When you visit the Azores, there is so much to see and do. We did a lot of pre-planning for our meals. When I was looking for local restaurant ideas from home, I had a little difficulty deciding what I’d want to try. Now that I’ve been to these gorgeous islands, I thought I’d share a down and dirty list of my top five foods to eat when you visit the Azores Islands!
- Cozido das Furnas – This stew cooked in geothermal heat from the hot springs, or caldeiras, at Lagoa das Furnas is a must, even if the lake area is a bit touristy. Make reservations at a local restaurant and then drive to the lake to find your stew cooking in the ground. (Unless you get there as they are taking it out, you’re just going to see a mound of dirt with a sign in it, but it was still really fun for the kids to see and then they got to look at the boiling, bubbling hot springs, too.)
- Azorean cheese – We’ve tried a hard cheese, as well as fresh cheese, or queijo fresco. The hard cheese tastes a bit like walnuts and is sometimes served with shelled walnuts on the plate. The fresh cheese is creamy, a touch salty and very soft. We added honey and pumpkin or tomato jam and spread it on our favorite local bread for breakfast. Yum!
- Pineapples – The pineapples are fresh from the island. A bit acidic, naturally, but delicious.
- Cha – I know. Tea isn’t actually a food. It’s a beverage. However, local, freshly harvested tea is just something you can rarely try. A tour at either of the two tea plantations on Sao Miguel (and all of Europe) ends with a cup of freshly brewed tea. I really recommend visiting both. The museum at Cha Porto Formoso is so sweet and cozy and the bustling action at Cha Porto Gorreana lets you see the way tea is made in action.
- Seafood Rice – I’m not telling you that seafood rice tastes just like chicken or that it isn’t fishy at all. Nope. If you’re looking for a dish that doesn’t taste like what it is, then this is not the one for you. Eating seafood rice is like eating the sea itself. Limpet clams, mussels and a variety of other ocean critters, like prawns, fill the pot. Typically, this dish is quite generous in size. Two people barely made a dent in the meal when we ordered it at 4 Platanos and Cais 20’s version was even larger.
If you enjoy beef, you’ll also want to add a sixth item to your must try list – the local, grass fed beef. The boys raved about their burgers, which are served topped with an egg. As I rarely eat beef, I’m taking their word for it.