Friday, July 23, 2010

Headin' Out

Heading to the Mysterious Sister-In-Law's place for a multiple day barbecue and, probably, a Red Dead Redemption marathon.  My brother-in-law, Jim, plays while I watch and holler out advice like "Don't shoot the deputy, it will ruin your reputation."  Not that he ever listens, though.  He would shoot Bonnie, if he could.

In the same vein, video games, my WoW account was hijacked and all of my higher level toons stripped of everything of value.  And my level 2 trader had her bank raided.  The hacking of WoW has become an epidemic.  Even guild banks have been looted.  They must have some bad security problems because in the over five years that I have had an Everquest account I never had a problem.

The interesting thing is that when Blizzard changed their log-in procedures to use your email address instead of a user-name that you made up I predicted that this would lead to a rash of account hijacking.  And I wasn't alone.  Just do a Google of "WoW hacking" or 'WoW account hijacking" and you will see what I mean.

Anyway, probably no more posts until Monday.  But I still have a lot more on Lisbon that I will be posting next week, so stay tuned.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quinta da Regaleira

Quinta da Reglaeira is, well, I am not sure what it is.  The summer retreat for Baroness da Regaleira, as a start.  Then it was sold to Antonio Ausgusto de Carvalho Monteiro who added parcels of land to give his properties a pentagonal outline.  He was the one who initiated the building that give this place its current look.  The chief architect was a set designer who, if he were alive today, would probably be designing video games. Walking through this place is a bit like playing one, or, more accurately, being a character in one.  The last owner was Waldemar Jara d'Oray, who also made some modifications

I Think I See A Light In Yonder Tower

How many places do you visit that have a little chapel just down the path...

Why Wouldn't You Go In

Don't forget the semi-hidden stairway behind the piller.  It leads you down to the crypt.

Just Give Me A Hand With The Lid

Of course, you have to have the apparent dead-end path that actually ends at a stone door.

Hinges Could Use A Little Oil

And statuary that hides the entrance to a series of tunnels.

Beware What Lurks Behind

Tunnels that lead to the -

Initiatic Well

The Initiatic Well is not really a well, more like a subterranean tower that is about 27 meters deep.  A spiral stairway leads to the top.

Going Up

Looking Down

And the tunnels have surprises as well, like all of a sudden looking out into a little pond.

I Thought I Was Underground

The whole complex, or whatever you want to call it, is built on what appears to be the side of a cliff. 

Vertigo Inducing

As a result it can be a bit disorienting when you are in a tunnel and where you pop out can be a surprise.

Just Like Alice

And, just to add to the spookiness, the property that this sits on is in the shape of a pentagram.

There are also nice flower gardens, and all sorts of statues.  Like I said, this place was so interesting that we came here twice because we didn't see it all the first time and missed the caves.

Flowers Amongst The Flowers

And A Little Lake With A Black Swan

I could write for pages on this place, but I am not going to.  I will just let the pictures do the talking.  If you are ever in Lisbon or anywhere nearby, I heartily recommend that you visit.  It is in a little town called Sintra that is just a short train ride away from Lisbon.  I will be talking more about Sintra because we also visited a palace while we were there and had a couple of nice meals as well.

A Friendly Bunny - Run Away

And Yet Another Tower

I have noticed that the Mysterious Sister seems to like to climb towers and visit high places.

Top Of The World, Ma

And, Of Course, Black Cats

A Bit Of A Break

A Hidden Fount

Picture Taking

Exploring The Caves

Terrace Of The Gods

Going Who Knows Where

Another Hidden Tunnel Entrance

Bridge To The Main Entrance

And there you go.  One of the most interesting places I have ever visited, anywhere in the world.  I just kept wondering what must have been going through the minds of those who designed this, and whoever paid for it all.  There is all kinds of symbology embedded in just about everything.  The Initiatic Well, for example, is supposed to intensify the feeling of the relationship between heaven and earth.  And the area of Sintra is also known as the Promontory of the Moon.

Quinta da Reglaeira was closed for ten years after it was purchased by a Japanese corporation.  I was talking to a lady and she said that when it was closed people would tresspass and throw parties down in the tunnels.  Now that sounds like fun.  The Municipality of Sintra bought it in 1997 and now it is open to the public, for a fee.

Still Bitter

I don't want to say that New Yorkers are still bitter about LeBron's decision to go to Miami, but check out number four on the New York Daily News list of the top five money-earners in sports:

1) Tiger Woods
2) Phil Mickelson
3) Floyd Mayweather
4) Narcissistic Miami-bound NBA MVP
5) Alex Rodriguez

I apologize for not posting more about Quinta da Regaleira yesterday, but I had so many pictures to go through and a bit of research to do as well.  Later today, though, I promise.

Just A Peek At What Is Ahead

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Another Jets Rant

Now don't get me wrong, I am still a Jets fan.  It is the Knicks that I have totally turned my back on.  However, as many of you know, I gave up my Jets season tickets, as did about another dozen of my fellow-tailgaters, when we were going to be charged $15,000 a seat for the new Personal Seating Licenses.  This would be in addition to the tickets themselves going up 75% from $80 to $140.  And, of course, I wasn't happy with the whole Brett Favre deal that worked out so well for them that they missed the playoffs while the Dolphins, behind Chad Pennington, made it in, but that was just a bump in the road.  It was, quite frankly, the money.  Think what $45,000 could buy you other than the right to buy three season tickets at $1,400 each.

Sales have been so poor after the PSL and ticket price increases that last month there were still 9,000 unsold PSLs.  As a result the Jets slashed the prices by up to 50%.  There are still over 2,000 unsold PSLs, however, and if they aren't sold before the September 13th opener against the Ravens there will be a local television blackout.

Ain't greed a wonderful thing.

And, as I predicted, the Knicks did get rid of their best long-term player, David Lee.  He was part of a multiple-player multiple-team trade that sent him to the Warriors.  At least Lee did okay for himself, signing a six-year $80 million contract.

Later today I will post about one of the most interesting places I have ever visited, Quinta da Regaleira.  It is like a huge set for some kind of a spooky horror movie, complete with an underground crypt, tunnels and grottos, sprawling grounds and winding paths and plenty of other pretty weird stuff.  We actually went back two times there was so much to see.  The second time we took flashlights.

It Ain't Disneyland

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lunch At bico do sapato

In my last post about this place I, gasp, inadvertently capitalized the name of the restaurant.  I should know by now that capitals aren't hip anymore.  Lowercase all the way.  What was I thinking.

Okay, this post will be primarily for foodies because it will be devoted to describing the quite delicious lunch we shared at bico do sapato one lovely afternoon.

First things first though.  It was a hot day and, well, what difference does it make.  The first thing I wanted when I got here was a beer.

First Things First

They didn't have a really extensive menu here, but it was unusual and sufficiently varied that we had no problem finding things we were eager to try.

I already mentioned the Stewed Black Pork Cheek with minced white carrots, sauteed asparagas and secrets.

Black Pork Cheek

Very tasty with a nice chew to it.  Had a bit of a pungent flavor, probably bacause of the secrets.  It could easily serve as a main course, especially for lunch.  But, when you eat at a place like this a bit of gluttony is acceptable.

The Mysterious Chinese Woman went for one of the specials of the day, Fried Eels stewed in red wine served with beans and pennyroyal.

It Looks Eelie Good

Now I will be the first to admit that I had never heard of pennyroyal before.  It is a plant in the mint family and was used in cooking by both the Greeks and the Romans.  It is also used in traditional medicines to both reduce menstrual flow and to induce abortions.  The essential oil is highly toxic, and even in small quantities can lead to death.  Makes you just want to run out and get some to start using in your cooking.

Everyone agreed the dish was very good, though.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

The Mysterious Sister had Braised Scallops with fleur de sel, common cockle and blooms rice.

Braised Scallops And Mysterious Ingredients

Not every day that you get so many mysterious ingredients before you are even through your appetizers.  Well, fleur de sel is a sea salt, but not just any sea salt.  It is the salt that is harvested by hand from only the newest crystals that form at the top of salt ponds.  Aren't we fancy.  Common cockles are edible shellfish somewhat similar to small clams.  And blooms rice, well, I just don't know.  I do know that the mussels were delicious.

Moving on to the main course I ordered Roasted Azores red gurnard with oysters fricassee, sauteed noodles with sea cabbage and seaweed.

My Roasted Azores (No Limericks, Please)

Red gurnard, also known, for some mysterious reason, as jock stewart, is either a rockfish or a perch or both.  The waitress said it would be similar to a red snapper, but it really wasn't.  The fillets were thicker and firmer and a bit sweet.  Very good, though.

The red gurnard is kind of a goofy looking fish.  The picture looks almost like some Japanese metal toy that you might see.

Just Wind Me Up

They do get quite large though, a couple of feet or more.

The Mysterious Chinese woman opted for the Duck Leg Confit with juniper cress tort, giblets, beans and rice.

Proud Of Her Pick

Now I have made duck leg confit, but only once.  I really should make it again because I have a lot of lard in my refrigerator.  Because it is a bit of a pain to make, slow cooking in lard, but because I like it so much I often order it when I see it on the menu.  It can be hit or miss, sometimes over-cooked, but this was done to perfection.  It was a pick to be proud of.

The Mysterious Sister opted for the Roasted Lamb Shoulder in the oven, turnip leaves cream, gratinated with traditional Beira cheese. 

Shouldering The Burden

Now maybe it is a coincidence, but there is a Beira cheese factory in Azores.  Maybe they ship the cheese over with the fish.  But whatever they do, this was really delicious.  Done to perfection, juicy and flavorful.

And, of course, we had an excellent bottle of wine with our meal.  The waitress helped me pick it out, but  I forgot what kind it was.  Very refreshing.

Ah, The Good Life

And now for the desserts.  Nothing fancy for me, just some Sour Cherry Sorbet in a nice crispy crepe.  Very light and a perfect little ending to a perfect meal.

Only The Sorbet Was Sour

I am not sure what the Mysterious Chinese Woman and her Mysterious Sister got.  I think the Mysterious Chinese Woman got vanilla ice cream, or something along those lines.

Another Mystery

The Mysterious Sister, who really likes chocolate, ordered a dish that had a combination of three different ice creams, two of which were chocolate.

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

The round thing in the middle was some kind of a cookie.

And that concluded our lunch at bico do sapato.  It was truly excellent, from start to finish.  The service was great and our waitress was very friendly and helpful in explaining some of the more mysterious ingredients.  If I ever get back to Lisbon I would definitely make a point of eating here again.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oatmeal Martinis

I just read this and I felt compelled to share it with you.  Mike Krawiec, a co-owner of Sweet Afton bar in Astoria, Queens, has come up with an oatmeal martini to serve during his weekend brunch.

First, infuse Tito's vodka (made in Texas) with rolled oats for five hours.  Strain the infusion through cheesecloth four times and you have oatmeal flavored vodka.  Then add organic (of course) maple syrup and a raisin puree (boiled down raisins and brown sugar).  Now shake vigorously with ice and strain into your martini glass.  Throw in a few raisins instead of olives.

Result, kind of a brown oatmeal looking thing with a bit of puree sediment that is a little on the sweet side.

To each their own, but I think I will stick with Bloody Marys.  

A Couple Of Restaurants

The reason that I stumbled upon the Irish bar in Lisbon was because the Mysterious Chinese Woman, her Mysterious Sister, and I had gone to the nearby Porto de Abrigo for lunch.  It is an old restaurant down by the docks and not far from Mercado da Ribeira.  Mercada da Ribeira is a marketplace that was built in 1882 on what was once an old port.  It is a bit more than a market though, with a bar, a craftshop, a restaurant and live music.

Although the general area, called Cais do Sodre, is becoming somewhat gentrified, Porto da Abrigo retains its old look and, gratifying, non-gentrified prices.

A Bit Non-Descript

Okay, I know, Lisbon is not completely free of graffiti, but then this is a bit of a rundown waterfront area.  And, you will note, while there may be graffiti, the streets and sidewalks are still clean.

Rundown, But Clean

The specialties here are traditional Portuguese dishes and I opted for the octopus as did the Mysterious Sister.  The Mysterious Chinese Woman had, well, I really don't remember.

Octopus And Mystery Meal

And, as you know, Bar Man loves nothing more than a good tentacle.

A Good Sucker

We had a nice bottle of wine and some good cheeses to start the meal.  Just a word of caution, though.  Prior to your meal you are often presented with a cheese or two along with a plate of olives and bread.  Although the bread is free, and maybe the olives, the cheese is not.  If you eat them the price will be added to your bill.  They are individually wrapped small "wheels" so it is easy to just leave them alone.  Not that I ever did.  And they don't unduly inflate your bill.

A few days later we went to another restaurant in the same general area.  I say general, but it is a good bus or trolley ride away, or another couple of stops on the subway.  I didn't know about the subway, though, because one of my guidebooks, TimeOut Lisbon (2007) did not have this stop on their maps.  Apparently the subway was just extended two additional stops in the past few years.  My other guidebook, Eyewitness Travel Lisbon (2008) did have the stop on its maps, but I didn't see it until it was too late.

Anyway, we took the subway from our hotel to Baixa-Chiado, then switched lines and went one stop to Cais da Sodre and then took either a bus or a trolley to the restaurant.

The restaurant is Bico do Sapato and is partially owned by the actor John Malkovich.  It is considered to be one of the hippest restaurants in Lisbon, and I suspect it really heats up at night. At least it looks like it should.  We went for lunch and it wasn't too crowded. 

Of course because it is so "hip" it also has to be obscure.  We walked right by it and had to finally ask someone where it was.  Not because it is small, but because it looks like some kind of a terminal or something.

Yes, This Is It

The entrance is off to the side and can't really be seen from the sidewalk.  And you can hardly see the sign until you are at the entrance.

Obscure, The New Black

Another reason why we didn't "see" it at first was because all of the restuarant reviews talk about the how it sits right on the Tejo river and you had this lovely water view.

Our "Lovely Waterview"

Nobody mentions that your only view is of the cruiseship whenever one is in port.  And, according to our waitress, that is every day this time of year.

Oh well, at least our view changed a bit during our meal.

Painting And Cleaning

But the lack of a view was the only thing wrong with this place, and the view was more funny than anything else.

There are really three restaurants in one.  A sushi bar is upstairs, but we didn't go up there and it might be closed during the day.  There is also a casual restaurant and that one was pretty packed.

Eating Casual

The main area is really quite fancy and there were a few business types there and, of course, a few Mysterious Chinese Women.  But then they turn up everywhere.

Mysterious Chinese Women #1 and #2

There were a couple of nice bar areas and little lounging areas as well.  One was even close to the river and offered a lovely view.

Nice Chairs

Bar One

Bar Two

Okay, I am going to break it off here.  I haven't even gotten to our meal yet, and that deserves special attention because it was delicious and a bit unusual.  Think stewed black pork cheek with minced carrots, sauteed asparagus and secrets for an appetizer.

Stay drooling until my next post.