If you have read my past blogs posts about this special island, or seen my instagram snaps, you'll know that we love the Azores! The last time we were there, it was my third visit - Paul's fifth. We got engaged there, and honeymooned there, and still appreciate and enjoy it more and more each time.
Vacation for me means letting go, having fun, experiencing new cultures, being present, and relaxing into enjoying all the beauty that surrounds me. We went to the Azores again a few weeks ago where we got engaged (!!!) and now it has an even more special place in my heart. The Azores have so much to offer - from the beautiful landscapes, to the amazing food, warm people and natural hot springs. See post from last year's trip to learn more.
If you haven't had a chance to check out last week's post, you can read about the highlights of my trip to the Azores. If you did read it, you'll know that one of my favorite things about the trip was the food! Duh!
The post written prior to heading to the Azores talked about my newfound place of eating without fear, and how I can now enjoy celebrating food and nourishing my body with an ebb and flow. It's such a liberating place to be, and so you can only imagine just how much fun I had with my new mantra, 'when in Rome'!
The Azores consist of 9 islands off the coast of Portugal. They are known for their agriculture, dairy farming, livestock ranching and fishing, so you can bet that their food is as fresh and yummy as it comes!
I have slowly made my transition back into animal products after being a strict vegan, macrobiotic dieter, easing into fish, eggs, then chicken, meat, and being okay with the occasional sugar and flour products, but dairy was always my biggest place of resistance. I just couldn't bring myself to eat cheese or butter, until very recently. Once I realized a little bit of this and a little bit of that wouldn't hurt me, I softened to the idea of eating dairy again. All in moderation, only from a good source, and of the highest quality! ;)
Well, Azorean cheese and butter is probably the best of the best!!! I ate 'fresh cheese' (a soft blend of cow and goat) with homemade bread at every meal we sat down to, and felt great!
I indulged in sweet pastry treats (quiejadas de leite) that I stumbled upon in every cafe! They include 5 fresh, quality ingredients of flour, eggs, butter, sugar, milk. Nothing processed. So yummy and made with love!
The fish stew from Ondos Do Mar is AMAZING! Straight off the boat daily! Super nourishing and satisfying, made with potatoes and herbs. It doesn't get much better than that!
We had the BEST steak ever one night when our new friends brought us to the local fave spot of Galego in Ponta Delgada! They serve it with a fried egg on top and pimento pepper slices and roasted garlic. Mmmm! They also serve it with hand sliced french fries ~ not fried in nasty oils!
The sweet rice pudding we found in a mom and pops place is a local favorite in Furnas and was to die for! It's made out of milk, butter, sugar, rice, cinnamon and lemon. The chocolate mousse that we found on many dessert menus was also unbelievable! OMG! Made out of sugar, eggs, dark chocolate and butter. I mean...
The special thing about the area of Furnas, is that they are known for their natural hot springs (caldeiras). The restaurants cook their food in the ground in the caldeiras for about 8 hours. Basically like a clambake, but deep in the ground they throw in all sorts of meats and vegetables. It has a semi-sulfuric taste, but worth a try and definitely a local tradition!
There is nothing quite like the homemade bread from this island! The best part is that it's still made fresh daily and delivered to people's homes and hung on their door knobs every morning! I wouldn't be surprised if they still have a milkman making deliveries too! Such sweet european traditions still intact!
The wine is also absolutely perfect! Unfortunately, you can't find Portuguese wine here in the States, so it was such a treat to drink some of the best wine I've ever had! They love their wine and they drink it just as many europeans do ~ on their lunch breaks, and throughout their leisure days spent in good company with good food! I just love how they celebrate life everyday!!!!
We went to a couple tea factories where we sampled some of the best tea I've ever had! No additives, just pure tea leafs that taste so smooth ~ never bitter! The Azores are the home of Europe's oldest tea estate.
Our favorite dining experience was at Silva's Restaurant in Ribeira Grande where we ate limepds (shellfish-barnacles) sauteed grouper, fried mackeral and lots of bread, cheese, wine and puddings! We sat there for the entire lunch rush and had the best time people watching and seeing how everyone comes together to eat platters of fish and vegetables and drinks bottles of wine before heading back to their day. It's amazing.
I should probably mention just how breathtaking the view was at 4 Platanos! We sat there for a couple hours just hanging out drinking wine, eating bread and cheese, and the best chicken wings EVER!
I also made sure to eat their traditional portuguese soup (Caldo Verde) made of chorizo, kale, and potato at a local cafe. It was surprisingly really good!!!
So, when visiting the Azores, be sure to eat what they are known for ~ dairy, livestock, bananas, potatoes, fish galore and sweet treats! I know I did! For more inspiration on cultural cuisines, check out this post.
What a GEM of an island!!!! Seriously, I haven't experienced such beauty, such vibrancy, such love and light as I did in Sao Miguel! I had heard mention of the Azores before, but had no idea where it was until my boyfriend told me all about it on our first date! His ancestors were from there and the connection he felt while spending six weeks there last year was so strong that he couldn't wait to go back! Luckily I got to come along a few weeks ago just to see what was so special about this place that he held so dear to his heart!
The Azores are made up of 9 archipelago islands off the coast of Portugal. It's climate is moderate, ranging from 50-75 degrees fahrenheit ~the winter being its coldest, rainiest season. Since we weren't there during it's peak season, I can only imagine just how much better it could possibly be once everything is in bloom, and the temperature is a bit warmer!
The Azores are known for their agriculture, dairy farming, livestock ranching, fishing and tourism. Everything is so fresh, so local, and super sustainable! It's clean, efficient and has a wonderful feng shui energy to it! The people are so friendly, warm and welcoming. It's very safe and easy to get around!
My favorite highlights from the trip (also my favorite question to ask people) are as follows:
I LOVED the craftsmanship seen in all the architecture! That European modern minimalism is prevalent and so inspiring!
The farmland! OMG it's soooo beautiful and perfectly planned out ~ you can see where the cows eat the grass, so you know you're eating the best beef out there! It hasn't traveled far, it's lived in THE most beautiful place, and eats organic grass, not gmo corn! Not to mention, the BEST cheeses come from them, and you better believe I ate their fresh cheese and homemade bread on the daily!;)
I just really loved the warm people. They're so sweet! They take such pride in serving and sharing their food and culture with us! We could learn a thing or two from them! We had two different people offer to drive us somewhere, we had men sending us wine and chocolates from across a restaurant, and we had people happy to help us find the farmers market! Just a few examples of the generosity of spirit!
The views are THE BEST I've experienced in this world so far! Just incredibly breathtaking around each corner.
We went on some amazing hikes!
We soaked in some natural hot springs during the day and at night!
The FOOD. OMG the Food! The fish stews, the homemade bread, the fresh cheeses, the steaks, the pastries, wines and teas were the best I've had anywhere! And so inexpensive for the amount they serve!
That's the other thing, the island isn't about making money, rather it's about community and service. Such an evolved place!
From the flights and the amazing meals they served us (who would have thought plane food could be so good!?), to the scooter we got around on, the whole journey was magical! I was so blessed to be there and share in that experience with my boyfriend, my love! It was a special gift indeed!
To think that this gem exists just 5 hours on a nonstop flight from Boston is incredible! I highly recommend this trip to anyone who enjoys the great outdoors, european culture and good food!
Now I have the bug to get to Lisbon and the mainland! And next time, we'll be sure to check out the other islands that were highly recommended to us~ Flores, Terceira, and Santa Maria!
Til then, I'll have to brush up on my portuguese!
Bon dia! ;)