Quick Trip to the Azores

Posted: February 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Azorean, Gloucester, Portuguese, Seafood | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

If your travel budget is looking as slim as ours this year, consider taking a culinary trip to the Azores. On a recent frigid Saturday night, our spirits were lifted by the warm atmosphere and out-of-the-ordinary cuisine at The Azorean in Gloucester.

We began with cocktails, including a very tart version of sangria featuring passion fruit liquor (passion fruit is a popular local item in the Azores, located about 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal).

The accompanying cheese platter ($7) fell flat, with flavorless black olives and none of the selections piquing our fancy. The marinated pork spread was interesting, though, spiced with cinnamon and vinegar. And we thoroughly enjoyed the owners mix, a good-sized bowl of garlic shrimp and fried calamari ($13). The batter on the squid was pleasingly light, and the spicy garlic sauce in the bottom of the bowl had wonderful flavor.

The entrée selection is varied, with a large number of beef, chicken, and pork dishes, along with more than 10 seafood selections. Not all of our dinners were a success, but we can recommend the seafood casserole ($17), the monkfish in lobster sauce ($18), and the grilled codfish ($19), which came with whole smashed potatoes and delicious fish stuffing. Unless you are a true salt lover, we suggest staying away from dishes based on salt cod, which has been salted, dried, and reconstituted.

We’re a fan of green wine, a Portuguese specialty, and were disappointed that they were out of the $22 bottle we selected. Although we were perfectly happy with the crisp white our server suggested as an alternative ($30), do try the slightly effervescent vino verde if it’s available.

The restaurant was also out of the chocolate mousse, which leads us to believe it’s good. We did try the chocolate layer cake (rich ganache but nothing fantastic) and the pineapple coconut tart with chocolate crust—an interesting flavor combination and not overly sweet.

Our server was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, and the ochre walls, European-style tiles, and old-world paintings helped us forget this tough New England winter for a few hours. The restaurant area emptied out fairly early, but the good-sized bar has tables as well and seemed like an excellent place to send your taste buds on a mini vacation.

33 Washington Street, Gloucester
(978) 283-5500