Aug 31, 2009

São Paulo from above: a video by Rede Globo tours the city that never sleeps

The video is narrated in Portuguese, but no matter: it's a great opportunity for some top-rate armchair travelling. São Paulo from above is the theme of the video, a clip from a Brazilian variety show. You can get a good sense of the city's magnitude, its skyscrapers and slums, avenues and bars and neon signs.

Taschen's new book Bahia Style shows best places to stay in Bahia and beautiful private homes

Taschen is launching this week the book Bahia Style.

Who wrote it? None other than Angelika Taschen herself (who’s worked for TASCHEN since 1987, and has published numerous titles on art, architecture, photography, design, travel, and lifestyle).
Rio de JaneiroRio de JaneiroRio de Janeiro
Photos are by São Paulo native Tuca Reinés, frequent contributor to Vogue, Casa Vogue Brasil, and Wallpaper*, among others. His work has appeared in several design books, including TASCHEN's Seaside Interiors and Great Escapes South America.

Some of Southern Bahia’s most exclusive spots appear in the book, such as my personal fave Espelho das Maravilhas (pictured above), near Trancoso. There are several photos of private houses, including the one owned by my friend Joana Vieira, who has a style all her own:

Here's another stylish beach house, in nearby Curuípe, owned by Isabel Duprat and Manuel Leão:

Also show in the book is the gorgeous Fazenda Calá, by far the best place to stay at Espelho.

Bahia's capital Salvador makes an appearance with a house by famed designer David Bastos:

To buy the book, simply click on the image below:

Bahia Style is the second book on Brazil released recently by Taschen: more on the other one, called Mario de Janeiro Testino, essentially, a love letter to his favourite city.

And more Bahia on this blog:


  1. What to do in Salvador according to The New York Times
  2. 10 top restaurants in Salvador according to Joyce Pascowitch
  3. Top 5 things to do in Salvador by Brazilian foodie Constance Escobar

Barra Grande

  1. All the best restaurants and beach bars

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

Aug 29, 2009

Chef Alex Atala launches veggie tasting menu at D.O.M.

Brazil is foodie nation: there are TONS of food bloggers in Rio and São Paulo. Very few, if any, as entertaining as the couple who write Que Bicho me Mordeu (What bug bit me): Demian Takahashi and Anna Angotti. Sadly, it's of little use to foreigners, since it's in Portuguese, but I couldn't resist translating one of their most recent posts, about the new all veggie menu lauched by celeb chef Alex Atala at his restaurant D.O.M.

Here it goes:

August 17, 2009 by Anna Angotti

We're not the types who go to D.O.M. like we go to the corner store. A special motive is needed, something to celebrate, or an extra bit of cash in the bank account, any good excuse. The launch of the Menu do Reino Vegetal, totally vegetarian, seem to fit very well in the category “good excuse”. Especially since it's a little bit cheaper than the regular tasting menu: R$ 120 for 6 courses (plus aligot, silky and ellastic mashed potatoes laced with two types of cheese). We had to try it with the pairing with waters and juices, for an additional R$ 20 per person.


First, cubes of watermelon with a delicious cream of Brazil nut under two slices of heart of palm "carpaccio" marinated in citronella, which came with three types of algae, all a bit salty.

The components were interesting and the presentation, beautiful, but when we actually had forkfuls - being careful to have a tiny bit of everything on the fork, as the maître'd instructed, we both were puzzled. We couldn't get the dish - not even after washing it down with the lemongrass water they brought as pairing, more aromatic than tasteful.


The mushroom consommé with Amazonian herbs - an Atala classic - didn't wow us as it did the first time we had it. Had the recipe been changed? Or is it because we're already used to the complexity of tucupi and the variety of mushrooms and the tingling sensation brought by the jambu, and our tastebuds grew immune to the sublety?

Musings aside, it's still an incredible dish, with its myriad miniature petals and broth full of secrets. It was paired with a water flavoured with poejo (“a herb”, explained the waiter), that we found a bit tasteless. It's a distant cousin of mint...


The toasted black rise was amusingly crunchy and came with vegetables (leek, celery, broccoli, asparagus), and, as a sauce, a milk made from Brazil nuts. To drink, a very acidic sparkling lime water.

At that point, we started to get what was bothering about the vegetarian menu: other than the mushrooms in the consommé, the vegetables weren't the star of the dishes, they played second fiddle. And yet we were expecting to find the lost flavour of vegetables (blame it on Keller!) Or, at the very least, we expected the inventions to be so marvellous that we couldn't find time to think of all the little things that could be improved.


But then came the evening's most sensational dish, to break our theory that too much fussiness was masking the real flavours of the veggies. “Quiabo, quiabo e quiabo”, or "Okra, okra and okra". Except for the complex, umami-heavy broth - which the maître'd claimed was made from grilled veggies - the dish really is all about okra. In different textures: the seeds, grilled and in spicy paper form.

Incredible: the okra, of all dishes, was the one that had all that we were looking for: surprise, flavour, bringing to the forefront an unusual ingredient. It was paired with a juice of cambuci (exotic fruit) but by then we'd given up on the whole pairing idea and discovered that our wine (a Grüner) matched the dishes much better.


Cream of shiitake served with flair tableside, out of a whipped cream canister, with red wine reduction. The maître d' confused us by saying there was veal in the dish. Since when is veal a vegetable?! But we later found out it was a mix up: the same dish is on the à la carte menu in a version containing veal... We found it a bit sticky and cloying, but it might be nice on a cold night. At least, the pairing actually worked: the jabuticaba juice, light and slightly acidic, was a nice counterpoint to the porridgy dish.

More thoughts: the menu tends to be repetitive, with mushrooms in two dishes (although very differently prepared), two with Brazil nuts and three where some kind of broth was added tableside. Still, each time they poured the broths we watched wantingly as they paraded away with the gravy dishes still half-full. The water and juices were also poured sparingly - two fingers, no more -, but in this case we didn't mind a bit.


For dessert, a small work of art: transparent raviolis filled with banana, lime jelly and priprioca - a fun root that smells like pot, which Atala is credited with introducing to haute cuisine circles. "D.O.M. is the only place that has it", proudly said the waiter, not knowing Dalva e Dito, right nextdoor, has it too.

As the menu informs, Menu do Reino Vegetal will change every two weeks. But we'll give it a little time before going back. Surely at some point we'll suddenly get a craving for the Okra, okra and okra (don't let it go off the menu!). But that dish only doesn't cut it as a "good excuse" to take us back to D.O.M.

More Alex Atala on this blog:

Aug 27, 2009

Cristo Redentor statue in Rio stars in Hollywood blockbuster

Scary thought: Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue, one of the world's most iconic monuments, being washed away by a ferocious tide, as the end of the world arrives early. What the ?!

The image above is actually a promo for the movie 2012, being released by Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures in November. It's about... uh... the end of the world! Here's the movie's site.

Or better yet: go see the real thing.

The Christ Redeemer statue was deservedly elected by the cariocas the "The Wonder of Rio". The statue itself is only 38 meters tall – but it sits at the top of Corcovado Hill, 710 meters above sea level. Officially, it pays homage not only to Christ but to Our Lady of Aparecida, Brazil's patron saint, and it's been drawing thousands of tourists since 1931. A few years ago it underwent a huge renovation and powerful lights were installed so that it can be seen from virstually all over Rio. Cars are allowed to drive up the mountain, but the easiest and safest way is to take a cab to the starting point of the tram that takes tourists up, which is on Cosme Velho road. The train runs every day, from 8:30 am to 6 pm. Information: +55 (21) 2558-1329.

Official site for the Christ the Redeemer statue and Corcovado Mountain

Video showing the Christ the Redeemer statue and Corcovado Mountain

Photos: courtesy of Riotur

Aug 24, 2009

Curumim and SP Bureau: private tailored walking tours of Rio and São Paulo

Of all the requests I get for information on Brazil – and they are many! – the most common query is: “Where do I find a reliable tour guide?”

So I figured the best thing would be to share here on the blog my 2 best contacts.

In São Paulo, you can’t go wrong with Diogo, of the company SP Bureau. He does tailored half of full day tours of the city that are 100% tailored to you. It can be as specific as you’d like, with a focus on such topics as modern architecture, graffiti, high-end shopping, the Old Downtown (Centrão), etc.

Diogo usually suggests a combo of walking and cabbing, but can easily arrange tours with a private driver.

In Rio, Márcio Macedo of the firm Curumim Eco Cultural Tours offers a similar service. One of his top itineraries is visitting food markets and bar hopping to taste cachaças then ending the tour with lunch at a lovely restaurant in the charming Santa Teresa district.

Click here to see a photo-by-photo account of my amazing half-day tour with Diogo

Diogo Oliveira, SP Bureau: tel. (55 11) 3104-3577,

Márcio Macedo, Curumim: cell (55-21) 9999-4157,

Aug 14, 2009

Uberchef Jöel Robuchon is opening a l'Atelier in São Paulo!

l'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Paris

Hottest piece of foodie gossip to hit Brazil this season? Robuchon is coming! Although his people continue to deny it, claiming they're still in preliminary talks, the Brazilian partners of the soon-to-open resto are talking. And they claim the first Latin American L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon is nearly ready, and will be unveiled as early as September.

Strangely, a source very close to Robuchon says "there is no L'Atelier opening in São Paulo
next month. An agreement has not even been signed as of yet. He was quite surprised that you heard this because it is entirely not true and not happening at this time."

Architect Tiago Guiness, ex-Triptyque, is in charge of the project. Partners include Simone Abdelnour, Gisele Moraes and Chris Corcks. More on this soon!

UPDATE: False alarm... turns out the restaurant described above will be a COPY of the Paris l'Atelier, but not an official outpost. Sigh...

And more on São Paulo dining:

Alex Atala:

Aug 11, 2009

Lanchonete da Cidade serves the best burgers in São Paulo

São Paulo doesn't even come close to New York when it comes to diners and burger joints but.... it does have a few addresses that are tough to beat. One is the über traditional Frevo, a.k.a. Frevinho, where the "beirute" sandwiches (hot and made in a pita) are legendary. The other is Lanchonete da Cidade, which means, literally, city diner.

The place seems to take you back to what São Paulo was in the fifties. And the menu, too, pays homage to the city's culinary past. There's a reason why many of the city's top chefs end their nights here. The dogs, burgers and fries are always spot on: perfeclty executed. One of the best choices is the mini Bombom burguer:

But recently they've also launched a deluxe kobe beef burger, called Bombom DeLuxe, with a 220 gram-patty and served with horseradish mayo. Each one of these comes with a serial number, so you feel pretty special ordering it...

Lanchonete da Cidade: Alameda Tietê, 110, 
tel: 3086 3399

Aug 6, 2009

Celeb boulanger Olivier Anquier opens L'Entrecôte de Ma Tante in São Paulo

The newest bistro in São Paulo is the talk of the town. It's owned by a group of investors and by celeb-boulanger Olivier Anquier, who was married for years to a big soap star, and has his own Jamie Oliver-type TV food show.

On the menu, a single dish: an entrecôte steak with a sauce made using his aunt's recipe, and fries. If it sounds similar to the wildly popular Relais de l'Entrecôte in Paris, well... I can't say it's a coincidence.

The dish is huge, and servers pass around the tables with platters of fries, offering more,
all0-you-can-eat style.

Desserts are ultra-classic: crème brulée, musse de chocolate, profiteroles and apple pie:

but the signature dessert is a luscious chocolate mousse:

L´Entrecôte de Ma Tante
Rua Doutor Mário Ferraz, 17, Itaim
(11) 3034-5324

The New York Times reviews the Fasano Hotel in Rio

Very amusing review of the Fasano Rio hotel published in the New York Times...
Here's how they describe the scene:

"Slip past the phalanx of armored S.U.V.’s and enter a lobby enveloped in glass and billowing curtains, which everyone from Yoko Ono to Madonna has paraded through. These days, it’s filled mostly with dapper middle-age men and their svelte, much younger arm candy. Nestling poolside are playful honeymooners. Average age difference: 30 years."

Click here for the full story.

And more on Rio hotels:

  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. The best hotels in Leblon, Rio
  6. The best hotels in Ipanema, Rio
  7. Hotel Fasano Rio, in Ipanema: the best in town
  8. The best hotels in Copacabana, Rio
  9. The best hotels in Santa Teresa, Rio
  10. The hotel Santa Teresa, in Santa Teresa, Rio: a full report with photos