Tag Archives: Restaurant

A French Brasserie in New York City

9 Jun

As I’ve already stated, Anthony Bourdain is one of my favorite chefs. This may seem a bit strange (it does to me), as I’ve never tasted his food. The question is, I like his unique style, his loose mouth, which I came to know after reading his best seller “Kitchen Confidential” and watching several of his TV shows.

Anthony Bourdain - Les Halles - Kitchen Confidential

Anthony Bourdain - Les Halles - Kitchen Confidential

So, no wonder that when in New York City I had to visit “Les Halles” (411, Park Av. South – GPS: 40.743542 Lat N, 73.983865 Long W ). Not that I had any hopes of meeting him there, but the place has his seal, as he worked there for quite a few years (in fact he grew up professionally at this place). I’ve found several reviews on the net regarding this restaurant, which has been labelled from “fantastic” to “complete trash”. In my modest opinion none of this extremes are correct.

The decoration is that of a French style brasserie. In a Saturday, at lunch time, the place was crowded and rather loud. The service was perfect, as the waiter was pretty friendly and neither the food, nor the bill, took long to arrive.

I ordered “smoked pork loin, veal sausage, frankfurter, smoked pork breast, boiled potatoes, sauerkraut braised in Pinot d’Alsace” (Choucrout Garni), while most of my party (we were a group of 5) decided not to adventure and took the traditional “Steak, Frites, Salade” (as a matter of fact, this is what Les Halles is better known for). The meats were all cooked to the right point and the sauces pretty good. Thus, although nothing was really fantastic, no complains either.

For desert, Crème Brülêe, caramelized to perfection and producing the typical cracking sound.

Les Halles - Crème Brülêe

Les Halles - Crème Brülêe

We spent around US$ 50,00/person, what is a bit expensive for a middle class Brazilian, although not particularly high in New York City. Overall it was a nice experience, which I might repeat, if I happen to visit the Big Apple again.

Stifatho from the Island of Rhodes

27 May

Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, a group of 12 main islands spread in the Greek Aegean sea (dodeca means 12 in Greek). During summer the beautiful city of Rhodes is full of tourists, specially in the Old Town and around the port entrance, were the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, once existed.

Rhodes harbour entrance

Rhodes harbour entrance

Although, the city is really wonderful, and not to be missed, to rent a car and adventure yourself through the interior of the island is, I belive, something to be done.

Get your car early in the day and drive along the west side of the island to the Temple of Apollo, a few minutes from downtown. Once there an excellent option is to do some jogging, yes, that`s right, jogging. It`s a wonderful feeling to jog in an ancient stadium, and almost alone, as the place is virtually free of tourists during early morning. You can almost hear the crowd that used to gather here to watch Greek games, more than 2,000 years ago, cheering you up.

Ancient stadium beside the temple of Apollo in Rhodes

Ancient stadium beside the temple of Apollo in Rhodes

From here you can keep driving to the Petaloudes, or Butterfly Valley. Expect some tourists there. If you prefer the sea, stop in one of the beaches and refresh yourself (a good option after the jogging). If you prefer to go through the interior of the island, what we did, do not miss the small church of Saint Nicholas (Aghios Nikolaus) near the town of Psinthos. Since the place is out of any tourist route you`ll probably find yourself completely alone. When we got there a man was taking care of the garden, and after some little friendly talk he seemed to be more than glad to let us inside the building.

Petaloudes, or butterfly valley, in the island of Rhodes

Petaloudes, or butterfly valley, in the Island of Rhodes

Interior of Saint Nicholar church, near Psinthos, island of Rhodes

Interior of Saint Nicholar church, near Psinthos, Island of Rhodes

Now it`s lunch time, and that`s what matters here. Drive to the small town of Empona (or Embona), at the base of mount Attavyros. There you’ll find a couple of small restaurants one of them (sorry, I don`t remember the name) looked just right for lunch during a hot summer day, as it was completely open and received a much welcomed refreshing breeze.

Small restaurant in Embonas, island of Rhodes

Small restaurant in Embonas, Island of Rhodes

I ordered Stifado (or Stifatho) which is an easily recognizable stew, as it includes lots of onions.

The word “stifado” is believed to come from the word “stufado” (inflated, full), brought to Greece by the Venetians in the 13th century, after the fall of Constantinople (1204). I`ve seen many stifado recipes employing tomatoes, but since such vegetable was introduced in Europe by the Spanish only after the discovery of the Americas, in the XVI century, it`s completely impossible that it was present in the most traditional versions of the dish. In fact, as expected, it was absent from the one we had in Embona.

Stifatho with garlic, mint and sesame seed bread

Stifatho with garlic, mint and sesame seed bread

The recipe was rather simple, as explained by the waiter. Meat is sealed in an adobe pot with olive oil (Greek oil, of course), to which garlic and several spices are added (minced rosemary, 2-3 cloves, 1-2 laurel leaves and 1 small cinnamon stick). Onions are separately fried (also in olive oil) and reserved. After cooking for 1-2 min some red wine vinegar (2 table spoons), red wine (100 ml), honey (1 table spoon) and water (about 0.5-1 glass) are added. The pot is then closed and left to cook on low heat for a couple of hours, being occasionally stirred (also check the water, as it should not be let to dry). After the beef is really tender the onions are added and left to cook for an additional 30-45 min. Don`t forget to season. Our stifado was served with a home made garlic, mint and sesame seed bread, along with olive oil. Unforgettable!

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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