Eden Azores Gast­ro­nom­ic­al Buck­et List

(Guest Post)

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):

  1. Cozido das Fur­nas / Fur­nas stew
  2. Milho de Fur­nas / Fur­nas corn
  3. Queijo de São Jorge / Cheese from Sao Jorge
  4. Queijo Fresco com Pimenta da Terra / Cream cheese with red pep­per paste
  5. Bife a Region­al / Azorean style steak
  6. Frances­inha / Por­tuguese croque mon­sieur
  7. Lapas / Limpets
  8. Bolos Levedo / Fur­nas fluffy bread
  9. Quei­jadas da Vila / Cus­tard pie from Vila Franca do Campo
  10. Quei­jadas de Feijão / Bean paste muffin
  11. Doce de Tomate Maracuja / Tam­ar­illo Jam
  12. Ana­nas / Pine­apple
  13. Bana­nas / Banana
  14. Licor de Tan­ger­ina / Tan­ger­ine Liqueur
  15. KIMA Maracuja / Passion-fruit fla­voured soft drink
  16. 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
Score: 45
Recipe

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
Score: TBD

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
Score: 45

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
Score: 35
Recipe

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
Score: 45
Recipe

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
Score: 45
Recipe

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
Score: 5/5
Recipe

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
Score: 45
Recipe

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)
Score: 35
Recipe

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
Score: 25
Recipe

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)
Score: 5/5
Recipe

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
Score: 5/5

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
Score: 5/5
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
Score: 5/5

16. Chá / Tea

The only tea plant­a­tions of Europe can be found on the Azores. I was so for­tu­nate: I vis­ited both tea plant­a­tions on Sao Miguel: Chá Gor­reana and also Chá Porto For­moso.

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
Score: 5/5

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.

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