Everyone has his (her) own favorite places in the world. For me, one of them is Santa Catarina Island, southern Brazil, where the city of Florianópolis is located. Not by chance this is the place where I was born. Discovered in 1514 by the Portuguese, it was really colonized about 200 years later by immigrants from the Azores and from Madeira Islands. It is a beautiful place, full of friendly people (don’t worry, I don’t live there anymore), not to be missed by anyone, specially if you enjoy the sea (and who doesn’t?).
The island, about 100 km long and 20 km wide, has 42 beaches (even though I have walked all around the island in my youth days I have never been able to reach this number), ranging from protected bay areas (where some wonderful oysters are grown) to open sea beaches (a surfers paradise).
My father has a house on “Praia dos Ingleses” (Englishmen’s Beach), on the north end of the island, where my family usually spends quite a few days during summer vacations. At one of the beach extremities (east side, almost at the corner of Estrada Dom João Becker and Estrada Vereador Olindo Lemos – GPS: S 27O 26.629` and W 48O 22.579`) there is a small restaurant called “Dunas” (Sand Dunes).
The restaurant is located right at beach, so close that you can almost dive into the sea from the window. One of these days I went there with my wife and my 2 daughters for lunch. The menu is, of course, plenty of seafood. We ordered, shrimp in “catupiry” sauce and grilled mullet, along with a simple salad (onions, carrots, lettuce, beets and tomatoes) and rice (one of the girls could not refrain from having some French fries).
“Catupiry”, which means “excellent” in Tupi-guarini (the language spoken by most Brazilians native indian tribes at the time of discovery, in 1500), is a soft and mild cheese (almost like the American cream cheese), which was developed in the first half of the last century by an Italian immigrant.
The basic recipe seems to consist of a very mild sauce (butter fried onions and garlic with some small diced tomatoes, minced parsley and spring onions) to which the shrimp (most probably a Penaeus sp.) and the cheese are added (the idea is to preserve the shrimp taste and enjoy the cremosity and light saltiness of the cheese). Cooking is done in an adobe pot. A very simple but fairly elegant dish served over plain white rice.
The mullet (Mugil sp.), which is found worldwide in tropical to temperate coastal waters, is very appropriate for grilling due to its high fat content. It was seasoned with salt and pepper only.
The service was quite informal and matching the place, a very happy and friendly fellow who seemed to enjoy his job. The price was quite reasonable (around US$ 17,00/person – soft drinks included). The shrimp was excellent, the mullet not bad (although a bit overdone), and the scenery, as well as the company, just unpayable. Almost paradise.