Friday, 09 March 2012 00:00
Soccer enthusiasts often declare that Cristiano Ronaldo is "the world's best athlete" and that José Mourinho is "the world's best coach." Though these comments pass from fan to fan, the superlatives are certainly not official. There are, however, a number of “world’s bests” -- try the World’s Best Almond Tart, the Best Pão de Ló in the Universe, the World’s Best Fish and the World’s Best Chocolate Cake. Marketing strategies or not, these titles give us something to be proud of.
1. "Light and Airy" - THE TART (A Tarte) - "Once upon a time, there was an almond that wished it were a tart." That's how the story of the almond tart began, once a dream in the mind of Vasco Valenca de Sousa, then a challenge given by Catarina Noronha to introduce it to the world. "The Tart" is a relatively new concoction, only about two months old. Yet its story extends much further back. It starred in Vasco's dinner parties with friends, who always begged him to bring the pastry along when he was invited. Vasco always tried to improve his work, from when he first created the almond tart using an old recipe book he inherited from his mother to when he began to sell it in public. A food engineer by profession, Vasco paid close attention to his friends’ feedback to perfect his dessert. "It was a constant effort until the end: crispy, with a light and airy crust,” he explains. During one of these group dinners, his friend Catarina dared him to sell the tart to the public. He first let the idea marinate. When he was ready, he named his creation The World's Best Almond Tart, "because with every tart I made, I would say to myself, 'This one is even better than the last.'" When they decided to go through with the idea, the pair opted for a name that was a little simpler. It remained "The Tart". His first tart was sold at the Mercearia Criativa in Lisbon. Two days later, Carlos Moura Carvalho, the store’s owner, asked him to make 10 more. The business was launched. “The Tart” is now distributed at Grande Lisboa through various partners, including Mercearia Criativa in Lisbon, QB Essence in Oeiras, Gelato Mio in Miraflores and Momentos da Nossa Terra in Cascais. Orders must be placed one day in advance. Call 93 440 2618 or 93 804 5830, or visit its Facebook page for more information. Price: €17.50
2. “Pure and Unique” - The Best Pão de Ló in the Universe - “It was about a year ago, at one of Miguel (Júdice) and my regular dining excursions, that we tried this pão de ló for the first time,” remembered Raquel Rodrigues, public relations director of the Lágrimas group. The discovery happened in Raia, in the county of Castelo de Paiva, where this dessert is handmade by António Oliveira’s Casa do Pão de Ló. “We found it different from anything we’d ever had before, and we wanted to add it as a Lágrimas Group product.” They baptized it “The Best in the Universe,” partly a poke at the “Best Chocolate Cake in the World,” but ultimately a way to promote truly delicious dessert to an ever-growing audience. “It’s important that we create a brand so that people remember us; that they remember pastéis de Belém, pão de ló, chocolate cake, olive oil and cheese. We have these extraordinary products and we need to promote them more assertively,” Raquel said. “‘The Best’ doesn’t literally mean the best, but it’s pretty high up there. And when we say this pão de ló is the best in the universe, what we mean is it’s the best that we’ve ever tried.” Before launching the product, food critics and pão de ló experts gathered to try a bit of the cake and effectively decide if it could be fairly entitled “the Best in the Universe.” “They agreed to let us launch it under that name.” They registered the brand, which continues to belong to António Oliveira, and, in March of 2011, the cake was available for purchase. Plain (with eggs only) or chocolate, “The Best Pão de Ló in the Universe” can be found at all of the group’s members, except those with specific signature menus (such as Arcadas da Capela and Eleven). The cake can also be purchased to take home. All you have to do is order it from Hotel Infante de Sagres in Porto, or Cantina da Estrela or Terreiro do Paço.
3. “Fresh and Flavorful” - The Best Fish in the World - Hand-fished so as not to destroy the environment, “The Best Fish in the World” makes its way to the Miosótis shops in Lisbon three times per week from Sesimbra. This began in July 2011 through a dual effort by Ângelo Rocha, Miosótis’ owner, and Miguel Zegre, of Fixe em Casa, a sea-to-home fish delivery company. “Miosótis is a store that sells organic products, so I figured it made sense to sell sustainably caught fish,” Ângelo explained. “We’ve sold fish before, but it was all imported, which was absurd.” Ângelo looked for a solution in the Portuguese market, but to no avail. He brought up his problem during a public discussion about fish, in Sesimbra, which was also attended by Manuel Cardoso, a colleague of Miguel Zegre. After talking at length, they decided to embark on this new adventure. But it wasn’t easy to set sail, especially since neither of them had any certification in sustainable fishing. The certification was offered by SATIVA, which required that the fishing process follow a series of rules in order to be recognized as a sustainable process, from the act of fishing itself, to the type of boat used, the method of collecting the fish, transportation, period of time between capture and distribution and financial compensation to the fishermen -- facts that, according to Ângelo, “act as a guarantee” for the consumer. “We learned where the fish came from and how much the fishermen were paid,” he said. “The sale cost is calculated as a function of the purchase cost in order to ensure that the appropriate profit is reverted to the fishermen, in this case 50 percent,” Miguel added. After passing this hurdle, the product was registered as “The Best Fish in the World.” Marketing? “Yes,” responds Miguel, but “a fish like this could only be the best in the world.” “The Best Fish in the World” is hand-fished (using hooks or traps, depending on the species) by small boats no more than ten meters long and with a maximum of five workers. The fish go directly from the boats to the Fixe em Casa warehouse in Sesimbra to be packaged. They reach the client within 24 hours of being fished. Deliveries are made on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at R. Óscar Monteiro Torres and at R. Sá da Bandeira, in Lisbon, and are available for sale shortly after.
4. “Merengue and Mousse” - The Best Chocolate Cake in the World - Carlos Braz Lopes has lost count of how many times he’s told the story of “The Best Chocolate Cake in the World.” It is a well-known Portuguese success story. “The cake was born as a dessert at the Mercado de Santa Clara restaurant 15 years ago, after traveling to Paris,” he recalled. “I ate a cake in Fauchon that really captured my attention. It was a flourless cake, made from a merengue and mousse base.” After arriving in Portugal, he tried to replicate what he tasted and the result was a chocolate cake that quickly earned its fame. “People began to place orders to take the cake home, which wasn’t really normal, considering this was a restaurant’s dessert,” he said. When he opened Cozinhomania, a kitchen store, in Campo de Ourique, he decided to deliver an extra punch by making the cake there in a homemade oven. The smell worked wonders on the store’s clients, and when they asked if it really was as good as it smelled, Carlos Braz Lopes would respond, “It’s the best chocolate cake in the world.” Originally known as the Campo de Ourique chocolate cake, the joke transformed itself into a bonafide business known by the same name. It became “The Best Chocolate Cake in the World.” Twelve years have passed since then. “Initially, the name was pretty widely criticized. They called me presumptuous,” he said with a smile on his face. “An exaggeration; a tease that went farther than I ever expected. There are various components that contribute to its success: its story, which people have come to know and love; the great name; but, most importantly, the quality of the cake itself, which is excellent.” Carlos prides himself on keeping the cake’s quality consistent. “I still use the same chocolate, butter and salt that I’ve always used, and I don’t skimp on the measurements. This same thing for twelve years,” he said. Besides Portugal, the cake is sold in Rio de Janeiro, in S. Salvador da Bahia, Brasília, S. Paulo, Sydney, Madrid and Seville. Washington, St. Petersburg, Singapore, Macao and Hong Kong are cities it hopes to reach as well. “The Best Chocolate Cake in the World” is sold semi-sweet and sweet at its store in Lisbon (R. Coelho da Rocha, 99) and Porto (R. Dr. Barbosa de Castro, 70), as well as online. Price: €30
Brands registered under the “best in the world/universe/planet” designation:
● The Best Massage in the World by Oporto Medical Spa
● The Best Relaxing Massage in the World (registration expired)
● The Best Music of the Planet
● Ach. Brito, The Best Soap in the World (currently requested for a community trademark)
● Carlsberg, Probably the Best Beer in the World
● Comfort Office, the Best Coffee Break in the World
● Landeau, the Best Chocolate Cake in Lisbon
● Mundospa.com, the Best Massage in the World
● The Best Rice Pudding in the World (registration expired)
● The Best Olive Oil in the World (registration processing)
● The Best Chocolate Cake of the Ribatejo
● The Best Cheese in the World, Quinta da Cerdeira
● The Best Pork in the World, Agrobacorinho
● The Best Cars in the World
● The Best Boats in the World
● The Best Hamburgers in the World
● Os Melhores Hamburguers do Mundo (registration expired)