Jan 28, 2009

Artists Vik Muniz and Nuno Ramos open shows in Rio

Two big names in Brazilian art will be showing in Rio this season.

The first is
Vik Muniz, who today is the best-known Brazilian artist abroad, whose exhibition opened last Friday at the MAM museum.

The show takes over an expanse mearuring 1300 square meters and includes 131 photographic works - many of them tryptichs.

MAM - Avenida Infante Dom Henrique, 85, Parque do Flamengo, Centro, tel. (55-21) 2240-4944

Then on March 18, Anita Schwartz Art Gallery will open the show "Dead Sea", with original and new works by famed artist Nuno Ramos.

He will create the work "Dead Sea (Soap Opera 2)" at the gallery itself, by melting soap and using it to coat two boats – one fishing boat and one canoe, measuring 11 and 7 meters, respectively, and weighing a total of two tons. The melting process and hardening of the soap will take about one week. The boats will criss-cross one another, “like razors”. Speakers, also covered with soap, will play a text called – what else? - "Dead Sea", written by Ramos himself. On the gallery’s third floor, Nuno Ramos will show two works of the “Relevos” series, which he refers to as "paintings", but are, rather, huge structures composed of metal, fabric and oil paint (pictured below). Inside a container set up on the terasse videoart (“Casco”, 2004) will be shown.

Anita Schwartz Galeria de Arte Rua José Roberto Macedo Soares, 30, Gávea, Tel: (55-21) 2274-3873

Corredor Chopin: new art hub next door to Copacabana Palace hotel

When I was in Rio last November, I stopped by the opening of the so-called Corredor Chopin.

The name is a bit cryptic, but actually it's nothing more than a hidden alley runing along the side of the famed Chopin building in Rio (that of the legendary New Year's parties). The posh antique shop
Antiquário Arnaldo Danemberg has been there forever, as has the Pequena Galeria 18, owned by Mário Cohen, the first gallery in Brazil to specialize in photography.

Since last November, there's a newcomer, owned by three society gals, called Galeria Tempo (pictured above). It, too, sells art photography.

So the three businesses got together and decided to name themselves the Corridor Chopin.

Galeria Tempo: Av. Atlântica, 1.782, loja E. Tel. (55-21) 2255-4586

Jan 25, 2009

Rio: index of all posts, by subject


  1. Samba schools parade: the full schedule and ticket prices
  2. Rio street carnival 2009 - the schedule of the best street blocos (parades)
  3. Rio's best samba schools: complete listing of grupo especial escolas
  4. Winners of 2009 Carnival parades are announced: Salgueiro is #1!

New Year's

  1. Rio's mayor hires Madonna to sing at the Copacabana New Year's Party

Dining and bars (botecos)

  1. Roberta Sudbrack: the best chef in Rio?
  2. Terzetto Café: great breakfast spot in Ipanema
  3. The best restaurants in Rio according to the experts
  4. Bráz, Carlota... São Paulo restaurants open Rio outposts
  5. Where to eat bacalhau (cod): the best Portuguese restaurants
  6. Le Pré-Catalan at the Sofitel: when hotel dining is done right
  7. Bráz, São Paulo's best pizzeria, opens outpost in Barra da Tijuca
  8. The best cafés, pastry shops, finger foods and chocolates in Rio
  9. Academia da Cachaça, in Leblon: the best spot for pairing cachaças and traditional Brazilian food
  10. Aquim: elegant restaurant with great food in Leblon

  1. The best hotels in Barra da Tijuca
  2. Sheraton has the best spa in Barra da Tijuca
  3. The Ouro Verde, in Copacabana: and old classic has gone downhill
  4. La Maison, in Gávea, is one of Rio's best places to stay
  5. La Suite, an exclusive 7-room guesthouse with stunning views
  6. The best hotels in Leblon, Rio
  7. The best hotels in Ipanema, Rio
  8. Hotel Fasano Rio, in Ipanema: the best in town
  9. The best hotels in Copacabana, Rio
  10. The best hotels in Santa Teresa, Rio
  11. The hotel Santa Teresa, in Santa Teresa, Rio: a full report with photos

Fashion and Shopping
  1. Best shops in Ipanema: Lenny, Mara Mac, etc.
  2. Fashion Rio, the biggest fashion event
  3. Rio's best beauty addresses
  4. 2009 Oi Fashion Rocks: Versace, Marc Jacobs, Lenny et al on the runway, Diddy, Mario Testino, Donatella and Mariah in attendance

Attractions/ Sightseeing
  1. Rio Ferris wheel opens in Copacabana
  2. Artists Nuno Ramos and Vik Muniz open shows in Rio
  3. Corredor Chopin: new art hub nextdoor to the Copacabana Palace hotel
  4. Museu da República museum shows contemporary art
  5. Yves Saint Laurent at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB)
  6. Livraria da Travessa, in Barra da Tijuca

Jan 24, 2009

Roberta Sudbrack: best restaurant in Rio?

Until I went for dinner at Roberta Sudbrack's restaurant, I hadn't fully understood what all the fuss was about. The city is not known for its gastronomic scene as São Paulo is, and I was a bit skeptical. But... what a dinner! The only thing that ever came close, in Rio, was dinner at Claude Troisgros' Olympe with the man himself, but then again... how could it not be great, right?

But back to Roberta Sudbrack: the girl is one hell of a cook!

Dinner started with amazing breads, warm from the oven, the best butter and perfect little gougères, warm fluffy pastry clouds.

Our tasting menu started with her signature okra "caviar": the seeds mimic that ploc-ploc mouthfeel. Alongside, shrimp, brunoise of tomato and a generous drizzle of an outstading olive oil.

The same incredible oil was present in the next dish, tuna in a very light confit (chef says she doesn't do it sous vide, but simply does a quick version of the traditional confit mehod, using olive oil). The paper thin toasted bread gave the ensemble the needed crunch.

Then came a very delicate broth made with lagostim shells, in a bowl similar to those used by Brazilian indians. In it came mushrooms and fat morsels of lagostim (a small cousin of the lobster). Uncannily light and complex, each individual flavour alive and whole.

The main course had been pre-ordered by food lover and blogger Constance Escobar. Suckling pig with ever-so-tender flesh and a golden, crisp crust.

As a side, an impossibly silky portion of mashed potatoes, Robuchon style. An aside: to see a full report of this same dinner on Constance's blog, please click here.

We were content - very content - but still hungry for more.

I'm a bit ashamed to confess that I asked for seconds of our first dessert, the best banana ice cream I've ever had. It's made with the ripest bananas Roberta can find - their peels full of black spots already - and nothing more, not even sugar. Banana in its purest possible guise.

The second dessert had, of course, to be an anti-climax. It was a donut-style pastry dusted with sugar and paired with crème anglaise. Good, not great.

And what could I possibly say about the mignardises? Beautiful, dainty, delicious. Candied marmelo (a Brazilian fruit), chocolate candies that tasted of an old childhood treat called Kri. Brigadeiro, another childhood favourite, in a spoon. Mignardises comfort-chics.

It was a perfect dinner. Perfect company, perfect food, perfect wine (Chassagne Montrachet Vielles Vignes 2005, Pillot, Bourgogne, app. US$ 130/bottle).

Roberta Sudbrack: Av. Lineu de Paula Machado, 916, Jardim Botânico, tel. (21) 3874-0139

Post script: it came to my attention in July 2009 that a reader of this blog followed my recommendation, dined at the restaurant and had a bad experience. It could have been an off-night, but I though it might be fair to other readers to hear what he had to say:

"Dear Alexandra,

First of all, thank you for your very useful blog on Brazil for Insiders. I was just in Rio and made great use of it. I am a big foodie and I love to travel across the world to try new opportunities.

Your advise was almost 100% correct. The only exception was Roberta Sudbrack, which was a TERRIBLE disappointment. I went there last Saturday night and had one of the worst meals I have ever had in a restaurant of this class. First of all, I arrived at 9:30 PM to find I was the ONLY table there for that night – on a Saturday! That set off alarms in my head, but I decided to stay anyway, hoping maybe it was just the economy that was scaring people away.

I was wrong. The food was boring, bland and strangely textured. I requested the 8-course tasting menu with a small amount of wine to be matched to each course. For the jamon serrano with melon ice cream (not exactly an original or difficult dish to create), I was given a glass of sweet Brazilian sparkling wine! For the next course (a single piece of cold white asparagus with some crunchy almonds on top which my 12-year old daughter could have made), I was given another Brazilian sparkling wine, this time a dry one!

My main course was duck confit, paired with a very cheap Chilean red wine that I could have picked up in a wine store for 5 euros a bottle back home. The wines were all uniformly cheap and terrible, but each glass was billed to me at 25 Brazilian reals each – by far the most I have ever been charged for a glass of wine. I would not have minded if the wines were good quality or even if they were well matched to the food, but none were.

The food had no theme, no identity. No use was made of local ingredients – the asparagus was Peruvian, the ham from Spain, the duck confit might as well have come from France. It was the most boring, unimaginative food I have been served in many years. And the final insult was delivered by the bill – one of the most expensive meals I have ever eaten. Oh, and no credit cards accepted unless it’s MasterCard.

Rio has a lot of great restaurants – I greatly enjoyed Satyricon the next night, which rescued my memory of Rio after the horrendous disappointment delivered by Sudbrack.

I would ask you to consider removing your endorsement of the restaurant from your blog so other people don’t travel to Rio and have another experience like mine. Your experience in January clearly does not seem representative of what’s going on at that place. Certainly the people of Rio seem to agree – nobody showed up on a Saturday night.



Trancoso, Bahia: index of posts, by subject

  1. Uxua, a new luxury boutique hotel in Trancoso
  2. Uxua's Casa Seu João: see photos
  3. Jacaré do Brasil: my favourite Trancoso pousada
  4. A complete listing of hotels and pousadas that I recommend
  5. Terravista: one of the world's most beautiful golf courses
  6. Trancoso: all the best restaurants
  7. Trancoso and Espelho: top 5 things to do
  8. A slideshow of my favourite Trancoso photos
  9. Tauana hotel, in Corumbau, South of Trancoso

My favourite Trancoso hotel: Jacaré do Brasil Casas

I said it above and repeat it here: there's no better place to stay in Trancoso than the mini-hotel Jacaré do Brasil casas, which opened in December 2007. Some would disagree, of course. What about the famous Estrela d'Água? What about the new Club Med?"

Well, the best hotel for me might not be the best hotel for the next person. I happen to love being near the action. Which means I like to stay at or right off the Quadrado. Both Estrela d'Água and Club Med are quite far, and you'll need to rent a car or catch a lot of taxis if you want to go out to dinner. Club Med isn't even considered Trancoso, but rather, falls within the territory of the next town to the North, called Arraial d'Ajuda. Thanks, but no thanks.

I'd MUCH rather be by the Quadrado. I love its unique vibe, its candy-coloured houses, the late afternoon soccer matches, the modest little church framed by the sea below...

Jacaré do Brasil casas has an unbeatable location, right next to the church, with amazing sea views. It's made up of only five "casas", and number 5, with the largest deck and best view, is the top pick.

Designer-to-the-stars Sig Bergamin did the décor and hit bullseye. Reclaimed palm trunks were turned into tiles which double as headboards, lamps are made of local wicker, and, throughout, flooring is a simple yet beautiful okre-tinted cement, waxed to a smooth sheen.

Owner is Fernando Droghetti (a.k.a. Jacaré), who recently left São Paulo to run the pousada full-time. ,

Each casa has its own kitchen, where a maid will prepare the guest's breakfast.

The only non-rustic touches are the must-have flatscreen TVs and portable phones that double as cells.

Jacaré do Brasil Casas: Quadrado, Trancoso, tel. (55-73) 3668-1470, reservas@jacaredobrasil.com.br

Trancoso and Espelho, in Bahia: top 5 things to do

This top-five list is not meant for first-timers, since it doesn't include the obvious must-sees of Trancoso and Espelho, such as the beaches themselves or a stroll through the Quadrado for window shopping followed by drinks and/or dinner. Rather, this is a very personal list of the things I love to do when I'm there...

1- Spend a day fishing aboard the boat owned by local legend Calá
Calá is the legendary hippie who moved from São Paulo to his private paradise at Espelho. A ceramist and designer of amazing talent, he owns a stunning farm-cum-boutique-inn at Espelho das Maravilhas that is called, fittingly, Fazenda Calá. Perched on a cliff overlooking the azure sea, the whitewashed "casas" are reminiscent of Mykonos, if it weren't for the greenery surrounding them. All is decorated very tastefully, and rustically. What few people know is that Calá's boat is available for rent even for non-guests. After a day of fishing, the group can eat their catch for a late, lazy lunch overlooking the sea - sunsets at Espelho reflect on the water in a myriad colours and are spectacular, hence the name Espelho das Maravilhas, or Mirror of Marvels. The rental costs a mere 250 reais plus the cost of the meal, which is optional.

When you call, ask to speak to Anderson.
Fazenda Calá: tel.(55-73) 3668-5112

2- Dinner at Il Mercato
If there are at least ten choices of places to eat on the Quadrado, Il Mercato is certainly the one with the best ambiance. A small façade leads to an immense interior on descending levels, with, at the end, an open lounge with day beds and gorgeous sea views.

Lamb risotto is nicely al dente, while the caprese salad is equally satisfying. But let's be honest: this isn't top-rate Italian food. But in this kind of magical, lantern-lit setting, who cares?
Il Mercato: Tel. (55-73) 3668-2250

3- Dinner at Maritaca
During high-season, which ends after Carnival, dining at Maritaca feels like being in a posh São Paulo restaurant. Kaftan and Havaianas-clad beauties air-kiss and gossip and half the place seems to know the other half - a bit of a club, if you get me. However, even first-timers who don't know a soul will appreciate the impeccable pizzas, the ice-cold chopps and the warm, comfortable room, with fans humming and delightful pizza aromas wafting from the wood-fired oven.

Rua Carlos Alberto Parracho, tel. (55-73) 3668-1258

4 - A beer and an empadinha at Capim Santo
I love Capim - a Trancoso classic which started as a restaurant and grew to be a top-notch pousada. My favourite thing about it is the early evening drink I like to have by the pool. Usually, cold beer with a portion of empadinhas, delicious Brazilian pastries filled with shrimp or heart of palm. It's right off the Quadrado and the owners Nando and Sandra are absolutely delightful hosts.
Tel. (55-73) 3668-1122

5 - Pull an all-nighter
You don't know Trancoso until you pull your first all-nighter. New Year's eve is a good time to start, but throughout the high season great little parties happen here and there, unofficially, broadcasted only by word-of-mouth. The receptionist at your pousada won't know about them: you'll just have to get to know a few of the right people...

Index of posts about São Paulo





Alex Atala:
Coffee Shops, Pastry Shops, snacks:

Japanese restaurants:

A private and tailored tour of São Paulo

Last November I discovered something new and wonderful in my own city: personalized tours that can be tailored to any likes or dislikes or time restraints or specific interests. The company is tiny, and called SP Bureau, and I went on a trial tour with the owner himself, Diogo Oliveira.

The tours cost, on average, 400 reais, and last 3 or 4 hours, but, again, this varies immensely according to what the person wants. Diogo usually takes 2 to 6 people - this ain't your run-of-the-mill tour where twenty or thirty people are packed into a bus and hear stuff on a microphone. Diogo usually picks up his clients in a car with driver.

My friend Karin and I chose, instead, to do a walking tour, with longer distances covered by taxis. We gave him our guidelines: lots of architectures, grand old homes, and the Centro, which is São Paulo's Old Downtown and, for beginners, quite hard to navigate.

I've got to say this was the best investment of the last few months. The tour was everything we'd hoped for and more!

Wearing comfortable shoes and casual clothes, backpacks on our backs, we felt like we were on a treasure hunt, hurrying through streets and galleries and shops as Diogo led the way. Fun.

I am FROM São Paulo, so this might seem odd, but the truth is he made us see our own city with new eyes and took us places we'd never visit on our own.

We started in Jardim Europa, the posh residential neighbourhood, where we checked out the house of deceeased spinster and art patron Ema Klabin. It had an old-money seventies vibe, with top-notch art thrown in here and there:

Gotta love the Dalmatian tiles... ;)

We then cabbed it to another big old house, that one once owned by society dame Veridiana Prado. Today, it is the clubhouse for the Iate Clube de Santos and often rented out for weddings. A fresh coat of paint would go nicely, but I could still feel a certain aura of luxury:

On our way there, we made a quick pit stop at a street fair which takes place weekly behind the Consolação cemetery, for some coconut water:

By that point we had reached Higienópolis, which is renowned worldwide for its amazing collection of striking fifties-style buildings, most still in great shape. Diogo kept pointing out his favourites and giving us the scoop on the architects that designed them:

It was time, then, to hit the Centro - São Paulo's Old Downtown. We started at its most iconic building, the modernist gem called Copan:

It is, still today, a residential building, and it's not open to visitors. But Diogo, of course, got us in AND took us to the rooftop! Amazing.

What a rush. The morning was a dull gray, but somehow the sky seemed a perfect match
for the equally gray skyline!

As we got back down and exited the Copan, we walked by a bar that has been very talked about in the last year, the Dona Onça - great food, great ambiance (it can be seen below, with the wood façade):

The sidewalks in the Centro are done in mosaics that form the shape of São Paulo state.

We zig-zagged our way across old shopping galleries, like the Metropolitana. That concept of opening shopping malls to the cityscape, popular from the fifties until the seventies, is now all but dead, which is too bad...

Each gallery in the Centro draws a different crowd. The one below, clearly, is favoured by young rapper-types:

From gallery to gallery we ended up at the Teatro Municipal:

Diogo managed to get us in through the backstage:

From which we accessed the vast and empty and dimly-lit stage. My heart beat faster - wow! - this was quite an experience, having the stage completely to ourselves...

Lauro Lemes, coordinator of "cenotécnica" (below), explained how he gets the stage ready for different kinds of spectacles: ballets, operas, orchestras, etc.

Gostei ainda mais de ter o teatro só pra mim, de poder tirar minhas fotos deitada no chão, por exemplo. E modéstia à parte, achei que esta aqui ficou lindona:

We moved on, and walked ten minutes or so through the mid-day chaos until we reached the historic Casa da Bóia, where I bought a beautiful copper pot for 40 bucks.

They have a tiny and little-known museum on the
second floor, from which I took this photo:

We then walked down a very steep hill and hit the madness of 25 de Março street, where fabrics, toys and a million other kinds of junk, both nice and gaudy, are sold at cut-rate prices, and mostly at wholesale. Street vendors offered us all sorts of things, from green beens to Chinese dolls. We bought adorable ceramic pigs for a handful of reais and I also scored a great pair of Marc Jacobs (!!) sunglasses for 5 bucks. Not bad!

We relished in the kaleidoscope of sounds, colours and smells:

The video ends at the same place where we ended our whirlwind tour: the Mercado Municipal. This beautiful market is the city's best for buying dry goods (cheeses, olives, spices) and cod, among other things. And it has a mezzanine full of great and cheap restaurants.

We couldn't think of a better ending to our adventure than this: pork sandwich on pão francês, draft beer (chopp) and pastel de carne.

Quite the trip, huh? All this in my very own São Paulo….

Diogo de Oliveira
tailored tours
(55-11) 3104-3577 / 8259-8317