This past March, Paul Hart and I visited clients in Brazil as we do each year. Below I detail a few brief anecdotes from our journey that I think illustrate many of the points I highlighted in my previous post.
Rio: Lorenzo Café and Casa Carandai
The restaurant, Lorenzo Bistro, and the gourmet shop, Casa Carandai, are two hidden jewels in the Jardim Botânico neighborhood in Rio de Janiero. Both are owned by a long-time friend of HDH and local wine and food personality João Luiz Garcia, aka Janjão. I have been to both establishment several times and I have dined at Lorenzo more than any other restaurant in Rio; every meal has been nothing less than excellent. The fare is traditional French and is prepared with great care, which has helped make the restaurant the “home away from home” for the local wine cognoscenti.
My favorite part about a visit to Lorenzo or Casa Carandai is Janjão. Janjão embodies everything that I love about Rio. He is bubbling with energy and enthusiasm and is without question one of the most gracious people I have ever met. The walls of his restaurant are lined with empty bottles of the rarest Bordeaux and greatest Burgundies; all opened during wine group dinners in the past. Janjão can tell you a story about every bottle (see image left).
If you ever find yourself near the Botanical Garden, I highly recommend you stop into Casa Carandai for salami, fresh pastas and cheese or schedule a reservation at Lorenzo.
São Paulo: Fasano hotel and nightlife:
Following a typically late-ending dinner at a client’s home in the Jardim Europa neighborhood of São Paulo, Paul and I decided to make a quick visit to the lounge at the world-famous Fasano hotel. We were hoping to see Manoel Beato, the head sommelier and one of the most knowledgeable wine people in country. Despite our fears that it may be too late in the evening, Manoel was at the lounge in the thick of things, managing wine service for several tables of diners finishing even later than we did.
In typical Brazilian fashion, Manoel found time and generously treated us to a tasting of a dozen, top-shelf cachaças from the Fasano’s extensive collection. Cachaça is a sugar cane-based spirit that is as ubiquitous in Brazil as coffee and Havaianas (image above). Most people think of cachaça as one-quarter of the components of a caipirinha but, thanks to Manoel, we learned of this spirit’s great potential.
The best cachaças were as good as any aged rum that I have ever had. Manoel wrote the book on cachaça – literally. His authoritative tome, entitled simply “Cachaça,” is as beautifully-illustrated as it is comprehensive, featuring dozens of striking photographs by the world famous nature photographer Araquèm Alcântara and a lengthy preface by Fernando Henrique Cardoso – the former President of Brazil.
After our cachaça tasting, Manoel played host and he gave us a taste of the “real São Paulo”. We met his close friend Janjaina Rueda (chef at the popular centro restaurant Bar da Dona Onça) at a late night club called Bar Maranhão. There, we sipped chilled glasses of Cachaça Havana while listening to famous local sambistas perform. Warmth and generosity radiated throughout the room from the owners to the musicians to the people sitting at tables nearby. This is the kind of hospitality that is innate for Brazilians and the thing that drew me in the minute I stepped off of the plane on my first trip many years ago.