São Paulo’s Liberdade neighborhood is the epicenter of what is said to be the largest Japanese population outside Japan. Brazil is home to an estimated 1.5 million Japanese-Brazilians, many of them living right here in this bustling neighborhood 1km south of Centro, with a tad bit of Chinese and Korean sprinkled in for good measure (some of the city’s best Chinese restaurants are here and South Korea’s Melona honeydew melon-flavored popsicles are wildly popular in the streets as well).
Photo: Kevin Raub
Over the last five years or so, while the global financial crisis put a stranglehold on most of the world, Brazil was soaring. Although the country has finally crashed back down to Earth these days, its’ culinary scene, especially in São Paulo, saw a burst of creativity, innovation and immigration during this stretch of perceived prosperity, helping to bring a wealth of previously unseen dining trends long established elsewhere to Brazil’s food capital.
Photo: Lee McCoy
Though not as famous as the chocolate produced in other Andean nations (looking at you, Ecuador!), Colombian-made chocolate can still hold its own. Whether you like your chocolate liquid, solid, gooey, bitter, crunchy, melted or filled with fruit, there’s a place in this dessert-loving country that’s got just what you need.
I went for a tasting at Anuva Wines in Buenos Aires last week. I liked the little-known boutique varietals and the gourmet food pairings; I liked the charming sommelier and the modern loft space in Palermo Soho. But what I really appreciated about Anuva was the chance to learn something – several things, actually – that I didn’t already know about the basics of Argentinian wine.
Love is in the air. Flower stalls overflow with red roses. The best restaurants have been booked up for weeks. And heart shaped everything – from colorful candy embossed with flirty messages to innumerable varieties of boxed chocolates – fills the shelves. That’s right, it’s Valentine’s Day again and if you’re celebrating, chances are hearts will be a part of your day.
Instead of buying another heart-shaped something, why not show your sweetie your love with an actual heart? Okay, okay, I know how that sounds, but stay with me.
On a hot summer day, few drinks replenish your body quite like an ice-cold limonada. Made from water, sugar and Peruvian limes, this tart beverage will quench your thirst and cool you off like none other. The best part about the limonada is that most restaurants make it to order, so you can get more or less sugar depending on your sweet tooth.
It came as no surprise to anyone that 34-year-old Rodrigo Oliveira from São Paulo’s Mocotó restaurant was named Chef of the Year in Veja‘s annual Comer & Beber issue for 2014-15, a bit of a gastronomic Bible for foodies in the city. The guy is humble, immediately likable, soft-spoken, good-looking, mild-mannered and knows his way around a kitchen. But what he has pulled off at Mocotó, and the more upscale Esquina Mocotó next door (which took home honors for Best Brazilian Restaurant, incidentally), is truly remarkable.
Photo: Terra Hall
It´s no secret: Peru is all the rage and Peruvian food, which is quite literally on the tip of everyone´s tongues, has taken center stage. What sets the nation´s dishes apart from the rest of the world is as much the preparation as it is the fresh ingredients. After all, without this special combination, lomo saltado is nothing more than steak and potatoes. One ingredient that really brings even the simplest foods to life is ají, a type of chili pepper endlessly used in everything from chifa to ceviche. It´s been used as long as people have been cooking in the country currently known as Peru (we´re talking about 7,000 years), so the trial by fire (pun intended) period is over. Peruvians have the ají, and how to use it, down to a science.
LAN Airlines recently received a question from a frequent flyer: “We have five days in Buenos Aires. What are some of the must-see things to do that are not the general tourist activitites?” We thought it made a good topic for the Only in South America blog. My five recommendations follow.
Photo: Troy Tolley, RPP and Toshiyuki IMAI (left to right)
Argentina and Chile are world-renowned for their wine. In Brazil cachaça, made from sugarcane, is king. For Colombia, the liquor of choice is an anise-flavored aguardiente. And in Peru, our national trago is a grape-derived brandy called pisco.
Peruvians often add a little local flair to traditional cocktails by holding the rum (in say a mojito) or forgoing the tequila (in a margarita), opting instead for a pour of pisco. And while this Peruvianizes just about any drink, it’s not nearly as authentic as one of Peru’s favorite cocktails, the chilcano.