Classics, Azorean Style

You’ve probably all had that experience where you are in one country, but go out to eat the food of another.  I know in the US this happens all the time.  We would go out for Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, and others, and you have to wonder just how authentic the meal really is.  Many times you find there is an American spin on the ethnic food you order.  Sometimes you get lucky and the food is as authentic as it can get without being in that country.

In the Azores, they stick to traditional Azorean and Portuguese foods, but there are some exceptions when dining out.  Two of the meals I have here are non-Azorean cuisines, and then I have one that is a classic Azorean mean that is from one of the best seafood restaurants on the island.

The first meal we had a week or so ago at an Italian restaurant.  They do Italian really well, or at least American Italian, and I must say, as it is a popular choice with Americans, this meal is just what you would expect from an Italian eatery in the US.  I guess the only thing that you wouldn’t find standard in the US are the olives that are served frequently on this island.
The classic dish here that we always order is the eggplant parmesan.  It is fantastic.  It is also the biggest serving of eggplant I have ever seen.  It makes for a great lunch the next day.
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The next meal is the island version of Mexican.  This is not nearly as close to the original as the Italian shown above.  The food is fair, but when it is the only Mexican restaurant on the island, when you get a craving and aren’t going to make it from scratch, this works.

We started off with a pitcher of margarita, but they only come frozen.  We may have forgotten this when we ordered.  It tasted like frozen hard lemonade, so I was happy even if it was not really what we think of as a margarita.
They have nice homemade salsa (although I have had better), and I think the chips be homemade.  At least the chips come warm.
Ryan had tacos…I think…maybe enchiladas?…ok, I have no real idea, but whatever they are, they are buried under there.
The only thing on the menu I can order is the seafood enchilada, because I do eat fish and seafood, and everything else on the menu has chicken, beef or pork.  The lobster in here would be nice if it was real, but it is the surimi stuff, which I like, but real lobster would make it better.
There is also a Chinese restaurant on the island, and the Indian place closed.  I heard there is a restaurant across the island that does sushi and we plan to check that out soon.  Otherwise, they stick to what they know, and this is seafood.

One of the best seafood restaurants on the island is Beira Mar in Sao Mateus.  The restaurant is right at the end of the marina area in a village that mostly fishes.  So you eat your meal, watching the water and looking at the little fishing boats.  I imagine if you were here during the day you could see the fisherman returning from sea and brining their fresh caught fish to the restaurant.  Not sure, but that is what I imagine when I am there.  This place is so popular that we had the choice of a 20 minute wait, or sitting at a table in a small room attached to the main dining hall, like an overflow dining room.  We went with the small room, which quickly filled up after we sat down.  I was amazed that the server who greeted us in the main dining hall quickly ran to meet us on the other side and bring us menus.  She was back again very quickly to take our order.  I anticipated being “ignored” for a period of time because of how busy they were, but it was fantastic service.

Ryan had the wreckfish.  We have normally seen this served as a steak, but this time was a filet, and not just any filet, but a giant one.  It was even too much for him to finish.  This restaurant also serves brussels sprouts on the side, which is how I discovered that I actually don’t mind them.
The server suggested a grilled shrimp and squid kebab, so I went with that.
Remember this whole squid thing is somewhat new to me, but I learned that I actually like it, despite the texture.  The shrimp still freak me out.  It helps to have enjoyed a glass or 2 of wine by the time the food shows up.  It certainly makes me braver.  I like trying things the local way.
After the meal, I stepped back over to the main restaurant to admire their always stocked display case of seafood.  This was what was left towards the end of dinner service on a Friday night.
This is the boca negra, which is probably my favorite fish around here.
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These are the kebabs, ready to be grilled.
There is barely any wreck fish and other fish left.
For now I will stick with the local food, since once we leave this island I am not sure we will have this food again.  I would not be opposed to coming back to visit the Azores, but there are so many other places I want to visit too.

There are other Italian places on the island, but I think Buzius (where the eggplant was from above) remains my favorite.  When I get a craving for Italian, I’ll head there.  Not much else to say about the Mexican, but it works for when you just want some Mexican.  It is always interesting to see how another culture interprets and prepares the food of another.

QUESTIONS: What is your favorite ethnic cuisine?  Is there any food or dish that is unique to where you live?  Do you feel like ethnic foods often have an American twist?


Haleigh said...

The food looks delicious!

Andrea@WellnessNotes said...

I always love reading about your eating out adventures! :-)

The seafood restaurant with the view of the water sounds wonderful! But the shrimp would freak me out a bit, too. Glad you are brave! :-)

Shannon said...

I would love the native island foods. I just love fish and just about any seafood.

Simply Life said...

I love ALL types of food but especially Spanish tapas! This looks like a great meal!

Emily said...

eggplant parmesan is one of my faves.
i am also a HUGE fan of homemade salsa, especially with fresh cilantro.

my fave ethnic cuisine? hmm, that's hard! i love mediterranean food, but i also love thai food!

Unknown said...

nom nom nom! Well, I love Indian and Mexican. Persian also! There is a great Persian place by our house, maybe I will take you to when you are here if you are interested...maybe you have been - Orchard Market. yummoooo!

Gina; The Candid RD said...

I couldn't even tell you if ethnic foods here have an American twist, because most often it's all I know! I've never been overseas, unless you count bahamas and Mexico (although Mexico isn't overseas...) so I have nothing to compare this food to, you know? From talking with friends and reading your blog, however, I know most food here has an American twist. I love it though! In fact we have recently seen some new Italian and Mexican restaurants go up, and Asian, all of which are doing REALLY well!

Kelly said...

Hi, I just stumbled across your blog and this entry made me laugh. My folks are from Terceira, and I remember going in 1990 for the first time. I was a typical canadian 11 year old and was tired of the traditional Azorean food. There was only one place on the island that served anything other than traditional foods, and it was a hamburger(because what else do Canadians/Americans eat).

It took two hours for them to make the food, and it was server on a bakery bun with mayo and ketchup as toppings, and was so far from the McDonalds burger I was hoping for. I really did appreciate the effort though!

I'm glad to hear there is a bit more variety now. I hope you enjoy your time on the island! I know I always loved the beauty of the islands and have so many fond memories of Terceira!

Nicole, RD said...

YUM! I want to visit! I love all things Mexican and Mediterranean!

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