Brazilian Cuisine, North of Atlanta.

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Call me cliche, but in my happy place, my imagination takes me to Copacabana Beach with “Girl From Ipanema” playing in the background. A beautiful woman walks by with a platter filled with all my favorite Brazilian goodies. Golden brown fried plantains the same color as her sun-kissed skin, the passion fruit mousse as sweet as her smile, and the plump round chocolate brigadeiros complementing her…eyes.

“And when she passes, each one I go, aaaah”

But then I wake up. Life isn’t perfect, but food can bring me pretty close to it. So I hop in my car and head over to what I’ve unofficially dubbed “Little Brazil”, the clusters of strip malls between Roswell and Marietta Georgia with the can’t miss green and yellow flags. They’ve got it all: drug stores, beauty salons, convenience stores, butchers, bakeries, and cafés. Realtors, lawyers, and car dealerships all have the signs ‘Se fala português’ (Portuguese spoken here).

My first stop is at Brazilian Bakery for my weekly treat, and today’s appetizer: the coxinha. I’ve introduced these delicious snacks to my close friend and photographer, Jordan, who best describes these as ‘chicken dough balls’. Spot on Jordan. Shredded chicken and cheese, wrapped in dough, shaped into a chicken thigh as an homage to its namesake (coxinha in Portuguese means ‘little thigh’) and deep-fried to perfection. Healthy? No, but much like the rest of today’s meal, I’m not worrying about calorie counts; I’m more concerned with how everything tastes. The coxinha alone is delicious, but I love to add a drop or two of hot sauce to give it a little kick.

Coxinhas

Coxinhas

I leave Brazilian Bakery and head to Sabor do Brazil, a buffet and churrascaria (barbecue). Lunch is a busy time with most tables occupied. But unlike Brazilian Bakery, which is mostly a locals/Portuguese-speaking only crowd, Sabor’s patrons are more diverse. The buffet line starts with a salad station and leads into steaming hot pans of rice, a bean and meat stew (feijoada), baked chicken (frango), plantains, and farofa, a cassava flour mixture. But the best part is the churrasqueira at the end of the line, several cuts of meat rotating slowly over an open coal fire. You’d better believe they serve the famous rump cap cut of beef, better known as picanha. A staff member cuts three thin slices with a half-inch layer of fat on each one. No complaints from me, the juicy fat eaten with the tender medium-rare cut always leaves me wanting more. Instead I opt for a few chicken hearts to satisfy the foodie in me.

Top (L-R): Feijoada, Rice, Farofa with Bacon. Bottom (L-R): Picanha, Chicken Hearts, Plantains

Top (L-R): Feijoada, Rice, Farofa with Bacon.
Bottom (L-R): Picanha, Chicken Hearts, Plantains

Farofa with Bacon. Used as an accompaniment with rice or feijoada stew. I also enjoy sprinkling some on my meat for added flavor and a different but tasty texture.

Farofa with Bacon. Used as an accompaniment with rice or feijoada stew. I also enjoy sprinkling some on my meat for added flavor and a different but tasty texture.

Picanha cut and chicken hearts. Delicioso!

Picanha cut and chicken hearts. Delicioso!

It’s easy to overindulge at a Brazilian buffet, but I had to leave room for dessert. And for that I had to go back to Brazilian Bakery. Yes, it’s so good that I sometimes go more than twice a day. You can see me in childlike wonderment, face nearly pressed up against the glass of the bakery displays, drooling over the fresh and homemade baked goods. The temptation to ask for “one of everything” is very strong, but I limit myself to a sampling of the goods that appeared in my aforementioned Copacabana daydream.

From Top, clockwise: Guava Roll Cake, Passion Fruit Mousse, Brigadeiro, Pudding

From Top, clockwise: Guava Roll Cake, Passion Fruit Mousse, Brigadeiro, Pudding

Guava Roll Cake with shaved coconut topping

Guava Roll Cake with shaved coconut topping

Brigadeiros. Not in the typical 'rolled ball' form, but delicious nonetheless. Condensed milk covered chocolate sprinkles with a chocolate drizzle.

Brigadeiros. Not in the typical ‘rolled ball’ form, but delicious nonetheless. Condensed milk covered chocolate sprinkles with a chocolate drizzle.

Brazilians reading this may be shocked to find I haven’t mentioned their beloved cheese bread (pão de queijo). Fret not; I’ve saved the best for last. But I fear I might upset the purists. I’ve taken it upon myself to make my own cheese bread, with a little twist. Instead of making bite sized rolls, I decide to put the mixture directly into a baking pan so as to produce one large loaf of cheese bread. I’ve also added chopped chives to add a little extra flavor. While I wait for the bread to bake, I dice some tomatoes, garlic, and onion, and stir them all together with basil and extra virgin olive oil. I remove the bread from the oven after about 35 minutes, cut two slices, and top them with the tomato mixture. I call it bruschetta brasileira, a nod to my history of working in Italian restaurants. For the sake of my old Italian boss, I ask you, the reader, to pronounce bruschetta correctly: ‘broo-sket-uh’.

Chopping chives. Looking domestic.

Chopping chives. Looking domestic.

Preparing the cheese bread mixture with chives

Preparing the cheese bread mixture with chives

Ready to enter the oven. The most common method to prepare this is rolling quarter-sized balls of the mixture. I've opted for the 'loaf' approach.

Ready to enter the oven. The most common method to prepare this is rolling quarter-sized balls of the mixture. I’ve opted for the ‘loaf’ approach.

The bread was still soft in the middle, which is common for pão de queijo, but it could have stayed in the oven a bit longer. The chives were an excellent addition, but unfortunately the onions from the tomato topping overpowered their flavor. Overall, it was a valiant effort at a new fusion dish that could stand to see some modifications.

What gives pão de queijo its distinct flavor? The mixture is manioc (also known as cassava) flour based. Manioc is also known as the main starch behind tapioca.

What gives pão de queijo its distinct flavor? The mixture is manioc (also known as cassava) flour based. Manioc is also known as the main starch behind tapioca.

As strange as it may sound, I have my Portuguese upbringing to thank for my love of Brazilian food. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone from Portugal who doesn’t love a good churrasco from their ‘little brothers’ in South America. Most Brazilian baked goods are very similar to their European counterparts, but with more tropical fruits. Since there are almost no Portuguese restaurants or bakeries in Georgia, I have to kill my culinary nostalgias (or saudades) in ‘Little Brazil’. Though I feel like I stand out with my different nationality, I feel right at home speaking Portuguese with the staff and other patrons. They’re always very kind and happy to serve me, and I will forever associate their cheery personalities with their flavorful cuisine.

Obrigado Brasil. Diogo

Obrigado Brasil.
Diogo

Introduction

My love of food was gradually developed. Like most kids, I was a picky eater. But if you grow up in a Portuguese village, it’s impossible to survive if you don’t like fish or onions. So I adapted.

Fish was probably the toughest to get used to. If you’re eating fish in Portugal, you’re either eating an extremely salty cod, or eating something presented to you with the head and bones still inside. You’d spend half your meal picking out scales and bones from your teeth, all while that cooked white eye stares at you from across the table, staring deep into your soul.

 You barbarians! You cruel filthy barbarians cooked me and left my head on to watch you eat my own flesh! Have you no remorse?

My imagination ran wild, I pictured a school of mackerel gathering at night to avenge their long lost brother with their own knives and forks, riding a tidal wave to my front door, flooding my bedroom and capturing me in a net, taking me away and then- oh wow…this is delicious. This soft white meat with a little hint of lemon, bathed in extra virgin olive oil, combined with a little crunch of turnip from grandma’s garden…never mind, I think I’ll sleep just fine tonight.

Even when I moved to the United States, my mom tried to cook as traditionally Portuguese as she could. No, we didn’t have fish caught that very morning, or produce from someone we knew personally, but my mom made sure I wasn’t going to be just another one of those kids that ate chicken fingers every day. Instead I was the kid that brought leftover cod with potatoes and eggs, kale soup with linguiça sausage, basically food for aliens as far as my American classmates were concerned.

As I got older, I got the itch to learn how to cook. At first I took notes, watching my mom hop from the refrigerator to the stove, pulling out pots and pans, boiling water, heating up oil, dicing up garlic, it was all too much to keep up with. I’m more of a hands-on type of guy. So through a lot of trial and error, I learned how to cook. First was the simple stuff: boiling water and putting in pasta. Then I learned a variety of ways to cook eggs. And after several tries, I finally got the hang of cooking meat and fish. I had a general grasp of things.

I’ve been able to soak in different styles of cooking from people I’ve worked with, television programs I’ve watched, and going out to different restaurants. Working in the service industry was instrumental in further development and appreciation for cooking. When the restaurant was slow, I’d stand behind chef watching him cook. He’d tell me why he did something a certain way, or tell me how his abuela would do it.

I’ve considered enrolling into culinary school, but I don’t see myself as a chef. I’ve worked a handful of years in restaurants, seeing men and women sweating behind the line on their feet for hours on end. It’s a hard job, and many of them don’t get the recognition and money they deserve. I can’t do that, but I do love to cook, and I can appreciate a good meal when I taste one. So I’ve started this blog to show readers how I do my groceries, what I cook, and where I like to go out to eat. I’m not claiming to be an expert at all in anything I do on this blog. I’m my own worst critic (as well as my mother) when it comes to my food. If my review of a restaurant doesn’t seem fair, I’m open to trying it again to see if my experience is different. An idea I’d like to explore is cooking or dining out with people who also share a love for good food. I’d be interested in receiving any sort of feedback from my readers, positive or negative, as well as suggestions of new places or dishes I should try.

I hope you enjoy all my stories and pictures!

-D