6 Questions with Chris McDade & Natalie Grindstaff

Chris, what gets you excited about visiting Portugal?

For me the easy answer is tinned fish, and experiencing this long and rich tradition in person. But even more, it’s the traveling itself. Traveling is such a great lens to experience culture, food, politics, and history. People build their lives around food, and we’re going to be meeting local producers and eating incredibly well. I’m also excited for Portugal’s great sandwich culture. Rustic breads, cured meats, aged cheeses. The Francesinha, a spicier version of a croque monsieur. The simple ham-and-cheese tosta mista. A bifana with ham and mustard…

But also, whenever Natalie and I travel, just the eating and drinking and kind of enjoying those two things together… we almost always talk about the next meal that we will be eating. So for me, it’s when we sit across the table from one another on a vacation, those are the best moments.

Natalie, when did you fall in love with wine, and know that it was to be more than just a drink you enjoyed?

I graduated college with a degree in anthropology. And then I thought I would be a lawyer and went through all this ‘I’m gonna do this’ and ‘I’m going to do that,’ all the things you think of in your early 20s. I ended up working at a law firm for two years, and it just really was not for me.

So I decided to go back to working in restaurants. I had waited tables in college, and I realized that I actually loved going to work. I loved the environment. I loved being around people. And I started working at better and better restaurants, with chefs who were making beautiful food with fine wines. And that was it! I was always interested in doing something that had an intellectual side to it, where you could learn and grow, something that I’d never be bored by. Wine is such a huge subject, endless and always growing. With wine, there is always something that you don’t know. And there is always something that you can be learning and exploring.

Fish and wine—any favorite combinations?

NATALIE: Champagne and smoked oysters. Smoked oysters were the first tinned fish that Chris introduced me to. When we first started dating, we had a date where we made each other the foods of our childhood. And one of the things that he made me was a saltine cracker with a smoked oyster and Tabasco sauce. The Tabasco might be a little harsh with the Champagne, but that bite really makes me think of him, and Champagne is hands down my favorite beverage. CHRIS: And hers was grocery store Genoa salami, cream cheese, and bread & butter pickles rolled up. NATALIE: You don’t really need to share that. Also, try it, it’s pretty good.

Natalie, what gets you most excited about Portugal?

Portuguese wines! Learning more about Portuguese wine is a thrilling thought to me because excitement about these wines is really just emerging here in the U.S. In many ways Portugal is having its moment as a direct result of the tariffs that were put on French wine imports. And Portugal has popped up all over recently. So it’s exciting to explore, especially right now.

Simple is best. True?

NATALIE: This is funny, because this is something that comes up in the restaurant a lot.

CHRIS: It’s like, we have a dish and it’s not quite right. So we just start pulling things away. We just start to take things away as opposed to adding things on. It’s important to realize when you have a good thing. Imagine the most perfect peach in the world. Right? No matter what you do to that peach, it’s never going to be better than right now if it’s freshly picked and still warm from the sunshine. You bite into that thing. It’s juicy. It’s… simplicity is always the best. It also can be the most difficult.

How do your individual strengths play off each other?

CHRIS: Natalie is definitely more outgoing, she can talk to everyone. Not that I’m a hermit or anything, but I can be a little more reserved. So when we’re together, she just helps bring part of that out of me, which is good. I’m also the one that’s more composed, more ‘eye on the prize.’ Natalie is more: Let’s do this. Let’s do that. So without me, we’d be all over the place. And without her, we wouldn’t get anywhere.

NATALIE: Chris is the rock. He’s always clear-headed, very down to earth. He has the ability to see things from a lot of sides. I’m very fiery, not in an angry way but just in a fired up kind of way. I’m also really emotional. So I cry literally at everything that pulls at your heartstrings. I’m immediately in tears. I think we’re a good balance of head and heart.