Monday, June 30, 2014

Eating at the World Cup - Manaus Part One

One major highlight of our trip to Brazil was a little 1,800 mile jaunt into the Amazon Jungle to the city of Manaus.  There are no roads into Manaus and the city is accessible only by plane and riverboat.  We opted for the plane and when we were descending into the Amazon, we really get a sense just how massive the jungle and the river really are.  Obviously I KNOW that they are huge, but the decent into the city leaves no doubt that this is truly one of the wonders of the world.
On our first night in Manaus, we went to the delicious and highly recommended Restaurant Banziero.  Under the direction of award winning local chef, Felipe Schaedler, we enjoyed one of our favorite meals in Brazil.  Being so deep in the jungle, Manaus is known for the amazing local fish, fruits, and vegetables that are nearly impossible to export.  I knew we were in for a very local treat that we would never be able to get anywhere else in the world.When you first arrive in many restaurants in Brazil, you receive a small mug or cup of Caldinho.  It is a thick soup or broth that is either made with black beans or with some kind of seafood.  We'd already come to love caldinhos, so we knew we were in love when they immediately brought the steaming mug to our table.  This version was a thick seafood soup made with tucupi, jambu and fresh shrimp.  Tucupi is a yellow sauce that is extracted from wild manioc root that grows in the Amazon Jungle and the jambu is a local fruit.  This dish was perfectly seasoned and absolutely hit the spot after a long day of travel.  
They also brought some limes and homemade spicy pepper sauce to accompany the caldinho so that you could adjust the acidity and spice to your own preference.
Obviously the first thing we did after chugging our caldinhos was order the national drink of Brazil: Caipirinhas.  If your country is going to have a national drink, it should always be as good as this.  Fresh lime, sugar, and locally made sugar cane liquor.  Muddled together simply and perfectly to create a balanced and delicious drink.  At Banzeiro we got a version with kiwi fruit and we were not disappointed.
Kelaine opted for the fantastic graviola juice, which we all loved.
Since we'd eaten a lot of fried foods already, our bodies were craving something fresh.  We started our with the Salada do Banzeiro (House Salad), which was a mix of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, local cheese, croutons and bacon made from the pirarucu fish.
No, you didn't read that wrong.  I said BACON made from FISH.  And it was sensational.  Pirarucu is the most famous of the local Amazonian fishes that we knew we wanted to try and this preparation was salty and delicious.  It is a very large, thick fish, so this very fun take worked very well.
Next we ordered the house specialty, which was Costela De Tambaqui Frita, or Fried Tambaqui Ribs.  This is another gigantic fish that actually has huge ribs that they fry up and serve on the bone.  The meat is white, tender, and flaky.  I've never seen or tasted anything quite like it before.
It was incredibly unique and delicious.
As our second mail course (because...why not?), we had Pirarucu with roasted banana and fried cheese.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but this is a huge filet of firm, moist fish that has been barbequed on an open flame.  They then bring it out on a cutting board to the table and serve it to each person with a little piece of the cheese and banana.  Not only was it beautiful, but it was the most delicious thing I've eaten in quite a while.
We also had white rice with broccoli, which was a very common side dish throughout Brazil along with black eyed peas and potatoes.  The sandy-looking stuff is farofa, which is a grain that you'll find as an accompaniment to most meals.  It adds crunchy texture to the food. 
For dessert, we split the Cupuaçu mousse with toasted cashews. Cupuaçu is a local Amazonian fruit that is very unique. The taste is somewhere between a banana, pineapple, and chocolate (it is actually in the cocoa family).  We also got a little coconut candy to finish off the meal.  The mousse was delicate and not too sweet with a perfect crunch from the nuts.
Mark was not a huge fan which worked out great...more for me!
This meal left us totally fortified and excited to cheer on Team USA in their match against Portugal. Even a gut wrenching tie couldn't dampen our love for the great city of Manaus. 
Up next is our trip to the jungle!

One Year AgoCoca Cola Chicken Thighs
Two Years AgoChocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
Three Years AgoKiwi Margarita
Four Years AgoLamb Kebabs

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