Having lived in Northeastern Brazil for a while (in the foodie paradise of Salvador) we developed a pretty healthy taste for the cuisine of the region, steeped in a unique combination of European, African and native Brazilian flavors. It is rare to find that kind of cuisine in the US, where the Brazilian steakhouse reigns supreme, so we were floored that we found such a place – Batuqui (12706 Larchmere Boulevard) – right in our new hometown of Cleveland.
Tag Archives: Minas Gerais
Bar do Mineiro
Rua Pascoal Carlos Magno 99
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
We visited Minas Gerais, the culinary heartland of Brazil, at the beginning of March for the first time. Brazilians love the homey and simple style of Mineira food, and it is popular throughout the country. One of the top places to get Mineira cuisine in Rio de Janeiro is a Bar do Mineiro, founded in 1992 by the Paixão family from Carangola in Minas Gerais. Bar do Minerio is located in the eclectic, bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa, and is a simple affair, full of character.
Somehow Bar do Mineiro is more than the sum of its parts. The décor is unpolished, the food is simple, but it could not be more inviting! The menu is pretty expansive – especially the appetizers – which in true Brazilian fashions involves a huge variety of fried tidbits. We especially liked to bolinhos de aipim (fried manioc fritters) stuffed with carne seca or cheese (R$ 24) and the pastéis de feijão (black bean fried pastries – R$ 28). Another popular option is linguicinha mineira (R$ 36), fried linguiça sausage and onions served with sliced baguette.
If you want something more substantial, there are many chicken, fish or beef options including tutu à mineira (R$ 44) – a classic Mineira dish of meat and beans, along with entree options of steak and fries (R$ 48), or fried fish and rice (R$ 45). Bar do Mineiro is also known for its Minero-style feijoada on weekends (R$ 36 for one) – the iconic Brazilian stew of smoked meat, sausage, beans and greens (everyone makes it a little differently).
Bar do Mineiro also served as the site of our friend M’s first taste of cachaça – in a caipirinha, of course! Along with caiprinhas and caipiroskas (caipirinhas with vodka instead) many of the patrons were enjoying a nice chopp (Brazilian draft beer). Bar do Mineiro is a great place for a laid-back meal or just to meet with friends over drinks. If you can’t make it to Minas, this is definitely the next-best thing.
While wandering throughout historic Ouro Preto you will see stores selling Doces Caseiros, but you will also find them selling the one thing we like even better: chocolates. We visited a couple of chocolate shops while we were in Ouro Preto, and were surprised by the quality of the chocolates and the extensive menus. If you have a sweet tooth, you will never go hungry in Ouro Preto.
Puro Cacau (Rua Conde de Bobadela, 162) stands out on the street due to the large chocolate fountain in the window. That was surely enough to draw us in. A trip to the chocolate fountain (with a skewer of strawberries) cost a mere R$ 5. We were also pleased to find they had milkshakes, which were excellent (we went with cookies and cream). The menu also had a selection of paninis and wraps, which were good, but nothing to write home about.
However, as the name would imply, the main reason to visit Puro Cacau is for the chocolate-related offerings. The entire front of the store is given over to selling jars of doce de leite, homemade bon bons and alfajors (Argentine sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche). You can also buy simple candies and truffles by weight out of glass jars. There was something deliciously retro about filling a paper bag with little chocolate candies. Even beyond chocolates there was an unusually extensive selection of bottled drinks and beers from around the world.
Chocolates Ouro Preto (Praça Tiradentes, 111)
Chocolates Ouro Preto became our go-to lunch and coffee spot when we were in Ouro Preto, not to mention the fact that we had many a sweet treat there. For those of you that are always plugged in (guilty here) there is also free Wifi.
In the front of the store you can buy their chocolate items, including a huge amount of chocolate bars and very delicious truffles (R$ 2.50). We particularly enjoyed the passionfruit filled dark chocolate variety. We also appreciated the amazing selection of coffee drinks and other juices for those who are trying to be caffeine-free. There was also a large assortment of ice cream flavors.
For those with a bigger appetite, there were other savory treats, including full entrees soups and breads. We had one particularly delicious soup: creamy mandioquinha. Kind of like cheesy cream of potato soup, but better! There were also various salgados, pão de queijo and pão patate.
Minas Gerais is also known for its sweets (Doces) made from various fruit pastes, that are often seen in huge wheels of candy. They are pretty impressive to see – imagine a treat the size of a giant Parmesean wheel – but in vivid orange, green or pink! You then pay by the weight to get a little chunk for yourself to take home. When we were in Minas Gerais we saw these giant wheels of candy around town, but even if you are not in Minas, major grocery stores often boast their own doces for sale by weight.
There are shops all around Ouro Preto advertising that they sell “Doces Caseiros / Tradicionais” (Homemade/Traditional Sweets). Though we are quite familiar with Doce de leite, we had never encountered some of these varieties before such as: Doce de Abóbora (pumpkin candy), Doce de Goiaba (Guava Candy) and Doce de Coco (Coconut Candy). The consistency of these treats is basically like fudge, though maybe a little more dense.
Also popular in Minas are sweet in spreadable form, especially variations on doce de leite (dulce de leche or milk caramel). You will see this type of spread very commonly with add-ins or swirls of another flavor – including chocolate and peanut. We had a chunk of doce de leite/peanut candy in Ouro Preto and it was heavenly, especially since we were going through peanut butter withdrawal.
Praca Gomes Freire, 108 – Centro
Mariana, Minas Gerais
Though our first post from Ouro Preto was about a decidedly non-traditional pizza place in Ouro Preto, our second meal in Minas Gerais was much more traditional. Throughout its history, Minas Gerais was home to many gold/diamond mining booms (the name means “General Mines”), so it occupies a similar place in Brazilian lore as the “Wild West” does in the USA. However, unlike the chuckwagons on the Wild West, people are really into Mineira food in Brazil, and it is considered the classic kind of Brazilian “home cooking.” We were very curious to try some down-home Minerira food, so we were happy when we stumbled upon Rancho Restaurante (“The Ranch”) in Mariana – a small town outside of Ouro Preto.
Rancho is done up in a sort of faux pioneering style – and it serves heaps of Mineira food in an all you can eat buffet (R$ 18 person). Mineira food is often traditionally cooked and served in stone vessels – and we were pleased to see the wood-burning buffet area full of stone pots of food. All of the Mineira favorites were on display: chicken and quiabo (okra), couve mineira (kale), tutu de feijão (bean and meat stew), roast pork, roast pumpkin, veggie omelettes, a variety of soups, sausage and rice, fish croquettes, farofa and spicy spaghetti with dende oil. There was also a small salad bar off to the side, though most of the offerings were slathered in mayo – save for a nice carrot salad. However, we have one major knock against the restaurant: no pão de queijo. Come on, this is unforgivable!
We filled our plates twice with all of the food from the buffet, trying to sample as much as we could. Of our picks, the chicken and okra was a standout, it turned out to be one of our favorite preparations of okra, a veggie we usually find to be too gooey. The couve mineira (garlic-spiked kale) and stewed pumpkin were also delicious. The meal was a pretty stick-to-your ribs simple affair, something which characterizes Mineria cuisine, and it seemed to be a favorite among locals. After we arrived, Rancho gradually filled up with families and office workers on lunch break, and there was constantly a line for the buffet. Rancho was a great place for hearty Mineira cuisine with no frills, and gives you a taste of typical local fare with no touristy concessions.
Pizzaria O Passo
Rua São José 56
Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil
So of course, after singing the praises of Mineira cuisine, the first food post of our food adventures in Minas Gerais is the decidedly non-Mineiro pizza! But no worries, even though pizza is an import to Brazil, Brazilians have latched onto it – and O Passo does an excellent rendition of pizza. We decided we needed more of a leisurely meal after walking down the grueling hills of Ouro Preto, and O Passo was consistently referenced as one of the best restaurants in Ouro Preto. The stock in trade at O Passo is pizza – though there are a variety of other Italian specialties – including a large assortment of antipasti, pastas and Italian wines.
The setting of O Passo is great – with a nice little terrace overlooking the botanic gardens (which are unfortunately closed). The pizzas come in 3 sizes – Individual, Medium and Large. The individual is roughly plate-sized and had 4 slices. Each was more than big enough for each of us (R$ 28 per individual pizza). There were 4 full pages of pizza flavors ranging from classic Italian combinations as Margherita and Quattro Formaggi as well as Brazilian flavors like Minas cheese and Frango & Catupiry.
M selected a (slightly) healthier riff on the quattro formaggi – the quattro tomate – which came topped with mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, tomato sauce, heirloom tomatoes and roma tomatoes. All the toppings were fresh; with the heirloom tomatoes still sweet and the sundried ones with a great flavor. L picked a cheesier variety with a Mineiro touch: Minas cheese and Buffalo Mozzarella with roasted garlic and fresh basil. Before too long, our pizzas arrived piping hot to our tables. They had more of a cracker-style crust unlike the Neapolitan style of pizza with a more leavened and bubbly dough. We were big fans of these pizzas – especially the crunchy crusts and generous toppings. All told, about US$30 for two excellent pizzas in a beautiful terrace in this great colonial town? It wasn’t Mineira cuisine, but it is all the more reason to visit Ouro Preto.
We are going to the historic town of Ouro Preto for a few days and are excited to try the food of the state of Minas Gerais first-hand. Mineiro cuisine is considered some of the best and most “Brazilian” in Brazil, and it is widely lauded and replicated throughout the country. Minas Gerais is the home of one of our all-time favorite Brazilian foods – Pão de Queijo – but that is just scratching the surface. Other famous Mineira foodstuffs include: Minas cheese, Couve Mineira (Mineran Kale), Frango com Quiabo (chicken with okra), Feijão Tropeiro (meat, beans and rice) and many more. Hopefully we will have some tales of delicious Mineira food to share.