Monte Gordo, Portugal – Fresh Sea Food – by Catherine Kolar. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

Monte Gordo, Portugal – Fresh Sea Food – by Catherine Kolar. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and


It was late February and even though classes had only started a week or so earlier I was ready for a break. Sevilla is beautiful and all, and my classes were interesting, but I needed an adventure– and then out of nowhere an adventure fell into my lap. A friend of mine had found a super cheap hotel deal in Monte Gordo, a little coastal town in Portugal, and wanted to know if I’d like to go on a little expedition. The decision to go was simple because I love Portugal, and after such a long time without seeing Lake Superior, the ocean sounded quite wonderful.

We set off Friday afternoon on a short drive over the border to the oldest country in Europe. In my travels to and from Portugal the parts of every trip that stick with me the most are those involving food, and this trip was no exception.


When we had just been seated at a table on the deck of a restaurant overlooking the seashore and were waiting for our drinks, I noticed a fisherman on the beach gathering up his rods, tackle, and bucket full of fish before walking towards us. He took his bucket to the back of the restaurant and left a few minutes later with a much lighter bucket and a smile on his face. When the waiter returned to our table with our drinks he asked if we were interested in the fish of the day, and when we replied yes he told us to wait just one second and ran inside to return with a tub of fish. “He just brought these to us,” the waiter grinned, pointing at the retreating fisherman. “It’s the freshest fish in all of Portugal!”

I had never been presented my menu in such a way. The waiter then went on to explain about each fish but it all went over my head as the majority of my fish vocabulary at that time consisted of the words “salmon” and “tuna.” I was a bit overwhelmed by the experience and didn’t know what to choose so I played it safe and ordered coquinas, a variety of tiny clam.


My food arrived and I dug into the tender, sweet, and briny itty-bitty mollusks, savoring every bite and being careful not to grind my teeth on the little bits of sand that had evaded the chef’s careful cleaning. I’d never noticed before how something cooked simply in olive oil could be a million times better than if it had been cooked in butter. All of a sudden, I saw something hiding on my plate that could have gotten me a free meal in the states or have been cause for a lawsuit.

“Look, Daniel! I got a rock!”

“Well,” he said, not fazed in the least, “he said they were fresh. There is the proof.”

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The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ( is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors ( This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (

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Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

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(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at)


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46 responses to “Monte Gordo, Portugal – Fresh Sea Food – by Catherine Kolar. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at and

  1. Sarah Burton

    Thank you for sharing your experience in Portugal! I hope that one day I can experience Portugal. Food is one of my favorite things about visiting new places. How interesting it is that the fish were that fresh at the restaurant. I bet that it tasted a lot better than most of the restaurants in the United States. I would love to be able to try that some day!

  2. Donovan Blatz

    Love the story! Fresh seafood in foreign countries always seems to taste better than back home. I love the part about the fisherman who was super proud of what he just caught! I once had the opportunity to travel to the BVI where on one of the islands they cooked huge lobster. Like I said before, there was something about being immersed in the culture and the fresh lobster that made it taste that much better! I’m sure that was the same about the clams.

  3. Matt Breeze

    That really was the freshest fish in all of Portugal! I really appreciate that you took the time to write this up for us. Fresh food tastes much better than anything that has been sitting in a freezer for days. I think you make a good point at the end that if that would of been in the U.S. you could have sued the restaurant for finding a rock in your food, but in other places it can be a sign of freshness. Interesting how different people in different places look at food.

  4. Holly Kampa

    Catherine, thank you for sharing your experience! First off I’m super jealous because I love seafood, but I’m sure the stuff I’ve had isn’t as good as your super fresh stuff. I’ve never been to a place that serves straight from sea to table, that’s really cool. It was also interesting that you brought up the rock in your dish. It’s not hard to strike up a lawsuit in the states for the littlest things. Whenever I travel my favorite part is trying the new and different foods. Food can tell so many stories about a place. Thanks again for sharing!

  5. Molly Enich

    What a great story! Thank you for sharing your experience in Portugal! I too love fresh fish. My family has a cabin 60 miles north of the Canadian border in Ontario and we catch walleye and cook it within an hour after it is caught. Nothing beats the taste of fresh caught fish! Having such fresh fish has caused my standards to be very high, so it is often difficult for me to order fish from a restaurant. Thanks again for sharing!

  6. Emily Ciernia

    Thanks for sharing you story! I have to imagine that that seafood was so very fresh, and because I love seafood, I am very jealous! I can imagine that this food tastes way more fresh than the seafood that sits in the freezer. I think that it is really cool that that restaurant serves seafood straight from the sea. I have never been to a place that has ever done that. I think that this is something that pertains to culture. It is really nice to try new things from different cultures, especially food.

  7. Elisabeth Bergstedt

    What an experience! Last summer I had a similar experience when I visited Port Isabel next to the South Padre Islands in Texas. I went out to dinner with my boyfriend and his family (his dad is a local) and they knew of this tiny little restaurant (if you could even call it that) with only a few tables. They had the freshest fish there, just like the place you found. Prior to that visit, I only had salmon and lake superior white fish, which I love…but this was a whole new level of freshness. It’s a great feeling to eat what the locals do and like it!

  8. Sofia Pineda

    I think that one of the things I enjoy the most about traveling to a new country is the food. Food can say so much about the culture, the way it is cooked, the seasoning it has, how it is eaten and even how fresh it is. Flavors are so very different that I think it is sometimes to even describe what you are tasting. I bet the seafood in Monto Gordo must be delicious due to its proximity to the sea.

  9. Martti Maunula

    Very different way of doing things. In the States it seems that we can file a lawsuit for almost anything, including spilling hot coffee on ourselves if the cup doesn’t say “caution: coffee is hot” which often just seems like common sense. Just like the rock that you found, it is interesting to see how we can take such small inconveniences, if they are even that, and end up profiting ourselves. It makes me curious though if we only act like this because of corporations and so we see them as being full of money anyways, and if we would be as likely to file a lawsuit against a small family owned business. One would certainly hope not, but interesting to take note of and to watch ourselves.

  10. Sara Desrocher

    Great article! Your line “after such a long time without seeing Lake Superior, the ocean sounded quite wonderful” made me think about how strong of a connection I have to bodies of water in my own life. I grew up in a suburb of the cities so Lake Superior was huge compared to what I was used to seeing but at this point it is an important part of my life. There are a number of lakes that have played big roles in my life and I know that I would miss getting to experience them if I ever moved too far away. I never thought that I would be drawn to water but I couldn’t imagine not living within a short distance from a fairly large body of water.

  11. Rachel Reicher

    Thank you for sharing your story! That would be amazing to be shown your food on the menu like that. What an experience! You mentioned something cooked in olive oil can be much better than something cooked in butter. Do you know why this is? Is it because butter is cheaper?

  12. Gina Palmi

    I would love to experience this some day. It’s funny how a lot of places in the states say they have the freshest food, but I highly doubt it’s anywhere near as fresh as what you described. I also liked how you said in the states finding a rock would be cause for a free meal or a lawsuit, this is so true! I wonder where the difference stems from.

  13. Kyle Dosan

    That is definitely something you do not see at every restaurant! Sounds like you had a tremendous experience in Portugal. Very cool that you spotted the fishermen and that he brought the fish he had just caught to the restaurant. It also goes to show how each culture has there own unique ways of getting and preparing food. Thanks for the wonderful article.

  14. Roman Schnobrich

    That trip must have changed any pickiness you had about foods prior! Were you experienced with seafood at all before, other than the average fish from Lake Superior? I recently went to Florida and had my eyes opened to several kinds of seafood, and found myself intrigued but didn’t particularly enjoy much of it.

  15. Thank you so much for sharing! Over the winter I visited Macau, which is a Portuguese territory in China, so I was luckily able to view the beautiful architecture, but unlucky, not able to have the food. I love what you said about being around large bodies of water as well. I have been known to have a slightly unhealthy obsession with Lake Superior (the tattoo on my arm is a dead give away). Thank you for sharing!

  16. Nancy Thao

    Freshly picked and caught ingredients are always the best! Sometimes people tend to forget the effort that was put into the ingredients we use and buy. Your story really shows how appreciative the waitress is and how proud the fisherman is about the fishes he caught! I have always wish there was more seafood variety in Minnesota, but being up north, it seems quite impossible to eat anything other than the fishes caught in the lakes.

  17. Meghan Lozinski

    After growing up in the US and then travelling to Europe, the freshness of the food is often quite amazing. The culture here is to stock up on frozen food to make sure we never run out whereas in European countries it is much more common to buy fresh food everyday for meals. Your experience was definitely to the extreme of freshness, but something like that would not happen in most restaurants here.

  18. Catherine McConnell

    Food in different cultures often vary and are delicious in their own ways but I have to say my favorites are always dishes prepared simply with fresh ingredients. The dish you had looked amazing and nothing compares to fresh seafood. The fact that you saw the fisherman who provided your dinner was amazing! It brings me back to days spent on Lake Michigan catching our dinner while on vacation.

  19. Connor

    I think your story really speaks to the different attitudes towards food in different parts of the world. In the United States, many like to think that they value freshness. In actuality, more people value the quantity and convenience of food. They want more of it and they want it nicely packaged so they can throw it in the freezer and it at their convenience. While this is obviously a generalization, I think there are cultural trends of attitudes towards food.

  20. Jena O'Byrne

    Enjoyed reading your article. It was really intriguing to me how they introduced your menu/options for fish. Fresh caught seafood sounds amazing! Especially the fact that you were able to watch the fisherman bring in your seafood. In the U.S. I think we miss out on a lot of variety and fresh food, since most of it is imported.

  21. Your experience sounds amazing! I have never seen the ocean before, I would be willing to bet that it is quite beautiful. It is so awesome you were able to have such a new dining experience. I can imagine the fresh food you had tasted delicious. The pictures you included looked wonderful and provided me as a reader with a great visual for the freshness of the food! Thank you for sharing!

  22. Courtney Banks

    I’m not one for seafood, but that sounds amazing! I always get this thrill of fishing and seeing it served as soon as we get home, not that I eat it. Even hunting is interesting when you see the animal and then see the meat that is already on your plate for dinner. The freshness really reminds me of traditional ways of eating food without all the processed, packaged goods we have today.

  23. Thomas Landgren

    Wow this is a wonderful story! i find it fascinating that this spontaneous trip ended up creating a memory that you will probably never forget. It amazes me that the fisherman was able to sell his fish to the restaurant and that they were able to sell them right away. I think that is the definition of “fresh fish”. I wished more places were like that around Lake Superior but it is just a different culture. Great Article.

  24. Nichole DeBoom

    It is crazy how different laws are in different countries. Your adventure sounds like quite the experience! Food is the most fun about traveling because it is so different everywhere you go. Finding a rock in your meal is rather bizarre but atleast you knew it was fresh!

  25. Sandy Davidson-Hunt

    It is a shame this is an experience you would sparsely have in North America. This is disappointing really as fish that fresh truly is the best! I am by no means an avid fisherman, but a few times a couple times every summer I will go out and catch some fish with a few friends. Not only is there fun to be had in catching the fish, but the whole experience of filleting the fish and choosing from all the different ways to cook fish is very enjoyable.

  26. Jacob Carson

    There is nothing better in this world than fresh seafood. Coming from Alaska I have been lucky enough to experience great fresh seafood throughout my lifetime, and trust me when I say it cannot be compared to the frozen stuff. Also as you said, often times the simpler the better with seafood. When you get fresh fish, it has just about all the flavor that you need, simple seasoning works best.

  27. Jessica Richart

    Wow, your story definitely made me jealous and I am now craving a good adventure! I love traveling and experiencing new things. Food is one thing where I am usually willing to try things I have never tried before. I agree that it can feel a little overwhelming, but if you have a good waiter who loves food, they will usually help you decide. That is such a cool experience that you literally got the freshest catch of the day! Of course the rock added a nice little touch of humor and culture! Thank you again for sharing your experience!

  28. Mike Zupfer

    I think the one food i hate over everything else is seafood unfortunately. I try to make it a point to try something if i haven’t tried it before and i am so far 100% not for sea food or any type of fish. I would agree with you that it probably does taste better when it is straight from the sea and if you caught it yourself, it makes it that much more worth eating. Maybe some day my taste buds will change and i will be able to eat the many different dishes the seas have to offer.

  29. Andrea Ramler

    Your adventure seemed to be one to remember for sure. I was amazed at the fact that the fisherman was able to sell fish that quickly to a restaurant upon docking. But fresh seafood is unbelievable. Its awesome you were able to actually see how fresh it was just by watching the fisherman bring it right in. I have experienced this type of thing while traveling in tropical places. It seems as if they are able to get a way with more things because of the differentiating laws. However it seems almost impossible to get anything that fresh here in Minnesota. Thanks so much for sharing!

  30. I very much hope to have such wonderful seafood someday. I’ve loved seafood since I was a small child. However, living in the midwest, we certainly never get a chance to taste it so fresh there are still rocks. 🙂 I’m planning a culinary journey along the east coast with my brother in a few years, starting in New Orleans. Hopefully I can find something comparable to this!

  31. Samantha Wollin

    Thanks for sharing your story! I love food, and I love trying new food!! Fresh food always tastes better too!! I find it interesting that you found a rock in your food, that’s always a funny story to tell!! Thanks again for sharing your story!!

  32. Nick Campbell

    What a great dining experience! I wish more restaurants would do things like this. The fact that this occurred in another culture as well is truly unique! Not much is better than a freshly caught fish!

  33. Jodi Moran

    Love this story! Like you, I am always up for an adventure! As a kid, my dad always made us try things at least once before we said that we didn’t like it, and that included food. That is where my love for food came about. I love seafood and fresh is best, so cool that you had the freshest! Thanks for sharing your awesome story!

  34. That is so cool to be presented with the actual fish of the day themselves! its interesting in food culture that most of Americas food is processed and imported. Growing up i remember going to the Russian market to get thru fresh fish and dark homemade breads. I also love fresh fruits, they take different fresh it just is. You would think in Minnesota we would have fresh fish everywhere. (that is slightly true compared to other places)

  35. Haha I literally laughed out loud at the rock part — sounds like such an enjoyable experience. When trying to think of similar restaurants here in Duluth, my mind is blank.. It’s really a shame because I think something like that would do so well here. My mouth also started watering when you were describing your food. Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing!

  36. What a truly ‘fresh’ experience! How wonderful you were able to enjoy a new culture and everything that comes with it, especially food. The flavor of the coquinas must have tasted unbelievably fresh, due to its proximity to the ocean. I liked your connection to home, with Lake Superior playing on your mind. As a large body of water in your life, it must be something that you greatly appreciate, wherever you are in the world.

  37. Jenna Algoo

    I loved this article, it made me laugh. Thank you for sharing! There always seems to be such a substantial difference to the term “fresh food” wherever you are in the world. The fact that you saw the person who caught the fish walking away is truly incredible to me. It makes the food such an intimate experience, seeing where in the chain it came from (after of course the water). It’s also so funny that you got a rock, but your waiter was not far off in his comment!

  38. Jimmy Lovrien

    Very interesting! I think many people in the U.S. want to distance themselves from the sources their food come from. So when there is an experience like this where it is so fresh, it can seem a little odd at first. I sometimes wish I had a better idea of where/how my food got to my plate. But I’d imagine it might gross me out.

  39. I went to a restaurant in Grand Marais last July that served fish caught on Lake Superior that morning, I was hoping for trout but ended up getting something that was still delicious. I would love eating fish caught just an hour before hand. Thank you for sharing your adventure in Portugal!

  40. McKenna Holman

    This is so interesting! One of my favorite parts about traveling is trying all the new foods. No matter where you go you can always find so much culture in a town, state, or countries food. It was really fun to read about how your fish was literally the freshest fish in all of Portugal! I love seeing things like that, people supporting small businesses, or in this case, a single fisherman!

  41. Avnish Miyangar

    What an opportunity, I would love to visit Portugal. As you mentioned it is one of the oldest towns in Europe, do you think the cuisine back then is similar to what it is today? Are there any patterns or influences from history that still exist today? Thinking about how people used to fish, trade and utilize ports as they still do in Portugal. How this skill has been developed over time. Enjoying fresh fish by the sea! What more could you ask for? Mollusks definitely look interesting and very tasty, something I am yet still to try,

  42. Cassandra Mahlberg

    This was really a fun article to stumble across. I so appreciate the desire for adventure to satisfy curiosities, especially when you’re away from home. To see a body of water is a very important part of being native to Duluth or Minnesota as a whole and even if you’re only here for college. I find being away from a view of water can be taxing, because we grow used to the serenity of it. It is hilarious that the fish was so fresh that the waiter brought it to you in a bucket to see, because that would not happen here even with a good fishing industry. The fact that you found a rock in your clams, like you said, would be enough to send the plate back here, but I think that is a cool testimony to the freshness and the food culture you experienced in Portugal. I wonder if that is a culture we could adapt to here, one that displays the pride and integrity of the fishing industry, rather than shipping in fish and other seafood from other states (you know that “fresh” frozen seafood that we tend to have a lot of in the midwest).

  43. Ellery Bruns

    I really enjoyed this article. It reminded me about the simple moments in life that make it wonderful. Sometimes it is funny how life, when you least expect it, gives you exactly what you need, though this is entirely superstitious. Sometimes what you need is light and happy and other times maybe not so much. Additionally, I really liked your anecdote about the rock in your tiny clams. Maybe it could even act as a metaphor for life. Sometimes you get something you completely don’t expect and it can be a happy and fun moment if you are willing to accept the change. Thank you for sharing!

  44. Joseph Ehrich

    Dear Catherine,
    I really enjoyed reading this article and it really showed how different restaurants can be in different countries. Personally, I thought it was interesting how the local fisherman on the beach brought his pail of fresh fish to the restaurant and sold it to them. I have always dreamed of going to Portugal and see the beautiful sandy beaches that line the shoreline. The discovery of the rock in your food was hilarious and it really showed that the food is quite fresh. Overall, it sounded like you enjoyed your trip to Portugal and allowed you create fond memories of it.

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