Foods of Brasil

13 August, 2009

So as we are nearing our departure date, thought it may be helpful to provide our top food and beverage in Brasil (and a few comments on our least fav too!).

Prior to coming here I had visions of beans, beans and more beans. Oh a little rice to mop it all up. Well, I was kinda right but there is a whole lot more to this terrific countries table… my personal top 10:

10. Coxinha de Frango.
Drink Cachaca, wait 12 hours, get really hungover, then enjoy the delight of one of these. Mixed chicken in the middle, covered by a smooth covering of mash potato, covered in bread crumbs, deep fired all in the shape of a scrumptious little cone. All at the going rate of R$4 … bargain!!!

bacaninha_coxinha_frango

9. Carpaccio de Carne (as a starter).
Raw beef, sliced finely, on top of mini toasted bread, maybe a little Rucula, parmesan, capers and a sauce of mixed herbs and good olive oil… and I even convince myself it is healthy!

carpaccio

8. Mini Hamburgers.
The perfect late nite treat. Hamburgers the size of mouthfills with all the layers, meat pattie, cheese, tomato sauce, mustard and a wee gherkin! This is civilised!
hamburg

7. Farofa.
Flour with curry powder and cooked Bacon to go on top of the Fejao. I know this one is a little strange, and I was very sceptical of the sawdust material that kept landing on my beans and rice, until I tried Farofa made by our wonderful lady who helped in our house “Nice”. Now I get cravings for it!!!!

farofa

6. Chimichurri and Picanha.
So we all know the beef is amazing in Argentina and Brasil, but try some of this magic sauce and it is mindblowing. Tastebuds, time to engage! It is finely chopped onion, herbs, garlic, ginger, vinegarette and a little olive oil.

chimichurri

5. Doce de Leite .
Ok, so its Argentinean, so it knows its good, but this time it really is! Its basically liquid caramel to be had on tabioca pancakes, rice, bread, chocolate, ice cream, spoons, fingers etc ….

doce-de-leite

4. Pao de Quiejo.
Literally, cheese bread. I call them little pillows of yumminess! Mandioc flour with cheese, about the size of a squash ball… The staple for breakfast. Truth be known there may have been a few fights in our house over the last one.
pao_queijo

3. Bananas.
So many varieties, so little time..

Bananas

2. Polenta Frita com Quejio.
Aaghh… first nite memories from the bar literally downstairs from us which have now become a staple at any drinking session. Definitely one I will be cooking at home!
polenta frita

1. Acai.
WOW!!!!! The best discovery here. Enjoy with granola, banana, honey … you cant go wrong!

acai


Greg is also keen that I put in the following “highly recommended” foods:

Corn at the beach
Taken off the cob, kernels in a plastic cup with lashings of butter, salt and pepper and a spoon….
Quiejo stick
Like Hullomi, but not as sharp, on a skewer, BBQ’d. Also at the beach!
Pao na Chapa
Very simple. A super fresh french baguette, smothering of butter (or olive oil) on a hot grill squashed …
Pão na chapa 1
Sanduiche com Mortadella
You can buy them by the gram … Greg goes for the 500g option (yes, 500g of grilled, hot, Mortadella), am afraid I was too scarred by Luncheon meat in my youth to have been tempted.

sanduiche-blog

On a personal note, there are a couple of foods that I was happy to avoid in Brasil:

– Fejoida Heavy. This is the “traditional” Brasilian feast served every Wednesday and Saturday. Basically, it is cuts of every “animal type” imagineable. Yes we are talking lips, tongues, gullets, eek, eek. Fejoida light, now that’s a different story: good cuts of meat and sausage with beans, rice, grilled banana, pork chop, kobe, farofa… Happiness is….
– Cheese. Errrrghhh…. Generally it was awful. Avoid.
– Olives, hmmm … the less said the better
– Pizza. Often too reliant on cheese and olives.
– Fresh white fish in Sao Paulo. Frozen, overpriced …. Even at the top restaurants
– Curries. Wrong continent.

– Bachalau!!!! What the hell ????? Are you kidding me? Fish from the North Seas, salted and dried, then covered in oil and cheese (refer note above) to make it taste good. The Portuguese ate this 300 years ago because refrigerators did not exist, there is no need to keep going with this insane tradition!!!

DRINKS OF BRASIL

5. Cold Coconut Juice (fresh from the Coconut).
If you are going for a run or had the runs – this is highly recommended. Guaranteed to help any “digestive problems” shall we say whilst being really refreshing. Don’t be shy and ask for the coconut to be cut open after drinking so you can scoop out the flesh.
IMG_0286

4. Chopp.
We are talking beer. It has to be 200ml, ice cold (minus 4 degrees is perfect) with a head the same size of the volume of beer. In my country, this would constitute a free beer or getting punched for trying to fleece a customer, but not in Brasil.
brahma_chopp

3. Abacaxi com Hortela Suco.
Pineapple juice with a sprinkle of mint, there is nothing more refreshing!
abacaxi+com+hortel%C3%A3

2. Suco de Caju.
The juice from the fruit that surrounds a cashew nut… quite sweet, but when mixed with the right amount of crushed ice, a little lime, just devine.
caju

1. Caipiroska com Maracuja.
Vodka with Passionfruit juice, I may have had a few of these in the last 18 months. Its amazing how well these can make you samba, sing, speak Portuguese etc ….
Caipirinha-de-maracujá-Casa-da-Feijoada-Ipanema-Rio-de-Janeiro-2-Resolução-do-desktop-500x375

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One year in, we are still here and still loving it!

2 March, 2009

Hello Hello,

Long time no chat!

We have now been in Brasil for over a year, many people predicted the initial six months would keep going and going and it has.

So it now looks like we will be here for another year or two – which in our world is practically forever, so we are settling into our Brasilian lifestyle even more and making ourselves more at home here in sunny Sao Paulo.

Of course because we are now going to be here for longer, all of you who have been talking about coming over to visit us can now go ahead and book your tickets!!!

I know I have been a bit slack on the blog front for a while now, work and other not so exciting things have kept us a bit quiet for the last few months, plus we have also been traveling a lot, trips to Australia, England and Spain have kept us on the move and having fun catching up with family and friends all over the world.

Work for both of us is good, as usual busy, but good and with summer finally in full swing over here we really have nothing to complain about.

Last night we were watching the travel and living channel (gregs favourite channel after Speed), and we happened to see TV chef and travel show host Anthony Bourdain presenting a show from Sao Paulo. His encounter with Sao Paulo and his view of the city very closely mirrors our own thoughts on the city, so i thought i would post the show here for anyone who wants to see it.

Thanks to youtube, the full show is available to watch online (but its broken into five bite size pieces)  the show is about forty minutes all up,  so get yourself a comfy chair and a cool drink and settle in and follow Mr Bourdain as he falls in love with the city we also love:

Of course for anyone who wants to download the whole show, you can download it here:

http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/3780431/Anthony.Bourdain.No.Reservations.S04E01-04%5Bcabra%5D

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Watch this space as we will back soon with another post on our latest adventure to Patagonia!


renting a house in sao paulo, our experience

6 October, 2008

After four months of solid searching we finally found our dream house here in sunny Sao Paulo. From looking at our blog stats, searches, emails and comments it appears that lots of people seem interested in information on the house rental process here in Sao Paulo, so this blog will cover what we encountered, learned and discovered during our search for a rental house.

Please don’t think that we are house hunting experts, or that our experience was in anyway “normal”, I don’t know what is normal here for house hunting, I can only write about our experience, and I hope that it helps someone.

Types of houses:

We knew we wanted to live near Parque Ibirapuera (the biggest park close to the centre of Sao Paulo), so we only looked in this area of the city, but even in our relatively small area we saw some a whole range of places, from amazing condominiums, cute secure streets and lots of nice houses out on regular streets.

Condominiums are secure and gated housing developments, they are the most secure (and most expensive) type of house that we saw, but most of them were well out of our budget (and hard to find vacant too), which was sad as some were really modern and funky.

Secure streets have a barrier at the entrance and exit of the street and a guard looking after the street, there are some nice secure streets around the edge of the park, and a couple that actually back onto the park.

Houses on regular streets can still have a security guard service; groups of houses chip in to pay the wages for a twenty four hours security service (which is what we have near our place).

Real Estate Agents

They are much the same as they are back in NZ or England, and that’s all I need to say!

We used all of the agencies near the park to maximise our chances of finding a place. In the end we found our house with VNC:

http://www.vnc.com.br/hm/

We also used Coehlo Da Fonseca:

http://www.coelhodafonseca.com.br/

And Anglo American:

http://www.angloaa.com/

All three had some people who could speak at least some English, which was a great help to us with our beginners Portuguese.

Another website that friends have used is:

http://www.zap.com.br/

The three agents would regularly email or phone as new houses became available, and we could see them online usually before deciding to view them.

Because where we wanted to live was an area of high demand, houses came and went really quickly, so we were lucky that Greg had a pretty flexible schedule so was able to visit houses as soon as the agent got the keys. The agents showed us houses around the range that we requested, but would also try and get us to view houses that were way out of our budget, which was both annoying and fascinating at the same time. The range of houses around our area goes from R4,000 to over R25,000 per month, and some of the houses at the top of the range are worth a look, just to see how the other half live!

The agents would pick us up from our place, or if it was easier we would meet them at the property or at their office. We never saw more than three houses in a day and we could never work out if this was deliberate or just coincidence.

The renting process

Once we found a house that we liked, we put in a written offer to the landlord via the agent, it seemed that the landlord can only be presented one offer at a time, and we narrowly missed one nice house as another offer got put in just 10 minutes before our offer did.

Once the landlord agrees to the offer, a contract is drawn up; this is where the process became a lot slower and more convoluted than the process in the UK or Nz/Oz.

There appeared to be no standard lease document, and our lease was 23 pages long and needed to be prepared by a lawyer – as if renting isn’t stressful enough on its own!

You don’t pay a bond, instead someone acts as a Fiador and guarantees your rental, this could be your company, or a person who lives in the state of Sao Paulo, and owns their own property, I don’t know if you could get a lease signed without this guarantee though.

The first place we applied for went fine until the landlord realised we were gringos, when he put the rent up by 25%, but the other landlords we encountered where pretty good and the agents were as shocked as we were by the landlords behaviour, so I don’t think this is normal behaviour!

The standard lease appears to be 36 months, but you can add a break clause in with a few weeks’ notice which we did, so the length of the lease didn’t really worry us, if the lease was broken early we would have to pay the lawyers fees – I am not sure what that would be though!

The real estate agent gets one months’ rent – but this paid to them by the landlord and you also need to pay the landlords insurer one month’s rent per year which is effectively landlords insurance.

A couple of friends of ours had leases that stated they needed to completely repaint the property when they ended the lease, this isn’t massively expensive, but it is another cost you may want to consider adding into your costs.

Renovations

It appears quite common here to negotiate with the landlord to spend some months of the rent money renovating the house, it’s a really great idea and lots of houses we saw had the option to spend up to four months’ rent on renovations, of course, the more you could spend on renovations, the shabbier the house was to start with. We negotiated to repaint the inside of our house, install a new kitchen and bathroom and generally tidy up the place up to the cost of three months rent. So the first three months rent we have paid to the contractors to do the renovations rather than the landlord.

What’s in the house?

This was probably one of the biggest areas of difference to the way we were renting back home, the things that are included in the house can vary massively from house to house, some we saw were totally bare – I mean totally bare, you would have to buy your own light fittings, switches, curtain rails, hot water systems etc. Others were more normally empty; you just needed to buy all your white goods (including fridge, oven, washing machine etc). Luckily we found a house in the latter category of empty, so we just had to buy all our white goods and furniture.

As with most things in Brasil, prices are probably higher than we expected (and most other expats too it appears) expected them to be, you can see the prices of all the white goods you need at this company website:

http://www.fastshop.com.br/

From our comparisons and talking to work mates these guys had pretty good prices, and a two day delivery guarantee.

Brasilian houses

The Brasilian houses that we saw had some peculiarities that we had not seen before and might be worth mentioning.

The most obvious difference was the maids’ apartment. At the back of all of the houses that we saw there was a small apartment with a bedroom and bathroom for the maid to use, these were generally pretty small and dark, but could I imagine be used as a spare bedroom if you like us don’t have a live in maid.

Quite a few of the older houses we saw didn’t have hot water in the kitchen; others had small electric hot water systems over the sink supplying hot water. Along similar lines was the electric shower, our house has a couple of these, they use electrical current to heat coldwater right in the shower head, once you get used to electric cables and running water being so close together they are pretty good.

Most of houses we saw also had fire places, its hot most of the year in Sao Paulo, but as the houses are built to catch a breeze rather than hold in hot air, when the weather does get cold, the house can get quite cold, we have a big fireplace in the lounge that fixes that problem there, but there is no heating in the other rooms. It’s not that cold here, so it’s not really a problem, but for people used to turning on the central heating as soon as it got a bit cold in London, we have found our first winter in Sao Paulo a bit of shock to the system!

My favourite bit of Brasilian house design is definitely the hammock hangers, our house has three sets of internal hammock hanging points, I am really looking forward to sleeping in the hallway on a hot summer night, with the breeze blowing through from the hallway door!

Given the grim fascination with safety and security and Sao Paulo, it’s probably also worth mentioning that our house is suitably well secured, we have a big tall fence around the house, topped with an electric fence, we have a motion detecting alarm system, and the core part of the house has all steel frame doors and windows with bars on them and panic buttons to call our security firm if anyone manages the get through all that. With that amount of security we sleep very well at night!

Bills

As well as paying the rent, we also pay for water, electricity, telephone and IPTU (council tax). I don’t know how the IPTU is calculated but for our house it costs us about 10% of our rent each month.

Another bill that we are quite happy to pay is for the security guard who watches over some of the houses on the street, given the fear of security in Sao Paulo, it’s reassuring to have him around the house in the evening, and as he is shared between several houses, the cost is minimal.

That’s about all I can think of our house renting experience at the moment, I hope it helps someone else who is in our situation. If I have made any mistakes or omissions, then please let me know!

Cheers,

Greg


Finally, we get into the new house!

14 September, 2008

Hey folks,

Yep we know its been a while since we updated the blog – sorry – but we have been busy kids!

Greg was finishing his book (it’s off to the publisher now) and Cath was busy at work (as usual) and amidst all this we have been trying to find and sort out our new house.

As with lots of things in Brasil, the processes for renting somewhere to live is subtly different to the way we have done it in the past in London and Oz and Nz, and importantly a somewhat longer process. Greg will do a follow up post with some lessons we have learned going through the process of renting a home in Sao Paulo soon as lots of people have been visiting our blog and asking for information on our experience.

We choose to rent a house over an apartment because coming from Oz and Nz we are not really apartment people, even though we were living in an apartment for the last eight months, and have previously spent 12 months in one in London, we enjoy having a real outdoor area, and most importantly not having people above, below and beside us, so even though the security risks are somewhat higher (apparently) we decided that a house was the right home for us while we are in Sao Paulo.

So last Friday we finally said good-bye to our forty-eight square metre studio (which included the balcony and ten boxes of stuff shipped over from London last month) and said hello to our three hundred square metre house. The house was built in 1977 (what an awesome year, lots of quality produced in that year) and I don’t think anything has been renovated since.

When we finally arranged a time to hand over the keys we were in for a bit of a surprise, as well as the keys to the front gate and the front door, we were told that the rest of the keys for the house were in the box in the kitchen – we didn’t really realise what we were in for here though – the box contained over 180 keys “for the house” none with any labels, so our first challenge was trying to match these keys to the forty odd lockable doors, windows, cupboards and drawers in the house! Here is Greg half way through the great key sort:

The “keys to the house”

So the house is actually divided into two separate houses, in the main house, we have three bedrooms, four bathrooms, kitchen, conservatory and two dining rooms… you get the picture. It is huge.

Then there is a separate house at the back, its double storey and on the top floor it has an art studio with amazing views to the city and to the park. Downstairs is where the maid would live, it also has a laundry room, a small poolside party room and a bathroom for the pool, taking the grand total of bathrooms to seven.

Oh yeah and it also has a pool and a second larger “sala de fiesta” which translates to the party room!

So here is a quick tour of the new place, starting at the street and working towards the back:

The front gates (and the car)

The Sala de fiesta (just waiting for the pool and ping pong tables)

The lounge

The conservatory (and Gregs soon to be cactus garden)

The dining room

The kitchen (with new cooker and fridge)

The “yellow” bathroom, we also have similarly “lovely” grey, brown, chocolate and white bathrooms too!

The second bedroom leading to the pool

The second house

The artist’s studio (now gregs office)

So as I mentioned rental agreements are a bit different here and our new house is really tired inside, the kitchen, bathrooms and paint doesn’t look it has been touched since the place was built, so we negotiated three months rent free so that we could spend the rent money renovating the kitchen, bathroom, and re-painting everywhere.

There are lots of things that are different between a Brasilian house (well our Brasilian house at least) and the houses that we have lived in before, the electric showers is an obvious thing, instead of having hot and cold water in the shower, there is just cold water, and an electric shower head which heats up the water before it comes out the nozzle, a great idea once you get used to mixing electricity and water! But Gregs favourite thing is definitely the numerous hammock hooks around the property (inside and outside the house), there are a couple set into the wall near the back door of our place (where there is a nice breeze), they are a great idea, the fold into the wall when not required and are definitely something that could definitely catch on:

Hammock Hooks

So, the house is definitely a lot bigger than what we were planning to get, but after four months of looking for a house we were quite keen to move somewhere/anywhere!!! As well as an amazing house where we live is in walking distance to loads of great restaurants, the biggest park in Sao Paulo, and is considered to be the safest neighbourhood in town, and the best thing is that the rent for this house is not much more than we were paying for a small 2 bed terrace house in Chiswick, London.

But of course the first thing that everyone wants to know about when we mention we are living in a house and not an apartment is the question of security, so for those who are interested, the house is surrounded by three metre high walls, with an electric fence on top, a motion sensing alarm system, panic buttons in most of the rooms, a secure inner locked up area (where you can “double lock” at night) and a guard outside twenty four hours a day that guards our house and the ten houses around us. So I think we will be fine!

Its pretty funny, though this level of security may seem extremely high to some of reading outside Brasil, it already feels completely normal and we feel more secure in house that we ever have before in a house!

So the painters start tomorrow, so hopefully in a month of two our house should be fixed up nice, just in time for summer and a pool side bbq party or two!


Why don’t you boys go outside and fly a kite or something?

24 July, 2008

Well after just over six months in our tiny little flat, we are finally moving somewhere a bit more permanent. We are moving next week into a real house – no more apartment living for us (we say yet again)!!!

But living on the 18th floor definitely has it advantages if you like to watch the world go by, at the moment its school holidays in Sao Paulo, so some kids in a building near us went to fly their kite.

Here is their kite:

And here are the kids:

The best thing is they are thirteen stories up, so their kite is really really really high (kids and kite highlighted):

Here they are another day, this time with an afternoon flight departing from Congonhas airport:

As you can see in that picture, they sky is quite grey on the horizon, aparently because its July, one of the driest months of the year so there is no rain to wash the pollution away.

Talking of departing flights, here is one of neighbours coming home from work (or maybe a hard days shopping, it s hard to tell from here:

Another great thing is the evening views; here is a time exposure shot I got of the evening traffic near our place (including the lights from a passing plane in the top right hand corner)…

We are really going to miss the view, but we sure aint going to miss the twenty four hour traffic noise!!


Living in Sao Paulo, it’s just like living in any other large city in the world except:

30 May, 2008

Continuing my random list of the differences we have noticed between Sao Paulo and other large cities in the world:

1 Complete strangers want to know your personal details.

For example, today I was talking to a real estate agent (don’t worry they are scum bags here as well), after the formalities of swapping names and polite chit chat, he asked if I was married? – To which I said I was, he then asked do you have kids yet? Not just did we have kids, but did we have kids yet? I said no, to which he replied well maybe you have not been married very long? I told him it’s been four years, he gave me a sad look – obviously that means we must be having troubles!

Brazilians have a different idea of polite conversation – especially to the English, no one in England would dare ask if you had kids – I am not sure why, but it’s just not considered polite conversation, but here in Brazil it’s a totally normal conversation, we have been asked by people at work, waiters, taxi drivers, just about everyone who can speak English will ask drop these questions into the conversation. It takes a while to get used to it, but once you do,you realise it’s a friendly and enjoyable conversation topic – rather than some social taboo!

2 There’s no English newspapers

Ok technically you can if you are really desperate buy a copy of the International Herald Tribune and USA Today in a few places, but there is no English daily newspaper in Sao Paulo, quite amazing when you consider ther are 20,000,000 people in the city. Again compared to London where you can get copies of newspapers in almost any language from most news agents.

3 You can change the language of TV shows

A nifty feature which is apparently standard on cable TV over here allows you to switch the language of the tv show you are watching, so you can watch M*A*S*H* in Portuguese, Spanish or English, not only can you change the spoken language, you can also change the subtitles language as well – a great tool when you are trying to pick up the local lingo!

4 The rental property market is long, long, term…

The rental market in SP was a bit of a surprise to us, the normal lease on a rental property is 36 months or longer. If you want to rent for 12 months or less you can’t rent a regular apartment, you need to rent what is known as a “flat”. A flat is usually furnished apartment which is aimed at the short term market, flats are much more expensive than apartments – like double the price of a long term rental property!

All long term rental apartments are rented completely empty – i mean completely empty, you need to supply your own fridge, washing maching, cooker and all the furniture. Not much fun in country where all imported appliances have a 60% import duty on them!

Another interesting difference in apartments is that most larger apartments have a small bedroom for the maid to sleep in – usually tucked behind the laundry. As most people who can afford to live in an apartment building can also afford a maid, this is a great idea. The maids room does not count toward the bedroom count though – so a three bedroom apartment, could actually have four bedrooms in it.