Tag Archives: prawn

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.


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).


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.

The oysters didn’t come alone

11 Sep

Another post related to Florianópolis, but that’s only because I’ve just spent the last weekend there (and it was an extended one, since September, 7th is a holiday – Independence Day).

On our first night, so I’ve told you, we had some fresh oysters for dinner.  But no, that was not all. Considering the variety of seafood you can find in the city, it’s an island after all, oysters alone wouldn’t be enough.  Thus, Manuela (my sister-in-law) prepared an extra treat for us:

Bugatini with prawns, octopuses (octopi?) and mussels

Bugatini with prawns, octopuses (octopi?) and mussels

The shellfish were cooked on a garlic, onion, tomato base to which some chopped scallion and parsley were added.  Pasta was boiled until “al dente” and the shellfish generously placed on top.  Simple to prepare and delicious, after all you don’t need much with fresh sea food.

One extra kick though – red pepper. Peppers of the genus Capsicum, even though spread all over the world, and an integral part of the so called “traditional” cooking of several countries (like Thailand, for example), originated in fact from the tropical areas of Latin America.  Another Latin contribution to the world cooking during the first globalization wave, which occurred after the discovery of the Americas. They belong to the family Solenaceae, along with tomatoes and potatoes, which, not by chance, are also of Latin American origin.  There are several species and varieties of peppers, with different shapes, colors and degrees of burning potential. In Brazil, they were the main seasoning agent employed by the native population before the arrival of the Portuguese colonizers.  Among the most known and cultivated species is Capsicum  baccatum, around here called ladies’ finger.  The burning sensation of a pepper is given by the presence of  capsaicin, which is usually evaluated using the so-called Scoville scale. C. baccatum has na Scoville index between 30,000-50,000, just like the Tabasco pepper, not very high if you consider that a Naga Jolokia can have an index of 1,000,000.

In Brazil such peppers are usually prepared by macerating (or finely chopping) a couple of them, which are then left to mature for a few weeks in olive oil.  A flavoring agent, like garlic or rosemary, may be added.  Whole peppers may also be present, both for flavor as well as for decoration.

Red peppers in olive oil with rosemary

Red peppers in olive oil with rosemary

A few drops of this mixture over your seafood dish will bring up a whole new dimension.  But be careful, one or two extra drops and you may literally spoil your dish.

Just in case, keep a bucket of cold water, or of beer, or of white wine, or of whatever you like to use to extinguish a fire, around.

Know Your Chili Peppers on Foodista

Fresh oysters

10 Sep

I’ve already said (see A paradise in Southern Brazil) that Florianópolis is one of my favorite places in the world, not only because I was born there, but simply because this island is, in fact, a place not to be missed.  If you happen to come to Brazil follow my advice and spend a couple of days visiting Santa Catarina Island (where the city of Florianópolis is located).  I’m quite sure you won’t regret it.

Once in Florianópolis go to the “Mercado”, the city market, situated in the heart of the city.  Take a seat in one of the existing bars, grab a beer and try some of the local specialities.  I personally recommend Box 32, owned by chef Beto Barreiros (we went to highschool together), a place also recommended by internationally recognized French chefs like Claude Troigros and Laurent Suadeau.

External view of the "mercado" (city market) in downtown Florianópolis/Southern Brazil

External view of the "mercado" (city market) in downtown Florianópolis/Southern Brazil

Inside the city market in Florianópolis/Southern Brazil

Inside the city market in Florianópolis/Southern Brazil

The market is rich in seafood, offering a variety of crustaceans, molluscs and fish.

Blue crabs, prawns, fish, mussels....The price? R$ 11.00 = US$ 6.00 (price per 1.0 kg = 2.2 pounds)

Blue crabs, prawns, fish, mussels....The price? R$ 11.00 = US$ 6.00 (price per 1.0 kg = 2.2 pounds)

This time my eyes were caught by the fresh live oysters, which were costing only R$ 4.00 a dozen (around US$ 2.2).

Live oysters at the city market in Florianópolis/Southern Brazil

Live oysters at the city market in Florianópolis/Southern Brazil

For dinner?  Oysters, of course.  Although I also like them raw, as it’s when you can really evaluate the freshness and have a taste of the sea filling your mouth,  my sister-in-law (Manuela) prepared them gratiné with some very mild cream cheese sprinkled with a generous amount of parmesan. Each oyster was followed by a drink of a cold sparkling wine (we had the Spanish cava Freixenet).  The perfect end for a perfect day in my hometown (or a perfect beginning, for this was only the first dinner of a long weekend).

Ready for the oven, with some cream chesse and parmesan

Ready for the oven, with some cream cheese and parmesan

Oysters on Foodista

Another Chinese inspired meal

7 Jul

As a marine biologist I know that a prawn is a prawn, and not a shrimp. Prawns and shrimps, although quite similar, belong to distinct biological groups, separated by many characteristics, including differences in gill structure and the way the female carry their eggs.  Is this of any culinary or gastronomic relevance? As far as I know the answer is no.  Thus, I will continue calling my Farfantepenaeus paulensis (São Paulo or pink shrimp) a shrimp, even though I know it’s a prawn.  And the reason is simple, it sounds better.

In the Rio Grande region (southern Brazil) the shrimp fishing season lasts only a couple of months, from February until April (or May in some good years).  This year Vanderlei (a fisherman friend who surprised me with those wonderful tuna) gave me around 20 kg (around 44 lb) as a present, and I’ve bought another 20 kg of shrimp, which were then frozen (without the head but with the shells) for future use.

And the future has just arrived. I peeled (not all the 40 kg, of course) and seasoned them with minced garlic and ginger, fresh red pepper, sesame seed oil and soy sauce.  After about 1/2 h in the fridge they were fried in a wok with 2 table spoons of soybean oil, diced onions and red and yellow bell peppers.  Add some oyster sauce and they are ready to be served over white rice.

Shrimps, Chinese style

Shrimps, Chinese style

Prawn on Foodista
Shrimp on Foodista

A Paradise in Southern Brazil

15 May

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).

Shrimps with "catupiry" and grilled mullet

Shrimps with "catupiry" and grilled mullet

“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.

Shrimp with "catupiry" sauce

Shrimp with "catupiry" sauce

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.

Is there a better way to wait for your lunch?

Is there a better way to wait for your lunch?

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