What was life like on a traditional farm on Terceira Island in the Azores five centuries ago? That question was taken literally by Gilberto Vieira, as he turned Quinta Do Martelo, a farm, into a ‘living model’ of what the past was like on this island years before.
Mr. Vieira, a kind, knowledgeable and precise man took on the project of accurately converting the existing grounds into a village that has roots dating back to the beginning of the Azorian settlements.
Quinta Do Martelo is regarded as a ‘Tourist Utility’ by the Azorian Regional Government, a label that draws tourists to the site. The site is only miles from Angra do Heroismo, a World UNESCO city.
On a recent visit to Terceira Island, I had the opportunity to see, first hand, what it felt like to live in a bygone era. The buildings at the Quinta were restored authentically. All produce is grown on the property and is organic. Numerous animals are raised on the farm.
Quinta Do Martelo is an ethnographic site with a number of houses surrounded by open fields, fruit trees, donkeys, birds, livestock and nature. Originally, the farm contributed to the orange trade when the Azores were very prosperous.
Furniture and building construction followed original architectural designs. Housing is spread out on the property. Each house represents what Terceira was like centuries ago. Decorations, designs and ambiance relates to the past.
Today, the farm is used as a guesthouse. Rooms are completely renovated keeping the main characteristics from the first settlers. Private bathrooms and fully equipped kitchens exist in many houses.
A top rated and internationally recognized restaurant that uses the products grown on the farm help make Quinta Do Martelo special. Dishes are made as they were decades ago. One dish that stood out is Alcatra, known as the national dish of the island.
I asked Mr. Vieira how the meat was cooked. He said the secret is to cook the meat slowly. Alcatra is the most important dish of the traditional gastronomy of Terceira according to Gilberto Vieira,
This is the recipe.
Pre-soaked unglassed red clay pot or Dutch oven
2 tbs. butter
3 ounces of smoked bacon, cut in small pieces
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Generously grease the interior of the pot with butter or traditionally, pork grease.
Place ¼ of the onions at the bottom of the pot followed by some of the smoked bacon, garlic and one bay leaf.
Repeat these steps using the remaining meat and ingredients used before.
End with the remaining onions and scatter the allspice and peppercorns over the top along with the salt.
The results are amazing, as I dined on Alcatra, made to perfection at the Quinta Do Mortelo restaurant. The beef is grass-fed and the vegetables are grown on the property and are organic.
The Quinta recognizes that we are living in the 21st century and has WiFi available, BBQ facilities, an outdoor swimming pool, sun deck and a convenience store on the grounds.