, in the kitchen, the head chef is the owner's mother. Whenever I ask people in Portugal for the best food in town, they always say "my mother's house" so this would be a good opportunity to see for myself if this was true.
(7) Dalva white wine
As we sat down a waiter approached wearing a leather apron and a big smile. He poured a generous glass of Dalva white wine from the world-famous Duro region. With its unique microclimate, it's one of the best regions in the world for both wine but more famously for Port.
Rita told me that Tascö is Eat Poto's longest-running partner. My expectations were already high but they were now being elevated further.
(8) Salt Cod Fritter
The first dish to arrive was a salt cod fritter (Patanisca de Bacalhau). This is the dish that parents give their children to familiarize them to the taste of cod, Rita told me. I can see why, not just kids, but anyone who tries this dish would fall in love with it. Light and airy, the taste of cod was subtle and not at all fishy.
The dough is made of flour, eggs, chopped parsley, and onions with salted cod then being added. This unique and traditionally Portuguese method of salting and preserving the cod gives it a mouth-puckering taste.
Rita told me that everyone adds a unique twist to their version of this dish. Her mum uses milk and instead of deep-frying, she opts for grilling. The wine was crisp and refreshing and it went well with the fish. I was enjoying the combination so much that the waiter generously topped me up when he saw I was low.
As the wine continued to flow I asked Rita: "If it was your last night on earth what dish would you have?" Without hesitation, she pointed and said: "My mother's version of what you are eating right now". I finished the last bite and wondered to myself, how could her mother's possibly be any better than this.
(9) Slow-Cooked Belly of Pork
The next dish is easier to write than it is to pronounce but don't let that stop you from ordering it. This 3 hour, slow-cooked belly of pork, is known as Rojöes. The tender meat fell apart as I touched it with my fork. The belly of the pig is quite fatty and this helped to give the dish an amazing flavor. Cooked with onion, red wine and garlic the ingredients meld together wonderfully.
As I finished the last bite of pork and we prepared to leave, I felt like a grandson who had just been fed by his loving grandmother. If you're in Porto and you are looking for some authentic Portuguese food, you won't be disappointed coming to Tascö.
As we climbed one of the many hills of Porto, I noticed that cafes and bars had converted the parking spaces outside their shops into outdoor seating to help with social distancing during COVID. The wooden terraces made the street more sociable and gave it an alfresco vibe, I thought to myself at least this was one small positive to come from COVID.
4th Stop: Taxca
Our final food stop of the tour had the feeling of a local tavern, with cured legs of pork hanging from the ceiling and tables of laughing locals sharing jokes.
Behind the counter was an old gentleman with a big belly focused on his work. With one hand he held a hunk of cured pork, skilfully feeding it through the blade that thinly sliced the meat. With his other hand, he guided the paper-thin ham into a neatly layered pile. It was hypnotizing to watch. Every minute, he would stop cutting and start preparing the sandwiches, folding the meat, into waves and placing them between a crusty bread roll. He had a routine, a process that he had no doubt perfected over the years. After each roll was artfully prepared, he would arrange a fresh batch for the eagerly awaiting locals.
Bustling with customers throughout the day but busiest after dark, many of Porto's partiers come here after an alcohol-fuelled night of fun for a quick and tasty snack.
On the wall behind the counter was a big bell. Thinking that maybe it was used for announcing last orders, like in a British pub, I was surprised to learn that it is actually used for almost the opposite reason.....whenever someone orders a glass of water the bell is rung in mocking appreciation! Needless to say, when Rita asked what I wanted to drink, I replied: "Whatever the locals are having!"
On the far side of the counter was a selection of interesting salads including a cod salad and a pigs' feet salad. I thought to myself how you'd never find a salad in a bar in the US or UK and especially not ones with pigs' feet. I wanted to try them all, but the one that stood out was the octopus salad.
(10) Cured Pork Sandwich (11) Octopus Salad & (12) Rose Green Wine
My plate arrived with what looked like 2 sandwiches. I discovered that one was simply a plain roll, meant for mopping up the juices from the octopus salad. After tucking into the tender octopus, I was left with a delicious marinade, of olive oil, garlic, red pepper and small chunks of octopus. I used the fluffy bread to mop my plate clean.
To accompany the food I had a glass of green-rose wine. People often think that green wine refers to the color, but its name derives from the fact that the grapes are young. I've had green wine before but this was the first time I had a rose green wine. It was fresh, light, and easy to drink, I recommend giving it a try if you ever have the opportunity.
After finishing my octopus salad, I was eager for the main attraction, the smoked ham sandwich, or Sandes de Presunto as they say in Portugal. The ham is cured of a Portuguese pedigree breed known as the Bisaro. Found in the North of the country, they have short legs and forage on acorns which some people say give the meat a nutty taste.
Sandwiches are popular in Porto because of its industrial roots. Cheap food that was easily transported made for an ideal lunch for the cities factory workers. As great as the sandwiches are in America, often I've found they are over the top, with too many fillings and overpowering flavors.
The sandwich in my hand was magnificently simple. The ham was salty, tender, and full of flavor. The bun was crusty on the outside and cloud-like on the inside. Accompanied by the rose green wine, I was in sandwich heaven and I could see why people come here after partying, ending their night on a high note.
As I stuffed my mouth Rita told me stories about her family. Her Dad was a journalist and part of the communist party. During the dictatorship, he was part of the resistance and he would secretly transport people and documents across the country. Rita told me that on more than one occasion he had been shot at in what sounded like a scene out of a James Bond movie.
After a final bite of my sandwich and feeling like a local, Rita and I waved goodbye to the bartender and headed towards our last stop.
5th Stop: Touriga
Tucked away down a small cobbled street is a humble-looking shop that doesn't sell any food but does specialize in something that Porto is known for...Port.
The problem with buying port in Porto is that there is too much choice! So it was reassuring to meet David, who had worked in the Port industry, on both the consumer and producers side, for much of his life.
David was a patient and knowledgeable chap. He escorted us into the back of his shop where he presented us with 3 bottles.
(13) White Borges Port (14) Ramos Pinto Collector Reserve (15) Porto S.Leonardo
The first was a white port.
I've only ever drunk white port before in the UK, where it has now become quite fashionable on a hot summer evening with a mixer. This white port was 10 year old and produced by Borges who have been perfecting the art since 1884. Fresh but complex, and aged in oak casks, it gave me a new perspective on what a white Port could be. It was so good that I wanted to buy a bottle but unfortunately, David informed me that this was the last bottle.
The front door opened and David darted off to tend to a customer giving Rita an opportunity to tell me more stories, including one about the time she tried Port for the first time on a school trip to a distillery at the age of 13! I thought to myself that it was probably best that my school didn't take me and my friends to a distillery at 13!
When David returned we were in for another treat. He poured a glass of Ramos Pinto Collector Reserve. A Tawny Port created from several young blends. A stunningly smooth Port with aromas of fig, blackberry, and raspberry, I imagined having a bottle at Thanksgiving or Christmas with some cheeses.
Our final tasting was another 10-year-old port, but this time it was a tawny. A full-bodied port with aromas of dried fruits and raisins, it would go well as a digestive or with sweets, chocolate, and nuts.
I felt liked I had been educated on Port by a master and I was eager to learn more. With his knowledge of the industry, I asked David which Port distillery I should visit. Diplomatically he replied: "They are all good, but if I had to pick one it would be a small distiller with a less commercial feel like Calem Porto."
As we were leaving David beckoned me over to his prize collection. Tucked away on the top shelf, out of the way of any wayward tourist, was an old, dusty-looking bottle. Looking like it had been discovered from a lost tomb, David presented his crown jewel, a bottle from 1847. It was hard to believe that the last time that this Port had touched fresh air was 190 years ago! I asked him how much something like that would sell for and he said many thousands of dollars. He told me how once a Russian businessman had come to his shop and bought a similar bottle as a gift for a business associate.
After all the alcohol I had consumed I didn't want to hold the bottle and risk dropping it. I was happy just taking a photo and after doing just that we wished David farewell.
As I stood outside, thanking Rita for her tour, some of her friends walked up the street. I felt like I had just had an inspiring introduction to Port's world-class cuisine by a true local.
💵 Score: 19/25
The cost of this food tour was 72 Euros. Compared to other tours in Porto, the price was the 2nd highest. Other tour companies may try and seduce you with a low price. Before you make a decision, think about:
1. The Number of Stops
2. The Duration of the Tour
3. The Number of Guests
1. The Number of Stops:
When you factor in the 17 tastings (11 food and 6 drinks), the cost is 4.24 Euros per tasting.
2. The Duration of the Tour:
When thinking about the price, it is also worth considering the duration of the tour. This tour lasts 3 hours and 30 minutes and therefore costs 20.57 Euros per hour.
3. The Number of Guests:
Some tours have a low price but a large number of guests which can often detract from the experience. I was super lucky in that I was the only person taking this tour but normally you won't be that lucky. This tour has a maximum of 10 guests.
Walking around Porto with Rita, felt like I was walking around a city with a friend. I enjoyed her interesting family stories, but it took a little questioning to get these stories to surface. Rita was an excellent ambassador to the city and even after the tour, she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions over WhatsApp. My only small gripe is that Rita didn't join me in eating any of the food. I always prefer it when the tour guide at least eats some of the food on the tour, as it shows that they are into the food and it helps to describe what we are both eating.