Feature

This week’s travel dream: Savoring the tastes of the Azores

Travelers are starting to discover the culinary riches of this lush archipelago.

Travelers are starting to discover that the tiny Azores are centuries ahead of New York or L.A. when it comes to culinary trends, said Denise Drower Swidey in The Boston Globe. Nose-to-tail dining? For the last five centuries and counting, the residents of these nine small islands in the middle of the Atlantic “couldn’t afford to waste even a pig’s ear.” Slow cooking? There isn’t any nonslow way for a family to cook when their source of heat is a pit in the ground warmed to no more than 212 degrees by the volcanic activity below their feet. Tourists who fly into the capital of Ponta Delgada are still drawn to this lush archipelago mostly by its “breathtaking” beauty. “But more and more, they are staying for the food.”

A stroll through Ponta Delgada’s indoor public market yields some instant surprises. You might guess that fish would be bountiful here, but the variety astounds: The daily catch seems to stretch out in an “endless,” rainbow-colored line. The multiple stands selling only pineapples might be even more unexpected—unless you knew already that São Miguel specializes in pineapple production. Generations ago, residents of this nontropical island learned to cultivate the plants in greenhouses, using smoke to force all the plants to flower at once. You can tour some of the greenhouses before visiting the Gorreana Tea Plantation: São Miguel also holds the distinction of being Europe’s only commercial producer of tea.

Sleek contemporary restaurants that serve pineapple-and-nutmeg martinis now share the oceanfront with rustic old haunts that offer perfectly batter-fried grouper alongside Portuguese-style blood sausage. But true food pilgrims always make a detour to Furnas, a town where the local chefs, when given 24 hours notice, will fill a pot with sausage, chicken, beef, and vegetables, bury the pot in the sulfurous ground, and pull it out for your party several hours later. The dish is called cozido, and it’s “fantastic.” The spices in the sausage infuse the vegetables, and the steam cooking “leaves the meat extraordinarily tender.” Well, except for the pig’s ear, which remains, “even after seven hours of cooking, a bit too leathery.”At São Miguel’s Hotel Marina Atlantico (hotelmarinaatlanticoazores.com), doubles start at $100.

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