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.

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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!

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Companhia das Culturas

Rua do Monte Rosa

8950-270 Castro Marim

Tel: 281 957 062

Algarve

companhiadasculturas.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

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Rua Almirante Candido Reis 22

8800-318 Tavira

Tel: 281 323 843

 

Tasquinha do Oliveira – Évora, Portugal

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The Alentejo region is known for its beautiful scenery but more importantly for its wonderful food.  It’s no coincidence that many of its famous dishes have become mainstream across the country.  Robust flavors of land and sea combined in marvelous choices like the carne de porco a alentejana, an aromatic  braised pork dish served  with fresh clams,  and hearty soups like the   açorda alentejana made with bread, garlic and cilantro to name a few.

So when in Alentejo, one must eat like the Alentejans and that’s exactly what I did.  I searched for one of  the most authentic  restaurants I could find  and was lucky enough to get a table at  the Tasquinha do Oliveira, a highly regarded landmark in the town of Evora.

This tiny space on rua Candido Reis, not far from the castle walls, is run by husband and wife Manuel andwineX Carolina.  A family business holding only five  tables and an infinite number  of handcrafted ceramic plates that hang from its walls, turns this dimly lit “tasquinha” into a  quaint and cozy place to eat. Manuel, who was very friendly but also very to the point, suggested I try  the cação com molho de coentros, tender dogfish cooked in a delicious garlic and coriander sauce that compelled me to soak it all up with endless pieces of crusty Alentejan bread. Not a drop  was left!

arrozpatoxI also had to try some of the famous duck rice dish known as arroz de pato that, although  claimed to have originated elsewhere in Portugal,  is rumored to be outstanding in the Alentejo.  This one was an absolutely delicious baked version  with a crusty top garnished with slices of  Portuguese sausage known as chouriço. Crunchy on top, fluffy and meaty in the middle and incredibly flavorful all over!  To drink,  I had to try some local wine so I chose the Joaquim Madeira , a full bodied yet smooth red  with a hint of blackberries that paired nicely with my amazing Alentejan feast.

 IMG_1091Tasquinha do Oliveira

Rua Cándido dos Reis 45-A,

Évora, 7000-582

Alentejo

Phone: 266/744841