Graciosa Island Gastronomy
Fish is abundant off the coast of Graciosa and holds the place of honor in the local cooking traditions in the form of delicious fish stews and baked parrot fish. The local lobsters and spider-crabs are an exquisite meal in themselves while the smaller crabs and goose barnacles serve as tasty appetizers.
The focal sweets are rich and varied and include not only cheese-cakes (queijadas) but specialties with such names as encharcados de ovos, capuchas, bolos de junça, cavacas, barrigas, pasteis de arroz, escomilhas, and massa sovada. Massa sovada is especially connected with the Holy Ghost Festivals.
To accompany the meal there is the famous white wine of Graciosa (light, dry, and fruity) or then the wine called “vinho de cheiro” that accompanies all the festivals in the island. The brandy, aged in casks, is an excellent digestive and those who like sweet drinks have the locally produced wine called “angelica”.
The first settlers came from lands where vine growing was a centuries-old tradition. When they saw the lava beds called biscoitos, sunny and only slightly damp, that covered part of the island, they immediately set to work preparing the land and managed to plant the vine shoots brought from the continent. This marked the birth, in the early 16th century, of the vineyards cut the landscape up into rectangles of black stone. The phylloxera disease ravaged the vineyards in the 19th century but the initial “verdelho” strain was joined by “arinto” and later by “terrantas”, which ensured the survival of the vines on the island.