I have just had a great visit to the National Institute for Agrarian and Veterinary Research, in Oeiras, Portugal, just west of Lisbon. This is the main national research center for agricultural and forestry research in Portugal, and forest pathologist Helena Bragança arranged for a meeting with a number of their researchers about their work on cork oak decline, pine-wilt nematode, Phytophthora ramorum, and other emergent diseases. I also gave a seminar on phylogenetic ecology and plant diseases, and made some great possible links for future work. A great group of scientists doing great applied ecology, especially of pathogens and pests.
In honor of all the work they are doing on cork oak pathogens and
pests, I had to buy a styling cork hat. Sometime you just have to be
the tourist, but this is also a reminder of some interesting possible future collaborations.
But I really couldn't wait to share a non-work highlight; my dinner tonight at Restaurante O Churrasco. Yesterday, walking across the city in the afternoon, I saw handwritten signs in a couple restaurant windows that said temos lampreia. So today I really needed to try lamprey - blood-sucking, suction-mouthed, primitive vertebrates (think, alien). For dinner I went back to one of the restaurants, and asked for lampreia. It was one of the best -- and most different kinds of seafood I've ever tasted. But you have to get past what it is - a fish parasite, cooked in its own blood, with a bit of rice. The waiter checked in repeatedly, not believing I would eat it, since, he claimed, 95% of Portuguese wouldn't eat it. It is only available for a few months in the early part of the year. The meat is unlike anything I've tasted -- not like fish, not like seafood, but not really like shark, or snake, or frog, or anything else, really. Flaky, rich flavor. And the blood sauce, a wonderful, rich gravy. Really special, not to be missed. Definitely one to try the next time here, as well.