By Anne DesBrisay
Without warning or good cause, September had become November-ish overnight. I was cold, trolling the market hungry for something stout and warming, something with a bit of bite to it. Cafe Spiga’s caldo verde came to mind — a Portuguese soup, rustic and no nonsense, with potatoes, collard greens, and chorizo sausage. It’s a soup, I remembered from past visits, that precedes the featured lunch dishes at Spiga.
We tend to think Italian when we dine at Cafe Spiga. But Chef Joao Botelho hails from Portugal, and over the years (Spiga has anchored this corner of Dalhousie for close to 20 years) his menu, particularly at lunch, has turned more toward the cuisine of his homeland.
The dish I chose to follow the caldo verde was called chicken Alentejana. The name led me to believe there would be seafood in the mix (as in the classic pork Alentejana which tosses together the unlikely combination of pork and clams) only here the chef had chicken standing in for the pig. But no seafood in this dish. Instead, it was a pounded breast of moist bird mounded with toasted almonds, figs, cilantro, and chorizo, bathed in a rich garlicky sauce flavoured with wine and pan drippings and finished with cream. It came with some steamed vegetables and a crusty-soft roasted potato. It wasn’t what I expected, but I wasn’t unhappy. And it made facing the bracing evidence that winter was next, a little more bearable.
Cost: $18.99, soup in.
Open Monday to Friday for lunch. Café Spiga, 271 Dalhousie St., 613-241-4381, www.cafespiga.com.