The octopus capital

St. Luzia (Polvo) Composit

The best octopus in Portugal comes from Santa Luzia, a small village near Tavira in the Algarve. The locals proudly call it octopus capital.

The shores of Santa Luzia are full of small shrimp that attract the octopi. Old-time fishermen lay clay pots called “alcatruz” in the water. The octopi cuddle in these pots to sleep and get caught when the pots are removed from the water.

Younger fishermen don’t like to wait for the mollusks to fall asleep, so they prefer to use a “covo,” a plastic trap with a sardine inside.

Old timers swear that the octopus caught with the alcatruz tastes much better than the one caught with the covo. But young and old agree that Casa do Polvo is a great place to eat octopus. There are many preparations to choose from, including carpaccio, stewed, fried, and roasted. Our favorite is “polvo panado,” octopus combined with egg and bread crumbs and then fried. No matter which preparation you choose, the octopus is tender and delicious.

If you’re traveling in the Algarve, it is a great idea to include Santa Luzia on your itinerary. You’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a wonderful meal and earn the right to brag that you’ve visited the octopus capital.

Casa do Polvo is on Avenida Eng. Duarte Pacheco, N. 8, Santa Luzia, Tavira. Tel. 281-328-527. In the Summer reservations are a must.

Pink glamour

Lula, Rui Barreiros Duarte, ink on paper, 2012.

The squid is a sea socialite, always hopping from shrimp to smelt parties, elegant and glamorous in its pink-dotted design gown. This cephalopod has in recent years become a globe trotter. Every day, billions of squid travel by road, sea and air to the menus of fashionable restaurants around the world. But all this roving takes a toll on the delicate mollusk, which arrives tired and frozen, long on frequent-flyer miles and short on taste.

If you’re in Portugal, don’t miss the chance to try some fresh squid. The best way to cook it is “Algarve style” (lulas à Algarvia):  the squid is lightly fried in olive oil, garlic, and bay leaves. It’s a simple preparation and yet, it produces sublime results that do justice to the squid’s diaphanous freshness.

Sweet Algarve

Algarve is much more than gorgeous beaches and perfect weather. It is also delicious sweets made with eggs, almonds or figs. The most famous are the Dom Rodrigos. But the prettiest are doces finos (fine sweets) like the ones shown in the photo, made with the wonderful marzipan that only almonds from Algarve can produce. These local treats are one more reason why life in the Algarve is so sweet.

The doces finos in the photo are from Pastelaria Beira-Mar, Avenida Infante Sagres 61-A, Quarteira, tel. 289 314 748.

António Tá Certo

It is always pleasant to have lunch at a beach side restaurant, with sea and sky as backdrop and the sound of waves as soundtrack. And, when you find a restaurant like António Tá Certo that serves freshly caught fish, just off the boat, the experience can be idyllic.

Tá Certo is located on the beach of Vale do Garrão, close to Faro in the Algarve. It offers an impressive assortment of robalos (sea bass), douradas (sea bream), garoupas (grouper), and pargos (red snapper). If you ask the staff why their fish tastes so great, they smile and answer: our fish slept in the sea.

There is only one problem with enjoying these simple moments on the seashore: you might never want to leave.

Praia do Garrão Nascente, Vale do Lobo. 8135, Almancil, tel. (289) 396-456. GPS: N’ 37.03815 / W’ 8.04699.

Star olive oil

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So many people come to Portugal looking for the perfect vacation. We see them arriving at the airport, impatient sun worshipers ready to experience the country’s radiant beauty.

For some of these visitors, what starts with a few days of relaxation turns into a lifetime adventure. Detlev von Rosen, a Swedish entrepreneur, came to Portugal forty years ago and he never left. He bought farmland in the Algarve and began to learn about the soil, the water, the wind and the sun.

He first used this knowledge to cultivate flowers. Later, when he felt ready, he planted olive trees. He discovered that the olives had to be picked by hand and pressed shortly after the harvest. He searched for ways of extracting the oil that would keep it pure.

His results are extraordinary. We could tell you that his customers include Carla Bruni and the Queen of Sweden. However, this is not a gossip blog, dear reader, so we will refrain from name dropping.

Sadly, Detlev Von Rosen passed away in 2016 at age 80. But his legacy lives on in the hands of long-time collaborators who inherited his passion for producing exceptional olive oil.

The oil is sold in small bottles under the name Monterosa, a Portuguese transliteration of Von Rosen. These bottles are hard to find, but you can order them online through the company’s website. If you’re looking for a special gift for a loved one, forget Chanel No. 5 and try Monterosa No. 1.

Boia Bar

Boia Bar Composit

At Boia Bar, a restaurant in Salema, near Lagos, Algarve, we always feel we are in a movie set. Everything is too perfect to be real. The restaurant is right on the beach. At dinner time you see the sky drowned in yellow and the sea getting ready for sunset, covering its dark blue color with washes of lighter hues. The warm air and the fresh sea breeze create the perfect temperature. Then, the wine and food arrive.

The best item on the menu is the “robalo” (sea bass) grilled Algarve style. Before grilling, the chef makes diagonal incisions on the fish and fills them with thin slices of garlic and some olive oil. It’s that simple. But simple things are often the hardest. You have to have the freshest fish. You have to know the right temperature for the coal, the right amount of salt to use, the right moment to take the fish from the grill to the table. It’s this perfection of simple things that you can enjoy at Boia Bar.

Rua dos Pescadores 101, 8650-199 Salema, tel. 282 695 382, email: boiabar@mail.telepac.pt, click here for website.