Friday, 23 July 2010
Rio's a beauty; São Paulo's a city
“Rio is a beauty, but São Paulo… São Paulo is a city,” so said Marlene Dietrich. And having spent time in both, I’m inclined to agree. Rio’s the sexy one of the two, but São Paulo has its own charm, one of urban cool.
It’s not the first time that I’ve been to São Paulo but it’s probably the first time that I’ve really appreciated the city, one that my grandmother always liked because of its “movimento” – movement. And it’s true. São Paulo never stays still – with the exception of its horrific traffic.
My gran liked shopping on Rua 25 de Março, a busy street full of bargain shops. She liked going to big food markets, too, and I was reminded of her when I visited the Mercado Municipal yesterday, the city’s main market of every produce you can think of – cheese, olives, pasta, fruit, meat, vegetables. The neo-gothic-romanesque building was built in 1933 by Francisco de Paula Ramos de Azevedo and has truly impressive stained-glass windows.
But the most interesting aspect for me is the shopper. If there was an equivalent market in England, for example, it would likely be a tourist attraction. But in São Paulo, it is the locals who shop there. It’s testament to the quality and taste of the food cooked at home in Brazil; people care about the way food is cooked, about the "tempero" (the seasoning, the spices used) and so seek out good quality ingredients.
Which brings me nicely onto lunchtime. I’ve been eating very well in São Paulo, largely because I love rice and beans, which you can get everywhere. One of the interesting things to note when eating out in Brazilian restaurants in São Paulo (the city has a strong offer of international cuisine) is that food is often served in buffet style. And it’s absolutely delicious. If you do go to São Paulo, try the rice and beans. It may sound like a strange dish if you’ve never sampled it, but the way in which both are cooked make it a really delicious combination. Try bacalhau (salt cod), and the meat is supposedly very good too. For pudding, it’s got to be pudim (a milk-based dessert). At Capim Santo today (pictured), I had three different types of brigadeiros (a condensed-milk sweet) for pudding – I can still taste how good they were.
And I've just got back to the hotel, having eaten an empadinha (a little pie made of heart of palm) at Bella Paulista. For of all São Paulo's top-notch restaurants and international cuisine, simple places like Bella Paulista are, without a doubt, worth a visit. It's a huge bakery-meets-bistro with different counters of savoury snacks, sweets, breads or pizzas, where locals grab a quick bite. No-one does savoury snacks like the Brazilians. I'm going back tomorrow for empadinha number two.