Thursday, May 15, 2008

more Brazil trip pix

Cachaca at Academia da Cachaca in Leblon, Rio.

Bolinhos de bacalhao com azeite de olivo e limao accomapnied by a cold Skol on Barra beach.

Coxinha de galinha com catupiry at Confeiteria Colombo.

Lunch is served! Pao Paulista at Mercado Municipal.

Shoppers at the Mercado full of energy, mortadela, and bacalhao.

My Spring Break in Sao Paulo and Rio

Gostozando at Brasil a Gosto, Sao Paulo.Amazon fruit sauce on fish atop a manioc pure with a starfruit caipirinha.

Carne de Sol at Colher de Pau.

Comida Mineira lunch buffet.

Luscious Cuzcuz Paulista and bolinhos de camarao.

Bar do Mane's mortadela sandwich and a 600ml Bohemia.Can you say power lunch!

This was my 6th trip to Brazil in just a few years. My Paulista wife was home to visit family for a while and I met up with her for spring break for 9 days, 3 in Rio and 6 in Sao Paulo. But, my stay was all about the food and booze. Regional Brazilian cuisines , street food, markets, cachacas, choppes, caipirinhas, batidas, salgadinhos, wine, queijos, and cocos frios! I spent months researching the Veja online guide to Sampa and Rio, scoured the internet, compiled all my past dining information in Brazil, and set about looking for guide books and magazines about restaurants at the ubiquitous quiosques(news stands) in Brasil. The Guia Quatro Rodas is fantastic. I also bought the Veja Rio Comer e Beber 2007-2008 magazine and the Go Where Gastronomia magazine about the Sao Paulo restaurant scene.

I will attempt to list my hits chronologically and give an overview as I was walking, traveling by bus, and taking the subway all day and night just going to restaurants. I did a little tourist stuff in Rio, but again, this was about the incredible comida Brasileira.

Day 1 Sao Paulo
My wife picked me up at GRU and whisked me to the Praca da Republica for their weekend food and crafts fair. I went to a stand with comida Baiana, cooked by a real Baiana, and had my breakfast of acaraje com vatapa. And, to my delight, I spied a home-made cuzcuz Paulista! Too much acaraje, must come back. The booths had comida Baiana, yakisoba, pateis, salgados, doces, and there were guys selling beer and hits of cachaca from little carts.
After meeting a friend from LA out to hang with me for a few days we were off to the Mercado Municipal where we saw Bar do Mane(mortadela sandwich), Hocca Bar(pastel de bacalhao), amazon fruits, cheese from Minas Gerais, every animal part imaginable, salted bacalhao, smoked meats for feijoada, carne seca, fresh seafood, imported olive oils and cheeses, cachaca, pao Paulista, vegetables, and much more. But, my date with Bar do Mane and the Hocca Bar would have to wait. Oh, we also went back to Praca da Republica to take some pictures and I couldn’t resist, an empada de palmitos.
After cruising 25 de Marco and the street market, we headed to Jardims to Galeria dos Paes for some sweets. Galeria dos Paes is a great stop for desserts and salgdinhos, and is a weekend
destination for its breakfast buffet. After we scouted Jardims Paulista and walked around looking at restaurants, for which Jardims has the greatest concentration of serious eats.
Oh, did I mention that Brazilian pizza is amazing?Dinner this first night would be at Braz, located in Higienopolis. Braz is known as one of the best pizzerias in Sao Paulo, in a city that takes pizza very seriously. We ordered a pizza caprese which had a tomato, basil leaf, and disc of mozzarella cheese on each slice. The pao de calabrese, which reminded my friend Craig of the timpani in Big Night, was awesome. A footstool sized bread baked in a wood fired oven with calabrese inside of it, a house specialty. We also had the burrata cheese appetizer, a Portuguese pizza(ham, hard boiled eggs,onions, and black olives) and Bahia pizza, and the mother of all Brazilian pizzas, the pizza de catupiry(sinfully good Brazilian cheese). Brazilian pizza is not to be missed when traveling in Brazil.

Day 2 Rio
This day we stopped at Baby Lanches in Copa for sucos and salgadinhos, recommended by our driver. Intimate, and delicious location.
After Corcovado, Rocinha, Tijuca forest, Barra da Tijuca, and Sao Conrado, we lunched on heavenly cocos frios, bolinhos de bacalao, and Skol at Tia Augusta’s in Barra. Then, to Academia da Cachaca for a couple of fine “pingas” from Minas Gerais. Great traditional menu and an extensive selection of cachacas. Dinner was on the beach with my wife for frango em passarinho(deep fried chicken pieces), camarao, and batata frita, Brazilian boteco munchies.

Day 3 Rio
Went to Confeiteria Colombo after goin atop the Pao de Acucar, but not before a milho verde on the street. Milho verde is Brazil’s answer to the elote. Young corn buttered and served in its husk, sweet and fresh. At the Confeiteria Colombo in downtown we experienced one of the best coxinhas com catupiry ever! My wife also ordered pudim, pastel de belem, and a few other Brazilian sweets to die for. Beautiful and elegant, the Confeiteria Colombo was a highlight of our trip. My friend never had a feijoada completa so we took him to Casa da Feijoada, while not being the best feijoada, it is very good and a great place to start your feijoada education. We were pretty stuffed and full of caipirinhas after leaving CDF; we indulged before dinner as well with caipirinhas and bolinhos de aipim(mandioca). What a night.

Day 4 Rio-Sao Paulo
A carioca breakfast of cocos frios at Copa and and it was off to Sao Paulo. I arrived in Sampa in
the mid-afternoon and hung with my friend in the airport before his trip back to the states. For me, it only got better and better.

Sao Paulo Days 5-9
The rest of my time was spent on foot and by public transportation getting down to some serious eating.

Fine dining: I went to Brasil a Gosto and had the best meal of the trip. The starfruit caipirinha was divine and has become a regular indulgence of mine. The couvert had some sinfully good butters and a selection of fresh and wonderful rustic breads. I had fish in an amazonian fruit sauce with a puree of casava ornamented by little savory bites made of black eyed peas.Along with this pleasurable celebration of the river cuisines of Brasil, the restaurant's theme, I enjoyed a bottle of Devassa(Brazilian beer).Oh, and the chef herself came out and spoke with each diner.What a charming woman.My friend ordered chicken served with grilled hearts of palm and vegetables, the chefs favorite dish on the menu due to its tremendous flavor and simplicity

A local turned me on to the Nordeste cuisine of his hometown, so I found myself at Colher de Pau(Woodspoon!) for some carne de sul desfiada(shredded sun-dried meat cooked in butter, and purple onion), served with "baião de dois"(rice, green beans, onions, coriander and curdled cheese cooked in butter), "paçoca", (fried banana and manioc). The caipirinha of fresh maracuja was playful and sexy. It felt like an alcoholic boba drink with the passionfruit seeds thrown in.

Dinner at Tordesilhas, the traditional Brazilian restaurant named after the treaty that divided the world between Spain and Portugal. I ordered the casquinha de siri(crab) served in a shell, and the frango ao molho jabuticaba com pure de mandiocquinha e ervilhas tortas(chicken in jacaticaba sauce with parsnips puree and peas).Outstanding food and service. I concluded the evening at my favorite Lanchopperia, Os Bandeirantes on the corner of Alameda Jau and Rua Augusta for some libations and people watching. The vibe is great, so are the cairpirinhas, sucos, and the salgados.

Special foods:
I went back to the Mercado Municipal for the mortadela sandwich at Bar do Mane, established in 1933. The mortadela com pistache tipo Italiano is made by Cerrati(1932) from Sao Paulo state. I had it with tomatoes, lettuce, and melted cheese from Matto Grosso, awesome!! I washed down this monstrous sandwich with a 600ml Bohemia beer. All I could do was stare at the TV showing archival footage from 1979 of Bar do Mane patrons shoving the sandwiches in their faces while mugging for the camera, full of languid ecstasy from the formidable lunch. On another visit I had the pastel de bacalhao, a large triangular pastry made to order, stuffed with the Brazilian staple of salted cod. Anthony Bourdain missed this when he went to the Mercado, but this is the other famous food of the MM. Hocca Bar is to pasteis de bacalhao what Bar do Mane is to the mortadela sandwich. Of course, there are many other places to try both.

The sandwich de pernil(pulled pork traditional sandwich), which is served at many lanchonetes downtown was superb. They brought whole roasted legs of pork across the deli counter to the prep area where the pork was pulled right in front of your greedy eyes. The sandwich was huge, covered with fantastic Brazilian cheese, and was bursting with garlicky richness.

Cuzcuz Paulista looks nothing like couscous, it is so called because a couscous pan is used to shape the gelatinous medly of ingredients, but is a true Paulista delicacy. I went back to Praca da Republica to the other Baiana stand for bolinhos de camarao and the Cuzcuz Paulista. I had it another day lunching with a friend in Sao Paulo at an excellent por kilo with loads of Brazilian favorites. I love this dish.

Caldo de mocoto is a new hangover food my friend in Sao Paulo turned me on to after drinking way to many Skols one night. It is a pig’s foot soup, and at 4AM it was just what the doctor ordered, para os bebados.

Salgados: coxinhas, risoles, kibbes, empadas, efihas, bolinhos, pastries stuffed with everything good and yummy. And, the mother of all comfort foods, the empadao(Brazilian chicken pot pie). You have to eat these addicting comfort foods found everywhere in every city in Brasil. But, eating them at a lanchonete sipping a Brazilian beer, or a guarana is a virtue unto itself.

Pao Paulista-The picture speaks for itself.

My favorite churrascos in Sao Paulo: Fogo de Chao, Angelica Grill, Paulista Grill, Jardineira Grill. In Rio I’ve dined at Porcao. All were brilliant.

I explored the Italian food scene a little more this time having some rissotto at Alessandro Segato's.The man is an incredible chef and a real down to earth guy. I had been to Massimo before and othe upscale Italian restaurants in Sampa and have been amazed by the selection and artistry displayed in these fine establishments;the Italian food culture that exists in Sao Paulo eclipes anything we have here in the US.

I’m leaving out many stops and tastes, and places I couldn’t eat at because I was stuffed. I had a choppe at Bar Brahma, and at many places throughout Jardims, Itaim Bibi, Consolacao, Santa Tereza,Bela Vista, Centro, and my homebase in Pinheiros. These places are alive with Paulistas talking, smiling and laughing after work and into the wee hours, the botecos, chopperias, lanchontes, and bares.
Can’t wait ‘til the next trip to Brasil.

Monday, May 12, 2008

La Marquesa-Cabana Lupita

On the highway from D.F. to Toluca lies a culinary destination for those seeking Mexico state cuisine.La Marquesa is about 15 minutes north of Toluca and contains an ecolgical conservation center, the Insurgente Miguel Hidalgo National Park, and features rows of restaurants on either side of the road featuring very similar menus and foods. We were lucky to be turned on to this spot by our driver who happened to be a real foodie from Toluca.

The restaurant he brought us to was Cabana Lupita named after the daughter of the owner. The specialty of there restaurant was cecina. They also had conejo, sopa de medula, chorizo verde, flor de calabaza, huitlacoche, chapulines, gusanos de maguey, escamoles, cabrito,trucha, and so many other regional dishes Oh, did I mention las tortillas de mais azul made to order from mounds of masa?The restaurant is a stall in a stream of similar restaurants with a kitchen that takes up most of the space leaving only a little room for about ten tables circling the theatre of operation.The team of three cooks agreed to take our dollars, since the 8 of us would make their trip to the casa de cambio worth while, and we got to see them in action, amazing. They were so charming and were pointing out dishes for me to take pictures."Mira los escamoles, ven..." To eat food from cooks of such caliber that were just so happy to be sharing their food with you is not an experience one can come across everyday. I got there business card as I have received many from the finest restaurants in Mexico, hand written on the nearest piece of paper with their personal cell phone number on it. Que buena gente!

I started with the best escamoles I've ever tasted and then had the cecina completa with rice and dry, crispy, and savory refritos for my main.The cecina was unlike anything I've ever been presented here in LA in some of the Oaxacan restaurants. It was rich and flavorful not dry and salty as was my previous experiences. A couple bottles of Indio beer were incorporated to make this a dinner to remember.

You could spend a week trying the different restaurants located on this roadside center of alta cocina served by humble cooks and their simple venues. I will post some pix when I get a chance.

Culiacan report-Living and eating on the edge!

It was another interesting day at the office in Mexico. The rival cartel killed the son of “El Chapo”(Sinaloa Cartel) in a bazooka attack! Many have died in the past week in Sinaloa and other parts of Mexico. Needless to say my event was cancelled and a curfew was imposed on Culiacan. We found this out this as we landed in town and were told to stay indoors. This would deter some, but a true chowhound could never heed such advice.Culiacan is another favorite surf and turf state of mine being the king of cabreria and home to Sinaloa style seafood with fresh catch from the sea of Cortez. On previous trip I’ve had cabreria at Palomar de los Pobres, where the menu features Sinaloa cuts of steak accompanied by queso fundido, cebollas, guacamole, tortillas, and their complimentary frijoles. This place is very inexpensive and delicious. We also have dined at El Farallon, the upscale seafood restaurant featuring authentic mariscos estilo Sinaloense: exquisite callo de hacha, machaca de marlin, pulpo al ajillo, pescado saradeado, and camarones Costa Azul, to name a few. They have a tequila cart, too, with a fine selection of al types:blancos, reposados, and anejos.

This weekend what made going out well worth the risk was Mariscos Las Palmas, just a short walk from the Hotel Ejecutivo in downtown. Convoys of armored vehicles carrying masked Mexican soldiers whizzed by reminding us of the mayhem and credible dangers we faced in seeking our cena. Las Palmas is a very humble restaurant with neon poster paper listing specials that should have been on the menus years ago, but the locals need no such accommodations, and neither did we. While my coworkers, one from Mexicali and the other from Chihuahua, ordered campechanas, as they seem to do in every city in Mexico we find ourselves for work, but I chose more regionally. I cringed inside as they poured catsup on the callos!! My trio of seafood delights included a quesadilla of machaca de marlin to start, a molcajete, which is an aguachile served in a molcajete, and the filete Culichi. The molcajete, which was set upon by my campechana slurping friends, had raw shrimp, cooked shrimp, and lobino in aguachile. The lobino had the texture and flavor of the amazing callos of the Sea of Cortez. My filete Culichi, named after the people of Sinaloa, was a batter fried filete smothered in a cream of spinach sauce, crema de espinaca. This was so decadent. Along with 2 Pacificos, my bill came to $23, and the molcajete was huge. Another coworker from Sinaloa ordered callos and the filete encebollado, both superb choices from a culichi in the know. All dishes were made incendiary with the addition of salsa de chiltepin, and the Sinaloa special salsa of chiltepin with soy sauce. Las Palmas has a slammin' menu. I wanted to order so many more things like the ostion de mangle, mariscocos, or the camaron al coco, but I will have to get to these the next trip to Culiacan which will be soon.This was one of the best seafood experiences of my life. I highly recommend Las Palmas and coming to Sinaloa for some of the best mariscos and traditional food in Mexico. Next time I will be getting into some chilorio, as I didn’t have time this trip.