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Part One | Part Two
| Part Three
SAO MIGUEL, AZORES
We were delighted when Iva's Joao
told us about and joined us to attend an "International
Conference of the Heritage of Judiasm in the Azores"
which was held in the auditorium of the main library of
Ponta Delgada. It was music to our ears to hear of this
initiative to communicate and inform Azoreans of the
important role the history of the Jewish people has
played in the Azores.
Miguel do Espirito Santo from Riso
Grande do Sul, Brazil and Professor Joseph Levi, George
Washington University, USA discussed the Azorean Jews in
the Diaspora. Professor Fatima Sequeira Dias, University
of the Azores, presented a guide to the heritage of the
Azorean Jews, which she had written. Carolino Tapadejo
and Antonio Pita from Castelo de Vide discussed a course
for Jewish tourism in Continental Portugal. Castelo de
Vide, on the border with Spain, has a long and strong
history of Jewish heritage and culture. Antonio is the
vice President of the city and President of the "Network
of Jewish Portugal". This network of sites with a
Jewish history will be promoted to attract Jewish
We have previously written about
the deplorable condition of the Synagogue and the efforts
to renovate and restore the building. It is not only the
right thing to do but from a practical point of view it
is essential in order for Ponta Delgada to substantially
benefit from the "Network" tourist promotion.
The vibes were very positive.
We are raving fans of traditional
Portuguese cooking. Each region has its own specialties.
Here in the middle of the Atlantic ocean fresh fish,
seafood, dried cod and healthy home grown chicken, beef
and pork are the basis for most recipes. For the most
part, preparations are simple; grill, bake, fry. Slow
cooked stews and soups are very popular.
You can eat very well here in Ponta
Delgada and around the island at very reasonable cost
regardless of the price points. We chose to frequent the
low key neighborhood style establishments that we felt
offered the best value.
Rua do Melo, 70/72, serves regional dishes in a typical
environment - it is our favorite. Vanda and Amadeo treat
everyone as family. Pedro makes sure the kitchen
consistantly delivers perfectly prepared food. There is
always a fine choice of daily specials to satisfy your
cravings. We invariably had a grilled whole fish. The
variety of fish and their names take time to learn, not
to worry, Vanda is more than happy to bring the bright
eyed beauties to your table and explain the differences.The
spareribs are sensational but have to be ordered in
advance. If you're lucky enough to find fish soup on the
daily menu, have it. The house steak is excellent.
Whatever you choose will make you very happy.
A Comercial at Rua Machado dos
Santos, 75, is right in the middle of town. It is a very
popular lunch spot and rightly so. Father and son, Joao
and Rui, are always on duty making sure all are happy and
well fed. It's cafeteria style and the ladies behind the
counter dish out large portions of daily specials like
roast chicken, codfish stew, rice and seafood. The soups
are wonderful. The environment is bright and cheerful.
Best of all, they have "Fofas do Povoacao" on
Wednesdays and Fridays! These eclair-like beauties
originated in the town of Povoacao on the south east
coast of the island. There are several bakers of these
treats and they deliver them to various outlets around
the island on these two days. We particularly like the
version that A Comercial sources. Needless to say, you
will find us lunching there on those days.
Cervejaria Sardinha, Rua Eng. Jose
Cordeira, 1-3, is a local secret. The guys drop by for a
Melo Abreu all day long. Lunch is the only meal served.
Mane, the owner, keeps it simple with a few fish and meat
choices daily. We opt for a grilled fish or chicharros (called
carapau on the mainland, in english, small mackeral)
either fried or grilled (we prefer the fried version).
These sweet little fellas are available everywhere and
not to be missed. There are four tables each seating six.
Every trip we met new folks to chat with and learn a
little more about local life.
Another good value lunch option is
Tasca Felipe, two doorways away from Adega Regional at
the corner of Melo and Luis Bettencourt. You will know
you're in the right place when you see blue and white
checkered table cloths and tiles on the walls. Just to be
sure, the waiters all wear blue shirts. The same business
and working men and women are there everyday and
familiarity runs deep. One waiter adopted us and we were
at his mercy every visit. It might sound boring but we do
love grilled fish, the tuna was quite good. We noticed
the grilled and stewed octopus dishes were quite popular
and definetly on our list for next year. The tinto vinho
da casa (house red) is light and lovely and the glass has
Alianca, Rua Acoreano Oriental, 19-23
serves lunch and dinner and is a tradition with the
locals. On Carnival Sunday they were the only restaurant
we found open in town and to our delight had a superb
grilled chern. In the past we have come here for their
excellent steak, now we know we have the fish option.
thoughts I spoke about at the top are creeping into by
senses. Sunrise, sunset - from our balcony a symphony of
color. Rising from the east out of the Atlantic fading to
the south giving way to bright sunshine and at days end
blazing above the horizon and slowly sinking into the
ocean. This balcony never stopped giving. We awoke one
morning to find a tiny cockatiel resting on the railing.
This is a domestic bird and we assumed must have escaped
its cage, but to find us eighteen floors high was a
mystery. Linda stepped out and it was love at first sight.
He immediately flew onto Linda's outstreched hand and her
heart told her to call him "Chico". He would
not eat. He only wanted to sit on Linda's hand or
shoulder. We tryed in vain to find his owners. After two
days on the balcony he disappeared. If Chico shows up on
your doorstep tell him that Linda still loves him.
We were in the mood for grilled
chicken and were told the only Churrasqueira in the city
was "XurreX" (take out only) on Rua do Brasil.
It was about a 45 minute walk from home. When we arrived
we discovered they close mid-afternoon. At the same time
a car arrived with two men. We shared our disappointment
and pondered plan B. It was meant to be! One of the men
was Helena's Joao (the other was his friend Paulo
visiting from Terceira). Joao insisted on driving us back
to the apartment and the next day called to invite us to
his home to meet Helena and share a meal. The beginning
of a beautiful friendship. By the way, XurreX grills a
mean frango. Tel. 296653449
A bit off the city
center at Rua Professor Machado Macedo, 12 is the
sparkling Cozinha d' Arlete. This restaurant and take
away offers up refined versions of regional cuisine.
Their leitao (roast suckling pig) served with yummy
homemade potato chips is heaven, as are the succulent
fish and rice and octopus stew.
Fortunately we will not have to
wait until next year for this delight as our favorite
churrasqueira in Toronto, O Bairradino, 602-A Lansdowne
Avenue, makes fantastic leitao, as well as a daily
variety of traditional preparations.
The very best roast chicken is to
be found at Cervejaria Docas, Portas do Mar. We had a
yummy meal by the sea, a whole bird, with crisp fries,
and ice cold beer.
When we felt like a change, we
found the Italian restaurant Ponzi at Rua Padre Joao
Baptista Valles 2, had very good pizza and pasta. The
ambiance is warm and attractive with caring service.
We often opted for a light meal of
soup only. Please don't feel sorry for us, the portions
are always quite hearty. The cafe-restaurants in the
Solmar Center all had daily offerings which was
convenient for us. The lovely young ladies at the A
Paparoca Casa da Sandes counter usually won our business
with their cheerful and friendly demeanor. Fortunately
for us the Portuguese Paris Bakery with two locations in
Toronto, 654 Lansdowne Ave. and 191 Geary Ave., cooks up
a different soup every weekday, Oh yes, their breads,
pastries and coffee are worth a visit.
Restaurant Delicias do Mar, Rua
Medeiros de Albuquerque, 6, is located a bit out of the
center in a less than perfect neighborhood. It is
considered to be a top notch fish and seafood restaurant.
It is up one flight of stairs. The decor isn't noteworthy,
but the large display of fresh fishes grabs your
attention as well as the open grill where your choice is
grilled to perfection.
Thanks to Iva's Joao we had the
special treat of lunching with him at Clube Micaelense
which is tucked away across the square from the Sao
Sebastiao Church. This exclusive membersclub was started
by the farmers in the surrounding area many years ago as
a social get-a-way. It's a beautifully preserved old
building with a game room, library, lounges, dining room
and ballroom. Dancing is a tradition for all the family
starting with lessons in preparation for elaborate balls.
Lunch was superb.
The beauty and
serenity of Sao Miguel is a treasure to behold. We have
traveled the length and breadth of the island many times.
The wonders of nature have not changed and our previous
travelogues mentioned above are still relevant. We will
travel the same roads again and again loving every minute.
Thanks to Joao, Helena and our friends at the tourist
office we have found new treasures to share with you.
Relva is a parish in the district
of Ponta Delgada, just west of the city of Ponta Delgada.
Relva means grass in Portuguese and there is lots of it
to support the agriculture and cattle raising industries.
The green pastures extend along the high cliffs from
which there are spectacular coastal and ocean views
particularly from "Miradouro do Caminho Novo".
There is an old dirt road nearby that leads to "Miradouro
da Vigna Relva" which goes down a steep cliff to a
small winery, "Rocha da Relva" where they make
a favorite local wine. It is 2.4km straight down and
accessible only by donkey or on foot. It is party time
when the grapes are harvested and the jugs are filled. It's
tough enough getting there and back sober! Cute donkeys
graze in the field across the way to keep fit for hauling.
A well kept Relva secret is
Restaurant Gilberto Relva. There is no sign, just look
for blue and white house on a corner. Locals flock here
for the never-changing menu which is mounted on the wall,
yes always the same items. If they run out of one they
simply paper it over. It's all family seating and all are
family. Joao and Helena introduced us and settled in at
the end of a long table. We were brought huge glasses
that were quickly filled with the local young red wine.
Fresh, crusty bread (a lady who worked there bakes the
bread at home), fresh white cheese with hot sauce
appeared and disappeared rapidly. The environment
inspires the appetite. We feasted on stewed cows foot,
fried abrotea (popular local fish) filets, roast meat and
fried chicharros. Those huge wine glasses were not
allowed to be emptied. Two items were soon papered over.
They only cook once a day so it is best to come for lunch.
We finished with Queisada de Leite which is like the
famous natas. A soft shell is filled with a milk cream
custard then sprinkled with cinammon.
It is a tradition
to celebrate the end of the Christmas season on February
2. Relva does it on February 4. Joao and Helena are
friendly with many in the community and invited us to
attented the celebration which started in the Relva Civic
and Cultural Center. Tradition says to go to the second
floor dining room to start the festivities with bowls of
homemade soup (with chunks of dense bread of course) and
large glasses of that local wine. It seems the soup maker
was late getting going and the decision was made to have
the soup after the festivities. It didn't take long for
the room to fill up with an array of folks in period
dress from gentleman farmer to farm worker (both men and
women participate). The town's farming roots are deep.
Music is a vital part of the proceedings so many of the
"characters" carried instruments. After getting
organized, the participants would march from the center
to the parish president's home, be invited in to visit
and gorge on food and drink. We scooted over to the
president's (Jose Costa Melo) home ahead of the gang (who
were a bit tardy getting going) and had the opportunity
to visit with the welcoming family. Soon we heard the
horns, violins, drums and singers drawing near. The
president and his family graciously opened the door and
welcomed their visitors who proceeded to file in playing
and singing "this is the night of the stars".
Tomorrow would be "Star Day". The players would
proceed to other parish officials' homes for repeat
We went back to the cultural center
to have the mandatory soup, bread, wine and surprise, a
plate heaped with boiled pork, potatoes, blood sausage,
and pork sausage arrived at our table. Delicious all.
Music is an important part of the center's activities and
there was a brass and percussion group practicing in a
music room down the corridor. The participants from the
evening's activities began drifting back still on a high,
laughing and singing. It was amazing to be a part of this
evening and to witness their joy and happiness keeping
their traditions alive and well.
We had mentioned to Helena's Joao
that we liked the jams we had bought from "Quintal
dos Acores". He knew where the factory was and
offered to take us there for a learning experience. Joao
knows where all the best local restaurants are hidden and
took us to "O Raiao" for lunch in the village
of Ribeira do Ferreiro before we went to Candelaria where
Quintal is located. The restaurant is on two floors. They
feature a buffet of authentic, traditional cuisine at
lunch time (12:00-14:30) on Wednesdays, Thursdays and
Saturdays. Today was Thursday and what a feast it was. We
gorged ourselves on roast cabrito (goat), roasted and
fried pork, potted beef, fried chicharros, salad,
potatoes and crusty, dense bread. There was lots more to
choose from but we do have our limits. Wine, beer, juices
and coffee are included in the price of 10 euros per
person. Dessert and hard liquor are extra. No wonder the
two floors were packed.
At Quintal dos Acores we were
warmly greeted by the hairnetted, white-aproned ladies
and the delicious aroma of pineapple. We were led to a
boiling vat of that local fruit that was in the first
stage of production. Locally grown products are used as
much as possible. There is no mass production here. The
10 ladies handle the fruit with love and care. This was
the quiet season for production. The fruits would begin
arriving in late spring and the process would gear up.
There was enough product in stock for us to select a
tantalizing variety to see us through our stay.
While in Candelaria be sure to
visit the attractive Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Socorro
with its long flight of steps and views over the
Part One | Part Two
| Part Three
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