In Terceira, an island in the Azores archipelago, we can’t resist climbing every hill and descending to every valley to admire the unspoiled beauty of the landscape from different perspectives. When meal times comes, we’re always ravenous. Luckily, Terceira offers plenty of fresh fish to satiate our apetite. It also has three unique specialty foods that are a must try.
The first is fresh cheese topped with a pepper sauce called “pimentinha” (little pepper). The silky texture of the cheese combines with the salty, hot sauce to get the meal off to a great start.
The second is called “cracas” (barnacles). It is a local crustacean that lives inside rocks shaped like small volcanos. Charles Darwin, who visited Azores in 1836, studies it in his book Living Cirripedia. But “cracas” are much more than a scientific curiosity. They are delicious seafood. Their meat has a delicate, sweet taste that combines perfectly with the briny liquor inside the shell.
The third is “lapas” (limpets), a type of seafood abundant in the coast of Portugal. But while in continental Portugal “lapas” tend to be small and chewy, in Azores they are large, tender and delicious.
These are only three of the many reasons to visit the Terceira island, an enchanting place that is the perfect vacation destination.
The ancient gods of Greece and Rome satiated their hunger with ambrosia, a food with exuberant colors, an elegant aroma and a taste that has the perfect combination of sweetness and acidity.
No one knows what this divine food looks like except the people from the island of São Miguel in Azores. It is an open secret that ambrosia grows in the island in the form of a small pineapple.
While other places produce ordinary pineapples meant for human consumption, São Miguel produces extraordinary pineapples meant for the gods.
If you visit the island, don’t miss the chance to try this transcendent food. Just make sure the gods are not looking.
Beira Mar, a family-owned restaurant in the Azores island of Terceira, has been a favorite dinning destination for four decades. It is always busy so, if you don’t have a reservation, you’ll probably have to wait for a table.
The service is orchestrated by a small troupe of waiters who move with elegance and speak with eloquence about fish and seafood. We could not tell whether they had trained as ballet dancers or as marine biologists.
Our meal started with “cracas,” a local type of seafood that has a delicate crab-like meat and a wonderful salty juice. We then sampled some orange delicacies called “lapas” that were briny and full of flavor.
Next, we had some amazing boca negra (black mouth), a fish that in continental Portugal we call cantaril. We also tried some wonderful species that were new to us: cântaro, bicudas, and lírio. They were all incredibly fresh and arrived at the table grilled to perfection. Terras de Lava, a white wine from the nearby Pico island, was the perfect complement to all this bounty from the sea.
Beira Mar is a simple place; no money was wasted on decoration or fancy silverware. And yet, the restaurant feels luxurious because we can enjoy the sunset over the harbor while feasting on the precious flavors of the sea. It is the kind of luxury we love.
Beira Mar’s address is Canada do Porto, number 46, São Mateus, Terceira, Azores, tel. 295 642 392. Reservations are highly recommended.
In 1901, the Portuguese royal family embarked on a visit to the island of Madeira and Azores. The event was a great honor for the local populations but presented them with a difficult problem: how do you choose a gift for monarchs who have everything?
The Azores Terceira island offered queen Dona Amélia a new cake made with local ingredients: corn flower, raisins, sugar cane molasses, and cinnamon. The queen enjoyed it so much that the new creation became known as the Dona Amélia cake.
More than a century later, the cake continues to be popular in the Terceira island and for a good reason. We loved the Donas Amélias we tried at O Forno, a great pastry store in downtown Angra do Heroism.
The ability of royalty to inspire the delicious Donas Amélias makes us wonder whether we should restore the monarchy.
O Forno is located on Rua São João in Angra do Heroismo, Terceira, Azores, tel. 295 213 729.
Queijo da ilha is a wonderful cheese that has been produced in the Azores archipelago since the 16th century. The most famous variety comes from the island of St. Jorge. It is hard and has a sharp, spicy taste.
What makes queijo da ilha so unique is that it is produced with the milk of cows that roam freely on the pastures of Azores. Farmers spend their days following their cows in order to milk them. It is not unknown for cows to wander into a bookstore or a museum, perhaps looking for the famous Andy Warhol cow paintings. It is a privilege to taste cheese that comes from animals who are such free spirits.