Tom and I visited São Paulo this again weekend, in the hopes of creating a makeshift 4th of July celebration to honor our native country, the great U.S.A. As much as we’ve loved integrating ourselves into the Brazilian culture, we’re still proud Americans and we wanted to do our homeland proud on the day of its independence.It was a dreary, drizzly sweater-weather weekend in Sampa, which made our quest to instill a July 4th into the trip a bit difficult. But we persevered. Since spending a lot of time outside was pretty much impossible, we did the next best thing. We ate. In fact, the trip turned into a bit of a food-cation if you will.
We started out with a fun lunch at a place that definitely had an American vibe.
We knew we wanted to find a great burger, the most traditional of July 4th cookout fare. When we found Big Kahuna Burger, a restaurant tribute to the cult classic American film, Pulp Fiction, we knew we had a winner.Kitschy decor and R-rated inspiration aside, the food was excellent and over-the-top in a wonderfully American way.
I opted for a more “reasonably” sized burger, with one patty and one giant onion ring. It was cooked perfectly and the onion ring, which I enjoyed on the side, had great crispy breading. Tom, on the other hand, ordered a burger literally the size of his head.
Bigger than his face? Craziness. Dubbed the Bad*ss M*therf*cker this beast was stacked with two patties, bacon, two types of cheese and three massive onion rings. If you can believe it, that’s not even the largest burger on the menu. That honor goes to the Ezequiel 25:17, which contains five patties, ten slices of bacon and ten slices of cheese. We did witness one in the restaurant, and frankly, it frightened me. (For the vegetarians out there, I was impressed to see that Big Kahuna does offer a meatless burger.)
For dessert, and obviously we needed dessert (I mean, my burger was “reasonable” after all), we waffled between the Five Dollar Milkshake and a slice of blueberry cheesecake (taking some liberty from Fabienne’s blueberry pancakes with blueberry pie). Although less authentic, after ogling a slice of cheesecake at a neighboring table, we couldn’t resist.
It was good, but overshadowed by the deliciousness of the burgers, and our full bellies. I find that desserts are almost never as good as they look.
After lunch, we did as much walking as possible in the rain to try futilely to work off our lunch, stopping for coffee at the famous Coffee Lab in Pinheiros, where coffee is treated like science. The space was lovely, but we were surprised to find a long wait for a table when we arrived.
Fighting off a food coma, we forced ourselves to wait in the secret-garden-esque atrium to get our perk on. Coffee Lab isn’t your typical coffee shop, where you order at the counter and find an open seat. It’s more like a dining experience, even offering coffee rituals that are aimed at teaching you the difference between certain types of coffee and coffee techniques.
It was a bit odd for us convenience-oriented Americans, but a nice change of pace. Thus properly caffeinated, we did some more walking before landing at Bar Astor, a cocktail bar in Vila Madalena known for its mixology. I’m not usually a big cocktail person, but I went with it, ordering… what else, an Americano.
We hung out and people watched for a while as the sun set early, something that continues to bum me out about living in Brazil during the winter. I miss those long, leisurely summer evenings.
After dark, we stepped out onto the street into probably the coldest night we’ve experienced in Brazil so far. Our coat game wasn’t cutting it, so we went back to the hotel to warm up before dinner. (We should really probably look into competitive eating…)
We had a late reservation at a newer restaurant in Jardins, Mimo, with an eclectic menu that reminded us of many of the restaurants we love frequenting to much back in D.C.
This turned out to be a very fun, very pink meal. I loved the sleek look of the restaurant, and the food was excellent. We started with smoked beef tongue with mustard ice cream and an apple and goat cheese salad with beetroot sorbet. Mustard ice cream and beetroot sorbet? So fun and creative.
Both dishes were fresh and light, with clean and simple flavors. We also shared a dorado fish filet with beetroot puree and grilled ricotta. It was a great meal and definitely a nice change from the meat-heavy fare we’ve grown accustomed to in Brazil.
We were done for the night, but our food-cation wasn’t over yet. We still had one very specific goal – to find a typical American brunch. Y’all know I love my brunch, but the custom really doesn’t exist in Bauru. We’d heard that Paulistanos take their brunch pretty seriously, so we set out to see for ourselves at Santo Grao in Jardins.
The benchmark of any successful brunch, for me, is a solid bloody mary. Santo Grao’s delivered, once I doctored it a bit with extra tabasco. Brazilian cuisine is not known for its spice factor.
For our entrees, we went very traditional in our choices, huevos rancheros and eggs benedict. Again, we felt like we had been transported back to the states.
We both agreed that our dishes were a little under-seasoned, but weren’t too disappointed since we had yet to get over the exciting novelty of brunch. While it wasn’t a slam dunk meal, the ambience, bloody marys and coffees we had more than made up for the lack of salt.
And with that, I think we did America proud. There were no fireworks, tank tops or Budweiser but we kept the grand U.S. of A in our hearts and our stomachs all the day long knowing that without the brave women and men who have fought and continue to fight for the freedom we won back in 1776, we would never have had the opportunity to spend this time exploring another country’s food and culture.