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Monday, December 17, 2007

Azorean Cuisine - Gastronomy - Brief Description

Food in the Azores has a Portuguese base, but with a strong local flavor. Limpets (a shellfish), crayfish and rabbit stews are specialties. Octopus stewed in wine is typical of São Miguel, while beef stew is traditional on Terceira. Fish chowders are rich and tasty, and the fresh catch of the day is featured at most eateries.

The wide variety of local fish is a benefit of being in the middle of the ocean, and each island has its own way of preparing the bounty of the sea. On land, there is no shortage of cows, grazing in natural pastures. Thus, the Azores offer fine beef, served in numerous ways including grilled and roasted in a wine sauce. And, the Portuguese staple of salted codfish is omnipresent here, with unusual local and traditional mainland recipes.

There is a large variety of local cheeses, mostly made from cow's milk. São Jorge's cheeses are famous throughout Europe. And, São Miguel, Pico, and Faial also produce excellent cheeses. Try them on any of the many local breads, from the sweet breads, to the flat breads of Pico, or the levedo muffins of São Miguel. And, the vast array of pastries and cakes makes the Azores a sweet place to visit. Try grilled pineapple, Dona Amelia cakes, or the cheese cakes from either Graciosa or Vila Franca on São Miguel.

Pineapple hot houses are unique to the Azores, with the island of São Miguel boasting more than 6,000. The local pineapple is quite different than any other, with a small crown, and an intense flavor. Better yet, it is grown year-round. Add pineapple to the many pastries and cakes of the Azores, and any local meal is guaranteed to end well.

While there is no shortage of table wines from the mainland, fine wines, liqueurs and brandies are distilled on the islands. Be sure to try the wines of the lava soil of Pico, the excellent wines of Graciosa, and wine from the north coast or Terceira. Exotic fruits are made into liqueurs and potent brandies. And, Especial, the local beer, is an excellent lager.

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