What is a Visionist?

"A visionist is an artist, a creator or an individual that sees beyond what is visible to the eyes and brains of human beings. Visionists are thinkers, they are the recognisable brains in soociety, but most times they are seen as absurd, "nerds" and misfits – they just don't fit into the societies. They are people with great dreams and minds."

The English Wikipedia

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Some Great Restaurants...in Brazil

When a high school friend of mine, Sheryl Appleton, read my posting about my trip to Brazil (below) and said something nice about it, I jokingly responded that I could have included some great dining experiences, but wanted to keep the blog "serious," to which she answered, "Why don't you write about those restaurants too?" However, it was only after reading a great article in the New York Times (Sunday, May 17) about "Brazilian cuisine" in Sao Paulo, by Seth Kugel (clipped and sent to us by a friend Margie Krems from Poughkeepsie), that I decided to go ahead.

I could not consider the restaurants I discovered in places like Morrettes, Parana state; Florianopolis, Santa Catarina; and Rio de Janeiro, to be of the gormet status that Kugel describes. Moreover during the trip to Parana and Santa Catarina with my college group, we ate at dozens of places, some better than others, but just about all following the "all you can eat" buffet style that has taken over Brazil, from barbecue to pizza joints. The two that were memorable was one called Medalozo in Morretes, Parana state (http://www.madalozo.com.br/), which specializes in the Paranaense traditional dish, barreado, an interesting boiled beef which taste better than you would think and is well served on a terrace overlooking the Nhundiaquara river that goes through the center of town; the other was a Japanese sushi restaurant (proliferating all over Brazil) named Taisho (http://www.taisho.com.br/) , where the sushi was not only unlimited by of excellent quality, and the restaurant itself very impressively and grandiosely decorated.

However, some of the really good dinners I had were when I was on my own and able to explore a bit. Two excellent seafood restaurants were discovered over a weekend in Florianopolis, capital of Santa Catarina and something of a Brazilian Hawaii. Santa Catarina is totally located on an island and hosts annual surfing championships. There is a laid back, relaxed attitude on this green paradise, and I felt absolutely no risk at riding on the well organized, inexpensive public buses to get around the island. In the center of town, however, I discovered an excellent seafood restaurant called Toca da Garoupa, Rua Alves de Brito N 178. There I had an excellent Bahian style shrimp bobo (bobo de camarao) that was enough for two.

The next day, Sunday, I took a bus from the downtown bus station in Florianopolis, which was walking distance from our hotel, out to the bridge that connects the two closest points of the Lagoa da Conceicao, a large lagoon that occupies almost a third of the island, to have lunch at Chef Fedoca (http://www.cheffedoca.com.br/) , also a fantastic seafood restaurant located at the Ponta da Areia marina. A small upstairs dining room overlooked the marina, boats and water. I could not resist having a couple of coconut milk batidas (the batida,made with Brazilian cachaca (cane alcohol) was once thought of as Brazil's national drink, but has been almost totally replaced by the ubiquitous caipirniha or more commonly the caipirovska (made with vodka). The difference is like that between an Alexander and a Margarita. I had them with some of the best cod fish croquettes (bolinhos de bacalhau), a Portuguese specialty, I have ever eaten. I decided to go all the way, and ordered a lobster moqueca, unbelievably delicious!! Bobo and muqueca are both Bahian dishes, and both use dende (palm) oil and coconut milk, but differ in that moqueca is a stew, whereas bobo is based on manioc flower and dried shrimp. While one might ask why eat Bahian style seafood in Brazil's extreme south rather than in Bahia itself, I can only say that to a tremendous degree, Brazil's regional foods have become nationalized. My best Bahian restaurant when we lived there in the late 80s, for example, was always Bargaco. Though I have not been back to Salvador for a decade, only a year or so ago, I was visiting Brasilia and went out to a new dining area along the lake to find a branch of Bargaco there, which was identical to what I had known before . Similarly, such a traditional Southern Brazilian food as gaucho-style barbecue (churrasco) can be found in any corner of the country and indeed abroad.

In Rio as in Sao Paulo, we mostly were received by friends and family in their homes for dinners, but in Rio had the pleasure of dining with my brother-in -law Max and his wife Frances at one of their favorite restaurants, Bar Urca (http://www.barurca.com.br/) in the bohemian district of Urca the pathway to Rio's famous Sugarloaf. Bar Urca, is both a bar and a restaurant (upstairs) and the street in front of it along the water of Guanabara Bay facing urban Rio is lined by couples enjoying the night air and darkness. Bar Urca mostly serves very traditional Brazilian dishes such as fried shrimp with "Greek rice," and filet of sole belle munier. The most fun about the restaurant was the men's bathroom that listed seven rules for taking a leak. Another great restaurant which we have gone to for many years, and this time went with our friends Janette and Sergio, located in the posh Leblon neighborhood is Alvaro's. A tiny little corner on Leblon's main commercial street, two blocks in from the beach, it is also a famous bohemian style place, which is well know for its meat, cheese or sh imp turnovers (pasteis), which is great with the ice cold draft beer served. Their meats are superb. We all had either the the filet minon or the chataubriand a la francesa (made with shoestring potatoes, fried up with onions and ham), served to perfection. I cannot fail to mention one of the most delightful and inexpensive meals we had with our adorable friends Marion and Luis, just before going to Rio's Hippy Fair tourist market on a typical Sunday. This was a total revelation to our friends, but a place I had been going to informally for several years in Ipanema. Called Galitos, it serves the particularly delicious and simple small roasted chickens (galetos) accompanied by fries or a variety of rice or salads and well eaten with a cold beer. Our friends were delighted even though we had to wait half an hour for a table on the crowded sidewalk.

Well so much for eating as a subject. I could be embarrassed to focus on it, but also recognize that food is a huge part of traveling abroad and in many ways sets the, um, flavor of a visit to a foreign country. Brazil is no exception and offers a variety of regional and national dishes to please the pallet of any visitor.

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