Hungry for history

Discovering the historical and gastronomic treasures of Silves

When friends Joana Cabrita and António Guerreiro left University to travel to far away lands and follow their professional careers in international television production, arts and branding, they never imagined being back in Faro in 2017 and operating Eating Algarve Tours. Both passionate about culture, tradition and gastronomy, they decided to return to their homeland and follow their hearts.

“We love Portugal and missed so many things when we were abroad,” Joana told us. “While chatting one day, I came up with the idea to introduce the real taste of Portugal to other cultures and thought that as we are both such passionate foodies and history geeks, a food and culture tour could be the perfect thing for us to do, and from his LA base, António was very quick to agree”.

The pair headed back to Portugal and began putting their company together. They met with local historians, visited many establishments and handpicked authentic producers, service providers and locations for their tours.

We opted for the Arade Food Tour and met the lovely Joana at the foot of the Roman bridge in Silves, where the tour began with a brief introduction to the itinerary and we were presented with a lovely little souvenir, an Eating Algarve Tours book, with blank pages for taking notes, local recipes on the back and the company’s business card. Joana took this chance to inform us that there would be no Port Wine or pastéis de nata on this tour, as lovely as they both are, since they’re not indigenous products of the Algarve and therefore she feels that they would have no place in this tour.

Our tour started at 11am and began with a spot of something very Algarvean, orange picking. We harvested our oranges and headed inside to prepare our fresh orange juice, which is very hard to beat when it comes to a taste of the Algarve. After a refreshing start, we headed over to the market, where we got to grips with some of the local produce, sampled an excellent variety of liqueurs, met the people who make it all happen and hung out in a local bar, feasting on a bifana (pork sandwich). Fuelled and ready to take on the steep cobbled streets of Silves, we visited some fascinating historical monuments, museums and the castle, where Joana impressed us with her incredibly well-researched facts.

Silves can be considerably warmer than the coast and difficult to navigate, but fortunately, part of the tour takes you into a stunning, air-conditioned, traditional café where you can sample some delicious teas and native sweets, while chatting about the experience thus far. The café is beautifully decorated  with traditional tiles, pottery and furnishings, and serves some of the best ice tea, cakes and homemade popsicles around.

We found this spot gave us a great opportunity to pick Joana’s brain about the area and the cuisine in general, and you’ll find that she is only too happy to share her wealth of knowledge with you in her very eloquent way.

With our sugar levels back in the right place, we carried on for a little bit more culture and a leisurely walk around Silves, appreciating the ancient capital and enjoying the energy of the old town, before heading for lunch in a tavern specialised in all things Algarvean or, at the very least, Portuguese, including a good selection of craft beers.

Our menu, complements of the tour, consisted of a selection of petiscos (tapas), a glass of good quality, crisp, Algarve white wine and the pièce de résistance, an octopus and sweet potato Cataplana. Over lunch we chatted with Joana, who continued to deliver factual and informative anecdotes throughout the lunch, including a virtual tour of the vineyard where the wine was produced, along with some technical information about the grapes and a description of each ingredient used in the dishes that we enjoyed at the tavern. With the local dessert, coffee and digestive taken care of, the 5-hour tour came to an end.

Eating Algarve Tours is based in Faro and currently offers three different tours, with more in the pipeline. Groups of up to 12 people work best for the food tours and the price is €69 per person without transport. If you’d like to arrange something special to get you to Silves and back, try Algarve Classic Tours VW Camper van.

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Text & Photos: Mia Wallace

Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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