TAP Gala

Annual Awards Celebration for Wine and Tourism

By: - Nov 26, 2017

The finale of the TAP Wine Tour of Portugal culminated in a Gala.

Some 350 of the  nation’s leading wine producers, global travel agents, Michelin chefs, TAP executives, journalists and celebrities assembled at Real Companhia Velha; Intiitudia por  Alvara Region de 1756.

There was a red carpet intensity with klieg lights and a handsome crew of valet parkers.

The airline spared no expense in pulling out all the stops for an exotic and festive evening.

Coming off the road of an final intense day of wine tasting and rolly-polly, bump and grind travel we were late yet again.

Arriving at Vila  Gala Porto/ Riberia, where I would stay beyond the tour for a weekend in Porto, we were told to be back in the lobby in fifteen minutes.

Given that absurd constraint it was astonishing what some of our group accomplished on such a short deadline. Our TAP guides were decked out in smart business suits. A number of the women among our fellow travelers were stunning in evening attire. In that fashionable company, I did the best under the circumstances with a fresh white shirt and blazer.

The venue was an immense warehouse. On the ground floor there was space for the lively assembly. The bartenders made fruity cocktails of which I had about half. One has to be cautious about pacing an evening that went on past midnight where wines were poured generously.

The celebration of the fine wines of Portugal was, after all, the point of the three day tour topped off with a full bore, blowout Gala.

A company of ersatz flight attendants entertained with a routine of song and dance. They were notable for pulchritude and enthusiasm. It would be spectacular to see that performance during a flight.

Servers circulated with sparkling wine as well as roast beef canapé with pepper jam, lobster canapé, codfish hamburger, and smoked salmon with endive.

We descended to a transformed industrial space set up with a number of tables. There was a digital board, much like one announcing departures and arrivals. As it scrolled down it flashed names and table assignments.

The center of each table featured the silhouette of an airplane with an inscription. At the end of the evening many were taken home as souvenirs. 

At the podium we were greeted by TAP CEO, Fernando Pinto. He set the tone of the evening highlighting the progress of the past two years. The mic was then passed to an entertainer in the tradition of the Vegas Rat Pack. Some were amused and others shocked by his frequently off color remarks.

There were interludes of entertainment through the evening; more song and dance routines, a magician,  Mayra Andrade a Cape Verdean singer, as well as the renowned Fado singer, Ana Moura.

An important aspect of the evening was to introduce several Michelin chefs. They were commissioned to create dishes for TAP flights. Their creations, two at a time, were presented exactly as one would enjoy them in flight. The meals were prepared in TAP’s Lisbon catering center and reheated in Porto. The servers worked through the tables with the very carts that are familiar in  narrow aisles.

The paired fish dishes were Steamed sea bass with peas and fennel salad, by chef Rui Silvestre, Roasted grouper with white bean and Alentejo pork, chorizo stew, by chef Henrique Sa Pessoa.

The cod course offered another brace of entrees. Chef Rui Paula created Codfish with chick pea puree and chef Victor Sobral,  Narisco style salt codfish.

The meat dishes presented chef Maiguel Laffan’s Alentejo style pork, green asparagus Miga, and orange salad. This was the dish I ordered during the return flight in business class. The other meat dish was Stewed veal with sautéed vegetables and fried maize by chef Jose Avillez.

Of the desert offerings I enjoyed the Monte de Vinha cheese with orange jam. Again, it was my choice during the return flight. One scoops out the soft center with a bit of the jam. There was a pouring of two ports, five whites including my favorite, Alvarinho Deu la Deu, 2016. There were four reds as well as brandy and Licor Beirao.

It was, to be sure, far too much food and drink but I tried some of all that was served.

For many wine experts in the audience a highlight of  the evening were the awards in various categories. It was notable to see a number of women accepting trophies. Less interesting were many global awards to travel agents.

It was a weeknight and our group had 8:30 AM flights from Porto to Lisbon. So, after dessert, the audience thinned.

Hanging in after midnight we were awarded by a brief but stunning performance of Fado star Ana Moura. While not well known to American audiences she has performed with the Rolling Stones. We hope to enjoy her on another occasion.

She left us with a strong cultural accent of the Best of Portugal.

I’ll drink to that.