The biggest highlight of this week was the arrival of our friends Jan and Ken Cooke. We are very excited that are spending some time with us here in the Algarve.
One of the first things we did with them is to show them around Olhao and popped into Vai e Volta restaurant for a typical lunch. We have eaten here before and blogged about it already, so suffice it to say…it was excellent.
We booked a cooking class for us and on Wednesday, we experienced Cataplana cooking style. First though, the chef took us to the market where we bought all the supplies that we needed for the meal. What was nice about this was that he was able to explain many of the things we have seen but never knew what they were plus, he identified some fish so we would have a better idea of what to buy.
The fresh veggies were easy to pick out and everything is locally produced and fresh. For the fish, he chose an incredibly ugly looking monkfish and it was extremely interesting watching the fish monger clean this thing. The monkfish was chosen because of the quality of the meat and because it has very few bones to content with. He also included the fish liver which we really weren’t excited about but it is considered a delicacy and very tasty. In addition, we picked up some local clams and some prawns.
Back to the house for the preparation of the ingredients: onions, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, a small chili pepper. Once everything is prepared, you start layering the food starting with some of the clams on the bottom so the veggies won’t burn. So…clams, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, then again more layers of vegetables. You save the fish, prawns and remainder of clams for the last 15 minutes of cooking time. Close the lid and let it simmer.
In the meantime, we made some dessert with almonds, sugar and carob flour ground up together. Add an egg white, mush it all together and roll into small balls. Viola…your done!
The end result of our seafood cataplana was fantastic! Great flavours, nicely cooked and served with an obligatory glass of wine. And yes, I ate a piece of the fish liver…mushy consistency but with a nice mild fish flavour…it wasn’t that bad although I won’t be running out to buy some!
Following the cooking class, a stroll through Tavira which is touted as a very nice tourist spot. It was very nice but hardly a bustling tourist town.
A beautiful highlight of the week was the day we went to Lagos and Portimao. On the way, we stopped at some Roman ruins in Milreu which were interesting and dated back from the 3 or 4th century right through to the 15 or 16th century. The Romans were everywhere in Europe in their conquests and you can see Roman built ruins in many places.
Destination Lagos – we are moving there in February but wanted to make sure the Cooke’s saw the stunning beaches and cliffs that the area is famous for. It was a little cool and windy that day but well worth the drive. You can see by the pictures below that it was gorgeous.
Portamao is a spot we have been to before, off a cruise ship. Like Lagos, the beach area is spectacular. Found a great ice cream place for an afternoon break and Karen was surprised that I was able to fit into the parking spot…see below. (I did have a little help with how close I could get to the cars). It is really amazing where people park their cars here. We have certainly seen this before throughout Europe but it still causes me to shake my head.
We decided to take Ken and Jan to Ilha da Culatra Island for a nice long beach walk between Culatra and Farol on the island. The ferry ride is a pokey ½ hour trip that chugs along. A nice traditional Portugese lunch made with salt cod with a couple of cold beer and we are off for our beach walk. It’s about an hour or so walk between the towns and the weather is excellent so it’s finally time for wearing shorts. A most enjoyable hike on an almost deserted beach…lovely!
To finish the day, we made reservations at our favourite little tapas bar called Tapas e Lendas. I’ve already blogged about it but it was every bit as good the second time as the first. They make the best sangria there and the food is excellent and inexpensive. For example, we had 3 jugs of Sangria (perhaps a bit too much) and several tapas including desert…all for 55 Euro…that’s for all 4 of us!
Saturday is market day in Olhao, so we had to do some shopping! As usual, the market is like a beehive of activity but I really love the local merchants and the variety of produce and seafood that is available. What we also discovered is that there is a gypsy market here on Saturday mornings as well…not as big as the Friday gypsy market in Quateira but with lots of stuff.
We decided to head off to Albufeira for the afternoon so we head over but we have been avoiding the big toll highway simply because you don’t really see much and it doesn’t save that much travel time. The weather was very co-operative and we had another bright sunny day. Along the way are many roadside merchants selling their oranges. I have seen them as low as 1 Euro for 5 kg. We have been buying as many as we can and really enjoy our daily fresh squeezed juice.
The GPS didn’t really work all that well in Albufeira and we finally just park the car somewhere close. As it turned out, it was a great place to park and I wish we had remembered to program the GPS to take us back there.
I found a wine store in Albufeira that had a very good selection of vintage port. I ended up buying a 1994 Dow’s vintage port that Wine Spectator has rated as 97 points. The price was 69 Euro which is enough but pretty good for a port rated that highly. I plan to bring about 4 or so bottles of good port home with me…so we won’t be drinking the really good stuff until we get home.
We ended the day with wine and tapas at the wine bar right below us. That was fun too!
Today is a kick back and relax day. We are spending the next two days in Evora which is about a 3 hour drive from here. It is supposed to be a beautiful town with lots to see. From there, the Cooke’s are leaving for Lisbon and home. So, a nice long walk along the ocean promenade, catch up on my blogging and a little packing…then some fresh tuna steaks from the fish market for supper.
Thanks for reading the blog. Please feel free to leave any comments. Let me know if you have any questions or would like more information, I’ll do my best to get back to you.