The first time I ever sank my teeth into what was to instantaneously become my favorite sweet pastry was in the summer of 2009 in a cafe in a Chiado plaza in Lisboa on my road-trip with my friend Eszter. Before our first long day of site-seeing we decided to fuel up with a large breakfast and, as we had heard tales of splendor about Portuguese pastries, we decided on a traditional bakery in the main plaza. We each ordered a cappuccino (I ordered an extra shot of espresso) and we picked two pastries to share, one of them a flaky layered sweet cheese creation and the other a circular cup-shaped pastry filled with some sort of yellow cream with golden brown blotches over the surface which were flying off the counter faster than anything else. As I bit into this dense and surprisingly heavy little bowl, my front teeth drowned into a thick sea of sickly sweet and creamy custard with a slight caramelized, toasted sugar flavor while my back teeth came down against a crunchy, buttery layered crust. It was an incredibly combination of textures and the espresso cut the mind-numbing sweetness of the custard cream beautifully. It was over in 3 bites but was an experience I have never forgotten.
Pastéis de Nata from Lydia’s Bakery Inc. in New Bedford
I was thrown back into that beautiful plaza a few days ago while sitting in my cold fluorescent office in Boston. My coworker and buddy Mark brought me these treats from Lydia’s Bakery in New Bedford and as I ate them, though a little rigid from sitting in the refrigerator until lunch-time, the smooth custard and crunchy shell instantly reminded me of that first bite of Lisbon. Deliciously sweet and packed with love, the real deal.
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