- Written by Janet Johnstone
Have you ever felt a bit intimidated about selecting or cooking fish when the restaurants can do it to perfection? Vila Vita Parc has come up with the ideal the solution. In addition to having its own magnificent herdade in the Alentejo which produces vintage wines, organic meat and produce to supply its restaurants, it is now opening its doors in the Algarve to provide cooking classes on both fish and meat.
Please click on the images below to enlarge
On the introductory fish class, Vila Vita’s executive chef Paulo Fortes joined the hotel’s coach headed for the Portimão market to buy the fish we were soon to help prepare. And now the secret was out, as we discovered which stall supplies the five-star hotel. This was interesting as Vila Vita has an outstanding reputation to uphold and the chef told me that more fish is ordered overall at the hotel than meat dishes.
Sr Fortes spoke above the clatter in the busy fish hall to introduce us to the art of expert inspection and selection and also talked about a number of the varieties for sale, some of which were highly unusual. Without doubt, the Portimão fish market outranks most, if not all, others across the Algarve.
Two whole monkfish were chosen. The steaks were destined to be transformed into monkfish and noodle stew (it was delicious!) while all the rest would be made into stock.
Back in the hotel we were quickly taken into the kitchen of the Atlântico restaurant. This was thrilling stuff, as it is such a key aspect of the dining experience but one you are never likely to see but by special invitation, such as this class.
Here we had the executive chef’s undivided time as he passed on more instruction and top tips while each of us participated in slicing and dicing all the ingredients. Meanwhile, a junior chef was busy mixing codfish “pataniscas”, delicious fried morsels of cod in a batter.
The fish was braised in a large cauldron and set aside. In went the garlic and onions, the fish was returned and then the stock. The noodles followed, along with the tomatoes, green peppers, jalapenos, coriander and parsley.
The pleasure of eating our endeavour was ours. It was served on the beautiful Atlântico restaurant patio with commanding sea view. On the table was a host of fantastic tapas to start – octopus carpaccio, the codfish, chickpea and tuna salad, and trays of cheeses and chorizo from the Alentejo. The cheesecake mousse pudding was so exquisite it would merit a long journey to seek it out again.
But that is hardly necessary, as Vila Vita has easy access from all parts of the Algarve.
Treat yourself to a special day with Vila Vita. It would also make a wonderful present for someone special.
The fish class is held at Vila Vita Parc from 9.45 am to about 3 pm and costs €125 per person with lunch and Vila Vita wine included.
The meat masterclass is held at Vila Vita’s Biergarten in Porches and includes a tour of the master butcher’s processing facility where all the hotel’s steaks are cut and prepared, and all of its sausages are created from livestock specially raised at the Herdade dos Grous, just south of Beja. The course costs €85 and includes dinner.
Vila Vita Parc
Rua Anneliese Pohl,
Alporchinhos, Porches, just outside Armação de Pêra
T: +351 282 310 100
Fax: +351 282 320 333
GPS Coordinates: N 37° 06.087 W 8° 22.809
Photography by Paul Rouse