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FOOD

It’s Fall River v. New Bedford in a monthlong Portuguese pastry throwdown

The sister cities are engaging in a friendly food fight to see which spot has the best egg tart.

A box of pasteis de nata in Fall River. A monthlong contest aims to determine whether Fall River or New Bedford makes the better egg tart.New Bedford Food Tours

They’re sister cities known for their Portuguese culture and food — and now they’re engaging in some friendly sibling rivalry to see which has the best tart.

Starting Feb. 1, it’s Fall River vs. New Bedford in a friendly “Pastéis de Nata Throw-down.”

In a collaborative effort to increase tourism and help restaurants during a typically slow month, New Bedford Food Tours, Destination New Bedford, and Viva Fall River are cohosting the monthlong culinary contest.

For the uninitiated, a pastel de nata is a traditional Portuguese egg custard — a ring of flaky pastry filled with a bright yellow custard, often a bit caramelized on top, sometimes topped with cinnamon. The name means “cream pastry” in Portuguese.

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Nine vie for “The Golden Nata” trophy: Six from Spindle City (Fall River) — Europa Pastries & Coffee Shop, Barcelos Bakery, Portugalia Marketplace, Modern Bakery, Leddy’s Bakery, United Liberty Bakery — and three from Whaling City (New Bedford) — Goulart Square Bakery, Economy Bakery, and Sunrise Bakery.

Voters can also write in their favorite Southcoast spot, said Patti Rego, executive director of Viva Fall River. “You can even write in your grandmother’s name,” Rego said. “We are here to find the best one.”

Whether you plan to vote for Avó or your favorite hole-in-the-wall, here’s everything you need to know.

What’s a pastel a nata?

Egg yolks are a key ingredient in the treats sometimes called “pastéis de Belém” after the area of Lisbon from which they derived. Today, Pastéis de Belém, a Lisbon bakery, is the source if you want to taste the original. According to Pastéis de Belém’s website, they’ve been making the pastries since 1837, “following an ancient recipe” from the Jerónimos Monastery.

Why a throw down?

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The contest is the brainchild of New Bedford Food Tours. Rego — who is “almost 100 percent Azorean Portuguese. I almost bleed egg tart” — loved the idea.

“We’re trying to create a sense of regionalism [and show] what the Southcoast has to offer,” Rego said. “I’m big on culinary cultural tourism.” Foodies who come for the sweets might “discover all the other amazing things we have.”

Why pasteis de nata?

It’s a relatively inexpensive food that both cities have in plenty.

Voting on Portuguese steaks, for example, would cost time and a full meal, whereas, “if you wanted to do this whole tour in one day — you could get a bunch of nata, and have a nata party at home,” she said.

How does voting work?

Two options. The first one is that from Feb. 1-28, participants can simply go online and vote for their favorite spot at nbfoodtours.com/throwdown.

Or, at participating bakeries (and other areas around the city listed on the website), participants can find a self-addressed throw-down postcard, with a square for each bakery. You don’t need a fully-stamped card to vote, but fully-stamped cards will go in a drawing. The winner of the drawing will be treated to a New Bedford Food Tour and a $50 gift card to Viva Fall River’s Pop-up Shop, which has regionally-made gifts.

Rego says they’d prefer one vote per person. The winner will be announced in early March, she said, with a ceremony taking place afterward.

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WHAT ELSE SHOULD I TRY?

If you’re making the drive, you might as well stay for more than pastry.

Rego recommends a galao, espresso with foamed milk; biscoitos (Portuguese dunking biscuits); and, of course, papo secos (Portuguese bread.)

“A must-stop whether you’re coming for the natas or not is Portugalia Marketplace,” Rego said. Find anything from São Jorge Lourais Cheese to Campos Santos Portuguese Green Olives, and plenty of bacalhau, beer, and wine — and yes, pasteis de nata.

Rego suggested a breakfast sandwich from their onsite cafe, Ponto de Encontro: Papo secos with manteiga and São Jorge cheese — Portuguese bread, butter, and cheese. (“That’s my go-to.”)

The Fall River native buys her bread at Cunha Bakery in Fall River: “It’s not in the contest because they only make Portuguese bread. It’s a tiny little hole in the wall, but those are the hidden gems.”

Rego loves Europa Pastries Coffee Shop, which offers everything from Italian rice balls to Portuguese kale soup. “They embrace the idea of a European cafe — light-bites, and beverages linked to different areas of Europe.”

For more information, visit nbfoodtours.com/throwdown.

Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurendaley1.


Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurendaley1.