Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Churrasco is Brazil’s version of cowboy barbecue. Invented by the gauchos, the Brazilian horsemen who herded cattle in the Rio Grande do Sul region of Southern Brazil, Churrasco was originally a method of spit roasting cuts of meat by the fire. Today, the steakhouse style restaurants continuing this tradition of cowboy cooking are known as Churrascarias. Enormous automated charcoal and wood rotisseries have replaced the outdoor fire pits, but the slow roasting and basting process remains much as it was nearly two centuries ago. 

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Any discussion of Brazil’s iconic dishes is incomplete without an in-depth look at the country’s national dish- feijoada completa. Feijoada is more than just a bean stew… it is a cultural rite of passage. Opting for a taste of carioca style feijoada, we travel to Ipanema to pay a visit to a true Rio classic - Chef Gilberto Araújo’s Casa da Feijoada. Many legends mistakenly attribute feijoada to the slave kitchen, but the Portuguese consumed feijoada before they ever colonized Brazil. Feijoada completa refers to the “whole meal,” served with the principal dish of stewed beans cooked with 11 different types of smoked or cured pork meats, and sausages.

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Few comfort foods come as close to Nirvana as the moquecas of Bahia– clay pot seafood stews thickened with coconut milk– seasoned with dendé oil, yellow onion, tomato, and green bell pepper and cilantro. Whether it is freshly caught fish like cavala, shrimp, octopus, or lobster, or homemade coconut milk and dendé oil, the secret to a perfect moqueca lies in the freshness of the ingredients. Jan our dendé and farinha guide, assures us that his sister-in-law, Claudete, prepares the best moqueca in all of Bahia.

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We walk to a rustic farinha house where the owners, Roberto and Maria, have gathered for communal farinha processing.  This gathering known as a farinhada will produce enough manioc flour to sustain their small neighborhood for the next several weeks. Having harvested the manioc roots early that morning, two members of the group work in tandem to peel the tough skin with sharp knives.

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Our tour begins at the Ceasa Market in Salvador’s Rio Vermelho district where Veve Bragança provides a crash course in the Nordeste pantry – from manteiga de garrafa, a type of clarified butter used to season manioc purees, to specialty manioc flours called farinhas and the toasted manioc flour known as farofas differing in grain size and texture… to dishes like hard to find dishes like maniçoba made from boiled manioc leaves that have released their toxins… cooked with calabresa sausage, charque, cured salpresa pork, bacon, and smoked chorizo.

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Another popular address for locals who appreciate good food is Tordesilhas where Mara Salles advocates the preservation and elevation of native Brazilian ingredients. Located in the bustling Rua Bela Cintra area of Sao Paulo, the restaurant serves up some of regional Brazil’s more obscure dishes - many of which descend from indigenous and colonial traditions. The restaurant’s name, Tordesilhas, references a treaty signed in1494 between Portugal and Spain, marking the boundaries of their newly claimed lands in the America.

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Sao Paulo native, Alex Atala symbolizes the city’s multi-ethnic heritage as an Irish Lebanese Brazilian. Chef Atala’s DOM restaurant is regarded by many critics as the best in Brazil, and rated number 24 on the world’s 50 best restaurant’s list, according to San Pellegrino’s annual rating. Atala’s cooking combines intriguing Amazonian flavors with ultra-modern techniques… all filtered through the artful lens of haute cuisine.

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During our tour of Sao Paulo’s Mercado Municipal, we get an introduction to the ingredients that comprise Brazil’s diverse culinary traditions. From salted pork and beef products like air-dried cuts of carne seca – essential for making Brazil’s feijoada complete, to row upon row of fresh seafood, mollusks, and fish– the Mercado Municipal has something for everyone.

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This is Brazil…From the Amazon’s endless verdant jungle where thousands of serpentine tributaries converge to form the world’s largest river… teaming with rare fish, and exotic fruits…To the sophisticated and cosmopolitan metropolis of Sao Paulo, with its infinite sprawl of skyscrapers, ethnic neighborhoods, and chic dining scenes. Take a stroll through downtown Sao Paulo and this ethnic diversity is easy to see in the beautiful, multi-cultural faces of the city’s residents who call themselves paulistas. In all its incarnations, Brazil is as massive as it is majestic. 

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The Incas considered the fertile valley of the Urubamba River to be a sacred place. One legend claims that the sun refreshes itself at night in the chilly waters underneath the river. The lush grasslands of this high plateau support sheep and grain production, and the mountain backdrop provides the ideal setting for an authentic pachamanca, or Andean pit roast. Usually undertaken at harvest time, as a thank-you to Pacha Mama, or Mother Earth, a full-scale pachamanca, is a major endeavor that engages the entire community. For his visiting American guests, Chef Pio Vasquez of El Huacatay restaurant in the town of Urubamba has orchestrated a pachamanca out of season, on a friend’s farm in the picturesque Sacred Valley.

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The majestic Peruvian Andes stretch the length of Peru and have witnessed the rise and fall of many civilizations. By 3000 BC, highlanders were cultivating a wide range of crops in this difficult landscape—hardy, life-sustaining foods such as gourds, corn, potatoes and quinoa. Potatoes provide the foundation of the Andean diet, and varieties number in the thousands. A stroll through the Cusco market provides a glimpse of the tantalizing potato options: at some stalls, the selections extend almost as far as the eye can see.

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On the eastern slopes of the Andes is a Peru that few people know. Far from the bustling streets of the capital, the vast Amazonian jungle teems with tropical fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that remain to be discovered. Botanists say that this lush, remote paradise contains more than 500 types of fruit, most of which never make it to Lima’s markets. At Malabar restaurant in Lima, chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino has made it his mission to introduce Peruvians to the Amazon’s wealth of ingredients.

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The multicultural stew that is modern Peru gets much of its spice from two waves of immigration—the Chinese in the mid-19th century, and the Japanese at the turn of the 20th century. These two immigrant groups have put down roots, and their descendants are fully integrated into Peruvian life. But at the table and in markets, such as Lima’s Central Market, the Asian impact is hard to miss.

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Pisco is the clear brandy that Peruvians have enjoyed for 450 years. Through the popularity of the refreshing pisco sour, a lime-laced drink known in bars everywhere, pisco is enjoying some well-deserved fame. But as Peruvians know, this sophisticated brandy is far more than just a mixer. Made only in a limited coastal area of Peru according to strict regulations, it has all the elegance and polish of French Cognac. Johnny Schuler is the president of the Pisco Tasters Guild and widely considered to be the world’s leading expert. According to Schuler, Peruvians owe this beloved beverage to the requirements of the Catholic Church.

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Whether eaten on the street, at a stylish cocktail party, or as a prelude to Sunday lunch, anticuchos are uniquely Peruvian. Although the most traditional anticucho is made with beef heart, modern cooks have expanded the repertoire to include anticuchos made with chicken livers or chicken breast, beef tenderloin, alpaca, even fish. What distinguishes anticuchos from other brochettes is their fiery marinade, a concoction that varies with each chef but almost always includes chile hot pepper paste and vinegar.

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Like the richly patterned textiles worn by Peru’s indigenous people Quechua-speaking peoples, the nation’s table weaves together strands that you might think incompatible—Chinese and African, Spanish and Japanese, Italian and native Quechua. Peru’s cultural diversity, the result of waves of immigration, contributes to a culinary scene that celebrates fusion. Every arriving immigrant group has left its mark on the Peruvian kitchen and enriched it with techniques and ingredients.

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Home of the legendary Inca culture and the lost city of Machu Picchu, Peru stirs the imagination of all who are captivated by the past. But today, Peru faces forward, and its restaurant scene is luring international travelers who seek the culinary world’s cutting edge. Visitors who make the trek will find a land of astonishing contrasts, with landscapes ranging from coastal desert to high plains to jungle. Few countries can match Peru for biodiversity, whether the focus is plant life, wildlife or the ethnic heritage of its people.

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Travel to the South American nations of Peru and Brazil, where leading chefs and food authorities demonstrate their culinary techniques in step-by-step detail. The Culinary Institute of America, in association with Unilever Food Solutions, presents "Savoring the Best of World Flavors," the fourth edition of the World Culinary Arts DVD Series. For recipes, visit www.ciaprochef.com/WCA  

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Christophoros Peskias is a rising star among Greek Chefs. Known for his deconstructionist approach, Chef Peskias explains two variations of carbonara. The Culinary Institute of America, in association with Unilever Food Solutions, presents "Savoring the Best of World Flavors." Download recipes at www.ciaprochef.com/WCA5/index.html.

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Chef Lazaarou of Varoulko Restaurant in Athens, demonstrates one of his signature dishes: Calamari in Pesto. The Culinary Institute of America, in association with Unilever Food Solutions, presents "Savoring the Best of World Flavors." Download recipes at www.ciaprochef.com/WCA5/index.html.

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