LAGOA DESSERT FESTIVAL 2018 | Algarvian.Life reviews Monstra de Doce Conventual | article by Mel Ve
Upon arriving in the Algarve last summer, I was immediately blown away by the amazing attention that the Portuguese culture give to sweet treats. In fact, my immense travels and culinary experience has always left me feeling that the dessert course of a meal, is somewhat of an after thought for the majority of establishments in the hospitality industry, but dessert is indeed my favourite part of the meal. The growing popularity of patisseries and dessert bars have begun to fill that gap in the sweet food offering. Having somewhat of a sweet tooth, and a love for baking and dessert making, I was overjoyed to when I was first taken to the Lagoa Dessert Festival, which is held in the local convent.
This annual festival which happens in Lagoa in the Algarve, is called MONSTRA DE DOCE CONVENTUAL. At this event, several of the region’s top dessert makers come to show and sell their dreamy sweet creations. My first experience at this year’s event, was trying to purchase well priced Sangria for only 1 euro a cup. Unfortunately I only had a large note, and the lady selling Sangria did not have enough change, so she gave me the Sangria and trusted that I would come back later to pay. This is the typically warm and friendly experience one can expect in the Algarve, as people here are very chilled out, accommodating and trusting.
As usual, Lagoa Municipality did a fantastic job in co-ordinating this event, as there was great entertainment on all fronts. In one corner was an area where kids could indulge in the experience of creating desserts, which I thought was a lovely touch, and really shows attention to all age groups. On the outside of the Convent was a wide variety of vendors selling all sorts of wonderful goodies, including my very favourite, Ginja cherry liqueur in chocolate cups.
One thing you will notice from the very get go of exploring Portuguese desserts, is just how much egg is involved. Many desserts have an egg yolk base, and this was a practice and tradition that started with the nuns of the Roman Catholic Church. The nuns used to use the egg whites to stiffen their bonnets, in much the same way as we would use starch in our laundry today for stiffening collars. This resulted in large amounts of egg yolk being left over, hence the invention of the typical Portuguese baked egg and cream tart known as Pastel de Nata, which translates to Cream Pastry. Indeed, it is almost impossible to find a coffee shop or supermarket that does not have a decent supply of Pastel de Nata, which is traditionally served with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, and goes down well with a double espresso. The mere fact that this festival is held in and around a convent, it a tribute to the origins of these desserts being with nuns of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, there were several nuns serving desserts to those eager to sample.
At this year’s MONSTRA DE DOCE CONVENTUAL, I tried an interesting spectrum of egg based desserts. The first dessert offering I instinctually gravitated towards was a meringue roulade dessert, reminiscent of what the Portuguese call Molotoff, which is made of course with egg white and sugar. This roulade was filled with custard and topped with shredded sweet egg yolk.
In the end, it was the baked egg mousse that won my heart. Funny enough I had found the exact same dessert last year to be my favourite. This egg mousse dessert came in blonde and chocolate, and was baked in paper sheet, roughly folded, and presented in elegant gold trimmed boxes. I loved this dessert the most last year, and this modestly presented dessert treat was yet again, just my favourite. This dessert reminds of of a French Souffle, with the same bubble and lightness, yet deliciously decadent, as the dessert literally melts in your mouth.
Lagoa Municipality put on some amazing events over the summer months, and MONSTRA DE DOCE CONVENTUAL 2018 is one that I really recommend. It suits all ages, and is a great place to head after dinner if you truly want a to choose your dessert from a wide variety of choices, all accompanies with live performances and festivities.