Thursday, March 29, 2012

Having a Nose for Putting Things in My Mouth

Now, now, everyone, get your mind out of the gutter. Remember this IS a food blog, and I am talking about having a nose for finding good eats and good peeps, not anything else...that's for my other blog. Haaa. I don't know how it happens, it must be something that comes from within. My instincts. My withinstincts. Yesterday I went on a adventure in my new city, São Paulo, to explore a new neighborhood, Vila Madelena. Streets strewn with hip, expensive, alternative shops, graffiti covering most buildings, and as dusk falls, little bars (barzinhos) start to put their chairs and tables on the sidewalks for the evening's festivities. I pop into one of these barzinhos and ask to see the menu because seeing as I have no job, my ass is surely on a budget. I go to 4 of these little bars only to find the cheapest thing on the menu being 22 reais which is about 15 dollars for even just a salad. This is not the kind of place I am looking for. I decided to give up, and retreat back to my shady neighborhood for some cheap eats. As I'm heading back to the metro station, I see one more cute little place with nice seating out front. I decided to give it one more whirl.

So glad I did!! As I walk in to the empty restaurant (it's 4 pm and they close at 6, plus it's a Wednesday), a lovely girl with a big smile greets me and shows me all the items they have available on the menu at this hour. Many things were in the 20-40 reais range, but she does point out one item that made one of the local newspapers, Beringela Rechada or Stuffed Eggplant, and this is only 14 reais (less than $10). She also shows me the photo from the paper, and I am sold. The beer selection is on the counter, and she explains to me that a few of them are from other regions in Brazil. This comes as a shock to me because most places offer only about 4 different varieties of beer that all taste virtually the same. I choose a clear lager from the state north of São Paulo, Minas Gerais and grab a seat in front so I can watch the passer-byers. She brings out my beer accompanied with thinly sliced crostini gently dabbed with oil, garlic, and oregano along with a side of this spicy jam-textured dipping sauce. One taste, and I knew my nose had taken me to the right place. My eggplant is delivered to me by this cute, buff, tattooed guy who looks very excited to come and speak with me. He immediately asks where I'm from, and I reply San Francisco, and he expresses his love for San Francisco, and that he is gay, and that he studied gastronomy in Buenos Aires, etc. We chat for a while and exchange emails so that he can show me some of his favorite São Paulo spots. Totally adorable.

But let's get to the good stuff...the eggplant is HUGE, and overflowing with ground beef, cheese, tomato sauce, and oregano. Plus, it comes with a side of rice, that I know I won't touch with this luscious meat and cheese in front of me. And, my new gay homie brings me another serving of the crostini, and I want to kiss him for it. The eggplant is cooked softly so it's not stringy, and the meat is just gently flavored. I can't help myself but to add more parmesan and a couple of droplets of that spicy sauce. Before I know it, I'm three quarters of the way done when the owner comes out to check on me. She and I blab for a few minutes, and she asks me to let her know if I need to heat up my food a bit more since it is a bit chilly outside. I felt right at home. A perfect ending to a perfect day at Casa da Li. Now I want to go back for the porchetta....

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