Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Taste of Brazil - Teasers (little bites)

Coffee... a time to have a cup of jo and try a little bite of something new to eat.  Brazil is full of small bite size foods that go perfect with the cup of coffee.  Below you will find a page of little bites that would compliment that break in the afternoon, finish a meal, or just stand alone on their own with or without coffee.  I did not put the little bites in any particular order (that means no ranking) and I am sure there will be plenty for another blog at some point (working on II now).  Please feel free to comment on little bites that I should try on a future adventure or share a recipe. 

 ** Fig - More of a sweet for after dinner coffee,  Luiz's aunt makes a great fig with a delicious clear sweet sauce.  Often served with a slice of cheese or drizzle of doce.  It is a perfect compliment for the after dinner coffee and the perfect way to end a meal.

**  Pit dog-  These sandwiches can be found in little shops all over Goiania, Mineiros and I am sure other cities in Brazil.  Hamburger or Chicken with a mix of toppings to create a hamburger like experience unlike any other.  Toppings to choose from include - lettuce - tomato - corn - egg - heart of palm - potato sticks - spicy mayo- mayo - ketchup - hot dog - bacon - all or none - they are a simple treat.  Really not much to do with coffee or very small - I needed to share about them somewhere.   Most popular in the evening and early morning. (No Waffle House here)

** Kibe - On our way to Caldas Novas there is the locally famous town of Piracanjuba where one can find delicious Kibe. It is a traditional Northern Africa or Middle Eastern bite filled with cheese, meat, vegetables or a mix.   The filling is surrounded by a chopped meat and rice shell fried until delicious.  Anyone making the journey through the little town would be hard to miss the restaurant with a history of excellent Kibe.  Although we have had this other places after our trip to Caldas Novas, this was my first and most enjoyable experience with this bite.

  ** Carmelized Banana - Have you ever gone to a Chinese buffet in the United States and after you have finished eating, you crave something sweet?  Disappointed to only find bland cake and no flavor treats as your only options to curve this craving.  Well - in Brazil the Chinese have a fried banana that would not disappoint any sweet tooth.  Obviously the banana is dipped in batter and fried until golden brown.  Then a caramelized coating is added to finish off this delicious (of course high caloric) treat.   Good thing they serve only one at the end of the meal even though an American can always manipulate a second pleading that they don't have these in the United States (wink, wink).

** Mane Pelado -- this cake is made from yuca which is the starchy root of the yuca plant grown in South America.   Be careful if you venture into cooking with yuca as you must cook it properly to remove the roots toxicity.  The yuca in this cake makes it extremely moist and the texture a little bit grainy.  At first bite I thought it had coconut in it but it did not.  It has an unique flavor and I can definitely appreciate and accept it when offered the next time without reserve. 

** Baked Pastel  - We stopped for coffee in Rio at the famous Confeitaria Colombo and I had this delicious baked pastel (which I am sure it was much more healthy then the fried pastel I ate at the street market).  It was a perfect compliment to the environment as we sat and relaxed in the nestaljic surroundings  Oh the history of this place, but back to the bite size pastry.  The pastel was filled with cheese as a lot of Brazilian pastries are.  It is light and fluffy and would compliment coffee perfectly even if coffe was really the coke zero I was drinking today.  

**Cookies -  Baking bread occupies most of the ovens in Brazil and you don't often find cookies so I was excited when I saw these short bread like cookies at Della Bakery.  Texture was similar but the taste was not.  A little less buttery and actually a lot less flavor.  They almost tasted like a healthy version of a short bread cookie.  But since baking cookies is not common in Brazil, they were still worth it.
** Coconut Flakes - Here is that dang coconut again.  We sat at a nice  restaurant one evening and out came this interesting bowl of pre meal nibbles.  I can truly appreciate something to snack on as we peruse the menu and wait for our meal to come.  But these nibbles are roasted and salted coconut chips.  I hesitate to try them but remember my vow to give anything a chance.  I eat my first one and am surprise at how tantalizing the mix of coconut oil and salt are to my flavor pallet.  I soon regret eating one as we are shortly brought a second bowl while we wait for our main courses.  Once again I am surprised that I like something coconut.

** Cajamanga Popsicle You may have read earlier about my affair with the Cajamanga fruit and since I loved the fruit so much Luiz said I had to try this popsicle. Made from the cajamanga juice, it was a little sour.  They suggested adding salt so I did but adding salt to a popsicle was just a little different!  Don't get me wrong - it was good - just different.

** Jilo This is a locally grown green fruit in the eggplant and tomato family which is cooked like a vegatable.  (Imagine how confused it must be).  My friend Suely has been a proponent of me trying new tastes and every time we visit her there is something new in the kitchen ready for me to try.  One day when we arrive Suely had prepared Jilo and onions. I had not seen this before and I would compare the looks to brussel sprouts or okra.  I liked the Jilo and flavor wise would describe it as similar to an eggplant with a slightly bitter flavor.  (recipe from "the perfect pantry") It's a must try if you ever get the chance.  Thanks Suely.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed experiencing Brazilian bite size snacks with me and I look forward to trying some more.   My one wish is that you could not only see the photos but smell and taste the bites as well.  But since you cannot,  I will continue enjoying them for you and sharing my experience as I have already started on the second posting of bite size treats.  Brazil truly loves it coffee and compliments it with a wide variety of little bite size treasures - there are plenty to share!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Back to Brazil...

Back to Brazil! The time has come for me to head back so I get my bags packed and soon I am picked up by a friend (Craig) who gives me a lift to the airport. We pull up curb side at the airport and the attendant assists me with my luggage.  We have to head into the terminal to complete my check in as they are not equipped to do so at curbside for this flight.  I have arrived at the airport about two and a half hours before my flight and now I am ready to head through security and to my gate.  I remove the usual: belt, watch, phone, wallet, change and head towards the line of people slowly meandering through the ropes towards the government employees checking for accurate boarding passes and appropriate identification.  I hand them mine and with no issue I continue on through the security check point.  Removing my computer from its case , shoes from my feet and putting them along with my carry on luggage on the conveyor belt I work my way through the metal detector.  No issues for me and soon I arrive at the gate.  As I sit in the gate area waiting to board the plane, I take a quick trip back (in my memory) to my first plane flight when I was in high school. I had traveled by bus to Denver, Colorado for a youth convention and while attending there was a family emergency back home. I ended up scurrying to fly home on what would be my first flight ever. Looking back I did not have a lot of time to really think about it. The flight itself was good with limited turbulence. Back then you got a full meal even on the short domestic flight. By the time we got up in the air and had our meal it was time to land. When we landed I followed everyone else and remember I was not able to hear anything as I meet my aunt and uncle who were there to pick me up. Thus my adventures in the sky above began. Since then I have flown all around the United States and once to London / Scotland. Now I am a regular flyer to Brazil and who knows to where next. OK, back to my current travels… I sit with my mp3 player listening to music and watching all the people hurry by. They are all trying to make their destination without any delays and they all have little control over making this happen. This flight to Brazil is an overnight flight so I begin to attempt to wind down. I usually do not fair well in regards to sleeping on planes and I sure hope tonight is different.

The airline crew starts to allow passengers on board and I gather my personal carry on bags and off I head. I present my ticket and passport at the gate before beginning the walk down the walkway. I squeeze through the narrow isle to my seat and secure my carry on bags in the overhead compartment. I have chosen a window seat this time in hopes that I can lean against the window and get some sleep. The plane is not full and there is an empty seat in our row and I begin to hope that the doors close soon. As I wait for the doors to close, I notice there is no individual screen to watch a movie or television shows. Normally on these long flights the seat in front of you is equipped with a television screen allowing you to watch whichever movie you want. But no such luck this time and I wonder how the trip will go.  Soon the main cabin door closes and I am happy as no one has sat in the seat and we will be able to stretch out a little more. My happiness is soon dismissed as the gentleman setting next to me arranges for his family to come occupy the empty seats in front of us and in our row. I guess there will not be any stretching out this time.

I decide instead of being upset about his decision, I will reach out and attempt to get to know them. The family is from Brasilia and they have been traveling for the first time in the United States. (New York to be exact) The father speaks little English (and I little Portuguese) so his daughter and son translate what we cannot communicate. We have a nice conversation and I learn that he is a doctor and both he and his wife are originally from Rio de Janeiro. The son is in high school and daughter is in college taking medicine. I share my story and adventure with them as well as my recent trip to Rio and how I love the city. Their visit to the United States was good and they look forward to a return trip. Soon the flight attendants go through their safety dance, the seat belt sign comes on, and the plane is speeding down the runway acquiring the necessary speed to take flight. We are off into the evening sky and I am hoping my eyes close soon to wake to a new day back in Brazil. 

After a dinner of chicken (yes on long flights they still serve a dinner) I turn my mp3 player on and attempt to relax. Sleep comes around 1:00 AM which is earlier then normal for me but there will be no REM sleep or at least no dreams. Before I know it the lights are on and the breakfast service has begun and it is now 5:30 AM.  We will be landing shortly...wait… I have gained an hour so it is 6:30 and we will be landing in 45 minutes. I am excited about this revelation and I look out the window to see the sunrise and Brasilia below. It has been a good flight and I have gotten more sleep then I usually get. The landing is good and once again a successful flight.  Landing in Brazil I am ready for the next adventure. Upon arrival I present my passport with visa to the Brazilian agent and then wait for my bags which always seem to come last for me. The only explanation I have is that because I arrive at the Atlanta airport so early, my luggage gets put on the plane first to be removed last. It is not a long wait but seems long as everyone else gathers their things and heads out. Soon I have all my bags and head toward customs. It is an easy breeze through customs and soon I am reunited with Luiz and off we go on our travel to Goiania. It is a five hour bus ride and I would blog about it a bit but most of the five hours I sleep,  attempting to catch up some.  I am excited to be back in Brazil and share my experiences with you. Hold on and enjoy the ride!


I don’t often share my volunteer experience with many but there is a charity that is dear to my heart and while I am back or if I am in Brazil I try and give of my time to support the Atlanta Community Toolbank. This visit back was not different as the little sister program HouseProud was having their annual support event House Party. Since I just arrived back in the states and had no conflicts I said “yes” I will spend part of my Saturday giving back. Arriving in the United States Wednesday, I opted for the 10:00-1:00 shift instead of the 5:00 AM shift.

Saturday morning came quick and I arrive at Turner field to find a small group of people busy at work in the shade of the few trees in the parking area. A tent had been set up obviously for registration which happened earlier this morning. There was a large sign with all the sponsors of this year’s House Party and I knew I was in the right spot. I hop out of the car and soon find things to do as we prepare for the volunteers to return. Return from where? Well the HouseProud program is an organization that helps seniors stay in their homes by providing necessary no-cost repairs. Their annual fundraiser is House Party held early summer. It is a one-day volunteer blitz where several teams of volunteers from different corporations provide critical repairs for seniors in the metro Atlanta neighborhoods. This is where these volunteers would be returning from soon.

My job at the 2011 House Party was to help serve lunch to the crews of volunteers as they return from their designated projects. The grill was lit and we began to organize the tables of chips, plates, condiments, and beverages. Once we had all these items ready we are prepared for the volunteers arrival. They begin to trickle in and fill their hungry appetites. They have been out there installing gutters, replace rotting stairs, replacing faulty locks, planting flowers, painting, weatherstripping doors, just to name a few of the items the volunteers tackled. Once all the volunteer groups had arrived and consumed their lunch it was time for us volunteers back at the Turner Field home base to clean up and we did. Leaving not as much as a half napkin lying on the ground. All in all the day was a huge success. If anyone is insterested in support HouseProud or the Atlanta Community Toolbank check them out and give a little.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Concert in the Garden - Johnny Lang

The other day I was talking to my friend Patty and she had two tickets to a concert in the garden which she had given to a mutual friend  Cavelle.  She did not think he had found anyone who wanted the second ticket  and if it was still available, I could tag along to the concert.   The ticket was for a Concert in the Garden at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and to my luck he had not found anyone to go with so it was mine.  I had not heard of Johnny Lang (the artist), but how can one turn down a free ticket, time with friends, and a concert in the garden. Especially if the weather is good as there is no better place then the garden to see a concert. In preperation for the night, I did a little research and found that Johnny Lang is a young amercian blues, gospel, and rock singer from North Dakota of all places. (Spending 10 years in South Dakota myself, I figured he must be worth listening to if he is now appearing at the garden)  He started playing guitar at the age of 12 and has not looked back since winning a Grammy in 2006. After this on line information gathering session and a couple of listens to his music, I was ready and my excitement to attend the concert was even more.

Friday night was the evening and Cavell and I decided we would walk from my place (6 blocks from the garden).  After he arrived and we strapped on our folding chairs – off we went. The short walk down the busy Piedmont Road would be a huge contrast from the quiet garden but it was a good time to catch up with a friend. It also saved us the parking fee and who doesn't love saving a little money.  $$$$$
After a few minutes we arrived at the garden and walked down the long drive covered by the canopy of the trees. The Atlanta Botanical Garden is such a majestic place and with my membership, someday I will have a blog entry dedicated to a visit but tonight is about the concert. As we walk along the sidewalk past the parking entrance, we can hear the opening act playing in the air. We quicken our step as we still need to find Patty in the crowd.  We show our ticket at the gate and off we head into the lush gardens of roses and other blooming flowers towards the great lawn in front of the orchid house.

We soon spot Patty and her husband and quietly unfold our chairs to get comfortable for the evening of enjoyable music. Johnny Lang does not disappoint as this young musician does an excellent job performing hits from his albums. The people watching is great as people begin to relax and have a good time dancing to the rhythm. (even if they lack rhythm) The evening is wonderful with the large office buildings lit up in the evening sky. There are a ton of stars out,  not a cloud in the sky, and a crisp cool breeze to keep us refreshed and the bugs away. I am not sure
the weather could be any better for a concert in the open air above the great lawn. Finally I am able to enjoy first hand one of these concerts I hear from my porch on any given Friday evening. After a couple hours of listening to music and having a glass of wine,  the night ends with a quick encore and off we head. As we walk down Piedmont Road back to Cavelles car, we are happy he parked at our place as the traffic is a little heavy. It sure will be nice when the rest of Piedmont Park is complete and I can make this walk almostly entirely through the park which you can read about in A Park Expands.   Cavelle jumps back into his car and heads out.  I stroll back to my home to get ready to retire for the night after an enjoyable evening with friends and good music. 
Thanks Patty!

I’d give this evening ***** for an overall rating

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Park Expands ...

I am back in the USA and it's time to head for a walk in the park. One of the benefits of living in Midtown is that Piedmont Park is so close and easy to enjoy. It is a sunny day and God’s invitation to be outside and enjoy this wonderful day has arrived at my door step. I have not gone to Piedmont Park since I arrived back in Atlanta so I look forward to visiting my old walking paths and green grassy knolls (that one is for you Georgina).

I walk the five blocks through the Midtown neighborhood with its trimmed front lawns and beautiful flowers in bloom to the entrance of the park.  It is just as I remember it: the old bridge welcomes me to stroll high above the old railroad valley into the grove of shade trees. The air is fresh and clean and I begin to head towards the little pond. To my right there lies one of those beautiful grassy fields.  In the center of the field theere is a shelter that has been constructed on what used to be a small parking lot for the park. It sure is nice they have turned this asphault into more green space.  Soon I am imagining a bride and groom exchanging their vows here or maybe it is a family gathered together with their basket of goods to have a lovely afternoon picnic.  It is a perfect location for either of these occastions.  As I walk down the sidewalk past the shelter towards Magnolia Hall - a small event facility where that same imaginary couple may be having their reception after their wedding nuptials. I continue to fantasize a little about the couple and how their day is just perfect with sun beating down,  a few light fluffy clouds in the sky and a light breeze to keep their guests cool.  I walk past Magnolia Hall and am distracted by the realization thatt the park expansion they were working on during my last visit is now open.  I decide to check what they have created instead of heading the the Botanical Garden which was my first thought. 

The sidewalk descends down the hill and so I follow it through the shade of the large trees surrounding the path. It opens up and you can see the back of Amsterdam (a small retail center) and the two dog parks. One park is for larger dogs and one for smaller dogs, for those who have never visited a dog park in the United States; they are large open areas which are fenced in. Dog owners bring their pooches here and let them run free with the other dogs. These dog parks can be seen from the bridge (the one at the entrance of the park I had strolled across earlier) and from time to time I stop and watch the dogs playing down below. I find it relaxing and although I do not own a dog I can appreciate the carefree play of a dog and easy life it lives.

Back to my walk, I stroll along the path and there are many places to look out over the natural terrain below, where the train used to run. It is obvious there is some work to be done yet, but the water ways and drainage systems look ready for the next large rainfall. The grass has turned brown already as the summer heat has hit Atlanta early. On the overlooks there are benches for people to sit and I must say the have done a nice job of expanding the park. I continue a little further and soon hear the laughter and screams of children playing ahead. Walking onto a large grass oval I cannot see the source of the
excitement and wonder what could be creating it. Soon I come to a small summit and quickly see what all the noise is. There is a legacy water fountain with children sprinting through attempting to not catch a drop. Even though I am sure that is not really what they want. The water must be quite refreshing in the heat of the morning.

I stop for a while to watch the children enjoying the water, never knowing which fountain will shoot water next and running and screaming and just simply having a good time. This is what summer is all about. Soon it is time for me to continue my journey and I walk down the stairs and once again think of our imaginary bride and groom. This would be a perfect place for a romantic picture or maybe a not so romantic photo of the wedding party. Both would have the beautiful background of green grass – greystone steps and carriage lamps.

Soon the path I am traveling turns to dirt and is no longer paved. The final section of my stroll is through the new area is obviously still under construction with its bright orange fencing keeping visiters inside the lines. There is a lot of space to be converted and a couple of free standing bridges that are yet to be connected to paths. The expansion is going to be a great enhancement of the park once finished. Soon I arrive at the road behind some shops bordered by Piedmont Road on the other side. My journey through Piedmont Park’s expansion is complete for today. I look forward to visiting again and see more improvements in the near future.