Meals in Alentejo, Portugal begin with small servings of a variety of dishes to pique the appetite. These range from sliced meats and cheeses to marinated vegetables such as carrots or mushrooms. Thinly sliced “black pork” cured sausages such—“natural” or chorizo—are a specialty worth seeking out, but you don’t have to look far to find them. After just a few meals, I had settled on my favorites. Here is a sampling.
First, the wine
One in every two bottles of wine sold in Portugal comes from the Alentejo, and it’s no wonder. The Alentejo table is complemented by a startling array of wines just right for the food of this region. My favorites are the reds–fresh and modern, soft and fruity.
The ease of ripening under a hot sun makes the Alentejo prime country for red wine, from inexpensive wines for everyday, to richer reds at the mid-range or top end.
At Horta da Moura near Monsaraz, a harmonious local red—strongly colored and scented—provided a smooth accompaniment to the tasting menu.
Alentejo, Portugal–an olive wonderland
Herbacious cheeses, local butter
Vegetables with a savory echo
Pão at every meal
Snazzy flavors for a jail-house menu
Sometimes, the fulsome flavors of Alentejo foods are heightened by an evocative setting. A Cadeia Restaurant & Bar is located in a 16th century building in the Estremoz castle complex, and warm-weather customers have a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside from its rooftop bar. Acadeia’s cozy interior was once used as the jail for misbehaving nobles (men on the ground floor, women and guards upstairs).
Starters such as these can make a meal, or an ambitious introduction to the main course. Either way, they provide a marvelous introduction to the food ways of Alentejo, Portugal.
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