Every now and again I get to have seafood plucked fresh from the sea. I live in Colorado now, so it only happens when I travel. Fortunately, it happened today. We were down at the dock in Sao Rogue do Pico in the Azores and I saw some locals popping little shells off the concrete slipway and also from the igneous rock. I took pictures, but since I don’t speak Portugese, I could not ask what these shells were. Our excellent guide, almost as if by psychic premonition, waved a couple over who had just harvested some of the shells. The pair showed us the little guy, his meat almost the color of bread, and asked us if we would like to try some.
Anybody who knows me knows I never say no to that question.
She scraped a little shmutz off the top with her knife then popped the meat out. My stomach did a roll as I saw the black bladder on the back of the thing. It seemed to pulse and, seeing how it was probably still alive, it likely actually did so. I was undaunted. I ate the little sucker and the salt of the sea burst into my mouth. The meat was tender and chewy. I had to consciously think about how to keep it down without appearing squeamish, but it really was good. Turns out, it was a lupas, or in English, a limpet.
Pico is a gastronomical haven. The state of California had an ad campaign about happy cows. Let me tell you, the cows here have it so much better. If the Californian cows knew, they would riot. You have never seen so much green, green grass in your life. The sun shines and the air is pure and sweet. It comes out in the butter, cheese and beef. I have been thinking about how to describe the buttery goodness of that butter and have been coming up short. It is like super butter. The cheese is soft and white with a yellow rind. Lovely. The surrounding sea seems to be teaming with wonderful fish. Last night, we had a bonito fish in a traditional sauce of white wine vinegar, garlic and olive oil. It was “to die for.”
Speaking of white wine, we had the most wonderful white wine last night. I understand there are many brands, but the grapes here are special. We originally thought that this area had been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the amazing way the locals built walls out of lava rock to shield the vines from the wind and salt spray. Now, I think they did it just because the wine is so fantastic. I bought some to take home even though it would mean the horror of checking baggage. This act of bag checking alone is as mighty a testament as I could make as to the quality of this fine, fine vino. I guess when you have such a beautiful place, you have to expect the food to reflect it… and here it does.