At the cheese fair (part I)

We set the course for Oliveira do Hospital last Friday in the late afternoon and made our journey peacefully, watching the lightning strike far far away from us – except for the last hour or so of travel. First there was rain, then it became really heavy rain, then we had thunder and lightning right above our heads and we also got to have ice on the road for about 2 or 3 km. Ouch! By the time we got to the Best Choice Lodging we were greeted with a smile, the bedroom was already warm and there were two small organic chocolate bars waiting for us. 🙂 Best Choice Lodging is a guest house very close to the centre of Oliveira do Hospital. You can read my review about it on TripAdvisor.

The next morning we went to the town centre for breakfast and spotted the Café Central, in the town garden, which was a 5 minute walk away from the lodging. It  looked modern, fresh and inviting. It was more than I was expecting, actually: two merendas (pastries with a slice of ham and a slice of cheese) which in Lisbon usually cost 1.20€ each here were at 0.90€ each and the lattes were tasty and beautiful, looking like something I’d expect in a fancy café in a big city. This breakfast cost us something under 3.50€, which is a really good price.

(Click the photos if you’d like to see them in a large format)

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Partial view of the town garden.

After breakfast we headed to the cheese fair, which was a two minute walk away from the guest house. There were several small pavilions: one had activities taking place, the other had handicraft, one other had food products and then there were the food stalls. Some things I was expecting to find, while others were a total surprise. The Confraria do Cão da Serra da Estrela was present with a few of these beautiful herd-guarding dogs. There were also some sheep (representing the local breeds) but they seemed more interested in hay than in me petting them – can you blame them?! There were also local bands (some more ‘folk’ than others) both on stage and among the crowd.

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Top to bottom, left to right: a smiling sheep; more sheep; waiting to go on stage to sing; a winking Serra da Estrela dog!

The very first stall I visited belonged to a company from the town of Manteigas, Ecolã, that produces wool products. I’ve known their products since 2010 and we’ve met in several events of this type. A company from a town in Serra da Estrela doesn’t sound incredibly thrilling, right? What if I told you they export to Japan? More about them in the posts to come!

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Top to bottom, left to right: example of handicraft being sold at the fair; I did say we love fruit liqueur in Portugal; cakes; more cakes (notice the bonbons filled with sheep’s milk cheese, top right corner).
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Cheese and traditional cheese making utensils.

Then another stall caught my eye: a girl selling handmade soaps. They looked rustic but so authentic that I had to stop to take a better look. Then I noticed they were also selling deodorants, oils and that everything had cute labels and was made with such love and care. After a chat with Denise and Ruben, from Filhos da Terra, I decided to bring a cinnamon deodorant home with me. Denise is such a sweet person she even offered me a small bar of lavender and honey soap to try out. More about them later, too!

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Seaweed and clay handmade soap

After shuffling through many traditional products, including handmade wooden spoons, we headed to the food pavilion. First things first, so I got to try some Dão wine and have a chat with a very nice gentleman with a long beard the likes I haven’t seen in years! Right next to him, a producer was selling his olive oil. He had three brands for sampling, one of which is organic, and you could actually taste the differences in each type of olive oil. One of them was quite strong, perfect to give life to a dull salad, while another was rather mild. It’s not the fist time I sample olive oils as if they were wines (obviously not in a glass, you dip a bit of bread in the oil) and I find it amazing how the olive oil will get so many different flavours depending on the types of olives that are used, on the weather and on several other variants – much like wine!

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Tasting olive oil…

Passing through stands filled with cakes, cookies, pastries and all sorts of delicious things I found bonbons filled with… sheep’s milk cheese! Yes, you read that right and let me tell you they were delicious! Not very far from them was a stand where you could sample home made jams and farinheira. I can hear you saying “Well, what else is new?” The news is that this farinheira in particular was made with… soy! I tried it and liked it very much, you couldn’t taste the difference. Actually, a man was also sampling it while I was there and he couldn’t tell the difference either – and he didn’t look like he had ever tried vegan sausages before! More about this later, as well.

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Tasty vegan sausages.

Still in the food pavilion my eyes fell upon a stand with beautiful neatly arranged bonbons – which had not been made in a factory, obviously. Flavours included vanilla, honey, cassis, Port, strawberry-mint, Serra da Estrela cheese and… I have the feeling I’m forgetting something. Each type of bonbon had a different shape and colour. All tasted wonderful! And yes, I’ll tell you more about them later…

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Strawberry-mint and cassis handmade bonbons.

Last but not least I found a company which proudly sells products from the Serra da Estrela region – and you can buy from their site! They have traditional products, like the wines and cheese, but they also sell innovative things (all produced locally) like the porcini vinaigrette (vinagreta de boleto) and the nettle pesto (pesto de urtigas) which come in squeeze bottles! Very handy for restaurants, bistros or my own kitchen, for that matter! More about them later, as well!

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Cool new products.

Well, I would have loved to stay for the afternoon but I knew that a politician was going to show up at that time of the day for some hand shaking and picture posing and… well, I’m allergic to politicians. So, with our bellies half-full from all the sampling and with the rain starting to pour, we quickly opted to have a pão com chouriço* for lunch. With our bellies now completely full we headed towards the mountain.

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Yes, you guessed it: pão com chouriço!

Don’t miss part 2 of this post!

*pão com chouriço is a type of small rustic bread filled with sliced meat sausage and preferably eaten while warm. It’s commonly sold at fairs and markets.

The website: http://www.beyondlisbon.pt/

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7 comments

  1. This was so interesting, wish I’d gone in the end but the rain, the two hour drive and the lack of enthusiasm from the children put me off. Next time! Looking forward to part 2.

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