A few hours’ drive down the coast from Rio, more or less midway to São Paulo, is Paraty (also spelled Parati), one of Brazil’s greatest colonial treasures: a cluster of whitewashed villas on a bay dotted with paradise islands and backed by steaming jungle-clad mountains. Historically, Paraty was one of… Read More →
I was in the Brazilian Amazon not long ago and on my plate, stuck into a piece of decoration fruit, was this little, pea sized, yellow bean. I thought it was a piece of the fruit and poked the bean on my fork and put it into my mouth, chewed, and swallowed. It was fragrant, a little fruity, and then the earth shattered and my head exploded. Within seconds I was choking and tears were flowing out of my eyes. It took about ten minutes to recover. Seriously that hot. I had to ask the waitress how you were supposed to eat it. She explained that you just sort of squeeze it with your fork and get a tiny bit of the juice on it and then mix it in whatever you were eating to add some spice (in my case it was fish and rice).
Delta Airlines has made a $100 million minority stake in Brazilian domestic carrier GOL Lihnas, a move that further shakes up South America’s airline industry that is dominated by two recent mergers, LAN-TAM and TACA-Aviacna.
Last year, while enjoying chef Roland Villard’s incredible Amazônia Menu at Le Pré Catelan in Rio de Janeiro’s Sofitel hotel, I heard rumblings that the chef was working on a similar tasting menu comprising of the most common Brazilian ingredients: rice and beans. I just received word that the menu is now being served in the restaurant.
When I arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil I had been traveling for approximately 22 hours. Many of those hours I was rushing to catch a train, to catch a flight, and to catch another flight. I dropped my bags off at my hotel, the Marina All Suites in Leblon, and went straight to the Hotel Fasano’s Al Mare restaurant in Ipanema to begin my first lesson in Brazilian cachaça with Leblon rep Eliana Pessanha.
Until a recent trip to Rio de Janeiro I thought Alex Atala at D.O.M. in São Paulo was the only chef diving head first into Amazonian ingredients in Brazil. I was wrong. Another chef, Roland Villard, at Rio’s Le Pré Catelan inside the Hotel Sofitel on Copacabana Beach, is just as intimate with these exotic ingredients. If not, more so. The French chef, serves an 11 Course Amazonian Tasting Menu that ranks among the best meals I have ever had the pleasure of eating.
On a recent night in Rio de Janeiro I went to the restaurant Carlota without a reservation. There were people milling around outside and when I asked the waitress if there was a table, she replied with a wait time that was well beyond my hunger limit. Carlota would have to wait. I wandered around the Leblon neighborhood looking for somewhere simple. The neon light Koni store appeared before me like a mirage in the desert.
A giant black door that must be at least 15 feet high separates the outside world from the wild jungle inside. This is D.O.M., Brazilian chef Alex Atala’s signature restaurant and is included on San Pellegrino’s list of the World’s Top 50 restaurants. Many would say it belongs in the top ten. Atala, a one time DJ, was trained in classical French cuisine, though he no longer serves foie gras and truffles on his menu. He serves strictly Brazilian food, the flavors of his youth, though he has reinvented them masterfully.
Brasil a Gosto, on a quiet tree lined street in São Paulo’s Jardins neighborhood, is one of those restaurants that teaches you as much as it feeds you. The restaurant was in fact founded after the chef Ana Luiza Trajano searched 47 different Brazilian cities across the country to complete an inventory of regional ingredients and recipes and then wrote a book, the same name as the restaurant, about it. Trajano takes many of those recipes, many of them usually found in dirt rooms shacks and market stalls, and presents modern interpretations in a contemporary dining room with high quality ingredients.
Brazil’s traffic clogged city of 20 million is one of the best restaurant cities in Latin America and it also has one of the best public markets. The 135,000-square-foot Mercado Municipal Paulistano near estación São Bento, was built in the 1930’s and recently renovated, is my number one choice for a meal downtown.