My friend is now winging her way home, after two weeks of being stuffed to the gills with extremely good food — some of which, I’m proud to say, we produced right here in our home. Having a local butcher who can give us fresh, quality cuts is a huge advantage. It’s also an advantage to have a guest who adores lamb and doesn’t get it often at home, so we were able to fully indulge our lamb tastes with lamburgers, lamb meatballs, and oven roasted leg of lamb.
We also fully indulged our seafood tastes, in particular during a trip to Cabo de São Vicente, the southwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula.
At a restaurant right on the Enseada da Baleeira (Whale Bay), we had a “light” lunch of grilled dourada (seabream), boiled potatoes and salad. The dourada was absolutely perfect — tender and delicate, served with no seasoning other than salt and lemon juice.
This was preceded by an appetizer of grilled sardines, and followed by a dessert of profiteroles, which is one of my guilty pleasures: ice-cream filled pastries, served with more ice cream and topped with warm chocolate sauce.
After wandering around the cape and lighthouse, we worked up enough of an appetite to attack dinner. For this we retired to a favorite restaurant in Vila do Bispo, where both my friend and I tried gooseneck barnacles for the first time.
They’re surprisingly easy to open — much easier than peeling shrimp — and taste quite yummy. I’d have been all over the barnacles if the steamed clams hadn’t arrived shortly afterwards.
My friend pronounced these the best clams she had ever eaten in her life, and I would second that. They’re the reason we keep going back to this restaurant. Steamed in a light broth with local seasonings (including coentros, or cilantro) and tons of garlic, these clams are so good that all conversation at the table devolved to various incoherent exclamations of enjoyment.
Last night, for the final hurrah, we went to a seaside restaurant on the other end of the Algarve for one of the most spectacular of our regional dishes: the cataplana, a specialty of the Algarve coast.
Cataplana is a pile of seafood (in this case, prawns and clams) tossed together with chunks of pork, tomatoes, onions and green bell peppers, and seasoned with garlic, salt, smoked ham and chouriço. Everything is placed into a clamshell-shaped copper pan (which is also called a cataplana) and steamed in its own juices, along with a bit of white wine. The closed pan is brought to the table, where it is opened to release a fragrant cloud that could raise the dead.
After our best efforts at stuffing our guest with the kinds of food I’ve related in the last two posts — not to mention a dozen bottles of regional red wines and no shortage of desserts — she announced this morning that she’d lost a little weight. So I’m thinking there might be a market niche here. Folks would probably pay a small fortune to go on a gourmet food tour in which they not only don’t gain weight, but can actually lose it.
Of course, the continual walks, hikes and Pilates might be a harder sell than the food part. But we sure enjoyed it!