Please The Palate Pick of the Week: The Island of Madeira

Visiting the island of Madeira has been at the top of my bucket list for years! And this past week, my wish came true. Madeira, the subtropical volcanic island with mountainous terrain surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, is magical and hence it is the Please The Palate pick of the week.

Only thirty-four miles long, Madeira is a beautiful island. It seems like everyone who lives there has an ocean front view, including the one I had from my hotel window.

I only had three days on the island and I kept busy. I visited the Mercado dos Lavradores (farmers’ market) in the town of Funchal, where everything grown on the island can be found, such as island bananas, a variety of passion fruit (who knew there were so many different types?!?!) and a very unique item called a monstera deliciosa that was described to me as a banana pineapple. There is also the fish market where the local scabberfish, a very long, black ugly but popular fish, can be found.

I took the gondola ride from Funchal to Monte from more magnificent views.

And once at the top of Monte, the Carreiros do Monte, a basket toboggan driven by two runners, was the best way to get back down.

For even more spectacular views, I went to the glass-floored viewing platform at Cabo Girao’s where I gazed down 1,900 feet to the Atlantic Ocean below.

I walked through the Old Town of Funchal where old doors have been painted by local artists.

I tried local specialities such as:

Bolo de Caco – round bread that is traditionally cooked on a caco, a basalt stone slab and served with garlic butter

Lapa (Limpets) – These aquatic snails with a shell that is broadly conical in shape and a strong, muscular foot are served in a butter and garlic sauce and taste similar to clams

Ovas de peixe espada – Scabbarfish eggs fried in a salad of tomato and onion

Sopa de peixe da Madeira – fish soup

I drank a lot of Poncha, the most famous and traditional alcoholic drink from Madeira made with Aguardente (sugar cane brandy), honey, sugar, and lemon juice.

And I explored the delicious Madeira wines by visiting some of the producers. These fortified wines are not the overly sweet wines you may be thinking of. They vary in sweetness from dry and medium-dry to medium-sweet and sweet and all have beautiful acidity that will make you want to drink more and more. And the best treat of all was some of the very old Madeiras I tasted from Henriques & Henriques, Justino’s Madeira and Barbeito Madeira.

I plan to return to Madeira again in the future to explore the hiking trails and pools as it truly is a magical place.