Caitlin Freeman, the pastry chef of San Francisco’s Blue Bottle Coffee, recently visited South America. After visiting Uruguay (read her account here), she and her husband James traveled to Brazil. Here, her highlights.
“Traveling from Uruguay to Sao Paulo couldn’t have been a bigger culture shock. When we arrived we were warned that a big alternative music festival was happening in the city, and the Black Eyed Peas were staying in our hotel. Who really cares about the Black Eyed Peas in Brazil? Oh, people care. Media, teenagers, and hangers-on were all milling around the lobby. As we headed down to dinner, we found ourselves alone in the elevator with a man I assumed was in the band. It turns out that we had 15 floors of alone time with Will.i.am—we figured he was famous by the solid gold glasses he was wearing, and it was confirmed by the screaming tweens in the lobby. That was our celebrity highlight, here, the culinary highlights:
“The one place that was unanimously recommended by all of our friends was Alex Atala’s D.O.M. Given the mania of Sao Paulo, it’s so lovely to come through the enormous front door of D.O.M. and into the quiet, tasteful and luxurious interior. But I didn’t like my meal. I didn’t like it so much that when I successfully didn’t finish my Lilliputian hearts of palm appetizer, and barely ate half of my Amazonian fish entrée, the waiter denied my dessert order—telling me that I wouldn’t like it and I should order one of their more popular items (which, for the record, I didn’t like—but he was right, I also didn’t like the original dessert I ordered).
“I sound like a big whiner (and I felt it at the time), so instead of griping about all of the things I didn’t like, I’m going to tell you about the delicious dishes that were ordered by my companions, or that I marveled at being served to my neighbors. The mushroom consommé with herbs from the forest was lovely. The cod brandade with marrow starter received coos of approval. James loved his duck confit with Madeira wine and yam puree. It was rich and delicious and perfect with the Burgundy that our dining companion had chosen to pair with James’ duck and his wild boar entrée. A number of the tables around us ordered the aligot, melted cheese and butter blended into mashed potatoes and pulled tableside, between two forks, like a big, hot ball of mozzarella. Come on, hot cheese and potatoes? How did I not order that? Would I go back? Absolutely. I know my experience was a lark, and I look forward to someday returning to Sao Paulo and giving D.O.M. another try. 549 Rua Barão de Capanema, 55/(11) 3068-4444, domrestaurante.com.br.
“Having both started our businesses at the farmer’s markets, and seen those businesses grow and thrive at San Francisco’s Ferry Building, James and I have great fondness for outdoor and public markets. Sao Paulo’s Mercado Central is a wild wonderland of exotic fruit, salted fish, meat galore, and mortadella sandwiches housed in a grand and beautiful building. The mezzanine in the marketplace is where you can go for warm food and cold beer. The mortadella sandwich stands sell big sloppy piles of meat topped with melted cheese on a crusty bun (below). Heaven.” 306 Rua da Cantareira 306, 55/(11) 3326-3401, mercadomunicipal.com.br.
“When travelling, we love to pick up jams and jellies for our breakfasts back home. They transport well, it’s a good way to bring home unusual flavors from faraway lands, and a great reason to explore markets. Casa Santa Luzia (below), in the Jardim Paulista neighborhood, was the Dean & Deluca of Sao Paulo. A glossy, clean, and lovely store that seemed to have a corner on the country’s gift basket market.” 1471 Alameda Lorena, 55/(11) 3897-5000, santaluzia.com.br.