The triggerfish

I have just returned from a relaxing vacation on the Azores, the beautiful green Portuguese archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. One night, my wife and I went for dinner at a small seafood restaurant on Faial island.

When we asked for the menu card, the young waiter told us: “My father-in-law went out fishing this afternoon. What about trying his catch of the day? Have you ever tasted triggerfish?”

Then he started talking about local fishing practices. So we learned that Azorean coastal fishery is still mostly artisanal and carried out by family crews, with 90% of the boats less than 15m long.

And finally, he dug up a small book, the “Consumer’s Guide to Azorean Seafood,”  that visualized the local fish species and provided us with some welcome information about the fresh peixe-porco or grey triggerfish on offer. On each page of the guidebook there was also a colored icon, that labeled the endangered species with a red fish and the sustainable-to-eat ones with a green one.


As you may expect (otherwise I wouldn’t bother writing this blog post), we ended up ordering triggerfish fillets for two. Of course combined with a nice glass of local Frei Gigante wine. Let me tell you that this was the freshest and most tasty seafood dish I have eaten in years (and the green icon in the book assured us that local stocks appear to be healthy.)

And while we were enjoying our meal, we noticed that the waiter repeated the same process with all new customers that entered the restaurant — probably until there was no peixe-porco left to recommend.

Our experience in the fish restaurant was yet another proof point of the power of a good story. By introducing us to the catch of the day, and visually documenting it with the guidebook, our restaurant host truly created a win-win-win situation for his business, for his father-in-law’s, and a for couple of hungry Belgian tourists too.

Yes, went back to the same place the following night. For more peixe do dia.