Boycott McDonald’s, I Say

Today about 3 p.m., I was sulking in a cab on Broadway and 82nd St. I’d just come back from a painful physical therapy session, and, because my progress apparently isn’t going to be a perfect model of recovery, with each day improving upon the previous, I was so depressed, I limped on crutches into the nearest McDonald’s. (I know I promised Melissa over at glutenfreeforgood that I was giving up my junk food vice, but those Angus burgers are a hard habit to break.) I paid for my lunch and sat down between a shrieking brat of two, who sounded not unlike a howler monkey, and a drunken man of indeterminate age.

When I opened my bag to fish out my meal, I saw something that has been ticking me off for some time, and I couldn’t deny it any longer: McDonald’s has been stinting on their french fries for months. The medium value meals have become less valuable as they contain about one-third fewer fries than when they were introduced, while at the same time their prices have only skyrocketed. Read more »

What Ever Happened to This Blog?

This blog was originally supposed to launch months ago, as a place for me to write about my experiences living in Portugal while researching my cookbook—and for our contributors and guest bloggers to write about their own culinary hijinks—but its debut was hijacked by an utterly humiliating act of clumsiness. On my way to visit my family before leaving for Portugal, I was getting off the elevator at the Providence, RI, train station with enough luggage for a family of six, tripped over a loose strap, and fell. Then the cargo-load of luggage fell on top of me, one of the suitcases landing squarely on top of my right ankle. As I lay splattered upon the floor—computer, camera, and bags strewn all over—the room instantly fell silent and all eyes were upon me. Was that muffled sniggering I heard from that group of college kids near the newsstand? Is my underwear clean? Am I even wearing underwear? My father helped me up, and I started to gather my things, but a weird thing happened: I couldn’t move my right leg. My brain sent electrical impulses to it, but the neurons seemed to turn a deaf ear. When I was finally able to gain motion, I looked like Steve Martin in a classic SNL skit—arms flailing, legs wobbling, a smirk on my face. In short, an idiot. Read more »

Notes from Portugal: Pois Café | Lisbon

 Pois, Café

I’m sitting in my new favorite place — Pois, Café — in my neighborhood, the Sé area of Lisbon. Pois, Café is a hybrid. It’s part pastelaria, serving small sweets and pastries, and part restaurante, offering up brunch, sandwiches, and entrées accompanied by an astonishing sight is this country: a true, honest-to-Alice Waters salad. (Since I’ve been coming to Portugal, salads have been of the limp iceberg lettuce and greenish-red tomato genus.)

Eca de QueirosI first stumbled into Pois, Café, and I do mean stumbled, thanks to a horrifically sprained ankle, on Thursday with my friend Amy, an American ex-pat who’s been living in Lisbon for 17 years. Over the course of two hours, she gave me an insider’s look at the always fascinating, always perplexing lisboetas.

The curiously self-described “café austríaco” had nary a schnitzel or strudel on the menu when I visited. Pois, Café’s nod to Portugal’s heritage, though, can be found in its many egg dishes, the upfront presence of ham and/or pork sandwiches, its excellent coffees, and substantial entrées. On Thursday, I had their bacalhau espiritual, at heart a salt-cod-and-mashed-potato dish with julienne carrots and a molho de béchamel, and, as I mentioned, that surprisingly good salad. Today’s entrée is quiche de atum, or tuna quiche, which is far creamier than its French counterpart.

The décor is flea-market chic: no two tables match, neither do any two chairs. Vases are old medicine bottles, and there’s always a revolving art display hanging on the walls. What I liked most about this light-filled, high-vaulted hangout is its laidback attitude. It even encourages long visits: a working typewriter sits in a corner, if you’re so inclined to dash off a letter to your namorado back home or finally start that novel; the ledge around the café is piled with books in just about every language; and newspapers litter the sofas. Think “Friends” meets the 15th century. In fact, right after I send off this missive, I’m diving into The Maias by Eça de Queirós — the 19th-century classic with an excellent new translation by Margaret Jull Costa, which got a great review in the New York Times.

Pois, Café | Rua de São João da Praça, N° 93-95 | Lisbon, Portugal
Tel/fax: +351 218 862 497
Hours: Open Tues. through Sun., 11 a.m. to 10 p.m
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Photo © 2004 Dario J Laganà All rights reserved.

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