Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Return of the Foodie...Tales of Brasil

Okay, so once upon a time I wrote a food blog. Then, as usual, summer hit, and the beach, kayak, and cycle beckoned.But tomorrow is the beginning of fall, and that means back to my old pursuits. Like writing about food. Luckily, I have a few things I could write about, as the summer didn't mean an end to EATING....as the extra 10 lbs I'm carrying can certainly attest to.

The source of most of that weight comes from nearly 3 weeks in Brasil, where we traveled with our friends Dan & Carmen. Carmen is Brasilian, and her family is all still there, so the trip was a much more realistic experience than a tourist would get. I learned things that I might have missed otherwise...such as the the national pastime is apparently eating & drinking beer. Beer at near 32 degrees of chilly pleasure. Caipirinha's made fresh all the time. With naps thrown in for good measure. Seriously....I want to retire there. Any country that serves soup with a shot of cachaca as a chaser is my kind of country (more on this sugarcane version of white-lightning later).

So...the second day we are in Brasil, we meet Carmen's brother Renato's good friend Keike, who take us on a walking tour of a street market in Rio. A walking tour appears to require a stop ever 2 blocks for refreshing bitter cold beer...I have NEVER been a beer drinker, but I have to tell you, I drank more beer on this trip than my entire life. It was just that good.

So...keeping in mind we already had 2 big meals that day, Keike invites us for a "small gathering" to "snack" with a chef friend of his at a local restaurant where another chef was serving a version of one of this chefs dishes. Unknown to me at the time, his chef friend turns out to be none other than Claude Troisgros, a rather famous personality in Brazil from a VERY famous family, with TV credits as well as 3 restaurants. So....the 20 of us end up at a very long table, and the "snacks" begin. Starting with beer, and punctuated by beer. Many types of beer. All at nearly 32 degrees.

The first snack was dishes of some type of roasted veggie that looked like a green eggplant...but was slightly bitter, and served with peppercorns and balls of fresh soft goat cheese. Apparently, you took a piece of crusty bread (there was NO bad bread in the entire country), put on the veggie and cheese, and consumed. I wasn't familiar with this, so I had about 10 pieces to make sure I was eating it correctly. Indescribable.

 Then we had some more beer.

The next snack to appear was crispy feijoada balls, made with black beans, collards, and spices. They were gone in a jiffy. This was followed by bacalhau balls. These salt codfish balls were unbelievably succulent, savory, and covered in some truffle-oil. There were big plates of them, which also disappeared quickly....but this time I managed to grab this shot of one before I consumed the last of it....

 Did I mention beer?

Next came the dishes of fried cheese. It was a semi-dry farmers cheese...fried golden brown. getting a bit full, I only had about a half-pound of these. I was beginning to fear how many course of snacks were coming. So I had a beer.

Then came this big pumpkin serving bowls, along with bowls of rice and a type of corn meal. I began to realize at this point that I was in over my head...and wondered what was in the pumpkin bowls. Well...they weren't bowls, they were actual pumpkins...filled with shrimp, cream, cheese, cilantro, and baked....you would scoop out the ingredients along with the soft pumpkin, and serve it with the rice and corn meal. It was so good, I had thirds. I thought I was safe, as surely this was the main and last snack.

Of course, wrong again. Before it was even off the table, out came ribs in some awesome sauce, with another fried vegetable. And beer.

Mercifully, the food stopped coming, the beer finally ended, and strong Brazilian coffee was served. With dessert. A nice light dessert...of fried cheese sticks, with a fruit compote topping. I was too stuffed to eat another bite....so I only had 5 or 6 of these.

I waddled out the door at 6pm and said my goodbye to my new friends...we needed to go back and nap. So we could eat and drink again.

Did I mention I love this Country? It almost ties with Italy...!

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