One night in Rio we climbed the winding roads of Santa Teresa to Térèze Restaurant (inside Santa Teresa Hotel, Relais & Chateaux)(Rua Almirante Alexandrino, 660). Thankfully, our guide and friend in Rio, Gionia Belmonte, was able to get us a reservation on short notice, despite the restaurant’s local – and international – popularity. (More on Gionia and Rio CVB later…amazing people!). Chef Damien Montecer (from Gordon Ramsay, Alain Ducasse and Garcia & Rodriguez) is known by many for his Franco-Brazilian style cooking.
Of the more stand-out dishes:
Pupunhas: slow cooked fresh palm heart with crunchy cured cheese and sugarcane dressing
Moquecca Risotta: grilled tiger prawns flamed with Magnificia cachaça, colored peppers in palm oil, ginger, coconut and coriander risotto
Rio-London-Paris: cooked dulce de leche roll, crumble, served with a peach sorbet
On Saturday night in Salvador, we ate dinner at Yemanjá (Av. Octavio Mangabeira 4655, Jardim Armacao) for a traditional Bahaian taste.
Caju (Cashew Fruit), Passion Fruit and Kiwi Caipirinhas to wet the palate.
Casquinha de Siri – traditional Brazilian dish made with crab meat. We tried this dish a few times here in Salvador, Bahia (where the recipe is said to have originated) and noted that it’s always served in a crab shell-like porcelain dish.
Camarão ao Molho de Maracuja (shrimp with passion fruit sauce) served with rice and raisins. Heavy and sweet; another traditional favorite. (Rice and farofa in the background for the Moqueca)
Moqueca Mista made with Pescada Amarela (Brazilian yellow fish) served with white rice and a classic side of Pirão (essentially a fish ‘gravy’ made from fish broth and cassava flour). The Moqueca broth was served bubbling and all of the ingredients were totally submerged with the exception of some floating red tomatoes. So far throughout our trip every Moqueca (and feijoada) we’ve tasted has been served in a beautiful, traditional ‘Panela do Barro’ (handmade clay pot). It’s a very rustic look and it perfectly suits these hearty dishes.
In Salvador we ate at a well-known, traditional Brazilian restaurant called Yemanjá. But before I take you there – here’s a little bit on the goddess it’s named after (from our conversations with the locals and a some extra online research)…
Yemanjá is a famous goddess in Brazilian religions – both Candomblé and Umbanda. As the Goddess of the Ocean, she’s the patron deity of the fishermen. She’s honored across the country on different dates depending on location….
In Salvador, Bahia (where we visited early this week) – Yemanjá is celebrated with huge feasts every February 2nd and December 8th. On February 2nd – thousands of people awake in the morning to leave gifts of flowers, perfume, jewelry and make up at her shrine in Rio Vermelho (where we stayed). These offerings are then gathered and taken out to the sea by local fisherman. Throughout the day mediums, (maes and filhas de santa) chant and dance to call the spirit of Yemanjá. At night, there’s a huge street party in her honor. The second tribute in Salvador, the Gift to Yemanja, occurs on December 8 in the Pedra Furada, Monte Serrat with similar festivities.
Back in Rio, Yemanja is honored on New Year’s Eve (Révellion, which we also celebrate at Sushi Samba) when millions of people dress in white and gather along the beach to toss white flowers to the sea in her honor and then watch the fireworks. Some people even send her gifts out to see in tiny wooden boats to pay their respect with the hope that she will fulfill their wishes in the coming year.
And, in Sao Paulo – she’s celebrated the first two weekends of December on the shores of Praia Grande. Since Sao Paulo City is land-locked, many people decorate their cars with her image and colors and drive miles to Praia Grande beach to cast their offerings out to sea.
Since we weren’t able to see it for ourselves – here’s a beautiful photo-documentary of it by artist Baden Powell – taken this year:
If you’re not drinking a caipirinha in Brazil – then you’re drinking cerveja.
Brazil is the fourth largest beer market in the world. The country’s introduction to beer is said to have been made in the nineteenth century when the Germans were immigrating, which, by comparison to many other countries was a ‘late start’ for beer drinking…. but they’ve certainly made up for it since.
A few things to know: There’s ‘cerveja’ – which means ‘beer’ but primarily refers to bottles or cans. Then, there’s ‘chopp’ which refers to draft beer. If you order beer as a group in a restaurant you’ll receive one large garrafa (1 liter) in a plastic koozie. If you order beer independently of everyone at your table, you’ll receive a single, 12oz bottle. Either way, beer is served bem gelada – very cold. And, either way, if you order one that means you’ll be getting TWO to the table. They always present a second garrafa on ice as a convenient upsell… just an arms-length away when you finish your first. It worked like a charm, every time.
Most of Brazilian beer is pale lager, really light and have a sweeter aroma and taste. We tried Xingu, Brahma, Skol, Antarctica, and Kaiser. I’m personally a big fan of Brahma – which also happens to be a global favorite, ranking third. Next up – we’re hoping to try Bohemia Escuro which we’ve heard is a higher quality, darker variety.
One of our favorite stops in Rio was Bar do Mineiro in Santa Teresa (R.R. Paschoal Carlos Magno, 99). From outside it’s a welcoming, well-lit haven on the hilly streets of Santa Teresa. Inside under intense fluorescent lights everything (the tables, people, old photograph portraits and posters, and the mosaics and knickknacks that line the white tiled walls) is honest and down to earth.
Food-wise – Bar do Mineiro is a local favorite for its feijoada pastels and ginger caipirinhas. We also tried Trouxinha de Minas (from the list of Novidades da Casa) which were made with carne seca desfiada, mussarela e aipim and served with molho de laranja apimentado. These were a spot on pairing with the strength of the caipirinhas – and great for sharing.
Caipirinha Trio: Ginger, Passion Fruit, Traditional
In Rio we paid a visit to Academia da Cachaça in Leblon (Rua Conde Bernadotte 26) where they offer over 100 different types of cachacas by the bottle – and as a result – a wide variety of caipirinhas.
Koji went with the Cocada Geladinha – a cocktail of fresh coconut, cachaca, coconut water and fig marmalade served in a wine glass – while Mere tried the Cachaca Cristalina, made with sweet lime, lemon, passion fruit and jabuticaba served in a small, straight water glass with a salt rim. [Side note: jabuticaba is pretty much the equal of the American grape – but with a deep plum/black skin and white/rose-colored flesh… we’ll post a photo of the fresh version from the market soon] I went with a ‘traditional’ caipirinha so that we had a foundation for comparison and we paired everything with bar snacks like Bolinha de Carne and Bolinha de Queijo (fried meat and cheese balls), Bolinho de Mandioca (fried manioc and cheese rolls), Inhame Crocante (crispy yam chips). All of us remarked at the strength of cocktails in Brazil, where cachaca flows like water and nobody minds the sharp citrus burn down the back of their throats. While we sipped out drinks slowly – the locals at the table next to us had already finished their second round. It’ll take some getting used to – but we’re up for the challenge.
Here’s a list of some of the Academia’s local cachaças:
SC – Armazém Vieira SC – Warehouse Vieira
GO – Atitude GO – Attitude
RS – Casa Bucco RS – House Bucco
CE – Chave de Ouro EC – Gold Key
MG – Lua Cheia MG – Full Moon
RJ – Magnífica RJ – Magnificent
RJ – Santa Rosa RJ – Santa Rosa
ES – Santa Terezinha ES – Santa Terezinha
PB – Serra Limpa PB – Clear Mountain