Tag Archives: pear

Mirazur in Rio de Janeiro

30 Nov

High-end gastronomy has been quite away from me, usually nothing more than a dream, for two main reasons: (1) I live in a small town, more than a few hundred kilometers from any restaurant that could be considered “high-end” and, (2) I usually don’t have the money to afford such a luxury.

Thus, it was with great enthusiasm I received an invitation from my brother-in-law Rodolfo to travel to Rio de Janeiro (around 1,800 km from my home) and meet the with the chef “Mauro Colagreco“, from “Mirazur” in Menton/Cotê D`Azur/France to what would be my first top class meal. No, I wasn`t invited for my cooking or blogging abilities (which in fact suck), but because Mauro and my niece Julia live together and they all know of my love for food.  So, there I went.

Mauro prepared a chef`s menu, with some of the creations that made the Michelin Guide recognize his talent and attribute a star to his cuisine. The dinner took place at “Olympe“, one of the best restaurants in Brazil and headed by the chef Claude Troisgros and his son Thomas.

Claude Troisgros (left) and Mauro Colagreco ready to start their work of art

This was the menu:

Colagreco's menu at the "Olympe"

Sorry, but I just can’t highlight any item of this superb menu, as all dishes were simply amazing. Every bite had a hidden surprise to my freshman taste buds. This doesn’t mean I don’t have my favorites. Yes, I do. The first and the third courses.

Huitre

The first course was composed by fresh oysters that, by coincidence, were shipped from my home state, Santa Catarina, and are considered the best in the country. Every oyster was delicately wrapped by a thin pear sheet and laid over a pear cream with diced pears and onions and watercress sprouts.  You could taste the sea, the same sea I used to swim into during my childhood.  Of course this had to be one of my favorites, after all a real dinning experience is much more than just chewing.

My second favorite? The third course, a grilled jumbo shrimp served with 3 brazilian roots (sweet potato, cassava and the less known arracachaArracacia xanthorrhiza), some petals and watercress sprouts.  The sauce was simply fantastic, based on bone marrow. I could have eaten this all night.

Grosses Crevettes

These were my favorites. But let`s go back a bit, to the second course, a composition of asparagus in three different ways: green, white and sliced in a yogurt and orange sauce with lime and grapefruit.  I`m not a huge fan of salads, but this was light and the sauce dripped from heaven.

Salade D`Asperge

Fourth course was a stripped bass with yam pure and a foam of smoked clams.  Some of my friends elected this as the best course.

Poisson Sauvage

Than, it was time for the duck breast, with caramelized radish and sesame seed sauce. The breast was cooked to perfection and matched well with all other components, including a small package of confit (sorry, I was not able to identify the leaf wrapping – have to ask the chef next time I meet him).

Canard

A top chef is someone not always cooking his/her meals to perfection, but always trying to please and surprise his/her guests.  And Mauro did that by present a dish not on the menu, truffles on an egg yolk sauce.  I had tried black truffles before but, let me assure, it has little to do with these Alba babies.  The smell is pungent and unmistakable, as it is the taste. Only between you and me…I was not ready for that. I`ll have to train my palate much more before going into such delicacies (guess you understand what I mean).

White truffles

Time for dessert. The first was an almond foam with saffron cream and orange sorbet, and the second a cold chocolate truffle and glazed cashew nuts in a chocolate sauce with “mate” tea ice cream. Both out of this world.  The first was delicate and refreshing, the second with marked flavors, openly influenced by the chef`s birthplace, Argentina. I was much pleased by the second one, as mate is also a common drink in the southern regions of Brazil, where I happen to live.

Espuma D`Amande

Terre de Manjari

Overall an unforgetable experience.  Chef Mauro Colagreco demonstrated his skills and versatility, incorporating in almost all the courses typical Brazilian products, what coupled with the most unblemished technique, ends up in a festival of sensations I could hardly imagine.

Many thanks to Mauro for bringing Mirazur to Brazil.

Food with a soul

12 Aug

A person without a soul is nothing but a corpse.  It’s similar with food.  It doesn’t matter how great the ingredients are or how wonderful the recipe is, a good dish needs soul.  For me this culinary soul, this thing that turns ordinary food into a real gastronomic experience, is the sum of various factors, including, but not limited to, the ambiance (the special atmosphere or mood created by a particular environment), the chef”s passion for what he’s doing and the staff attitude towards the food and the customers.

It was late afternoon and I was driving with a motor-home around Innsbruck/Austria heading to a camping place I’d chose a couple of weeks before on the Internet.  For my surprise the place had closed down.  The only alternative was to rely on the Garmin GPS and let it choose the nearest camping, which was “Camping and Pizzeria Stigger” in the small village of Völs.  What a nice surprise.

Camping and Pizzeria Stigger - Völs/Austria

Camping and Pizzeria Stigger - Völs/Austria

The owner, Mr. Walter Stigger, proved to be the most wonderful host.  We found a good spot for our motor-home (even though the camping place is rather small), and what was even better, a warm and friendly atmosphere in his pizzeria.  He even offers “caipirinha” (the Brazilian national drink) in the menu, probably a resquice of his years married to a Brazilian.

We had more than a couple of his pizzas, but also a few shots of his homemade “Schnaps”, a strong, clear, colorless alcoholic beverage distilled from fruits.  He took us to the restaurant kitchen, which is nothing more than a extension of the main serving saloon, and made us taste several different types of them. The one made from pears (“Birnenschnaps”) was something special.  You could really feel the pears on the side of your tongue as an aftertaste.

We also had some Austrian beer, which the ever smiling Cuban waitress would serve whenever she remembered in between her sips of red wine (sorry, but I didn’t write down her name). As a matter of fact she seemed to be more a friend than a waitress, what only helped to improve the overall atmosphere.

The Stigger Pizzeria with the ever smilling Cuban waitress

The Stigger Pizzeria with the ever smiling Cuban waitress

The price?  I forgot (probably a side effect of the “schnaps”), but I believe it was around US$ 15,00/person, including a couple of beers.

Were the pizzas good?  Yes, they were very nice, with the right thickness and the right amount and distribution of toppings.  I wouldn’t say they were great (it would be a bit too much), but definitely they were part of an experience full of soul, this thing that turns a simple body into a living being.  They are prepared right in front of you by Walter himself, with the aid of a beautiful and also ever smilling assistant (she would assume the whole preparation from time to time when Walter would sit down and chat with his friends and customers – or customers friends).

Although he would not give me the entire dough recipe (“it’s a secret”, he said) I was told that an important part of this secret is the use of lard (pork fat) (sorry Walter, I just couldn’t resist telling everyone else).  If you ever happen to be around Innsbruck (Völs, in fact) stop by and tell Walter I said hello. He may even offer you a Cuban cigar.

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