Katie, our Tailormade Product Manager, after a recent vacation to Brazil thinks the cuisine of this vibrant country is something to write home about. Find out why…
Brazil is known for many things – beautiful people, vibrant city life, football, beaches – but on my recent trip, it was the food that made one of the biggest impressions! Whilst Peru is renowned for its ceviche and Argentina for its asado, it seems the world hasn’t uncovered some of the delights of Brazil’s foodie scene. It’s not the only reason I’ll return – the charming people, incredible landscapes and stylish hotels all contributed to make this trip such a memorable one, but the cuisine really deserves more recognition.
On the southern coast near Florianopolis, the luxurious Ponta dos Ganchos resort has earned itself a justifiably excellent reputation for its food. Breakfasts take the form of a seven course tasting menu, different every day, with miniature delicacies such as little fried quails eggs on a tiny toasted smoked salmon sandwich, or mango and coconut tartare with fresh yogurt and quinoa flakes. It’s an Alice-in-Wonderland-esque way to start your day and leaves you fully fuelled for the active adventures they have in store. We chose to balance out our indulgence at mealtimes with hikes through forests, canoeing around the headland to pretty fishing villages, yoga on our deck and trying out stand-up paddle boarding.
In a typical Brazilian household, every day starts with a freshly baked cake and every hotel we stayed at took this tradition seriously, often presenting a fluffy pound cake alongside miniature cakes topped with any number of treats, from dulce de leche and banana to chocolate dipped strawberry slices (the latter at the gorgeous Pousada Literaria in Paraty). You’ll then spot what looks like a profiterole. In fact these little delights are pao de quejo, or Brazilian cheese bread – little puffs of cheesy dough, still warm from the oven, with a crispy outer shell much like a savoury profiterole. Moreish doesn’t quite cover how yummy these treats are and the best I tasted were at Rio’s hottest new boutique hotel, Vila Santa Teresa, where they’re served with requeijão cremoso (Brazilian cream cheese that more resembles sticky clotted cream in consistency), the ultimate indulgence.
The feasting doesn’t stop at breakfast though. My two week trip along the coast took in Rio de Janeiro, Paraty and Florianopolis and the seafood on offer was even better than I’d hoped for. Two traditional seafood dishes became firm favorites – a seafood stew called moqueca and pumpkin stuffed with shrimp. Moqueca is Brazil’s answer to paella made with fresh fish, huge prawns, squid and whatever else the catch of the day brings in, cooked in a lightly spiced coconut milk and tomato sauce, served with rice on the side. It bursts with flavor and was delicious in all its forms. The pumpkin stuffed with shrimp was similarly delicious – imagine a large cricket ball squash, hollowed out in the middle but leaving plenty of pumpkin around the edge. The center is stuffed with huge prawns cooked in a creamy, tomato-ey sauce, baked in the oven with melted cheese on top. I’m hungry just thinking about it.
The beef in Brazil is arguably more tender and delicious than any I’ve eaten in Argentina – my friend who I was traveling with grew up on a beef farm in England and she agreed it was some of the best she’d eaten. Fillet of beef is served as a snack or starter, often with gorgonzola sauce on the side. This is a nation that loves their red meat, best sampled at a traditional churrascaria where waiters bring a never ending stream of barbecued meat. And it would be wrong not to mention the national drink, the caipirinha, made with cachaça (a spirit distilled from sugar cane), sugar and lime. It also happens to be my favorite cocktail and one rainy afternoon when we couldn’t get outdoors we simply sampled as many of these as we could stomach. In Brazil they’re not limited to the traditional lime flavor you’ll find in a London bar and we sampled flavors ranging from pineapple to passion fruit. The standout, though, was a beautiful mandarin and basil caipirinha, served by the lovely Nina at Vila Santa Teresa – fresh, limey, sweet and fragrant and utterly moreish. It’s a good thing they came with a plate of fresh empanada pastels (just in case we were peckish)!