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The Algarve’s diverse culinary scene

23rd July 2013 Print

The Algarve offers a diverse culinary scene for visitors to discover from speciality local dishes rich in flavour to fine-dining and Michelin-starred restaurants. A range of annual culinary events throughout the year celebrate both the region’s traditional Portugese cusine, which draws on its Moorish influences and high-end gourmet fare, welcoming tourists to share the region’s passion for gastromonomy.
The Algarve’s traditional cuisine reflects both the land of fishermen residing on the fringes of the Atlantic, and the inland region which offers recipies based on the local agriculture, wild herbs and plants, and the meats culled from the hillside pastureland.

Known to be a paradise for seafood lovers with delicious grilled fresh fish dishes and local cockles, razor clams, oysters, squid and cuttlefish featuring on many menus due to the long fishing traditions of the region.

The Algarve’s charming villages, such as Alvor and Olhão, are perfect places to sample freshly-caught sardines to barbequed tuna steaks while the town of Santa Luzia is a renowned centre for octopus fishing. Cataplana, a traditional dish consisting of clams, mussels, bacon, chorizo, garlic, onions and olive oil and the Caldeirada fish stews are a delicacies in the Algarve. They are dishes that every visitor must try along with a glass of Portuguese chilled vinho verde.

Among the most renowned inland and mountain dishes are those made of pork such as fine smoked hams and home-cured sausages, the Moorish papas made these from cornmeal and the water remaining after cooking the morcela blood sausages. The hunting season adds delicious hare stews and stuffed partridge to this bill. Inland delicacies also include sweet treats such as almonds, oranges and figs which are great in desserts.

The Algarve boasts five Michelin-starred restaurants in the Algarve, of which Vila Joya and Ocean at Vila Vita Parc, are particular highlights, set in fabulous locations these restaurants offer a meal to remember boasting two Michelin stars each, the only restaurants to recieve these accolades in Portugal. Vila Joya’s Austrian Chef Dieter Koschina attributes his two stars not only to a high level of excellence in technique and service, but says that ultimately the most important factor is the quality produce purchased daily from local fisherman and farmers.

The Algarve’s key food events

Medieval Festival, 2nd to 11th August in Silves - The town of Silves returns to the Middle Ages each year with historical re-enactment held in the narrow, cobbled streets that lead up to the castle. Silves becomes a medieval market place and the perfect place to sample Algarvian delicacies of the past with trestle tables and hay bales laid out next to the barbecues and spit roasts in the "dining" area while musicians stroll amongst visitors and jugglers entertain.

Sardine Festival, 6th to 11th August in Portimão - This festival offers the chance to enjoy some tasty grilled sardines from the surrounding waters of Portimão. Visitors can also take organised boat trips and fishing excursions, sample all types of local food and wine at market stalls, or simply relax in one of the many sardine restaurants in the picturesque square. In the evenings, there’s live music and firework displays across the town, and even sardine-eating competitions!

Festival do Marisco, 10th to 15th August in Olhão - This annual festival is held in August in the Jardim do Pescador Olhanense in the town of Olhão, just five kilometres east of Faro and the gateway to the Ria Formosa Natural Park. One of the most important gastronomic events in the Algarve calendar, the Festival do Marisco, is an opportunity for local fishermen to proudly display their catch on one of the hundreds of stalls that line the fishing port. Offering visitors the chance to sample some of the local delicacies, a wide range of seafood is available ranging from grilled sardines to fried shrimps and of course the traditional cataplana, a much-loved Portuguese dish. Music and folk dancing accompany the festival with performers encouraging both locals and visitors to eat, drink and enjoy the superb atmosphere.

Medieval Days, 22nd to 25th August in Castro Marim -  During the events Castro Marim is turned into a medieval stage, playing host to kings and queens, knights in shining armour, jesters, buffoons, noblemen and ladies as the entire court takes part in a procession.  As well as banquets for those who wish to try a traditional feast accompanied by medieval music, there will be Jousting tournaments – on foot and on horseback – street theatre performances and a handicrafts and merchandise fair complementing the entertainment and enabling visitors to relive the magic and mystery of the past.

International Gourmet Festival, 7th to 17nd November 2013 in Albufeira - The seventh annual International Gourmet Festival will take place at the boutique Vila Joya Resort. The festival is considered one of the most popular gastronomy events in Europe and only features Michelin-starred chefs. While honouring the best international chefs, the festival also highlights the beauty that the Algarve offers and promoting local artists, designers, vineyards and various businesses. Throughout the 10-day event, Vila Joya's chef Dieter Koschina will welcome over twenty internationally renowned chefs, each presenting a tasting menu combined with several wine pairings.

Portuguese Style Smoked Sausage Festival, January 2014 in Querença - Each January the traditional inland village of Querença plays host to the in honour of San Luis, protector of animals. The event celebrates an old tradition of asking for San Luis to protect the family’s livestock including pigs, which were the main source of food throughout the year. The belief says that January is the time to thank the saint who helped in the creation of animals by bringing people together to enjoy a good homemade sausage and participate in religious ceremonies.

Traditional Sausage and Ham Fair, March 2014 in Monchique - The inland mountain village of Monchique will celebrate its 22nd year in 2014 where visitors can learn about traditional methods of production and explore the fifty stalls experiencing the true taste of traditional sausages made to age old recipes from 'carne de porco preto' (black pig). The fair showcases other local produce including Monchique honey, sweet treats and cakes, medronho, organically-produced fruit preserves and craftwork. Visitors will also be treated to musical entertainment creating a great atmosphere for socialising and enjoying local produce in the mountains of Monchique.

The Algarve offers a range of delicious Portuguese cuisine and boasts four of 12 Michelin-starred restaurants in Portugal. Visitors are invited to come and taste the Algarve and discover the flavours of Europe’s most famous secret.

For more information on the Algarve’s events, visit /

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