An Amazing Lunch At Castas e Pratos (Douro Valley, Portugal)
The five days I spent exploring northern Portugal really were a win for my insane inner foodie. One thing I love about visiting wine regions is that they also tend to offer exceptional food opportunities. And if you’re looking for an amazing place to eat in the Douro Valley, then Castas e Pratos needs to be at the top of your list.
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Located in Peso da Régua, which is one of the bigger (small) towns in the Douro Valley, Castas e Pratos is situated in a former train station warehouse with a terrace overlooking the tracks, and has both a cool upstairs wine bar area and a downstairs dining room with lovely high ceilings.
You can read reviews on TripAdvisor and see their menu at their website. They have a Michelin plate (note, not the same as a star) which is a sign of very good food, well prepared with fresh ingredients. Their wine cellar in particular is extensive and interesting. This is definitely one to check out if you’re looking for where to eat in the Douro Valley.
I went a slightly different route and did a fixed menu with wine pairings, which my local travel guide had set up ahead of time (and did a great job adapting to my dietary restrictions). This isn’t listed on their menu but I’m sure you could call ahead and ask about it. Or just create your own ordering from the menu and asking about good wine pairings.
If you’re visiting Lisbon, these posts will be helpful as well!
What it was like dining at Castas e Pratos
I ate upstairs in their wine bar area, which had a cool ambiance and cozy feel. The staff were attentive and knowledgeable, describing both the dishes and wines to me as they came out. I think they brought me a nice local white wine to start with, but I can’t remember for sure.
The first course was a foie gras terrine (a kind of medallion/cake) with a yellow glaze of some kind, paired with olive oil crispbreads and figs. They paired it with a Late Harvest wine, and the viscous sweetness of the wine did a wonderful job of standing up to the buttery richness of the foie gras. *chef’s kiss*
If you haven’t tried late harvest wines, you definitely should. They’re made from grapes that are left on the vine even after they’ve reached their peak ripeness, becoming sweeter and more concentrated over time. I realize “dessert wines” haven’t been popular in the U.S. but they’re starting to regain their popularity and I’m a huge fan. A great late harvest wine is sweet, yes, but complex and nuanced…a bit like a good bourbon or rum.
You’d think that a sweeter wine paired with a rich foie gras would be too overwhelming, but they actually kind of cancel each other out and help you taste the flavors in each better.
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Next up was confit salted cod with smashed potato, onion purée and a red pepper foam. This was a modern twist on a very traditional and common Portuguese dish.
Castas e Pratos paired it with a local white wine (vinho branco), a bit buttery but still light and perfect for the dish. While the Douro Valley is known for port, it has really excellent regular white and red wines that are starting to gain more attention internationally. Traditionally wines here are blends of multiple grapes, which hasn’t been as “in vogue” in the U.S. (for marketing reasons and nothing else).
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Before I talk about dessert, I have to spend a minute on what it was paired with. They brought out this AMAZING 20 year white port that absolutely blew my mind.
I hadn’t ever heard about white port until this trip, and fell in love (check out the classic Portuguese cocktail porto tonico). But most white port is only aged for about 3 years. White port aged much longer in oak barrels is much rarer, and a bottle of 20-year or 30-year can run you $75-100+.
Think of this type of aged port (both the whites and tawnies) as more like a good bourbon. They’re intense and concentrated (and higher-alcohol), but smooth, with complex notes of toasted almond and walnut, strong toffee and dried fruit notes, and hints of candied orange peel.
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Finally I dug into the “O Ovo” (egg), a delightful concoction made of white chocolate, cream cheese, sweet eggs and passion fruit. It was basically a beautiful, delicate white chocolate egg filled with passion fruit mousse, with a kind of shredded phyllo “nest” and some little crumblies and jelly bites scattered around.
The tartness of the passion fruit helped cut the sweetness of the white chocolate, and paired with the 20-year white port it was absolutely sublime.
So hopefully this has given you a taste (ha!) of what to expect from the Douro Valley’s Castas e Pratos dining experience and convinced you that you need to give it a try!
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