Ten days, thirty-some meals, and only one Starbucks slip-up later, my quest to conquer the cuisines of Spain and Portugal has been accomplished. Our trip was nothing short of perfect. We kicked off the week with a delightful bottle of Portuguese bubbly (Danubio Brut) while overlooking the breathtaking views of the Algarve coastline (which I highly recommend checking out if you’re in need of a fantastic getaway). The days in Portugal consisted of a lot of lazy beachside lounging with breaks in between, only to seek out the best local fare we could get our ravenous hands on. While we did succeed with discoveries such as Chicken Piri Piri (Portuguese bbq), Caldeirada (fish and rice stew that was similar to paella), and Kabobs galore, there was a time or two in which we were defeated…terribly.
On the eve of our last day in Algarve, our hearts were set on eating at “the best seafood restaurant in southern Portugal” — El Pescador. My hopes were raised high and I had snacked on nothing but a few olives to make space for the feast I was about to indulge in. Sitting high at the dinner table, in my red mahogany chair with lower back arched and shoulders pointing towards the heavens, I scanned my menu. Within nanoseconds I spotted my prey and went in for the leap: “I’ll have the Lobster Cocktail please!” The English translation read “Fresh Lobster and Caviar.” That was all I needed to know. Sign. Me. Up!
When the dish (pictured above) was placed in front of me, my head slowly tilted to the left and my eyes began to tighten up as if I had just been exposed to daylight for the first time in my life. Let me just tell you what this was: Lobster -beautiful fresh lobster- drowning below an everlasting sea of mayonnaise spiked with sugar, ketchup, big chunks of pineapple, tomato, lime pulp, and some other unknown ingredients. Topped with a dollop of caviar, more pineapple and lime… and garnished with basil….AND dill. For the first time in my entire life (well, besides Tripe, which you read about in Culinary Confessions) I could not eat the dish placed in front of me. I was defeated. And I was ashamed. The Grilled Sardines I ordered for my entrée were not as…weird… um…unique? But they also didn’t do their job of filling up the empty growling space waiting to be occupied. I was left with no choice but to turn to something that I could count on. Port. Lots and lots of Port!
To be continued…