Eden Azores Gastronomical Bucket List
I will start off with a confession that will surely not surprise anyone who knows me even a little bit: I love to eat. I do own a significant number of cookbooks, but my real passion is not cooking, but rather tasting and experiencing culinary treats.
Upon my travels I prefer restaurants where the locals go – I frequently use the recommendations from Tripadvisor (the app) and Google (integrated in Google maps). From the menu, I prefer choosing the “special” of the restaurant, and traditional / typical dishes of the country, or the region. When in doubt, I ask the server what her favourite dish is from the menu.
Luckily, I do not suffer from any food allergies or intolerances (at least not that I know of) so the world is my oyster and I can pretty much eat whatever I want (shellfish included). So upon preparing for my journey to the Azores to visit my friend Rita – Eden Azores – who proved to be the most amazing tour guide I compiled a so-called Gastronomical Bucket List. Meaning: all the things I knew I wanted to try during my 6 day long stay on Sao Miguel island. Without much further ado, behold the list (in no order of importance, for a better identification with the Portuguese name in front):
- Cozido das Furnas / Furnas stew
- Milho de Furnas / Furnas corn
- Queijo de São Jorge / Cheese from Sao Jorge
- Queijo Fresco com Pimenta da Terra / Cream cheese with red pepper paste
- Bife a Regional / Azorean style steak
- Francesinha / Portuguese croque monsieur
- Lapas / Limpets
- Bolos Levedo / Furnas fluffy bread
- Queijadas da Vila / Custard pie from Vila Franca do Campo
- Queijadas de Feijão / Bean paste muffin
- Doce de Tomate Maracuja / Tamarillo Jam
- Ananas / Pineapple
- Bananas / Banana
- Licor de Tangerina / Tangerine Liqueur
- KIMA Maracuja / Passion-fruit flavoured soft drink
- Chá / Tea
The items are ranked on a scale of 1 to 5, where
1 means “not edible”
2 means “edible, but taste is not acceptable”
3 means “edible, taste is acceptable”
4 means “edible, taste is good”
5 means “edible, taste is excellent”
I tried to find as many authentic recipes as I could, to better illustrate how these Azorean culinary treats are prepared.
1. Cozido das Furnas / Furnas stew
There has been an exhaustive article on the www.edenazores.com blog about Cozido. It is a stew – layers of meat (chicken, pork – including pig’s ears, beef, sausages) and vegetables (carrots, yam, potato, green cabbage, onions, garlic) – sous vide cooked to perfection in the course of 6 to 7 hours in the Caldeiras (holes dug into the volcanically active soil) of Furnas. This is the signature dish of Furnas, and only restaurants who obtain a special license are allowed to prepare it. So Cozido was the obvious lunch choice on the day we spent exploring Furnas and all its wonders.
The best way I can describe it is: like the traditional Hungarian pressure cooked beef soup with lots of vegetables without the broth itself. It is a huge meal, enjoyed with no side dish (such as bread or rice), so it is “just” the meat and the vegetables. For me the most special ingredient was the blood sausage – which was firm, fragrant, and rich in flavour. The portion was so huge I could not even finish it. Also: the Cozido is typically enjoyed as lunch (and not as dinner).
I enjoyed the Cozido at Restaurante Banhos Ferreos in Furnas.
Rita / Eden Azores says: Even though I don’t eat read meat, I absolutely love this dish. Five stars.
Price: 15 EUR
2. Milho de Furnas / Furnas Corn
Unfortunately we did not see anywhere the ladies selling the corn cooked in the hot springs of Furnas. We have seen the spot and even that metallic tool they use to take the bags of corn in and out of the boiling hot water, but no sign of corn. Those visiting in the main season will hopefully have better luck – but you can read about this dish in the blog post referenced above.
Price: 1 EUR
3. Queijo de São Jorge / Cheese from Sao Jorge
A little history: after the first settlers arrived and brought cattle to the island, due to the ample pastures there was more milk than the settlers needed or could handle. Therefore, they resorted to cheese manufacture as food reserve and as an export product. About 1800 tonnes of cheese are produced annually, from 800 producers among nine milk processing cooperatives. This means that the cheese of São Jorge is one of the pillars of the island’s economy.
The cheese from Sao Jorge comes in different varieties depending how long it has aged: 4, 7 or 12 months. I have tried the 7 month old cheese, what I purchased in a supermarket. It is a is a semi-hard to hard cheese, which has a relatively strong, salty cow milk taste.
Price: 5 EUR
4. Queijo Fresco com Pimenta da Terra / Cream cheese with red pepper paste
Queijo Fresco, the Azores-style fresh cheese is creamy and a little salty. Fresh cheese is also often served at Portuguese restaurants with crusty bread as an appetiser served with pimenta da terra (red pepper paste). This fresh, creamy, soft cheese has a mild taste and is un-aged – hence the name.
Unlike the mainstream cream cheeses (e.g. Philadelphia) Queijo Fresco has a very moist and watery consistency, and contains very little (if any) salt, rendering it a relatively bland taste.
Rita / Eden Azores says: For me this was the first local dish I tried upon my arrival to the Azores, and ever since I am having Pimenta da Terra with every possible dish. Also 5 stars.
Price: 4 EUR
5. Bife a Regional / Azorean steak
You’ll find this classic steak dish on just about every Portuguese restaurant’s menu. What makes this dish so flavourful is the combination of red wine, garlic and olive oil which creates a rich sauce that is poured over the steak and egg. The regional – or Azorean style – steak means the meat is sourced locally, and is served with french fries (sometimes even french fries AND rice), a few slices of bell pepper, and a sunny side up egg on the top. The meat is a bigger, but thinner slice with some fat (sirloin).
Honestly, I would have preferred it without the wine sauce – and most of all, I would have preferred to have a choice of cut (fillet). However, I have tried the Azorean steak at only one restaurant, so there might be other – specifically steak – restaurants on the island which serve different cuts, like in a steakhouse.
I enjoyed the Azorean steak at Restaurante Banhos Ferreos in Furnas.
Price: 17 EUR
6. Francesinha / Portuguese Croque Monsieur
Francesinha is a Portuguese sandwich originally from Porto, made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries.
Little history lesson: in the 1950s and 60s, António Salazar’s harsh, myopic dictatorship turned millions of Portuguese into migrants: by 1970 – when the population of Lisbon numbered barely 800,000 – at least 700,000 of them were living in France. As well as money, the migrants sent home elements of French culture, and Portuenses took the croque monsieur to their hearts.
It is an absolutely HUGE meal. The amount of melted cheese was simply incredible. The sandwich was sitting in this thick sauce (thus making most of the french fries which were served as a side very wet). I loved the meat parts, but there was way too much cured ham and sausage in the sandwich which resulted in a very smokey taste. It very rarely happens that I cannot finish a meal and clean my plate completely – this was one of the few exceptions. Definitely the meal to be had after a long day exploring the island.
I enjoyed the Francesinha at La Tasca in Ponta Delgada.
Price: 13 EUR
7. Lapas / Limpets
Lapas is a shellfish similar to clams, but a bit superior in flavour. In my opinion also similar to mussels, but are much bigger. It was served in a cast iron pan, cooked with divine olive oil & garlic. Fresh bread was served as a side dish.
It has been the most enjoyable shellfish dish I have ever tasted. For those who love seafood, it is an absolute must. In a retrospect I wish I’d ordered 2 portions (instead of 1 portion as entree, and then a grilled fish) and call it a day. Five stars. Heck, six stars even.
I enjoyed the Lapas at La Caloura Bar in Caloura, thanks to our lovely and funny waiter Mario. Here’s a shout out to Mario: thank you for being so awesome!
Price: 10 EUR
8. Bolos Levedo / Furnas fluffy bread
Bolos Levedo – a hybrid between a cake and a bread – is a flatbread made in Furnas. It comes in 3 different sizes – S, M, L – and has a nice, dry, and airy texture. It is used to make a sandwich (cut in half, with cheese & ham or eggs inside). In some restaurants they use it as burger buns. It has a somewhat sweet taste which complements nicely the salted butter & fillings.
Rita / Eden Azores says: You might find it strange, but sometimes they put morcela (blood sausage) and a slice of pineapple in the Bolos Levedo. Honestly, I would have never ever come up with this blood sausage & sweet bread combination.
Bolos Levedo – like all other baked goods on the island – must be stored in the fridge (or of course, in the freezer) because due to the climatic conditions (high humidity) it is prone to mould when left at room temperature. Once (L sized) piece provided ample breakfast for yours truly. Definitely the perfect way to start another day exploring the Azores. The best are the Bolos Levedos from the bakery of Gloria Moniz, in Furnas.
Price (pack of 3 size L): 3 EUR
9. Queijadas da Vila Franca do Campo / Custard pie from Vila Franca do Campo
These yolky custards come from Vila Franca do Campo, the factory is located next to the marina in Vila. Some other cities – such as Furnas – have their own Queijada, but apparently, the one from Vila is the bee’s knees. I picked up a dozen at the duty free in Ponta Delgada airport because I was not sure if this custard would clear security.
I have gifted one to every family member and a few close friends and they said that it has a very eggy – eggnog! – taste. Maybe because the batch was close to (2 weeks) expiration, the cakes were rather dry. According to locals it is best served fresh – the moment it comes out of the factory!
Rita / Eden Azores says: I advice to everyone to try directly in the shop where they make it. The taste is totally different when it is warm and soft than from the box.
Price (pack of 6 or 12): 7.50 or 13.50 EUR (duty free)
10. Queijadas de Feijão / Bean paste tart
As one of the few gluten-free baked goods on the island, the Queijadas de Feijão has been already introduced on the www.edenazores.com blog. It is made of white bean paste and ground almonds. The texture and sweetness of the bean is really what makes this dessert so special.
Probably because I can eat (and I do eat) all the gluten I can, I was less fascinated from this tart than from other signature Portuguese sweets such as Pastel de Nata!
Rita / Eden Azores says: This tart is the favourite of many local friends, also my American friends said this is the best cake ever, so I suggest everybody to give it a try and an own score.
I tried the Queijadas de Feijão at the Geladaria a Merenda in Riberia Grande.
Price: 1 EUR
11. Doce de Tomate Maracuja / Tamarillo Jam
I have been very excited to try out this jam, because I have never in my life ever tasted tamarillo (also known as tree tomatoes). The fruits are egg-shaped and their flavour is an unusual combination of tomato, gooseberry, and plum. The fruit is rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants. It is very low in calories.
The jam can be bought in tiny versions as well, but I went for a 2‑pack of 250 gram jars at the duty free from the brand Quintal dos Acores – which has been featured on the Eden Azores Facebook page.
It is sweet, it is tangy: I love it.
Price (pack of 2 a 250 ml): 6.50 EUR (duty free)
NOTE: in case you are travelling with hand luggage only and would like to take some jam with you as a souvenir consider buying it in the airport duty free. The problem with the miniatures is that according to new EU regulation one passenger is allowed to carry a maximum amount of 1000 ml liquids with each container being 100 ml or less, and all this packed into a sealed 1 liter capacity zip lock bag. The airport provides the 1 L bags, if necessary, but security personnel will watch you stuff it and will check if everything fits. You can find more information in this Eden Azores Facebook post.
12. Ananas / Pineapple
Pineapples need a warm soil rich in organic matter. Since there is no tropical sun at the Azores, pineapples are grown in greenhouses. There are approximately six thousand greenhouses on Sao Miguel. Compared to six months for Latin American pineapples, Azorean pineapples take 2 years to grow.
Did you know that pineapples are grown in a soil enriched with sawdust and incense? That pineapples are treated with smoke so that they all bloom at the same time? Find out the answer to these questions and much more by watching this video. And if you want to see all this for yourself, just visit the open-to-the-public A. Arruda Pineapple Plantation on Sao Miguel – just a few minutes from downtown Ponta Delgada.
The Azorean pineapple is unique with its small crown and intense flavor, which is nowhere near as sweet as the mainstream pineapple (e.g. Dole) I know. It has a beautiful pale yellow color, and a fresh, citric, fruity taste.
I enjoyed a slice of Azorean pineapple at Restaurante Banhos Ferreos in Furnas.
Price: 1 EUR
13. Bananas / Banana
Apparently, the locals never water bananas as Azores get enough rain. Locals also say bananas are better grown on the South and West side of the islands. A lot of people on Pico for example grow bananas in deep pits, full height of bananas covered by pits, to protect them from the wind.
The Azorean bananas are small-ish, considerably smaller than the mainstream banana (e.g. Dole) I know. The taste is fresh, and not overly sweet. Simply perfect.
Price (pro kg): 1.50 EUR
Recipe: Azorean baked bananas
14. Licor de Tangerina / Tangerine Liqueur
I have tried several liqueur made by A Mulher de Capote, a family owned liqueur factory that has been established in 1893. They are not only making liquor from fruit, they also make brandy, and gin. Apart from the flavours mentioned below they have also the following varieties: cinnamon, banana, blackberry, cherry, Azorean pineapple, milk, coffee, tea, sugar cane, and the list goes on and on.
A Mulher de Capote Tangerine Liqueur – has a beautiful tangerine taste (5/5)
A Mulher de Capote Queen of the Island – tastes like Bailey’s (4/5)
A Mulher de Capote Pineapple Liqueur – is very sweet (4/5)
A Mulher de Capote Passionfruit Brandy – very sweet and even stronger than the liqueur (4/5)
A Mulher de Capote Arroz Doce (Rice Pudding) Liqueur – simply wonderful (5/5)
The tangerine liqueur is by far the best and I highly recommend you try it (and put your hands on a bottle to share it with your loved ones at home).
Since the A Mulher de Capote selection in the duty free was not complete, the 2 flavors I wanted to take home to as gifts I bought from an also Azorean company called Celeiro da Terra, located in Povoação, also on Sao Miguel. Their products are natural, and contain no coloring or preservatives. The tangerine one even got a gold sticker on it, a distinction received in 2016 from the Portuguese National Liqueur committee so I was very hopeful, only to be bitterly disappointed by both of my choices:
Celeiro da Terra Passionfruit Liqueur – had a weird taste (2/5)
Celeiro da Terra Tangerine Liqueur – has an unpleasant, bizarre taste (2/5)
So I recommend you stay away from the Celeiro da Terra products that you have not tried personally.
The below information and score is based on the A Mulher de Capote tangerine liqueur:
Price (liquor miniatures): 2.50 EUR (distillery)
Price (liquor bottle 0.5 l): approx. 12.50 EUR (duty free)
Score (overall): 5/5
NOTE: in case you are travelling with hand luggage only and would like to take some liquor with you as a souvenir consider buying it in the airport duty free. The problem with the miniatures is that according to new EU regulation one passenger is allowed to carry a maximum amount of 1000 ml liquids with each container being 100 ml or less, and all this PACKED INTO A SEALED 1 L ZIP LOCK BAG. The airport provides the 1 L bags, if necessary, but security personnel will watch you stuff it and will check if everything fits. You can find more information in this Eden Azores Facebook post.
15. KIMA Maracuja / Passion-fruit flavoured soft drink
KIMA has been already introduced on the Eden Azores blog. It is a wonderfully yellow fizzy drink, made on the Azores from passion-fruit. Don’t be afraid, it is not like the overly sugary Fanta, no. It is sweet though, but very pleasantly and fruity sweet. Tastes fantastic.
I would have loved to try the pineapple flavoured one, too. Hopefully next time.
Rita / Eden Azores says: KIMA is my absolute favorite drink on the Azores! Five stars. No, make it 6 stars.
Price (at kiosk): 1.50 EUR
16. Chá / Tea
The seeds from which the original Azorean tea bushes grew are thought to have been brought to São Miguel by a commander of the Portuguese Royal Guards, returning home after a tour of duty in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro in the early 19th century. At first, the bushes were grown for their ornamental value; it wasn’t until a virus threatened to decimate the orange-growing industry on the islands more than half a century later that experts were brought over from China to introduce the Azoreans to the fine art of tea production. São Miguel, with its rich volcanic soil and temperate climate proved a fertile environment for the bushes. Plantations were established, and 14 factories opened up around the island before the turn of the century.
The Hysson green tea (Chá Gorreana) is produced from the top three leaves of the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis) that are harvested in July and August when the sun is stronger. The result is a brownish green tea with a delicate aroma and an intense flavour. Ideal to be enjoyed at all times of the day, the Hysson green tea is very rich in tannins and antioxidants hence be known for its various health benefits.
The Azores Home Blend (Chá Porto Formoso) is the first tea of the year (contains all the leaves of the shoot) has a genuine flavor and was inspired by the homemade manufacture of tea that still remains in some places of the island.
Price (Chá Gorreana, 100 g Hysson Green Tea): 3.10 EUR
Price (Chá Porto Formoso, Azores Home Blend): 3.20 EUR
A huge thank you for eveyone who got this far with reading. I can only hope this post has brought as much joy to you, as preparing it did to me. Did you try any of the food items already? I am wondering how you liked them. Also if there are significant differences in how You find they taste – compared to my scores. We would love to hear your comments, feedback, and questions either here in the comments, or on the Facebook page, or in an email.