April 21, 2007

Drinks and Food

Sopa de Tomate e Cebola
If its really authentic, you will get an empty plate of soup. Then the waiter comes with an old steaming cooking pot and gives you a huge amount of a very tasty tomato soup with lots of onions and a poached egg in it.

This is a bread-soup, made of medium-sized pieces of bread, poached egg, savory and garlic. Then hot water is poured over it - simple, quick and delicious!

The espada fish comes in many different preparations, but the classic is espada with banana. The flesh of the fish is soft, white and very little "fishy", so even people who do not like fish can eat this one quite well. Espadas are cought around Madeira island with long fishing rods, going as deep as 800 meters/3000feet. In its deep sea environment this fish is very colourful, but due to the decompression when brought to the surface the fish turns all black. For an impressive sight of this and other fishes visit the fishmarket in the back part of the market hall. Go there early and see gigantic tunas carried by two men, espadas (black scabbard) with razor sharp needle-teeth, potas (squid), bacalhau (codfish) and others.

Espadas seen at the fish market.

Espadas seen at the fish market.

Chunks of beef, rubbed with salt and garlic, traditionally put on a laurel stick, but today skewered onto a long metal stick are grilled over an open fire. Then the stick is hung above your plate and you eat the chunks of beef one by one, after working them down onto your plate.

Small pieces of beef are fried in a large pan, together with garlic and red peppers. The beef is put on a big plate and french fries are added around the beef. Sometimes the beef stays in the pan and the french fries are put into the pan. Anyway, the plate or the pan is served to the middle of the table and everybody around the table eats from the same big plate or pan, picking (=picar > picado) the food with a small wooden stick.

Bolo de Mel
This sweet honey and spice cake is traditionally made at the 8th of december, the day of Mary's immaculate conception. It is said that only when you bake it exactly at this day, the cake will be good for christmas. The baking is a family event, usually a larger number of cakes are made, in order to have some more throughout the year. The cake is tightly wrapped in cellophane and put in boxes or cans. If you do this right, the cake will remain in good condition just until christmas next year. The eating of this cake is also a family event and the cake is not cut with a knive but broken into pieces and eaten by hand.

Bolo de Caco
This is a small warm bread with lots of garlic butter on it. During the hot months you will often see people making these at points of tourist interest, like at the Funchal harbour. I remember watching a family selling freshly baked Bolo de Caco at this place. First they made lots of dough in a baby bathing tub. Then the two kids started forming dough balls the size of their fists while the granny started the fire. In the end the whole family was baking, cutting, spreading the home made garlic butter and selling about 400 Bolos in about two hours. The smell of the freshly baked Caco and the melting garlic butter was overwhelming…

Qeuijadas are small sweet cakes made with cottage cheese, very tasty and quite satisfying too.

Coral Beer
I find this a good Pilsen-type beer which goes very well with one or two Cacos and a Sopa de Tomate e Cebola. Sipping from your cold Coral watching the ships in the Funchal harbor is very relaxing.

Sunset at Funchal harbor

Sunset at Funchal harbor

Madeira Table Wine
Since there were no real table wines besides the Atlantis wines of the MWC, tourists often drank wines from the portuguese mainland instead. This resulted in the anual import of 6.000.000 litres of table wine. So a new regulation was passed in 1999 and 2002 creating a Madeira VQPRD region. Since then a number of companies have started with the production of table wine. The following list is from the official IVM website at

Florinda Gomes Araújo
The commercial brand of this producer is known as “Casa da Vinha”, being a VQPRD white Madeira Wine. The grapes produced are mainly Verdelho, from the area of Estreito de Câmara de Lobos, and produced in the wine cellar at Sao Vicente.

João Mendes Sociedade Unipessoal, Lda.
This vine grower has farms in Arco de S. Jorge and Ribeira de S. Jorge, growing the white vine varieties of Verdelho and Arnsburger and the red varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wines of this Madeira VQPRD are called “Quinta do Moledo” and “Rocha Branca”.

The Madeira Wine Company S.A.
For some years this company has commercialized a white wine of the Verdelho variety originally from the north coast, and a rosé wine from the Tinta Negra Mole vine variety produced in Câmara de Lobos and Campanário.

Torcaz – Produção e Comercialização de Vinhos, Lda.
The producer of this Madeira V.Q.P.R.D., chose to produce only red wine, from the Tinta Negra Mole grape and labelled by the name "Torcaz".

Seiçal – Sociedade de Produtores de Wine do Seixal, Lda.
This wine is produced by a group of producers in the area of Seixal who created an association for this purpose.
The white “Seiçal 2003” wine won first prize in the 1st edition of the Madeira Wine Show .

Ricardo França – Sociedade Unipessoal, Lda.
This producer has vine growing areas in Ponta Delgada and Boaventura. He produces a white wine mainly from the Verdelho and Arnsburger varieties and a red from the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varieties. Ricardo França is the producer of “Enxurros” Wine, VQPRD “Madeirense” and “Terras Madeirenses” Regional Wine.

Vinhos Justino Henriques & Filhos, Lda.
Cancelas Tinto (red) was the name of the “Terras Madeirenses” Madeira regional wine produced by this company. It was first commercialized in the year of 2004 and in 2005 the company’s wines, both red and white, started to be sold under the name "Colombo".

Reis da Cunha – Vinhos Madeira Soc. Unip., Lda.
This company started to produce wine in 2005, from the Arnsburger and Malvasia vine varieties. The grapes of this Madeira VQPRD are produced in the area of São Jorge.

Wine from direct producers
Especially outside Funchal and in smaller restaurants you are often offered wine from so-called direct producers. This means that the wine is made from grapes of the Vitis labrusca or Vitis aestivaldis variety and not from grafted european vines. The wine is easy to recognize from a strawberry-like "fox-taste", but I find it quite interesting together with spicy food.

This often rather rough and spirity brandy is made from Cana de Azucar = sugar cane. With the closing of the Hinton distillery in Funchal in 1985 there are only 3 distilleries remaining, according to the CEHA. The distilleries are located in Ribeiro Seco, Porto de a Cruz (Companhia dos Engenhos do Norte Ltda) and Calheta (Lopes & Duarte). The old distillery of Peter Pires, founded in 1867 is now used for Vinhos Barbeitos. Standing in front of the building you can still see the long chimney. One ton of sugar cane produced 70-80 liters/20 gallons of aguardente. The only aguardente I could find in the shops was marketed by J. Faria & Filhos Lda.

This drink is said to help against a cold, but even if you are in perfect health you should give it a try anyway. Poncha is made from Aguardente, honey and lemon juice. It tastes quite refreshing and can therefor be somewhat tricky on a hot day after you had one or two Poncha to many...