Lisbon's Cafe Culture - Casa Brasileira
The heartbeat of a city that was once the centre of a massive empire, Lisbon's cafes draw one in with the irresistible promise of pasteis de nata, the famous egg-custard tart. My first day in Lisbon, stumbling around the Baixa during an early-fall heat wave, I came across Casa Brasileira. As if the mountain of pasteis in the window wasn't enticing enough, the heady buzz of late-afternoon conversation sucked me in. The wrap-around bar was packed with locals tucking into cod and green tomato sandwiches, freshly squeezed juices, espresso and pasteis; middle aged twin sisters sat in the corner, sipping drinks in unison while adorned in matching outfits, staring at the obvious stranger in their midst. I meekly walked to the stern man behind the bar and in my terrible Portuguese mumbled: "dois pasteis e um espresso, faz favor." He smirked. Pulled an espresso and tossed two golden discs of unimaginable deliciousness in front of me. He lifted a shaker and raised an eyebrow. I raised mine back in mirrored response. He laughed and shook a cloud of freshly ground cinnamon over the plate, the likes and quality of which I haven't had since. I rolled out to the pedestrian street and took my first bite - like all my fantasies of a culinary heaven packed into a 2-inch diameter circle. Washed down with an espresso bursting with a dark burnt-caramel richness that conjured far-off exotic lands of the former empire and unlike any coffee I have ever had before. Addictive, but so, so worth it.