Located a thousand miles from any other landmass, the volcanic Azores islands are otherworldly. Still being formed by the forces that shaped our planet over billions of years, it seems surprising that anyone lives on this far outpost at all. In fact, the Azores were unsettled until the Portuguese arrived in the 15th century; there are no indigenous people who call the islands home.
Today, you still need to travel far to reach the Azores – but they increasingly draw travelers with a variety of interests. Adventure travel, ecotourism, and culinary tourism are three big lures for visitors – including Anthony Bourdain, who visited the Azores in 2008 while filming No Reservations.
Despite the fact that they are an Autonomous Region of Portugal, Anthony Bourdain’s trip to the Azores felt less like a trip to Europe than one through a less-developed country. This isn’t to say that the Azores are undeveloped, but rather that the episode focused more on undeveloped aspects of the cultural and culinary scenes.
Bourdain travels to four islands of the nine volcanic islands that make up the Azores archipelago: São Miguel, Faial, Pico, and São Jorge. On each one, he has (mostly) local dining experiences: from dinner on a farm to a seaside feast on the slopes of a volcano. In between, he explores some of the other offerings on the islands, including the Furnas hot springs on São Miguel, and visits one of the world’s best bars – Peter Cafe Sport.
Though you won’t see white tablecloths or multi-course tasting menus in this episode, Bourdain’s visit to the Azores gives a peek at what life is like for Azoreans in this isolated and wildly beautiful place.
Where Anthony Bourdain Ate in the Azores
Unlike most recaps where I share the exact places that Bourdain ate while traveling and filming a specific episode, this post following Anthony Bourdain in the Azores is more about what he ate rather than where he ate. This is due to the fact that Tony had very few “formal” dining experiences and I want to share some of the incredible food despite the fact tha I can’t point to a specific location on the map. (In fact, I didn’t even include a map in this post like I normally do because it didn’t add much value!)
1. Carlos and Virginia’s Farm (São Miguel)
The first island Bourdain visits in the Azores is São Miguel, the largest island. He has several dining experiences here, the first of which is dinner at a local farm. There he enjoys a meal of torresmos de vinha d’alhos (marinated pork) and queijo fresco (that is literally so fresco that he met the goats being milked!)
2. Furnas (São Miguel)
Next, Tony heads to Furnas, home of the famous volcanic hot springs on the island. While I personally find vulcanology cool, he’s less impressed and spends – frankly – way too much time complaining about the experience.
(In fact, I think it hurts potential tourism to the area; while I get that promoting tourism wasn’t ever the goal of No Reservations, there’s a difference between not helping and hurting a destination draw travelers. Anyway!…)
While at the hot springs, Bourdain meets with another local for a picnic that includes eggs hard-boiled in the piping hot spring water. He also tries local breads, jams, and honey and sips on Azorean green tea made with (clean) spring water. A very local and holistic meal!
He also tries another type of geothermal cooking: cozido das furnas. In this dish, potatoes, pork, sausages and spices are all cooked with the heat of the earth. (See, Tony, there is something good about those stinky springs!)
3. Casa de Pasto, Flor (São Miguel)
Next, Bourdain partakes in one of two in-establishment dining experiences in this episode. At Casa de Pasto in Flor on São Miguel, Tony sits down to try pesticos, the Portuguese take on more well-known Spanish tapas. Pesticos are more commonly served at casual dining spots like cafes and taverns, but can be exceptionally creative.
For example, Tony tries pesticos of small birds, tripes, and fava beans – and yes, that’s literally small birds caught on the Azores for this dish. He also sips vinho cheiro, a local Azorean wine.
4. Peter Café Sport, Horta (Faial)
Next, the crew sets out for Faial, another island in the Azores. Here, Bourdain visits Peter Café Sport in Horta; this no-frills bar was named one of the world’s best at some point in its history. This is undoubtedly due to its distinct ambiance – as a stop-over for sailors on transatlantic journeys – and the fact that they make a mean gin and tonic to pair with other food on the menu.
Speaking of food, here Tony tries several types of sausage, including morcela (Portuguese blood sausage) and linguiça, as well as pastéis de bacalhau (cod fritters), and Queijo do Faial com azeitonas (local cheese with olives). As I said, this episode does an incredible job of showing off local cuisine, even if it’s hard to dine the same places that Bourdain has them.
5. Local Meal on Faial
For his second meal on Faial, Bourdain joins a local family for Sopas Do Espírito Santo (Holy Spirit soup). This is a common dish that you can find many different ways in the Azores, but is primarily comprised of kale cabbage, garlic, paprika, fatty meat cooked then strained and served over bread and butter with broth.
This soup was originally made and served for religious celebrations, but has become a common dish widely available across the islands.
Next, Tony and crew set out for Pico, another island in the Azores chain. Pico is known for its winemaking, which sold me on visiting! Here he has another local meal, which features octopus stew with onions and tomatoes; local potatoes; local tuna with parsley, garlic, olive oil; and fried moray eel – all served with red wine made right on Pico.
7. São Jorge
Finally, Bourdain heads to São Jorge. This island is home to fewer than 10,000 people, and it seems like Tony met many of them during his visit. After a damp but safe ATV ride, he joins a local community of Azoreans and expats for a feast of seafood: amêijoas (fresh water clams), lampas (limpets), barnacles, and garoupa (baked grouper). It’s a high note to see everyone digging into the bounty of the sea that surrounds the islands.
Azores Food Tours You Might Enjoy
Since it’s tough to follow in the exact footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in the Azores, a food tour is a great way to have a good experience of your own. Here are a few I recommend:
Hopefully this inspires you that stinky hot springs aside, the Azores is an incredible food destination!
If you’re looking for other Portuguese destinations that Tony visited, try Lisbon.
Have other questions about when Anthony Bourdain was in the Azores? Let me know in the comments.