We’re back home after a few days of wandering through the Alentejo region, stopping every few hours for yet another massive and delicious meal of Alentejana cuisine. So I thought I’d post a few images to make you hungry.
In Mourão, a village near the Spanish border and on the edge of the Alqueva Reservoir, we ordered two dishes for the three of us. The first was sopa de cação, a shark soup, which is served over thin slices of bread. The bowl at lower right holds a completed serving. We also ordered the house red wine, which arrived in a clay jug and was excellent.
After slurping our way through the delicious shark soup (we ate every bit), the second plate arrived.
This was cozido de grão, a typical dish for both the Alentejo and Algarve regions. It’s a stew of chickpeas with whole fresh mint leaves, and served with pork that has been stewed long enough for the meat to fall off the bones. (The pork includes large chunks of chouriço for flavoring.) We barely made it through this second dish, but persevered valiantly.
In Moura, a larger village near the Alqueva dam, we stumbled upon a local hotspot for lunch. It’s always a good sign when you walk in the door and the place is packed with chattering Portuguese. Here we once again ordered two dishes for the three of us (having not learned from the first time) and ended up with this:
One dish of ensopado de borrego (stewed lamb with mint), one dish of lombinhos de porco (grilled pork loins) which were topped by a fried egg and served with rice and incredibly yummy garlic french fries, as well as boiled potatoes, a salad, a dish of olives, fresh bread, and of course the requisite cold beers.
But by far the most impressive meal we had was at Taberna Típica Quarta-Feira in Évora. This was an informal restaurant with the look of a family-owned tavern, and in fact the owner would walk back and forth along the tables, making sure everyone was well provisioned.
We were very well provisioned indeed. The restaurant does not have a menu. You simply make reservations, and then show up to be served. On the night we arrived, the dinner was pork shoulders from porco preto, or black (wild) pig. It included potatoes, a dish of perfectly done rice and minced, creamed spinach.
When the main dishes arrived, we were stunned into silence because we’d already been served a series of delicious appetizers, including garlic-stuffed mushrooms and an assortment of fine chouriços, along with the usual bread, olives and cheese. Then what appeared to be half a pig was placed in front of us. What you see on the main platter above is what remained after we had already served three plates.
But it was so, so fine. Oh my. It was the best pork I’ve ever tasted, seasoned to perfection and falling apart with the merest touch of a fork. We ate one serving each, took a breather, and then had seconds. This left about 25% of the original platter still intact. Over a period of time, we picked at that until we’d whittled it down to about 15%, then gave up in despair. It was a crime to leave it behind, but we simply could not eat any more. Our belts were already loosened and our stomachs distended.
And then the desserts arrived. Four of them! Arroz doce (rice pudding), encharcada (a dish made purely of eggs and sugar), a nutty cake, and a bowl of fruit. We dented those as much as was humanly possible and then pretty much crawled back to our hotel. Not even at Thanksgiving have I eaten so much food.
We are now eating bread and water for the rest of the week.
Just kidding! Today we had fresh shrimp from the City Market, a selection of cheeses, fresh-baked bread and beer for lunch. Time to go for a walk…