These glorious little custard tarts, whose generic (plural) name is pastéis de nata, are now running a close second to my all-time favorite European pastry, the Napolean, a.k.a. mille-feuille. The pastel de nata is an immorally delicious specialty of Portugal, confected of egg custard and a light, flaky, pastry dough. I lost count of how many of these we sampled on our travels through Portugal this summer.
It was mandatory that we sample the pastries from many different bakeries, since I had read and heard so much about their most famous origin, Pastéis de Belém from the café of the same name in the parish of Santa Maria de Belém in Lisbon, I wanted to be sure when we got there that they really were the finest tasting. So we began the quest in Lagos at the southern tip of Portugal, where our first bite into a pastel de nata was heavenly. More sampling continued throughout the historical city of Évora and well into Lisbon. Some custard fillings were better than others; some the pastry dough was lighter or flakier than others.
When we reached the blue and gold tiled Pastéis de Belém bakery shop in Lisbon where the tasty delicacy was created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the Jerónimos Monastery, I knew by the long line of people these tarts had earned their reputation. We ordered a half dozen for our picnic lunch. Luckily we didn't have to go anywhere else for the rest of our picnic food because the shop also sells other "take-away" goodies - lots of small deep fried dough balls and triangles with delicious pork and chicken fillings with names I can't remember.
|Lots of goodies for sale at Pastéis de Belém|
|Standing in line.|
We stocked up on a little of everything and walked across the street to the Jardim de Belém, a lovely park with a view of the Monument to the Discoveries, and had a most memorable picnic. The first thing I did was take a bite out of a warm, freshly baked Pastel de Belém and prove to myself that yes, they are the best in the country of Portugal.
|Our picnic food in Belém.|
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