Last week we headed south to Portugal's massive SISAB Expo held in Parque de Nações in Lisbon. SISAB stands for Salão Internacional do Setor Alimentar e Bebidas (or the International Trade Fair for Portuguese Food and Beverages). It was a multi-day event for businesses in the food and beverage industry - from the small and boutique to the well-loved and ubiquitous - to network, display their goods and services, and potentially grow their enterprises. We were there as part of the press and had the opportunity to meet so many kind and passionate folks working to promote their brands. Because this was a food and beverage expo, we were constantly bombarded with samples of culinary delights as we moved through the aisles. It was heavenly, though I'm sad to discover that even I have a limit when it comes to bolas de berlim.
First, there was Prisca, a company with a wide variety of tasty cured meats, sweet and savory spreads, cheeses, olive oils, condiments, and even wines and liquors. Their representative spoke glowingly about his award winning products and we were able to taste a few samples to verify his claims. In addition to finding their products in major food chains, they also have their own store in Coimbra.
It's not really possible to keep me away from cheesecake, so I sidled up to the distributor of Nutriva and Magnum Portugal to chat with their rep. They had a case full of pastries and sweets and were more than happy to let us photograph inside. He explained that the baked goods were made by hand in their factory and then shipped out to various distributors around the country.
One of the great discoveries of the day was this distributor of gourmet and specialty items in Portugal who sold Licor 35 Creme de Pastel de Nata. This was a pastel de nata flavored creamy liquor that paired perfectly with a dash of cinnamon. According to their webpage, the liquor was created last year so it's still in its infancy, but I expect this will become quite popular. I'll be keeping my eye out for Licor 35 in the stores.
Doceleia is a delicious pastelaria that has preserved Portuguese recipes passed down from generation to generation, and continues to create and distribute these desserts nationally. Their cream puff cake is also to die for and I have to say I felt a little guilty about not being able to finish it.
What is a Portuguese food expo without bacalhau? Firmar is a company located in the suburbs of Lisbon that not only sells their products to local chains and stores, they also do home deliveries if you're in the area.
The folks at Pastelaria and Confeitaria Rolo had a massive wall made entirely of Bolas de Berlim. I told the gentleman manning the booth that they were one of my favorites and he passed me one. And then another. By the end of the day I was leaving SISAB with 10 Bolas de Berlim, which I shared with our Airbnb host to avoid a complete sugar meltdown.
The folks at Frei Tuck (based in Porto) were incredibly kind and informative, plus they also had an amazing product - frozen soup. The soup is frozen into bags which take up way less space in your freezer. The soup isn't Frei Tuck's only great product - they've been making and distributing worldwide all kinds of sweet and savory pastries, cakes, breads, and seasonal baked goods for generations.
The next stop was Terras do Demo Fumeiros, the parent company of Enchidos de Lamego, Fumados Douro, Dom Lusitano, Paladar Beirão, and Doces Tradicionais do Demo. Their chef was carving up a large leg of presunto and presented us with pieces of melt-in-your-mouth cured meat. This company was founded by cattle dealer José Carreiro Cardoso, who began selling fresh meat at markets in 1981 and today has a vast enchido empire with his company's products available at over 1000 stores in Portugal.
Alheira is an enchido (Portuguese sausage) usually made from chicken, bread, and sometimes garlic with a long historical past. In 1497, the Catholic Church began the expulsion of Jews from Portugal unless they were willing to convert to Christianity. Some of the Jews who converted secretly retained their Jewish faith and followed Jewish law, which forbade the eating of pork. Since most enchidos were made of pork, people who avoided them were assumed to be Jewish. In order to hide their true faith, the Portuguese Jews created a sausage made of poultry and bread so they would not have to break their religious laws while pretending to have converted.
Casa do Vale is based in Porto and the surrounding Douro Valley and is far more than a producer of food; it is a lifestyle. They are dedicated to sourcing biological (organic) ingredients of the highest quality for their award winning jams, compotes, and honeys. They welcome visitors to their quinta in the Douro river valley and rent out two guest houses, where you can stay a few days, pick a variety of fruits from their orchards, and possibly learn to make them into compotes. Their products are sold at a well designed and easily navigable online shop and at a selection of stores around the country.
One of the most amazing products we encountered during our day at SISAB was Casa do Vale's samphire or green salt, known as salicórnia in Portuguese. This is a plant that can grow in salt water and has a slightly vegetal, very salty taste. Casa do Vale gathers and dries the samphire, grinds it to almost a powder, and sells it as a salt substitute to sprinkle on almost any meal.
Papaolive is a small new company that starts with the highest quality products and adds innovative flavor combinations and lovely packaging to create a product that customers will undoubtedly love. The woman we met at their booth was infectiously friendly and passionate about her products and after tasting a few samples, we were hooked.
Candy Cat is one of Portugal's omnipresent brands that can be found in most large supermarkets. Every season they release new types of candy particularly around Easter when folks flock to buy sweets to fill up kids' baskets. I highly recommend the chocolate enrobed almonds, which we polished off way too quickly.
BôFumeiro is a producer of fine cured meats located in Bragança. Since 2011, they've produced a number of different enchidos, from alheira to chouriço to salpicão, which are available in stores, restaurants, and online. Unlike some of the cheaper brands, BôFumeiro's enchidos are free of chewy gristle and just melt in your mouth, convincing you to go back for seconds.
Comur is a decades-old, award-winning brand producing quality conservas with a loyal following in Portugal. They originated in Murtosa, but have shops in both Lisbon and Porto as well as a soon-to-be-open online store. One of their most well-known products is pickled lamprey eels, which can be purchased in the large barrel seen below.
These were the brands, people, and products we encountered during the first half of our day at SISAB. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to talk to us about their products and wish them all the best in their future endeavors! The next blog post will feature many more Portuguese delicacies and companies, so if you haven't seen photos of your booth yet, stay tuned.