100 with a “happy look”
A trip to discover more than 300 species of citrus fruits, a pedestrian route to transport stories to the new restaurant to be opened and a lunch accompanied by “cante alentejano”: that’s how part of 100 Maneiras team spent one weekend, in Vila Nova de Milfontes.
Saturday, 10:30 am, “Lugar do Olhar Feliz” (“Place of the Happy Look”). It is through a dirt path that one arrives at the huge gates that give access to the property of Ann Kenny and Jean-Paul Brigand. The Canadian-French couple arrived in Portugal more than 10 years ago, decided to build a huge garden. The Portuguese climate, perfect for citrus fruits, dictated the choice of the product – today there are more than 300 varieties from around the world that grow on 35 hectares of land, with a collection that, they say, is unique in Europe. And thanks to our sun, our water and our temperatures, they can produce fruit all year round.
We learn this as we are guided through the fruit-laden cups that Jean-Paul is cutting with the razor and giving to taste to all who follow the walk, such as yuzus, Hirados, Buddha’s hands or kaffir lime. With patience, Ann and Jean-Paul smile at the many questions and requests from the team: can we take some of these citrus fruits to test? And some herbs for a cocktail? “Lugar do Olhar Feliz” was the place of the last teambuilding for 23 elements of 100 Maneiras team, before the opening of the new restaurant, planned for happening soon.
The tests are done before lunch at a makeshift bar under the shade of the trees, where the staff from Bistro 100 Maneiras bar creates different cocktails with the citrus and herbs collected during the visit. For lunch, there is a kid and piglet, roasted in a fire burning on the floor – advantages of traveling with a luxury kitchen team – then eaten with open views of the garden and the Alentejo coast. At the table there are also some of the wines that will be part of the new restaurant, so that everyone has an opportunity to taste which will compose the liquid part of the menu. All excuses are good to taste 63 different wines…
The next day, the meeting is scheduled early: 9:30 am in the center of Vila Nova de Milfontes, to leave for one of the circular footpaths that are part of Rota Vicentina, a network of walking routes. This one, named Almograve, includes passage through the beach of Brejo Largo, a special beach for chef Ljubomir Stanisic: it was from here that he brought the stones used to serve the dish “Terra & Mar” (scallop with cinnamon, onion, octopus, clams and corn bread powder) and it was also this landscape that inspired “O Brejo Largo”, composed of oyster, prawn and sea urchin in a rocket and coriander chlorophyll foam, both historical dishes of 100 Maneiras tasting menus.
This time, the aim is to show the whole team the wealth that is hidden in this landscape, with many edible plants and flowers, but also to breathe the spirit of the chef patrón – wild and autochthonous, irreverent but true to nature – to inspire the creation of new dishes and cocktails with 100 Maneiras signature. There are 5 kilometers of path that oscillate between clay and sand, rocks that need to be climbed and streams that have to be crossed with some help … Knowledge is acquired, but the team spirit is also strengthened – one of the great purposes of this trip. At the end of the journey, one last challenge: each one must find a stone that can serve as a dish in the new restaurant, to carry stories and memories and help build the identity of the new 100 Maneiras.
Two hours later, it is at the table, around the food that, inevitably, the last moments of this weekend are written. For dessert, there’s a surprise: the presence of “Juntos Aprendemos” choir, a special group of “cante alentejano”, UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2014. It is a history lesson, shared with voices charged with emotion and experience, to close a weekend planned to build memories from which the new 100 Maneiras will rise. New, yes, but with many stories and history inside.