for a few years now, a local association has been organizing the rota do petisco, a food festival in which you can taste small dishes from 300 or so restaurants. instead of putting them together in a single location though, the event takes place over a month in the restaurants themselves, all over algarve. this year we finally gave it a go, and i was a bit surprised to discover how much i enjoyed it! :D here’s five things i like about it.
1. the passport! you need a passport to have access to the food, and though it’s just a little book, it’s actually kind of fun to collect the stamps and see where you’ve been. there’s also a picture/description of the dish, and useful information about where the restaurant is or when it is open (something we always forget to check). at the end of the rota, you can use it to vote for the best dish of the year.
2. every dish costs €3 (for a main course) or €2 (for sweets or desserts) and includes a drink, no matter how fancy the place is. i really like this simplicity, as it removes all the guesswork and uncertainty out of the equation and makes it really easy to give new restaurants a try.
3. the dishes are small, usually focused on local stuff, but very tasty! one probably won’t fill you up, but if you have 2, or 2 + 1 dessert, you should be good for that meal. this gives people the incentive to try different nearby things, in a more informal setting that doesn’t require sitting down for a long time, like a proper meal. i’ve seen groups of friends hopping from one restaurant to the next, in a sort of happy “rally da tascas” (but with less drinking).
4. while you wait for the food, you’re encouraged to draw! the restaurants have paper placemats that double as drawing paper, and this year they requested fishes. our talents are a bit questionable… but it’s a fun way to spend the time while we wait for the food. the restaurant owners will collect these at the end of the meal and send them to the organization, who will exhibit some.
5. and finally, the timing! i like that it happens in the shoulder season, just before the heat and the wave of tourists come. it would be impossible to pull this off in the summer, when restaurants are full to the brim, and stress is high for the chefs and waiters. as it is, it feels like a very relaxed event, something that happens at algarve’s own pace.
so that’s it! it’s been a brilliant month, we’ve tried quite a few new restaurants, and found some that we shall be returning to. see you again next year, rota do petisco! :)