I've Died and Gone to Heaven With Egg Custard
on My Face
Story and photos by Tom Weber
I'd died and gone to Heaven."
Ever heard that expression? I'm sure you
have, but have you ever experienced it?
Well, joined at the hip with my "band
of merry media" 29 travel journalists and photographers
invited by Insight Vacations (Insight) to experience a portion
of its Iberian
Adventure through Portugal and Spain I'm about to
find out, firsthand, the foodie meaning of expiring on the spot and
heading for the pearly gates.
Off the luxury motor coach and down onto
the decorative mosaic cobble we go, headed for an Insight "signature"
moment at Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, the iconic sugar
cane refinery-turned-pastry shop in this bustling district of Lisbon,
where the Holy Grail of Portuguese sweets, Pastéis de Belém
egg custard tarts have been baked, sold and consumed on
the premises since 1837.
Bypassing the lengthy queue there's
no waiting in line when you travel with Insight we're ushered
inside for a VIP tour of the facility with Francisco, chief of the wait
staff, to see what all the fuss is about.
According to our well-fed expert, the centuries-old
recipe for Pastéis de Belém invented by
monks at nearby Mosteiro dos Jerónimosis until the doors were
bolted shut during the Liberal Revolution of 1820 and the clergy sent
packing and forced to sell their prized, step-by-step culinary instructions
just to survive is a closely guarded secret known only to an
inner circle of three.
That's apparent, as mum's the word on the
lips of each and every employee I encounter. COME ON. GIMME A NAME!
The best I can coax out of any staff member
during my impromptu interrogations is a shrug and a smile. Okay, be
Reserved seating inside one of the azulejo
ceramic tiled rooms awaits, and coffee orders to accompany the goodness
we're about to receive are taken. Uh, let's see. I'll have a single-shot
baca topped with whipped cream. No, make that a double shot,
After just one bite it's easy to understand
why Pasteis de Belém are adored by Lisboetas.
The pastry's shell is made from massa
folhada, Portugal's equivalent to France's puff pastry, consisting
of hundreds of crisp, flaky layers, and it's filled with a rich, luscious
egg custard highlighted by the distinctive mottled brown top.
Of the 10,000 tarts that'll be baked today,
I'm plated several. A dash of cinnamon completes the prep, and quicker
than you can say "Vasco da Gama," they're devoured and I immediately
ascend into Heaven with egg custard on my face.
For complete information on Insight's premium
and luxury-escorted itineraries, including the Iberian Adventure
and 112 other journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE,
or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
With a sugar rush just about ready to kick
in, my "band of merry media" and I are back out on the decorative
cobble racing up the street towards our last stop in Belém:
the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the Manueline-style monastery that
serves as the final resting place for numerous Portuguese kings and
queens, along with the aforementioned Vasco da Gama. See you inside.
Age of Discovery began in Belém; Walking
the Decorative Cobble of Lisbon; Bem-vindo
(Welsome to Lisbon); Iberian
Things We Didn't Know About Portugal