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Feast of the Blessed Meateaters;New Bedford

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Feast of the Blessed Meateaters;New Bedford

galleygirl | Aug 2, 2004 05:19 PM

We came, we sniffed, we ate a tuna.....Okay, actually, I ate a tuna, the Commodore ate several pounds of assorted specialty meats...;)

Thanks to SuzyB, for pointing out the website, and Louis, for once again, encouraging a visit with his knowledge of all things New Bedford, we hit the 2004 Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, soon to be know as the Doctor Atkins Memorial Dinner...All I can say is, WOW! and mark this on your calenders for next year!

We got there Sunday, in the rain, mugginess, wind and drizzle, and walked into the middle of the parade, which seemed to be running a little late...After thrilling to the bagpipes (must've been those special Madeiran bagpipers) we started trying to explore the area...Very confusing, what with trying to get from one side to the other in the parade and all, but I could see lots of stands for beer, wine and mixed drinks, so i knew things were off to a good start! Everything was bought with $1 tickets, so we bought a bunch....

The Commodore was feeling a little under the weather, and I didn't feel like jockeying for room around the giant barbecue pit (tho it was under cover), or I would have encouraged him to go for the giant (4') long skewers, furnished with marinated beef in 1 lb. increments available from a nearby stand...I can't remember if it was $10 or $15, but it, like EVERYTHING at this church supper on steroids, was a bargain...It did, however, look and smell great...

Most of the stands are run by the Madeira Society, roughly a Portuguese version of the Knights of Columbus...There were lots of repetitions of hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, linguica sandwiches, and tremocos, a yellow, salted, boiled bean that's supposed to be washed down with your drinks...Too bad I didn't try that one til after dinner, it *was* a good bar snack....

Ahhh, dinner......There was a huge pavilion, with tables, chairs and a bar at one end, that one could only enter if one bought a $10 dinner....Since the dinners were the foods listed on the website, (Marinated tuna pieces, tuna steaks, bacalhao, goat, pork,beef, chicken, stewed beef, and stewed pork), and the Commodore wanted food cooked by someone else, it seemed like a good bet...We paid our tickets, and entered...My heart sank a little when I saw the cafeteria style service....

..Until I realized that the biggest posse of Portuguese grandmothers in the world must've been up all might for the last week cooking this stuff!!! They gave us big deep plastic plates, and proceeded to heap them til we said stop...You didn't just get one thing, you got everything, unless, of course, you refused...And you got as much as you wanted of your favorites...The Commodore's plate was piled high with tender chunks of goat meat, still on the bone, cacoila; pork butts marinated in wine-vinegar, then stewed, roasted chicken, with peppers and onions, marinated, stewed beef, and stewed rabbit....

They thought there was something wrong with me, since I only had two boiled potatoes on my plate til I got to the end of the line..."What, you come all this way, and that's all you eat?"

I told them I was here for the fish...They were relieved, and set about filling my plate with more tuna than I've ever eaten in my life....Big chinks of lightly cooked tuna, marinated with white onions and parsley in olive oil and vinegar....So juicy, so rich, so moist, I ate forkful after forkful...(Even the Commodore said this was his favorite)... Stacks of tuna steaks, seared and braised in the typical peppers, onions, and red wine....Another scoop (okay, scoops) of marinated bacalhao....Any of these could have been a meal. Me, I finished them all, along with the boiled potatoes for balance...I really don't care about Thanksgiving anymore...;) I washed it down with a little Vinho verde, and we were off, because, in the Commodore's book, you're not done eating til dessert, no matter how much you eat..

We passed the caco de something, which I thought was a dessert, but turned out to be huge round loaves of freshly cooked bread, split and spread with butter and garlic...I didn't find that out til after engorgement, but I'll try it next year...

I gottah say, the Mallasadas, deep-fried Portuguese dough, soft and fluffy and coated with sugar, didn't seem to lure me the way it did the lines of fair-goers that were standing about 50 deep at each booth...Luckily, I had printed Louis's recommendation for the flan at Lydia's, the Queen of Flan on Acushnet Ave....I thought we'd see if they had pasteis de nata, which I figured would be a fitting ending for our Day of Meats...

TIL I SAW THE FLANS!!!!!!!!....Louis didn't begin to do them justice...He is, however, correct, in saying Lydia's alone is worth a trip to NB....This was the best dessert I have ever put in my mouth, and I'm not kidding. I chose a largish rectangle, 6" long, 2" wide, maybe 4" high. It looked to be flan on the top, and coconut on the bottom, and the very bottom, coconutty crust...But, ohhhhhhh, the dense, sweet chewy two inches of coconut, combined with the silkiest, sweetest, creamiest flan, leached thru with syrup was way more than that...To call it flan is JUST NOT RIGHT!!!!! I'm not a dessert person; two bites of TC's, and I'm usually done....But I kept going back, and back and back...I had to feel those textures combine in my mouth again and again, had to keep taking small bites to savor the flavor...A little old Portuguese man a few tables away was clearly enjoying this gringa enjoying her dessert...TC was fighting me for it, not that he didn't have his own, but his didn't have coconut....It was an orange-ish color, and i didn't realize til I re-read Louis' post afterward that the flavoring was a liqeuer; we were puzzling over the compexity of flavor, that would've definitely helped pinpoint it...And, including a bottle of water (too hot for a cappucino, or espresso that day, tho they did have them..) the grand total was $3.60...I was embarassed....

So, we'll be back...TC thought the flan was worth the drive, so now I've found a way to lure him to the Portuguese motherlode of New Bedford....I told him he hasta take me to New Bedford antiques, too, just to make the trip worthwhile!

Link: http://www.bistrodraw.com

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