Festas da Praia 2010

Every year on this island during the first week of August, in the city of Praia da Vitoria, there is a huge festival.  Not only is it a huge food festival that attracts visitors from all over the globe, but they have lots of music, dancing and colorful parades.  The festivities run late into the night.  Young adults camp in tents in a field nearby.  Parking is in insane in what is usually a very small and quiet oceanside town.  Hard to believe this is actually going on in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  My guess is most of you had no idea that this even exists.

Welcome to Festas da Praia 2010, or was we Americans call it, Praia Fest.

Ryan and I were excited to see what restaurants would be present this year.  There is a pavilion built right on the marina to house the Gastronomy Festival.  There are about 10 restaurants on display here.  They are mostly from mainland Portugal, and I think one was from another island.
Here you can see inside.  This is a pretty good sized hall, lined with recreated restaurants.  Each restaurant has a nice sized seating area, a kitchen in the back, and a sink for customers to wash their hands.
This is the view inside the adjacent tent filled with meat, cheese, and sweets vendors.
Here you can see that the pavilion tent is right on the marina.  No matter where you dine in the food tent, you are guaranteed an ocean view.
Before deciding on a restaurant for dinner, Ryan and I looked around in the display cases and reviewed the menus.
You can see how busy these restaurants become.
All establishments have the same menu format.  It keeps everything easy to follow.  The only difference between places, of course, would be the items on the menu.  But, the menus themselves look the same.  They all have menus posted in their entrance way.
Most places offer mostly meat, as this is very traditional for Portugal, but they will all have at least one dish of cod fish.  That would be the most common fish.  We did find that one place was entirely seafood, and we later discovered it was because they are from a small island off the coast of Portugal.
This marked the end of the row of restaurants.
Next up was making a decision.  By now we were starving.  We selected O Tipico.  You can see from the picture that this restaurant is located in the Bairrada region of Portugal.  This area is in the north and inland, so it borders Spain.
Here is the standard menu design.  Some places have employees that speak English, and therefore those were also lucky to have a menu in English.  Not only does the festival get a lot of American traffic from the base here, but lots of tourists too from the US, mostly those with Portuguese heritage.
You can see the kitchen set up here.  It is very impressive how they can run 10 restaurants for 10 days out here.  In fact, some of these restaurants function better than some US restaurants I have visited.
We started off with bread.  This was nice because it was different from what we are used to here on the island.  We each had our own little loaf.
These were little fried cod patties.  They seemed to be popular at many of these restaurants.
We also started with some cheese.  It was a hard cheese, similar to parmesan.
Their olives were very good.
Yes, we even enjoyed a bottle of wine.  This really gave us a chance to explore not only the food of another region, but the wine as well.  We wanted the total experience.
Ryan and I both ordered the cod.  Although he eat meat, sometimes the cuts are not how he likes them or it may be a different meat, like goat, sheep or ox.  They do get a little interesting at this festival.  So on this night, the fish sounded really good to both of us.  It was grilled with garlic and served with potatoes and a salad.
By the time we finished, it was dark outside.  This was taken from inside the restaurant tent, looking back at the lights lining the main street in Praia.  I am not kidding, it looked like Christmas all over again.
  This is the front of the meats, cheese and sweets tent.  Gotta love the blow up can of Sagres, which is a Portuguese beer.
Inside this tent, there was coffee…
A few vendors showcasing sausage and cured ham, along with cheeses.
These are sandwiches, made with presunto ham, which I believe is the same as prosciutto.
How could any of these places be complete without beer?
O Forno is even here, which is really how I discovered this place last year.  You can imagine my joy to find out this is located 20 minutes away in Angra.  But, it is always nice when they bring their delicious sweets closer to my house.
Here is their display case.  Since it is a local place from the island, I am already familiar with their goods, but I still like to look and drool, even though I always know what I am going to order.
I was fair, and gave the other two places a look.
But, in the end, we went with O Forno.  We even ordered some coffee drinks to go with our sweets.
We both had a little chocolate ball, called a brigadeiro.  I had the chocolate covered cupcake, and Ryan had a Dona Amelia, which is the traditional sweet of the island.
This is my cupcake from the inside.  It really reminds me of a tastycake.
After all that food, we did a little walking around.  I won’t lie…the soft serve ice cream booth on the beach was opened, so after we walked for a while, we enjoyed that too.  But, I could only eat a little because I quickly realized there was no place in my stomach for it.
Not only does Praia Fest have food, but there is a small stage on the water for music, and then a big tent for concerts with bigger name groups.  Actually, Colbie Caillat played there the other night.  Then there is a giant disco tent for DJs and dancing.  There was a major parade to kick everything off, but we could not go because we were travelling back from Paris.  They spend a fortune on their costumes. 

This year there were also some games and activities for children.  At this one, hosted by TMN (cell phone provider in Portugal), the kids dressed up as a cow, and then another kid had to give them directions to milk canisters around a game board and they were searching inside these jogs for something.  Since this was all going on in Portuguese, that was the best I could gather.  I must say, this was very funny to watch.
That is it for the first night we attended Praia Fest.  Don’t worry, there are more days to come since there are many more restaurants to try out.

QUESTIONS:  Have you ever heard of Praia Fest/Festas da Praia?  Have you ever been to a food festival where they recreate restaurants?  Does your town have a local food festival?


Kristen (swanky dietitian) said...

Wow! Look at all that amazing food! That sounds like such a blast. Glad you both enjoyed yourselves!

Mari said...

WOW I would have gained about 10 pounds if I was there lol

Special K said...

THe Cod in portugal tasted SOOOOO flavorful....isn't that amazing...and I know that Mari said she'd gain 10 pounds, but really, after you get used to the culture, it is naturally incorporated. You don't OVER do it, because it TASTES so flavorful, it satiates with less. QUALITY over QUANTITY
I made a curry sauce with yogurt and your powder the other night, with some garlic, sea salt, and lemongrass....DIVINE!

FoodFitnessFreshair said...

I love food festivals. They're seriously my favorite! Looks like this one was a good time.

Gina; The Candid RD said...

Actually, our local food festival is TONIGHT! haha, so weird, and ironic. It's completely different from this, however, as I would much rather go to this food festival. It's so culturally diverse, I love it. Everything sounds amazing.

Regarding your comment on my blog, it drives me nuts when people tell me they don't allow themselves ANYTHING to eat after dinner. I mean, sometimes people even tell me they go to sleep even if their stomach is growling and they are uncomfortable!! You know what I did the other night? I woke up because I was STARVING. My stomach was growling and I was not able to fall asleep again (it was 3am). I got out of bed and ate some granola. HA!

Unknown said...

I love how there are pics of cheese in everything u post :) makes me huuuungry! I have never been to a food festival, I don't think...artscape really doesn't count. i fear that i would just eat waaaay too much. Have a good weekend! xoxo!

Jessie said...

You're right, I've never heard of this festival! I do wish CT had something similar because it sounds deliciously amazing to have all this local food to choose from. Cheese, bread, olives, and wine? I'm there! The desserts you enjoyed look delicious, too. I'm glad you had a great time at the festival!

Rachel Lauren said...

Looks like fun!!! The cod looks delicious. I imagine Mer drooling at her desk at work with every cheese picture you post. HAHA


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