Brazil trip #2

This is late entry but I still wanted to post it!


The first time we visited Brazil, I prepped by watching Anthony Bourdain’s Sao Paulo episode. He went to the Mercado Municipal which he deemed his favorite market! The Paulistas all say to try the Mortadella sandwich. Unfortunately, the first time we went, the market was closed! I was so sad.  This time, I asked all of the locals I met so far (including hotel staff) if the market would be open today (Sunday, July 11th). Everyone said “ehhhh, not sure…but it is open Mondays through Saturdays.” Our driver said that he’d pass by the market to see if it was open. Lo and behold, it was open! I would’ve been so sad if I didn’t get a chance to check out the market this time around! I’m so glad I went, there were so many tropical fruits there including passion fruit, mangosteens, cherimoya, soursop, mangos, strawberries, etc…it all smelled so wonderful!

What does mortadella taste like?  It reminded me of thinly sliced bologna meat that is cooked till crispy over a griddle.  Is it amazing?  I think the fact that it had soft bread, ooey gooey cheese, and the fact that I was in the realm of the Mercado made it a tasty sandwich.


Rio day 2

Unfortunately we woke up to more rain! We called the concierge about our tour and it was cancelled. The two must see things are sugar loaf and Christ the redeemer statue. It rained so much where the roads were not in good condition to drive up. From our hotel room you can see both IF the weather is friendly!

Instead we decided to check out the neighborhood called leblon. This area seemed like where the ballers shopped! There was a louis vuitton, h. Stern, and other luxury brands. We then headed to confeitaria Colombo, one of the best cafes in the world! It was full of mirrors and looked so antique!

We also went to the saleron steps in Santa Teresa. A Chilean artist started making tiles to decorate the steps 20 years ago. 250 steps later he gave rio a beautiful set of steps for people to admire. I’m so glad we saw this because it was so unique to brazil! I loved how the stairs were so colorful, the way I see brazillian culture.

Then we headed to the highest point in Santa Teresa at a restaurant called Aprazivel. What a gorgeous view of Santa Teresa! I loved how the restaurant was built along the mountain and had trees all over growing within it, as if the mountain grew a restaurant. We got there just in time to enjoy the sunset and see the city sparkle!

The food was awesome too! I really liked our salad. It was simply made, baby greens, sundried tomatoes, sliced grilled zuchinni, sliced grilled eggplants, thinnly sliced grilled yellow peppers, Parmesan drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegreatte! Simple is the best way to go!

My tilapia dish was perfectly cooked. The okra was so good! They were young okra and every bite was perfectly crunchy and seasoned lightly.

Afterwards we decided to check out Barra shopping, Rio’s largest shopping mall. At 9pm the mall was packed! Considering all of the taxes that are imposed on products made outside of Brazil, Brazil’s economy seems to be booming! The interesting food thing we noticed was that everyone had a cupcake box. We finally found the cupcake stand and it was so busy. The scary part about these cupcakes was how much frosting was on each cupcake! I’m talking about frosting that was two times taller than the cupcake itself!

All in all, we got to enjoy our first full day in Rio despite the rain!

Rio – first impressions

We used one of Brazil’s airlines, TAM airlines. Rio is a 50 minute flight from Sao Paulo. The nice thing about flying outside of the US is that they dont have liquid rules (at least not in Peru, Argentina and Brazil). We didn’t understand anything that was said at the airport but knew that our gate changed based on the monitors. Once we boarded and reached our seats, we saw that someone was sitting in our seats. For some reason bc the gate changed and the flight was “late” by ten minutes, the airline allowed free seating, interesting!!!

Mind you, the flight was 50 minutes. I decided to take a nap and when we reached cruising altitude, I thought I heard the flight attendant say something about pizza and quejo (cheese). Wait, 50 minute flight with food?! That’s totally unheard of in the states! Lo and behold we are served a nicely packaged slice of cheese pizza and drinks! Whoa!

We see Rio and it looks stunningly green with plenty of tall buildings (most likely hotels). Once we got on our taxi it was completely dark out by 6pm!

We checked into our hotel and an older fellow is also in the elevator. He asked us where we were from and I said the US. He said, “I’m from Uruguay, we are number four in the world.” Awww isn’t that great how proud he is?!

We ate at a restaurant called Carlota based on reviews I found on chowhound. I’ll write about the food in another post!

One sad thing to note – it’s been raining cats and dogs in Brazil! I hope the rain will subside for the weekend. As one passenger told us, “think positive!”.

Ahh Brazil, I love the innocence and how helpful everyone is!

Day 4 in Sao Paulo

My second trip to SP! It’s winter here but the winters are more like a socal winter, where it only gets cold for a few days.

Interesting observations:
-The FIFA cup ended on Sunday, the day we arrived. When watching the sports news, they’ll show how the country reacts to the teams that come back home. Teams like Uruguay and Argentina have tons of fans waiting for them at the airport greeting them like heroes. In Brazil, this didn’t happen. What I gathered from the Paulistas is that the coach sucked. The coach played soccer years ago and did not have experience as a coach. Therefore the team would’ve been lucky if they won. Such a stark opinion from the US opinion, where Brazil was considered one of the highly favored teams! The coach was fired.

-The presidential campaign is under way. Lula, Brazil’s president since 2003, has someone that’s worked for him for many years running as a candidate. The Paulistas that I’ve met hope that whoever is president will spend time investing more in the country. As in, the country needs to update its communications channels…whether by train, airplane, or car. You see, traffic in SP is horrendous. It’s worse than any traffic I’ve ever been in the states (the worst traffic I’ve ever dealt with was trying to go home at 3:30pm the day before Thanksgiving!). Brazil grew so fast that its highway system did not catch up. Considering that the FIFA cup will be in Brazil in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in Rio in 2016, I hope things will improve for the better. It would be great to see how much Brazil advances from now until 2014!

-The language barrier is a bit frustrating. Since SP is not a touristy city, not a lot of locals speak English. I know enough Spanish to get around and I use it frequently. Paulistas understand ME but they communicate back to me in Portuguese. I can’t understand THEM! 😦 Luckily Portuguese and Spanish are of Latin origin, so there are similar words, i.e. Good morning is “buenos días” in Spanish, and “bom dia” in Portuguese. Likewise, I learned some Italian and know it’s “buongiorno” in Italian!

Food facts:
-Feijoada is made on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Different parts of the pig are cooked with beans slowly for a long time, so they only make it twice a week!

-Paulistas favor drinking beer, aka “chop,” over other alcohol.

-Pao do queijo, is EVERYWHERE

Brazil and Argentina are definitely my favorite countries in South America, hands down!!!

Brazilian dessert – Creme de papaia

I forgot to mention creme de papaia, another common dessert in Brazil. It’s made with fresh papayas blended with vanilla ice cream. You can also add a bit of creme de cassis, which tastes like a sweet rum. A nice refreshing dessert!

Here’s a photo! You’ll also see one of the individual receipts that the restaurant provided to each patron, so convenient!

São Paulo – mall, shoes, and feijoada

American songs cycled on the radio
-Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams”
-Lady Gaga “Paparazzi”

Day 8
Going to the mall. Alone. This is not a new concept for me. Though, we’ve been forewarned by the office that one should not walk by themselves here. It’s not like I did much walking around the hotel. I took five steps outside of the hotel lobby, asked the valet to hail me a private car, and off I went. I entered the mall, did my thing, and asked the mall concierge to hail me a taxi. Done and done.

I was on a hunt for shoes. Havaianas and Melissa originate from Brazil. The first has made its way to the states and are quite popular, like reefs and rainbow sandals. The second brand are available through certain retailers. I learned about Melissa because I love Simone Legno’s tokidoki design. Tokidoki and Melissa collaborated in early 2009 with their own creation. Around SP I saw many girls wearing cute patent looking shoes and they turned out that they were Melissa. So I asked one of the girls about the shoes and she started gushing over them. How interesting! Being of Brazilian origin, these shoes cost half the price compared to the US. Such a coincidence with the timing… had a sale on these this week!

Day 10
We had feijoada, a Portuguese dish that is typical Brazilian food. Per one of the locals, the dish originated from slaves. The owners would discard the “undesirable” parts of the pig and the slaves would make a stew out of these parts. The stew would cook in the cauldron all day and whenever the slaves were done they would have a warm food awaiting them. The components that make up feijoada include rice, beans and the stew. At this particular restaurant they had 8 different stews cooking, each having a different part of the pig. This included feet, tongue, ears, two types of sausage, and pork. I decided on the two types of pork, feet, and ear. I also included rice, beans, lime, greens and some pepper for kick. It was good! I was a bit disappointed by the feet because I got mostly bone. I think most of the meat from the feet was at the bottom of the pot. Sorry I don’t have pics of this but I think it’s fairly easy to visualize! 🙂

So what’s the difference between Sao Paulo and Rio? When you ask the Paulistas you get an interesting answer. Rio is known as the party place and folks from Sao Paulo are known as the hard working rich folks.

And this is my last night in Sao Paulo before heading back home. I’ll be back in Brazil in July and I hope to check out Rio!! Next up, India in a few weeks!

More food from São Paulo

Juices tried –
1. Melancia – watermelon
2. Morango – strawberry
3. Orange, Pineapple and Mango
4. Caja – like a less tart mango
5. Maracujá – passion fruit
6. Framboesa – raspberry
7. Limon – lime
8. Strawberry and bananas
9. Uva – grape
10. Laranja – orange

The bananas here are half the size of the bananas in the states. I think these are the tropical ones because I’ve had these at southeast asian markets too. They are more dense than the U.S. bananas. The office has the little bananas in the breakroom. It’s so awesome how much fruit I’ve eaten here!

Pao de Queijo – Brazilian cheese puffs. O.M.G. These things are addicting. They are like…CHEESE with some bread in it. I do not kid. They are about 2 inches in diameter. Eating these warm are the best. I limit myself to two a day. These things are devilishly good.

São Paulo – the weekend continued

The plan:
-Zoo to see the “House of Cold Blooded Creatures” bc Fodor’s Rio & Sao Paulo guide recommended it
-Mercado Municipal to check out the produce, meats, and Bar do Mane for the sanduiche de mortadela
-Liberdade, the Japanese community that has an Asian food and crafts fair every Sunday

What actually happened:
R$ 12 for parking, R$14/person for admission into the Zoo. We headed to the House of Cold Blooded Creatures and was thoroughly disappointed. I was expecting to see snakes, instead we see sad little glass boxes where the small reptiles lived in. Oh, so sad. BTW, Muffin tops are prevalent in the zoo. Females just don’t care about showing off their muffin top midriff!

Headed over to the Mercado Municipal around 1:30pm. Throughout the city, there were guys who stoodd around the sidewalk curb and waved at you to park in their spot. For R$ 2, they would watch your parked car. It’s illegal but everyone does it! Anyway, the market was closed!! No one in the office mentioned this! I was quite sad…I wanted to see all of the tropical fruits like dragon fruit, lychee, passion fruit, etc…

As we walked back to our car, we saw someone else with a guide book walking towards the market. We told him that the market was closed and he said uhh, now what? He was also from the states and asked us if he could come along with us, sure why not? It turned out that he recently quit his job, got accepted to b-school and decided to backpack around the world for 6 months…today was his first day! How exciting for him!

We drove to Liberdade.
Sao Paulo has a diverse population which includes Japanese, Korean, Chinese and apparently Vietnamese! Every Sunday this area has an Asian food and crafts fair. Thankfully it was open! Finally, FOOD! There were stands of different foods, how exciting! I noticed everyone had sticks with shrimp on it. We all got the shrimp stick. The shrimp sticks sat in a glass display case, different sized shrimp for different prices. They were grilled with butter and the skin on. Butter, grill and shrimp, is always a good combination, right?

There was also a suco stand! Oh man, you know I’m on that. We get the suco do caja. Caja tasted like a less tart version of a Mexican mango. Delish. Liberdad was a success.

After Liberdade we headed to Estação Luz. One of the paulistas told me that this is where Sao Paulo first had lights! It’s now a train station and it appears to be the trains that take you outside of the city. It reminds me of Union Station in LA.

We had a few hours left to kill and checked out a coffee place. Santo Grão is located in Jardins. Without knowing we found ourselves in the gem of the city. This area was definitely where the high rollers went. I was excited because I identified one of the restaurants that I wanted to try while in Sao Paulo, Dalva e Dito. Chef Alex Atala opened Dalva e Dito last year. This is his second restaurant, his first being D.O.M. Unfortunately D.O.M is closed for this month (hopefully we can check it out in July!). D.O.M. put Chef Atala on the Sao Paulo map of “it” restaurants because he embraces the Brazilian ingredients but pimps it out. Dalva e Dito is like Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc, where Chef Atala focuses on typical Brazilian dishes. It wasn’t open at the time but I’m itching to try both of these places! Ok, totally sidetracked, back to Santa Grão . Parked outside of Santo Grão were luxury cars like Porsches and Maserati. Wherever the money is you’re guaranteed to see gorgeous women and indeed we did. My goodness, I know why so many super models are Brazillian. I felt so inadequate and in awe at all of the natural beauties. The older women reminded me of OC Cougars without all of the surgery! Again I have suco…which has mango, orange and pineapple. What a great way to end the day, with fresh fruit and people watching.

OK, I didn’t end the day with that suco. I ended it with suco de melon, honeydew juice. As mentioned before, most juices are filtered so the seeds/pulp are removed. In this case honeydew should not be filtered…you’re left with not much honeydew flavor and more water. From the photo below, you can tell how watery it is!

São Paulo – the weekend

We decided to take a road trip to Campos do Jordão. It’s mainly a place where Paulistas go to for winter vacation around July. There is a strong Swiss influence in the buildings. It took about two hours to get there and it was pouring rain! At certain points we couldn’t even see the car that was literally one car ahead of us. As we drove up the mountain we were thinking, whoa, we’re driving into the lighting and thunderstorms. We stopped at a restaurant that had a berry farm, Baronesa Von Leithner Bistro. While eating at the restaurant, we saw lightning, heard thunder and the restaurant had periodic blackouts! It was pretty trippy. Loving my fruit juice experience thus far, I ordered the suco do framboesa (raspberry juice). I also had broiled steak that was on top of finger potatoes, onions and strips of ham (think strips of spam). There wasn’t anything special about the vegetables but the steak was prepared medium rare, the way I like it! The suco do framboesa was memorable, it was like drinking one of those pastries filled with raspberries…or raspberry jelly…yum!

We didn’t really drive around because it was raining too hard and decided to go back. On the way down the mountain we approached a sign that says “Vista Chinesa” that turned out to be a scenic view point. We got out of the car and there were these creatures. Like a hybrid of lemurs and raccoons. What the heck were they?! They saw me take out my slr and thought it was food and started coming towards me! Oh how creepy!! I’m thinking maybe these are rain forest/mountain creatures! If anyone knows these animals, please let me know!

Before I forget, I had strawberry juice on Friday. It had seeds, I suppose it’s harder to filter strawberry seeds vs watermelon seeds. It didn’t taste as good as watermelon juice. Imagine eating only the white part of the strawberry with a little bit of the sweet red part!

São Paulo, Brazil

Day 5 of my trip.

-The food is great.  I love how there are so many fresh fruit juices here!  For example, I’ve had fresh watermelon juice every morning!  Unlike the watermelon juice at home the watermelon is fresh, not frozen.  They blend the fruit, then they run it through a sieve to get rid of pulp and seeds!  I’m not a fan of OJ with pulp.  When I had watermelon juice in Mexico City, they just blended the entire fruit and didn’t filter it.  YUCK to that.  I’ve also had acai, strawberry and lime juice.
-I had my first caipirinha on Monday.  I had it with cachaca, fresh cut watermelon, pineapple and mango.  Wowsa that baby was strong.  It reminds me of a mojito.
-It’s so nice eating lunch in a group here!  When the waiter takes your order, they give you your OWN bill (or a electronic device).  When you are finished eating, you take your own bill to the cashier and pay.  You don’t have to deal with splitting the bill, people forgeting cash, etc.  It’s wonderful!  Why doesn’t the US have this??
-We also ate at Fogo de Chao.  My first time was at the one in Beverly Hills in ’05.  Same setting and all, except São Paulo’s had more interesting beef choices.  Like morcilla, ox tail, knuckles, etc.  I don’t remember the BH one having these?  I wanted to eat the ox tail and knuckles, but my mgr said, “Stop eating, I can’t stand watching you eat anymore.”

Other observations
-It’s so diverse here.  They tell me it’s like America in the sense that there are a lot of immigrants that come here.  I believe that.  It’s awesome.
-There’s a pretty bridge here, I plan to take a photo of it.
-They are gung ho about dental hygiene.  The office has a floss dispenser and everyone brushes their teeth after lunch.  Even the restaurants have mouth wash and floss dispensers!  I’ve only seen mouth wash at some Korean restaurants at home, but never a floss dispenser!