Feb 27, 2010

Maní restaurant: one of São Paulo's best, serving contemporary cuisine

By Alexandra Forbes

This blog has talked about Maní restaurant before, on many occasions. But I never tire of repeating: this is a rare gem of a place, where the food is consistently great, and the ambience very cheery and bright. I love the fact that chefs Daniel Redondo and Helena Rizzo are almost always there, in the kitchen.

I had lunch there recently, and it started off on a high note: love the giant crunchy crackers, light as air, that comes with the warm buns and fine butter.

Excellent amuse bouche: an ultra-light tomato water "broth" with an intense tomato flavour, with pearls of burrata cheese (liquid inside), tomatillo and whisper-thin toasted bread.

I had one of Helena's signature dishes as an app: the fausse "feijoada":

Sliced pigs' trotters, super thin like a carpaccio, topped with encapsulated black bean stew (feijoada): little balls that explode in the mouth. Over that, the finest julinenne of fried kale, tiny orange segments. And on the side, a classic rendering of farofa, the toasted manioc flour that is the classic accompaniment of this dish.

My friend had an app that's new on the menu: foie gras bombons

Lovely contrast of the velvety foie and its gelatinous, fruity “envelope".

My main course, in comparison, seemed a tad too rustic and heavy: mandioquinha purée, butterflied shrimp and a large heap of mushrooms. On the side, a too-intense mushroom sauce. A bit disappointing.

My friend had a lovely passion fruit mousse for dessert - this is typical of São Paulo and I highly recommend it to those who've never tried it. Love the crunch of the seeds contrasting with the fatty smoothness of the mousse below.

I had to have her signature dessert, O Ovo, which is not only stunning but delicious. Pure chilled yolkiness in the center, and a cloud of coconut around it. Yum.

With coffee, Maní serves adorable little brigadeiros (chocolate balls rolled in sprinkles) which are a grown-up version of this comfort food classic. Très chic.

In other words: Maní continues to thrill, despite the occasional slip.

Maní: Rua Joaquim Antunes, 210, tel. (11) 3085-4148

Feb 24, 2010

Itacaré: surfers´paradise and eco-tourism par excellence!

the deserted beach of Itacarézinho

by Antonella Kann

Let´s continue talking about Bahia's paradisiacal beaches. Itacaré was rediscovered by hippies and surfers in the late 80´s and since then the range of open-air activities have been attracting enthusiasts for its perfect waves as well as nature worshipers.

Inhabited by the Tupiniquin Indians until the arrival of the Europeans in 1530, Itacaré reached its economic peak with the cultivation of cocoa beans. But, with the decline of this product, the place fell into complete isolation for centuries.

However, as many other idyllic havens, nowadays its white sandy beaches bring a flow of visitors from abroad, which means that in the bustling streets of the small village it´s common to hear foreign languages ranging from English to Norwegian, with a good sprinkling of French, German and Italian.

To meet the increasing demand, the hotel network has been upgraded, the restaurants have reviewed their menus and there´s a proliferation of specialized tour operators offering a wide range of open air activities and adventures.

Think anything from tree-climbing, canoeing and rafting, off-road trips, mountain biking, trekking, bathing in waterfalls, all part of extensive programs designed to get the adrenaline pumping. And, of course, there is surfing, which is the main attraction for most of the visitors.

Small or long beaches surrounded by thick vegetation, strong waves or a bay with calm waters and endless coconut groves…all these attributes can be used to describe the sandy stretches framing Itacaré. Most of the beaches are deserted, such as Itacarézinho, regarded as one of the most exotic in the region.

There you will also find a charming resort, the Txai ( http://www.txai.com.br/ ) which besides being one of the loveliest and best designed hotels in Bahia, with luxurious installations, has a spa called Shamash, which means “forest medicine”. Here, leisure goes way beyond the excellent cuisine and the soft touch of Egyptian cotton sheets.

Feb 14, 2010

DO LADO DE LÁ, in Aiuruoca, Minas Gerais, is the highest pousada in Brazil.

By Antonella Kann

Located in the state of Minas Gerais, at 1900 meters above sea level, Do Lado de Lá is the highest pousada in Brazil. And a haven for nature lovers. But don´t expect luxury or pampering: there´ll be neither in-room massage nor personal 24hrs butler in this rustic pousada.

You feel like you are on top of the world, surrounded by the Atlantic forest, waterfalls and vegetation. And that´s all the luxurious atmosphere of the Serra do Papagaio, in Aiuruoca, a region located almost 270 kilometres from Rio de Janeiro. Even the name of the place is hard to pronounce - and even harder to remember.

With such a conspicuous name, Do Lado de Lá ( which means On the Other Side)  has less than 10 accommodations and those range from standard rooms with shared bathroom up to bungalows with private Jacuzzi. As you have probably guessed, it’s an all-inclusive establishment (there´s nowhere else to eat, anyway!), with honest and simple home-made food cooked in the old fashioned way – on the woodstove.

You can´t help but be awed by the surrounding landscape and scenery, whatever your relationship with nature. If you are a hiker, there are plenty of trails to explore in the surrounding area, some leading to gorgeous waterfalls. If your trade is photography, then try to catch the subtle changes of light or even the sudden darkness of an approaching thunderstorm, which may reveal itself as an inspiration. Also, there´s a natural pool right beside the pousada for those who want a refreshing dip.

But, for those seeking a romantic refuge to relax, where cell phones and internet connections are to be forgotten, then obstacles must be faced to reach this place : the last steep climbs of the dirt road demands not only a 4x4 vehicle but your ability to manage the wheel in challenging conditions. Do Lado de Lá certainly deserves its name: remember that you will sleep at 1900 meters of altitude, in the highest pousada in Brazil.

Beautiful landscape of Aiuruoca, Minas Gerais

The highest pousada in Brazil, at 1900 meters from sea level.

Feb 13, 2010

Santa Teresa hotel, in Rio: great bar, mediocre restaurant

Santa Teresa's top hotel, the  Santa Teresa, which we've already shown photos of in this blog, has a restaurant that is quite stunning but, sadly, serves below-par food.  Says who? Says my friend and restaurant critic Constance Escobar. Click here to see dish-by-dish pictures of her recent meal there...  (I've also eaten there and.... was a bit disappointed myself).

The restaurant is called Térèze (in the picture above, seen from the exterior). And it's really too bad that the food is nothing special, because the actual space is quite beautiful! I love the chairs, designed by Minas Gerais artist Rock Lane, you can see more of his stuff on  his site.

Now... if you want to eat well, book a table at the nearby Aprazível, then finish off the Santa Teresa day with a mignardises and coffee at Terèze:

Or even better, a drink at the hotel's charming  bar:

Hotel Santa Teresa: Rua Almirante Alexandrino, 660, Santa Teresa, tel. (21) 2222-2755,

Rio Carnival: schedule of samba school parades and tickets available

 Foto: Pedro Kirilos, Riotur

It's that time of the year again: Carnival in Rio starts today, with the parades of the top samba schools. Here is the official schedule (to see it larger, click on the image).

Not sure what samba school parades actually are? Well, here's a Rio Carnival 101, taken from the city's official Carnival website, done by the Samba School League (LIESA):


Passarela do Samba Professor Darcy Ribeiro, better known as the Sambódromo
Rua Marquês de Sapucaí, Praça Onze, Cidade Nova


The best parades of all, these are the epitome what Rio Carnival is all about. Six schools parade on Sunday, and the other six, on Monday (full schedule above).  The schools belonging to this group, affiliated to the Liga Independente das Escolas de Samaba do Rio de Janeiro, are specially magnificent and sumptuous, each containing approximately five thousand participants plus famous Brazilian show-business and jet-set personalities atop incredibly ornate floats.

These schools, affiliated to the Leags of the Group a samba Schools, form the Grupo de Acesso.
They are 10 large and important schools that parade on the Saturday. The champion of this parade ascends to the Special Group.

They are also called base groups, as they are the popular bases from which the big schools originated. Small, each school having approximately one thousand and five hundred participants, they nevertheless parade with much enthusiasm.

On the Saturday after carnaval, the winners of the Special Group parade again.

Types of tickets available to the public


Private spaces rentable for the whole festivities, including the Champions’ Saturday, subdivided in:
Special Boxes – Four buildings between sectors 3, 5, 7 and 9 holding up to 24 spectators in A Boxes and 20 in B Boxes, in a total of 40 boxes holding up to 880 spectators.
Boxes in sectors 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 4 – 24 boxes per sector, in a total of 144 boxes holding up to 1,728 spectators.
Boxes in Sector 2 – There are three storeys divided in 1st floor - A,2nd floor - B and 3rd floor - C, each box holding 12 spectators. The three storeys adding to a total of 306 boxes for 3,672 apectators.
Daily capacity of the boxes - 6,280 people.

Uncovered boxes with walls and chairs for six occupants each, in sectors 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 4, in a total of 1,094 holding up to 6,564 spectators. Uncovered boxes with walls for 4 people, in sectors 06 and 13, in a total of 68 boxes, holding up to 272 for each night of the parade.

3.900 Chairs are placed on steps in sectors 6 and 13.

Uncovered spaces up to 15,80 m high, reached by stairs.
Sectors 3,5, 7 and 11, each sitting 2,850 spectators,Sector 4, holding up to 2,750 spectators, Sector 9 - numbered seats hold up to 2,304 spectators, in a total of 16,454 spectators.

Sector 1 – in the area where the schools organize themselves for the parade; Sectors 6 and 13 – at Praça da Apoteose from where the end of the parade can be seen. Sector 1 holds up to 6,500 spectators and Sectors 6 and 13 up to 9,600 each, in a total of 25,700 spectators.

Feb 11, 2010

Maraú Peninsula: unspoilt sandy beaches, natural pools, exuberant nature,five star ecological resort

Infinity pool of Kiaroa Eco Resort

Partial view of Kiaroa Eco Resort

by Antonella Kann

The reason that the Maraú Peninsula is immune to mass tourism is that it´s really complicated to get there. Situated on Baia de Camamú, the region is outstandingly beautiful and unspoiled. The Atlantic forest is preserved with a profusion of mango groves that frame almost 40 kilometres of deserted beaches.


The long ribbon of white sand starts at Três Coqueiros, a beach with powerful waves that frame the small village of Barra Grande. In this community most of the 500 inhabitants survive from fishing and handicrafts. Besides the fishermen, there are also a few foreigners who, bewitched by the Eden-like atmosphere of the place, have settled themselves in Maraú. And although there´s no bank or ATM´s, you can find cozy restaurants with elaborate cuisine and even a jazz club by the sea.

local crafts

But it´s between Barra Grande and Saquaíra that the visitor finds the most magnificent stretches of sand. The small town of Taipus de Fora, reputed to have one of the loveliest beaches on the Brazilian coast, reveals a breathtaking scenery at low tide, when natural pools form all along, with warm and translucent water. Ideal for diving in this huge aquarium!

Fishermen in their "jangadas"

In a region which is relatively primitive, you will be surprised to find a high class establishment such as the Kiaroa Eco-Luxury Resort set in one of the lushest corners of the Peninsula.

And it's worth the trip. Described to offer “ a tropical atmosphere that stressed city people dream about” by the German publishers of Ecological Hotels, from Fusion Publishing, the hotel has only 28 luxurious and sophisticated accommodations, most with their own private pool, and extends to all guests an extremely competent service. Not to mention the food....

Banana-da-terra petit gateau

Selling "coalho" cheese on beach

And, in order not to melt your credit card, why not take advantage of their special offers which start right after Easter till September, when you could spend 7 nights for the price of 6? Just indulge yourself to enjoy life's little luxuries – though the greatest one comes from the unspoilt natural world which frames land and seascape.

Pineaple caipirinha

More about Maraú peninsula on this blog: where to eat and drink in Barra Grande

Landing in Rio: spectacular scenery from the plane

Aterrissando no Rio da janela 19F, lado direito, da Gol

Ricardo Freire, Brazil's most famous travel writer, is spending Carnival in Rio, filming a series of ads for the web portal Hotéis.com.

In fact, he's just landed in Rio, and we thought we'd share the awesome pics he took from the plane, as he landed. Above, the famous Sugarloaf.

Nos aproximando da cidade


Olha o Maraca aí, gente!

The Maracanã stadium, one of the biggest in the world....

Minha alma canta, etc.

The world-famous Christ statue (Cristo Redentor).

A primeira visão do Pão

More Sugarloaf...

Niterói, visto da pista do Santos Dumont

Ricardo Freire's original blog post, in Portuguese, here.

Feb 10, 2010

Photography tours of Rio: clicking with the pros

photo: Marcelo Portella

by Antonella Kann

A bird´s-eye view over the most beautiful landscapes, mountains and beaches of Rio, all clicked by you?

You don´t need to hire a chopper or try to catch a glimpse from the plane´s window when you´re landing. The idea is to trek uphill and get closer to some of the well-known postcards, such as Pedra Bonita and Pedra da Gávea. This is where the hand gliding platform stands and from where you can grab some of the most amazing images of Rio´s famous sites in the horizon. Up from 696 metres high, you can see the Floresta da Tijuca, lots of beaches and the skyline of the west and south areas of town.

If you enjoy photography and the great outdoors, this is certainly your cuppa tea, so that´s how you can participate: call Imagens & Aventuras ( which happens to be a Photography School) to check the date – always on a sunny Saturday - and enroll in this 4hrs morning trek. The group meets in São Conrado, in the Shell gas station at 7:30 a.m. From there, the walk begins and, for the next two hours, you´ll be making interesting pit stops to enable everyone to pick and choose the best from every possible angle. And, last but not least: you don´t need to be an athlete to follow the steps in the midst of the Atlantic vegetation.

Corumbau, in Southern Bahia: luxury and unspoiled natural beauty

by Antonella Kann

Top of the List for Bahia´s secret beaches : Corumbau, far from the madding crowd.

In the tupi-guarani language, Corumbau means “ far from everything”. Blessed by a geographical position that isolates it from popular places, this paradise is situated between Caraivas and Cumuruxatiba. Its isolation is due to the fact that it´s almost inaccessible by land, and better reached by air or sea, weather permitting.

But for those in search of true peace and quiet, unspoilt beaches framed by cliffs and an unending coconut grove, it´s the place to look forward to. The stretch of sand is so long – almost 13 kilometres - that you can walk for hours without encountering another soul, at any time of the year, even during peak seasons like Carnival, X-Mas and New Year´s eve.

The natural isolation also means that the fishermen who live in the only tiny community have retained their old traditions and do not seem inclined to encourage any tourist trade. So there´s no pharmacy, no bakery nor any other shops in the village. If you are keen to spend some pocket money, lok for the native Tapajós Indians who are usually in the area selling their wooden artifacts or necklaces made with seeds from tropical plants.

Unbelievable as it may seem, Corumbau does not lack 5 stars establishments. Best of all the Fazenda São Francisco, one of the most charming places to stay. Furthermore, the place combines informality with impeccable service and luxurious accommodations. And coconut water galore…for free.

The all-inclusive system contemplates the guests with high standard gastronomy and eventual attractions like demonstration of capoeira ( a martial sport very popular in Brazil) in the premises. Also, apart from interminable walks on the beach and swimming in warm, calm waters, you can go for a day cruise aboard the pousada´s schooner to the coral reefs of Itacolomi and Pataxo.

Sub Astor bar in São Paulo: market-fresh mixology by Márcio Silva

Mixologist Márcio Silva walks almost every day to a nearby fruit stand to buy the fruits and herbs that he’ll use that evening at Sub Astor, São Paulo’s hottest speakeasy-style bar (i.e. no sign on the door, just like in the U.S. Prohibition Era). “Everything is made to order, we don’t prepare any of our fruit purées until the minute the client orders the drink”, he says. Silva mashes granny smith apples in a mortar with lemon and syrup, then shakes it up with gin and Cointreau and strains to make the “Apple White Lady ». A similarly fresh purée, made by pounding pears, grapes and basil leaves, is the basis for the « Gipsy Martini », which gets its kick from Poire and vodka, and is garnished with edible flowers and spiced with a dash of cinammon syrup. Nostalgics have a soft spot for the caju amigo, a classic made with cashew fruit – both fresh and in a compote – topped with ice, sugar and a large helping of vodka.

Sub Astor: Rua Delfina, 163, São Paulo, Brazil, tel. 55-11 3815-1364

More Sub Astor on this blog:
Photos of the small-plate goodies served at Sub Astor, São Paulo's first speakeasy bar

Feb 9, 2010

Bahia´s secret beaches: high end resorts.

by Antonella Kann

Dreaming about the most beautiful stretches of sand in Brazil? Let’s then point a finger towards the northeast, especially Bahia’s coastline. Among cliffs, coconut trees and natural pools are nestled some of the most amazing beaches you could ever dream about. The all-purpose sea is ideal for whoever fancy surfing, snorkeling, swimming or just relaxing and work on a tan. Best of all, you can spoil yourself rotten as over the last decade, several luxurious resorts and pousadas have opened their doors to attend the increasing demand for five-stars establishments. Little wonder that these havens have been in demand all year round.

Feb 8, 2010

Bottagallo, in São Paulo: a great new casual Italian restaurant


If looking for a great Italian in the Itaim district of São Paulo, look no further: simply take a cab to Bottagallo, the new venture of the wildly successful team behind Pirajá, Astor and the Bráz pizzerias, with branches in Rio, too.

I won't bore you with details, but rather, will let the food porn do the talking:

- Mozzarella, tomato, olive, basil.


Golden, crisp gnocchi topped with baby arugula.

Spaghetti with sweet pickled onions...


- Penne with cod


Raviolo stuffed with a soft yolk, all creamy goodness....


Ribs roasted in a brick oven served over risotto.


the dangerously light-tasting Punch Rosso, on the right


Egg Guido style.
Soft inside, breaded on the outside, sitting on top of a cream of truffle sauce.


My fave: crisp, golden gnocchi hidden under a bed of baby arugula.



Photo: Marcelo Katsuki

Papardelle with rabbit ragu.

Agnolotti dal plin, delicate hand-made little pasta pillows typical of the Piedmont region.


Incredibly silky pannacotta

BottaGallo: Rua Jesuíno Arruda, 520, Itaim, tel. (55-11) 3078-2858