Alentejo flavors

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

Green and black olives are harvested, cured and served together–these olives, for sale at the Saturday market in Évora, are flavored with bay leaves, dried herbs and garlic.
Alentejo olive oil is fruity, and often served with cloves of roasted garlic or a sprinkling of dried oregano.

Herbacious cheeses, local butter

Breakfast, lunch or dinner–and in between–lightly flavored cured goat and sheep cheeses are on the table! Some of the cheeses are stronger than others, but none I tried were overpowering.
Artery-friendly EVOO, flanked by local butter: on the left, flavored with chorizo; on the right, garlicky and flecked with coriander.

Vegetables with a savory echo

In Alentejo, garlic, coriander and olive oil can elevate a mushroom appetizer to “sublime”.

Pão at every meal

In Alentejo, country bread is baked in wood ovens, tastes wonderful and goes with everything.

 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).

Amuse bouche at Acadeia, in the Estremoz castle complex: Tiny bites of cheese sauced with honey and passion fruit, and a single rosemary leaf; and broad beans with a sliver of bacon.

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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Many thanks to Turismo do Alentejo for hosting our visit to Alentejo, and to TAP Portugal for flying us to Lisbon.

To see all our travel stories from Portugal, click here.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I love reading your travel posts. Also about food from different cultures. luv the blue sky backdrop you had there. whereas here its become a luxury. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Abi! I’m afraid the rain found us today, finally. It’s not cold though, and when we nipped indoors mid-afternoon, a pure pleasure to sit in the midst of all the blue tiles for a pastry with coffee. Back to Basel’s gray skies soon enough!

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