Praia Fest 2009 Part 2: The Meals

When we first got to Praia Fest, we went early. By early I really mean your typical 6-7 pm dinner time. We got a great parking spot. It was opening night of the festival and expected it to be super busy. Well, what we didn't realize is that the Praia partying doesn't start until later, much much much later. This worked to our advantage because not only did we get a good parking space, but we also were able to find English speaking people with English menus that made the experience

a little easier on us. We are still very new to the area and new to the language. We located a restaurant (O Costa) with an English speaking server, who of course had recommendations for us. The meal started out with bread (pao) and cheese (quijo), along with olives. Ah, and don't forget the vinho branco (white wine). I had the fish specialty of the house. It almost resembles sheppards pie. This is a piece of baked salted cod, bones and all, with mashed potatoes baked on top. I have usually gotten dishes that come with vegetables, but in this case it does not. While we were one of the firsts to get served here, as the meal went on I noticed many others eating this as well. Later on my next door neighbor mentioned he was going to try O Costa with his friends that were in town visiting. He told us he heard it was the best. I told him what I ordered and he agreed they were known for this dish. It was really good. probably my favorite of all the meals we had. It may also be my favorite since I was so overwhelmed by the set up of the food festival.

At O Costa the server recommened Ryan try
the steak. It was a nice piece of meat that was served with potatoes and cabbage. This is the most common way I have seen meat served. There is always a vegetable and a starch. Although sometimes there is more than one starch, or more than one vegetable. You can also see in the picture the remaining olives and bread.

After our meal we did wander over to check out the dessert tent, but I will save those photos for another post. By the time we were ready to leave for the night the place was packed. It seems most people will go out very late, like 10-11 pm, for dinner. It doesn't actually get dark until around 9:30, and since this was a Friday night and the event only opened at 5 pm, it makes sense that the party didn't really get started until so late. Plus, there was a rave tent that I know was a party hot spot later in the evening until the early morning hours.

The next night proved more interesting in our food choices. Saturday night it was slammed when we got there. Since it was so busy it was harder to find someone speaking English. Once we settled on a place to eat, the girl in front of us was able to help translate the menu. Her mother was from here originally, but they currently live in Boston. So that really helped with our language barrier.

Let's just say our interpretation of fried fish is very different than what frito misto actually was. This was to be fried mixed fish. Our thought was fish and chips. This is what we got. It's hard to tell, but some of our mixed fish are still whole. Ryan said the red fish was the best. The fried fin was probably the scariest of them all. We sometimes forget to mention that we would like our fish minus the heads (although the chef the other night did remind us that they come that way from the ocean, so it makes sense to serve them that way).

My dish worked out a little bit better. It was simmilar to paella. This was a rice dish, with a seafood broth, filed with big shrimp, little shrimp and fish.

As usually, it was a tad bit on the salty side, but overall was very good. I will mention that just as fish come with heads, so do shrimp. We are all used to our shrimp coming ready to eat, but here you have to work for your food. The picture here shows my dish after I quickly removed the shrimp heads. maybe next time I will be braver and take a photo before I must behead them. For me, those heads make me almost want to stop eating them forever. But if I give and shrimp and fish, I don't think there is much left for me here to eat on this island. They really do have some of the largest shrimp I have ever seen here.

The last night we went for dinner was a weekday night, and again we were some of the first people to arrive for dinner.

We both ordered the same thing this time. Actaully, when it was brought to the table it looked like so much food we assumed they put both orders on one plate. We were starting to dish it up when the server came with the second plate. It was a lot of food. This time it was cod fish, somehow fried as it was crispy, smothered in onions. It was served with cabbage and potatoes. The server was extremely friendly. He even taught us a few phrases in Portugese. I would rank this as the second best meal we had at Praia Fest 2009.

This was an amazing exerience. I have never seen such a festival of foods. I have been to the American Dietetic Association conference where there are a lot of food vendors in on place, but it's not the same as this adventure. People come from all over just to get the chance to sample these foods, drink these wines, and enjoy the company of friends. So there you have it for the dinners of the festival, but what about the desserts. Stay tuned, more to come...

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