Saturday, April 28, 2012

Peixe em Lisboa "Lisbon Fish & Flavors"-A Portuguese Gastronomic Event That Deserves More

Red Fish w/ lemony green rissotto from 100 Maneiras
-photo by Rochelle Ramos
*Interested in learning more about Portuguese food and wine with me? Check out my An American In Portugal Tours, and my blog's new home!*

Last Saturday, I spent the afternoon at the 4th annual Peixe em Lisboa or "Lisbon Fish & Flavors", which claims to be the "Most Significant Annual Gastronomic Event in Portugal", predominately showcasing the abundant fish and seafood of Portugal's coastline.  The 10-day event organized by Turismo de Lisboa was held inside the elegant Pátio da Galé, within the grandiose Praça do Comércio in downtown, right on the river.  Inside, they had a dining area featuring ten of some of the most popular fine-dining restaurants and chefs in Lisbon and the greater Lisbon area, serving up their own, fish-themed mini-menus as well as doing specialty show cooking and demos throughout the week.   Along with this, an adjacent room had several local gourmet vendors and wineries offering small tastings of their products available for purchase. 

Peixe em Lisboa through the eyes of a
Moscatel Roxo Rosé from José Maria da Fonseca
I have to be honest, I wasn't planning on going to this event in the beginning.  For the past 4 years, I have gone to several Portuguese food and wine expositions around Lisbon and Porto and have left quite disappointed by their poor presentation and disorganization and I figured this one would be no different.  But after my fellow "Expat Reporterette" and Lisbon tour guide, Mary Harrison Goudie convinced me and our "Fabulous Food Photographer" expat Rochelle Ramos that this was worth our time, we decided to arm ourselves with our cameras, microphones and social media and hit Peixe em Lisboa ready for some serious wining, dining and picture snapping. 

Thankfully, Mary ended up being right in many aspects.  The quality of food and wine we tasted at the event was amazing, and definitely made me wish that I had come on other days to experience all the different tastings and demos they had to offer.  We managed to try around 3 plates each from 3 of the participating restaurants, with either the chef or one of the cooks surprisingly agreeing to step away from their kitchen for an interview with us to talk about their restaurant and each of the plates we were trying.  

Bacalhau á Bras with Exploding Olives from José Avillez
-photo by Rochelle Ramos
Our first and I think by far, our "fan favorite" was José Avillez, whose simple, straightforward dishes were truly delicious.  I absolutely loved his richer, creamier version of the traditional Portuguese dish, Bacalhau á Bras -shredded saltcod mixed with potatoes, onions and garnished with olives, which in this case, happened to be green olives filled with tart olive juice that "exploded" in your mouth, a nice twist!  José Avillez was also one of the friendliest chefs I've ever met, he came right up to us to say hello from the very beginning and after the interview he returned several times to ask us what we thought of the dishes.  And not only was he friendly with us, but we watched him stand in front of his kitchen greeting and talking to guests waiting in line, always with a smile on his face.  Later on, when my sweet tooth got the best of me, Chef Avillez suggested we try his favorite dessert creation, Avelã or Hazelnut, which was hazelnut gelatto encased in fluffy whipped hazelnut mousse topped with Portuguese fleur de sal.  I have one word for it: divine :)

Seared Azorean tuna from José Avillez
-photo by Rochelle Ramos
Sapateira (stone crab) "sliders" from José Avillez
-photo by Rochelle Ramos
Chef José Avillez chilling out and telling us about his dishes 
Another restaurant we enjoyed was 100 Maneiras, whose fried shrimp "lollipop" and red fish with lemony green rissotto pictured at the top were a hit among us.  And their passion fruit panna cotta with almonds for was a perfectly layered harmony of flavor and texture in my mouth, definitely giving Avillez's Avelã dessert a run for the money! 

João Simões, Executive Chef of Grupo 100 Maneiras holding 
his shrimp "lollipop"
Passion Fruit Panna Cotta with Almonds from 100 Maneiras
-photo by Rochelle Ramos
José Maria da Fonseca was the winery sponsor for the event and couldn't have done a better job from what I saw.  They had what looked to be almost all of their large selection of wines available to taste at their stand in the dining room, as well as offering specialty wine tastings and wine pairings with the cooking classes throughout the day.  All of their employees pouring the wines at the stand were very warm and friendly and happily answered any questions we had.  JMF winemaker Domingo Soares Franco was also great in leading the specialty tastings.    

We enjoyed two of their fish-friendly rosé wine recommendations to pair with our food tastings, the dry Periquita Rosé and uniquely fruitier Moscatel Roxo Rosé.  We then followed with their white DSF (Domingos Soares Franco) Colleção Privada Verdelho and finished with their fortified DSF Colleção Privada Moscatel de Setúbal for dessert.  At the DSF specialty tasting, I tried another 6 of their reds, 1 white and 3 more Moscatels, which all of them I liked but I have to say my two favorites were the 2008 Pasamados white, a nutty-buttery blend of Viognier with native Arinto, Esgana and Visozinho varietals and the 2008 José de Sousa Mayor red, a smooth, richly fruity blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez and Grand Noir.
Periquita Rosé from José Maria da Fonseca
-photo by Rochelle Ramos
Overall, my experience at Peixe em Lisboa led me to believe that this is an event worth keeping around.  But this is also an event that's worth more than the still somewhat lackadaisical organization and marketing that I saw there.  After reading Celia Pedroso's review of the event, I agree that for something organized by Turismo de Lisboa, having only 8% of the attendees being tourists is a shame, they definitely need to market more to them!  And the dining area definitely needs to be bigger, investing in those handy mini-trays that hold your wine glass and food would also be a good idea in case you have to stand.  The location was perfect for tourists, except for the fact that they made the entrance on the side street instead of facing the plaza, where the exit was does this make any sense?  And the official website's half-decent English translation (I'd be happy to help with this!), had no icon on the homepage to access the English version, so that could have deterred foreigners from coming as well.

But the biggest issue I had with Peixe em Lisboa was the ticket pricing and offering.  It was the typical European "á la carte" pricing, one of the things that had always annoyed me at previous food and wine expositions here.  You pay a moderate price to enter, but get limited access to most of the event and the rest is extra.  Tell me, isn't an exposition supposed to be about exposing and gaining awareness of your product or service to new clients rather than just trying to make money off of them?  This year, Peixe em Lisboa charged €15 per person for a 1-day ticket, which entitled you to a wine glass and just one "€5 food tasting" and one "€1.50 drink tasting", which I don't even know what that one was for since no one seemed to be charging for wine.  However, if you went during the weekday lunch hour from 12-3pm, your ticket got you two instead of one, which is still not much and most working people can't go at that time.   And even if you wanted to buy more, there was of course no convenient ATM in or around the venue to get cash.   I must say, all of this can sour a guest's mood quite quickly!

Let me put it this way, I come from the land of package deals, where you pay one price up front to access everything, which in my opinion has always been the more desirable option.  How about offer a ticket then that includes three food tastings instead of one, so guests can try an appetizer, main and dessert, then they can get the equivalent of a full meal if they're coming at a mealtime.  The ticket should also include access to the majority of the showcase events throughout the day (and provide more seating for these), only a couple of things should be reserved to purchase at an extra cost.  For all of this, you could charge around €25-30 instead of €15 and I would be happy to pay more up front if  that gave me access to the majority of the event.  You could even offer a discounted a multi-day ticket, to come for 2 or 3 days instead of one, which I would have loved since there were so many different events held each day throughout the 10-day exposition. 

So, Peixe em Lisboa, here's my suggestion for next year:  Give your guests more.  More options.  And then they'll realize you're worth it!

*Check out the rest of Rochelle's and Mary's photos of the event on our Pinterest Boards Peixe em Lisboa and Portuguese Food

Avelã (Hazelnut) dessert from José Avillez
-photo by Rochelle Ramos

1 comment:

  1. Attending this event was fun, though I have to admit there were some downsides to the event itself, but the people I met and were with made it well worth any of the downsides. BTW the photos are BEAUTIFUL. Really love it! And Lisbon is in fact a very nice city to live, work or visit,