What if you could take a trip with a re-nowned chef as your guide and get an insider’s taste of a another country’s authentic cuisine? Sounds like a foodie’s dream, but for the 21 guests of Rui Correia and his wife, Dana, it was very real and beyond delicious. The owner of Douro restaurant and bar in Greenwich CT, Correia gave the local travelers their own private tour of his native Portugal, where they feasted on meals cooked by local chefs and drank wines from the country’s winemaking region in the Douro Valley, all meticulously planned and orchestrated by Correia.
“I wanted to introduce people to a wine region that’s not known to the world,” says Correia, taking a break at his restaurant recently. “I also know the country inside and out, and I know what’s worth seeing. I wanted the group to live a little bit of the Portuguese life while they were there.” The Correias hatched the idea two summers ago after Correia took his wife to Portugal for her first trip there (she is one-quarter Portuguese). “We were taken aback by the beauty and thought, ‘what if we brought guests from the restaurant who were always asking what it was like in Portugal?’ ” says Correia.
Highlights included a private wine barrel tasting at the Quinta do Portal vineyards in the chef’s hometown of Porto; a cruise down the Douro River in a barco de rabelo, the traditional boat that’s used to transport wines; and chowing down on a cachorro quente, a Portuguese-style hot dog nestled in a baguette with hot sauce and cheese and pressed in a panini machine.
Correia loved showing his friends the places that influenced him as a chef. “This is where my passion for food started,” he says. “I wanted this to be a real, hardcore food and wine experience and getting to know Portugal.” The lodging was first-rate all along the trip, but Correia raved in particular about The Yeatman Hotel in Porto, owned by the famed port-producing Taylor Fladgate family.
The one thing Correia, who recently prepared a “Taste of Portugal” dinner at the James Beard house in Manhattan, didn’t do on the trip was get behind a stove. “I had too much on my plate, no pun intended!” he says. “I didn’t want to take time away and cook because I wanted to be hands on. In the future, I’d like to incorporate that into a trip.” He and Dana are excited about the next visit to Portugal, and would even like to get the group involved in some grape stomping at a vineyard. But mostly, he just wants his guests to enjoy each other. “They became really close, and we wanted to keep it small and intimate. It was all about great dinners.”
Book It: For more information & upcoming tours, contact Dana Correia at Douro Restaurant and Bar, firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-869-7622.