Arroz de Lingueirão – Razor clam rice – Casa Velha, Cacela Velha, Portugal

arrozdelangueiraoOk, so once again I am confronted with a sea creature that I have feared most of my life: the razor clam! I first came across one when I was about nine years old,one breezy summer afternoon,  while searching for small clams on the island of Tavira. The sight of a long and narrow shell from which peeked a slimy long mollusc was almost traumatizing! So, later in life, whenever someone mentioned  the ever so popular  razor clam, I’d cringe with disgust.

But now, I am all grown up and willing to face it in its most delicious state: arroz de lingueirão, razor clam rice. A brothy stew made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, white wine, clove and lots of fresh coriander. I am humbled to admit that it’s one of the most delicious meals I’ve every had. Of course, these sweet and tender razor clams were  diced and not served whole so, that visibly, I believe,  makes a great difference.lingueiraocloseup

I was recommended Casa Velha and became weary at first because, right outside, I saw a menu in English. For a moment, I’d forgotten that this is the Algarve and there is a huge foreign population that come here all year round so, I mustn’t  judge.

It turned out to be a genuinely good place to eat and if everything else  is cooked as well as this rice dish, this place is phenomenal. I’ve heard they serve great fish and many other seafood stews as well.  Perhaps that’s why it’s always packed and tables are really hard to come by and although at lunch time you most likely won’t have a problem finding one, it’s highly recommended that you make  reservations for dinner. This is definitely no tourist trap!

 

casavelhafrontCasa Velha

Rua de Cacela Velha

Vila Nova de  Cacela

Algarve

Tel: 281 952 297

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Açorda de Marisco – Companhia das Culturas – Castro Marim, Algarve, Portugal

acordademariscoxShould you want to take a break from all the busy nightlife of the eastern Algarve coast,  than take a walk through the iron gate  at Companhia das Culturas, a secluded guest house with a charming outdoor restaurant surrounded by lush fig trees and an alluring country quiet.

Dinner here is made from scratch with fresh in season ingredients, every evening, by a rather creative young chef whose passion for food is evident in every bite. Jossara Martins, works diligently in her country kitchen surrounded by jars of homemade jams, vinegars and liquours she concocts with  fruit grown all over  the property. Tonight, as a pre-dinner cocktail, we’re having an apricot liquor she’s made without adding any extra alcohol so you can taste the intense flavor of the fruit in its wholesome state,   a light spirit with an almost smoothie consistency. Delightful!carapaufigx

As a starter, we had the carapau alimado sobre figo confitado com vinagre de albaricoque,  brined and boiled horse mackerel over fig confit drizzled with apricot vinegar is a  clever combination of sweet and sour that pairs fruit and fish ever so tastefully: the tender texture of the mackerel over the sweet and juicy  fig made for a genuinely light summer appetizer.  Next came the ceviche de cavala com algas e pimento de Padrón, mackerel ceviche and seaweed drizzled with apricot vinegar and sprinkled with sesame seeds, all garnished with a small green Padrón pepper,  known for being randomly hot. Fortunately for me, this one wasn’t.

cevichedecaballax

For the main course, we had the açorda de marisco:  seafood stew made with country bread. Originally, a poor man’s meal to which was added whatever one could find. In this case, being close to the ocean, seafood is the usual choice. Bread is mixed into a seafood broth and served with clams, shrimp and fresh coriander. This hearty dish paired with a chilled vinho verde is Portuguese comfort food at its best!

Dessert was an interesting surprise: quindim de alfarroba com sorbete de albaricoque e mel de membrilho., a  rather dense carob pudding that was  nicely complemented with a light homemade apricot ice-cream churned with evaporated milk, instead of cream,  and drizzled with quince syrup. A refreshing ending to a peaceful summer evening in the quiet Algarve countryside!

algarrobax

Companhia das Culturas

Rua do Monte Rosa

8950-270 Castro Marim

Tel: 281 957 062

Algarve

companhiadasculturas.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chargrilled chicken – Bica – Tavira, Algarve, Portugal

chickBica is located right on rua Almirante Candido Reis and although it doesn’t look like much from the outside, take a seat at one of its alley’s tables and you will be pleasantly surprised with the great service and wonderful local food, not to mention the ever so reasonable prices. This place is a true Tavira landmark that has been in business for over forty years and tables  fill up rather quickly . A menu consisting of mostly seafood, fish, chicken and meat is served fresh daily for 8 to 12 euros.

I ordered the chargrilled chicken for 8.50 euros and although it did take a while to make, I was served some delicious green olives as well as some  bread and butter to keep  the wait less painful.  In many restaurants in Portugal, it can be a while before you get your food  because it’s usually made to order from scratch, a habit that makes the whole experience a more gratifying one. Be patient, the Portuguese are!

A generous serving of  half  a chicken seasoned with lemon, garlic and little else, served with homemade french fries and a salad made with lettuce, tomato, onion, carrots and red cabbage. Even though the chicken was tender, moist and deliciously seasoned, I have to mention that what really got me was the wonderful service: diligent and easy going. When it came time to pay my bill, I was a  euro short  but told not to worry, no big deal!  Of course, I’ll be back!

 bica2Bica

Rua Almirante Candido Reis 22

8800-318 Tavira

Tel: 281 323 843