Scenes from traveling and eating in Alentejo, Portugal. By Jean Anderson, author of the story The Food I Dream Of in our November 2013 issue
Évora’s Fialho Restaurant
Long considered Portugal’s best regional restaurant, Évora’s Fialho opened as a tavern in 1948. Now a white tablecloth spot run by founder Manuel Fialho’s sons, Amor and Gabriel, and granddaughter, Helena Fialho Moreira, Fialho still honors such earthy Alentejo classics as the Sopa de Cação (dogfish soup) served here by João Vieira and Nuno Santos.
Herdade da Malhadinha Nova
Rita and João Soares take stock in the wine cave at Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, where they’ve been producing gold-medal table wines for the past decade. Malhadinha Nova also turns out extra-virgin olive oils and fine black hogs, all three of which are served at the restaurant adjoining the estate’s boutique hotel.
Alentejo is as famous for its sharp, nutty artisanal sheep cheeses as it is for pork, cork, and olive oil. All are named for the towns from which they hail, including Nisa (top left) and Évora (small rounds). Serpa, known as the queen of Alentejo cheeses, may be served firm or soft and buttery (bottom right), depending on the season.
Quinta do Mouro
Miguel Louro’s Quinta do Mouro near Estremoz is a boutique winery in Alentejo which produces superlative vintages. While son Miguel checks on the casks aging in the cellar, wife Conceição, a wonderful cook, is upstairs preparing the family dishes featured in Jean Anderson’s article “The Food I Dream Of.”
O Barro Restaurant, Redondo
Every Alentejo town has its favorite restaurant and in Redondo it’s O Barro. Owner António José Anão Lopes, a TAP Portugal pilot, calls it a “very small place lost in the interior of Portugal.” Lopes’s genius was hiring Rosa Filipe, a creative local cook to prepare regional recipes with panache, among them the tomato migas with dogfish steak.
The quickest way to get a sense of what’s cooking in Alentejo is to visit the Saturday morning farmer’s market in downtown Estremoz. There are crates of live chickens here, baskets of free-range eggs, mountains of kale and collards and coentro (cilantro), ropes of sausage, braids of onions and garlic, vats of home-cured olives, even rounds of sheep cheese.