FOOD & DRINK
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The Azorian cuisine is characterized by simple and traditional cooking. Due to the extensive coastline, it is not surprising that fish and seafood form a significant part of the menu. But meat it also common and, as typical in Portuguese cuisine, many dishes tend to be hearty, filling and full of flavor.
Bread with local cheeses and butter will often be served as starter in traditional restaurants while you will often be offered thinly sliced smoked swordfish (espardarte fumado) in fish restaurants. You should dare to try ‘lapas’ - grilled limpets, which are a specialty on the islands. Local fish and seafood is often used in soups and stews while rustic traditional soups mainly use potatoes as a base and come with vegetables, legumes and herbs.
Mains come with either meat or fish, accompanied with potatoes and vegetables. While cod is by far the most popular fish in mainland Portugal, you will more often find fresh and local fish on the Azores, including several premium fish like tuna, octopus and shellfish.
Traditional meat dishes are often prepared as stews, like ‘alcatra’ (braised beef with garlic and bay leaf), ‘cuzada' (braised beef with sausages, vegetables, potatoes and wine) or ‘morcela com ananas' (blood sausage with pineapple).
Vegetarian options are traditionally not as common and lack a little bit of variety. Modern food trends only make their way slowly into traditional cooking, but especially higher end and cosmopolitan restaurants cater well for special diets.
On Terceira alone, you are supposed to find 200 different desserts, mostly made from egg, sugar, butter and cinnamon. Quejadas, small cakes made from raw milk cream cheese, are popular products from Graciosa and Vila Franca.
Azorian cheeses are often made from raw milk and the salty, humid air and the grasslands where herbs are growing give the Azorian cheese a unique and distinct flavor. Especially popular are the hard cheeses from Sao Jorge (‘Quejo Sao Jorge’), which are certified with the blue ‘Denominacao de Origem Protegida’ seal. Those cheeses are first matured in natural caves for a month and then moved to an air-conditioned room for another two months. Quite common is also the ‘Quejo Ilha’, which is also produced on other islands and is milder in taste due to its shorter maturing process. Another popular cheese is the fairly mild ‘Quejo Sao Joao do Pico’, which is locally produced and matured for four weeks. Many Azorians produce their own cream cheese made from goat milk at home and you might find this simple delicacy being served in bars or cafes. If enjoyed as such, it is often served with piri-piri, a red spicy herbs paste. Cream cheeses are also used in the preparation of quejadas.
Wine is common on the Azores and you will find high quality wines from Graciosa and Pico. Picos wines cultivated on black lava stone have been awarded UNESCO World heritage status and the red and white wines are fairly light to enjoy. You will also find some spirits distilled on both islands. Especial, a local beer, is brewed on Sao Miguel. Azorians often enjoy wine and still water with their meals, followed by a ‘bica’, a black espresso. A popular drink to enjoy in the morning or afternoon is a
‘galao’, an espresso served in a high glass filled up with milk.
Food & Drink