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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Heavenly treats

Where has pasteis de Belem been all my life? The fresh, hot custard pastries sprinkled with cinammon and powdered sugar at the Antiga Confeiteria de Belem were a delightful treat after walking along the shore of the Rio Tejo (Tagus River) in the Belem neighborhood of Lisbon.

Although they are sold in bakeries across Lisbon, the best place to get the goods is at this particular pastry shop, which is to Portugal what the Magnolia Bakery is to New York City -- an institution. Originally made by the monks at the nearby Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, the recipe has not changed over the last 172 years. Heavenly, indeed!

Line up at the front of the store to take away a box filled with the yummy goodness, or sit down and have the waiter bring pasteis fresh out of the oven to your table in the enormous cavernous eatery. Jen, my latest travel partner who arrived just today, and I had one a piece and it was clear we would have to order another . . . and another.

"I can't have just one," says Mariana, the front desk clerk at the youth hostel where we are staying. "I usually end up eating five or six and have to stay in bed the next day. But they are so good!"

As a friend pointed out, they are "LisBon Appetite." I say: FINALLY! Most of the main dishes are bland and uninspired, but the desserts are a different story.

Mariana has been our sweets pusher since we got here. Tomorrow, she has recommended we try "travesseiros" at Piriquita in Sintra. We're not making a special trip or anything -- we are going to get a little culture, too.

But I will be sure to report back on how these new goodies stack up against the pasteis.
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