Terceirai gastronomy top tips & Wine in Azores recommendation
Travelers to the Azores often ask me which other islands of the archipelago are a must see – apart from Sao Miguel, of course – if they have more than 7 days to spend. This is a question I don’t have an ultimate answer to, because I love all islands of the archipelago and each for a different reason. Every island has its best time to visit, usually marked by a festival or a bigger event when it makes even more sense to go there.
So if you are traveling to the Azores in May, the answer is definitely Terceira – and if you keep on reading you will soon understand why.
My first trip to Terceira was in 2018 shortly after I met Tiago – my future travel buddy – thanks to a lovely coincidence. Since at this stage neither of us has been to any other Azores island, we decided to explore Terceira together – and I am pleased to say Tiago proved to be an excellent organizer and travel guide. The only thing I had to do was to book my flights – even this I had to delegate to a dear friend because I was not even in the country. So I did not have to worry about a thing, and I really appreciated this luxury. Hereby I would like to thank Tiago again for organizing this perfect getaway. Since he arrived from Porto – and so that we can fly out from Ponta Delgada together – we used the free inter-island promotion deal of SATA (you can read about this promotion in this extensive blog post), so his flight from Sao Miguel to Terceira was for free.
These inter-island SATA flights are served with small aircrafts where the check-in does not involve a seat assignment so it is best to board quickly so you can secure yourself a window seat. I was very excited as this was my first time flying with such a small aeroplane but I have to admit I loved every minute of it. SATA has been my favourite airline for quite some time and this trip reinforced my opinion. The flight time was a mere 40 minutes, like a bus ride from downtown Budapest to the outer suburbs.
In order to make the most of our visit we rented a car. On the first 2 nights we stayed in Angra do Heroismo near the port, and on the third and final night we stayed in Praia Vitoria so that we are close to the airport. The hotel in Angra do Heroismo was a two-star but apart from the breakfast everything was OK. The major criteria of cleanliness and good location were met, so we were all set to discover the island.
We have discovered a few beautiful stops on our way from the airport to the capital already. For all of you staying in Angra do Heroismo I recommend that you stop at every sight on your way there from the airport. Viewpoints and other places of interest are marked with brown signs alongside the road. A wonderful Eden Azores reader already compiled a list of natural wonders you can see on Terceira. You can read Kitti’s guest post here.
Wine In Azores Terceira Wine Festival
One of the main reasons for us to visit Terceira in May was the local edition of the Wine in Azores festival. I have attended the main Wine in Azores event on Sao Miguel two times already (you can read here about my 2017 experiences) and I wanted to see how the smaller version is.
The entrance fee which granted access to all 3 days of the festival was a symbolic amount compared to the quantity and the quality of the wines available for tasting, and to the high standard of the event in general. The exhibition area was much smaller than at the “big brother” event on Sao Miguel, but this fact also made the event and the venue more cosy and friendly. Apart from the winemakers’ stands there was a tourist pavilion where visitors received assistance and beautiful info materials about the island, and there was an Azores booth selling a huge variety of Azorean made products. The number of participating wineries was of course smaller than at the main event in Ponta Delgada, but the sheer variety of the offering was still very impressive. Last year there were only a few Azorean wines which I considered a favorite, but this time almost every wine I tasted was excellent. According to Eden Azores tradition we chose a few favorite wines we liked and hereby recommend you try upon your next visit to Portugal or to the Azores, of course.
Eden Azores wine selection 2019 Terceira
While every member of our tasting team made her or his decision independently from the others, last year’s favourite winery – Bracara Wine from Braga – offered the best wines again. Here you can read more about Bracara Wine. Last year I even had the chance to visit the winery in Braga, and ever since I am even bigger fan. I can really taste the love and care they put in each and every product. The Eden Azores tasting team could not even agree which one of their wines was the best, we simply loved all of them.
From the Azorean winemakers this years’ winner was the Arinto dos Acores of Curral Atlantis. This wine is from Pico, and I highly recommend you try it if you can.
Apart from the wine stands there was a huge gastronomy part at the festival where famous chefs were preparing meals consisting of or accompanied by different wines featured at the festival.
It has been a great festival, I can only recommend you check it out if you are in Terceira in May. The 2019 edition of Wine in Azores Terceira was held between the 3rd and the 5th of May.
If there is something which goes really well with wine: it’s cheese and luckily, Terceira – similar to Sao Miguel – has lots of happy cows and houses at least 4 dairy processing plants. During the festival I met Ana Paula, who kindly invited us to visit the Pronicol dairy processing plant on Terceira. After meeting their strict hygiene protection requirements we were allowed to enter the facility where the Milhafre butter and cheeses are produced. Since my original degree is in biological engineering, specialized in food quality assurance it’s needless to say that I was overjoyed having been offered this chance to visit the facility and compare it with the ones I have seen so far in Hungary. I have to admit I really liked what I saw: they are putting a huge emphasis on overall hygiene and the microbiologic testing of the milk and their other dairy products. They are also tracking the milk’s way through the entire processing chain and in every step provide the appropriate temperature. A few days after our visit I bought Milhafre cheese in a store and ever since I have been putting their wonderful butter on my breakfast toast. I definitely became a fan. Apart from their superb butter the facility also produces cheese, milk powder, and a special kind of apple juice. All these products are definitely worth a try – interestingly, even before visiting the facility this apple juice has been one of my favorite soft drinks.
Another speciality about Wine in Azores 2018 was that two members of the Eden Azores tasting team have been returning customers in the sense that we even attended the 2017 event in Ponta Delgada together. Last year we were hiking a lot and discovering the island together with Dori and Fruzsi, and this year they decided to visit me again after they attended a conference in Lisbon. I loved the idea of them visiting, but quickly let them know that I am in Terceira, but of course we can meet up there, too. So after quickly discussing the details the next day there were already reunited, and enjoyed Wine in Azores together. I was really happy that they joined and I hope – in fact, I know – they will visit me again on Sao Miguel in 2019.
I know I should have taken my friend Kati with me on this very much gastronomy-centered trip – since she is the foodie expert of the Eden Azores team – but unfortunately she could not join me this time. I sincerely hope however, that she will join me next time because I really believe that Terceira is the gastronomical center of the Azores archipelago. Every dish I tried here was excellent. Unlike on other islands, there is ample supply of organic fruits and vegetables. Most restaurants have gluten-free and lactose-free dishes on their menu. Finally I could enjoy really nice meals without compromise. Truth be told credit for this should also go to my travel companion Tiago, who carefully selected the best restaurants he wanted to try and even planned our culinary visits – sometimes even going as far as reading the menu online beforehand and already knowing what we should order.
Where did I go, what did I eat?
First of all I had the best Azorean meal ever, a seafood dish called Alcatra de Peixe (a moda da Terceira), which originates from Terceira. This rich, slow-cooked, pot roast-style dish can be made from pork, beef, or fish and is slow-baked with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and a bit of clove.
When they first brought it to our table it looked somewhat odd: pieces of fish swimming in some kind of stew (at this stage most of you might think why the frown, it sounds like the Hungarian fish soup – only problem: I don’t like the Hungarian fish soup). Then I noticed a thick slice of white bread (a gluten-bomb if you ask me) placed under the fish filet, and I thought this is it, this is the end. But my friend Tiago was devouring it enthusiastically, so I caved and decided to give the Alcatra a try. And it was indeed divine. A must eat. In case you are wondering, we had the Alcatra at the Restaurante Boca Negra in Porto Judeu. [galeria 73]
After this fantastic meal the fish I had at the Restaurante Beira Mar in Angra do Heroismo – which by the way has a beautiful view – “only” got the silver medal in terms of food I have ever had on the Azores. It’s strange but I have not really been a huge fish fan before moving to the Azores. Luckily, this has changed over time and I was excited to try kinds of fish I never tasted before on Sao Miguel. The grilled fish came with sides: steamed vegetables and boiled potatoes. I asked for an extra salad, but the sides proved to be plentiful. Of course we washed it all down with Kima, the best fizzy maracuja drink ever. Goes so well with everything. You can read more about Kima in this post.
Everywhere we went, the restaurants of Terceira did not disappoint. On our last day on the island we had lunch at Restaurante O Pescador in Praia Vitoria. The highlight here was the octopus salad, but all other dishes were excellent, too.
So 3 out of 3 restaurants proved to be so good, that I would name Terceira the gastronomical center of the Azores archipelago and I have not even told you about the cakes yet, or, in fact about THE CAKE.
The Donas Amelias tea cake is the signature sweet of the island. According to the legend, when the last Portuguese queen Dona Amelia first visited the island in 1901, the people wanted to surprise her with a very special sweet. Dona Amelia was very pleased with these little cakes, which were then named in her honor.
The Donas Amélias are however a conventual sweet from the island of Terceira, adapted from an already existent recipe, the so-called Indianos (cake of the Indies), which is also made with spices sourced from the colonies, such as cinnamon.
I have tried this delightful little cake in several patisseries. It has a very special, very spicy taste and it is dusted with lots of powdered sugar. Luckily I had my travel companion to support me during these tastings.
This post about Terceira has been truly inspired about its wonderful gastronomy and related events. I am still planning to write another post about what to see and do, even though the guest post made by Kitti about the same topic will be difficult to surpass.
If I had to sum up my experiences about the island in one simple sentence I would say that TERCEIRA IS THE PLACE TO BE AND THE PLACE TO EAT. I recommend that you go to the Wine in Azores, if you can. However, you can also join the Eden Azores tasting team in October 2019 in Ponta Delgada, at the Sao Miguel version of Wine in Azores. I keep repeating this, but I really think this wine festival is one of the best events on the Azores.
I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback about Azorean gastronomy – all islands welcome! – and of course if you found this article useful. Thank you.