Rafael Costa e Silva at Lasai In Rio de Janeiro

November 1, 2014
Rafa Lasai

Rafael Costa e Silva

In the spring of 2014, a young carioca chef opened a very different, very modern restaurant for the city of Rio called Lasai.

Considering modernist chefs down there, his precedent chef Felipe Bronze, opened the doors for this kinds of cuisine with the launch of Oro, in 2010. Four years later, Lasai consolidated and made it official: an incredible food revolution is under way in Rio de Janeiro.

comida Lasai

Perhaps, you are unaware of the difficulty of eating fancy in Rio. The city remais beloved by those who cultivate botequim culture, street food, and beach philosophy. The well prepared, well priced, uber sophisticated meal is almost not existent.

comida Lasai

I can’t speak for every carioca, but for someone like me, who left Rio in a time when it was almost impossible to stumble on a satisfying modern meal, this kind of cuisine, to the surprise of the nation, may actually stick and stay in Rio.

What kind of man has this power? I sat down with him on a sunny afternoon. Rafael Costa e Silva, aka Rafa, brushed aside his life in a straight, simple line. Born in Rio. Started cooking at 23 years old. Business administration grad. Studied cooking at University Estácio de Sá (Rio de Janeiro). Loved it. Invested in higher education: CIA in New York. Worked in the Big Apple. Sent resumes to Europe. Landed at Mugarritz, Spain. Moved from apprentice to executive chef. That’s it. A simple straight line, when told backwards, of course.

Somewhere along the way—actually, at the CIA—Rafa met his wife Malena, and the two arranged to apprentice at Mugarritz together, him working in the kitchen, her working in the front of the house.

In 2012 Rafa came back to his hometown (Rio) with big plans. Huge in fact.

Lasai means “calm, tranquility, slowly” in Eureska, a dialect spoken in northern Spain where Mugarritz is located. The restaurant offers two menus, so called short one in with you try XX plates and a long one called Festival, offering 15 courses. From the first bite to the wine on your glass, every aspect of the meal is calculated by Rafa and his team.

Architecture and décor details were also planned, reflecting the mind and taste of this carioca chef, from his obsession with Flamengo (a soccer team in Rio) to the wine adega.

Gorgeous Ambient at Lasai

Gorgeous Ambient at Lasai

Flamengo, Lasai

The iconic T-shirt from Flamengo soccer team, right above the kitchen sink

When Rafa was putting together his business plan, words of des-encouragement poured from just about everywhere and everyone. “Rio will never embrace this culture. Reservations don’t work in Rio. Cariocas don’t want to eat like that.”

He heard it all. But against all odds, Rafa gets as many as two weeks of reservations ahead of time. For a city like Rio, that’s unheard of.

Rafa Lasai

Considering the limitations of a kitchen staff in Rio (or in Brazil for that matter), and their lack of knowledge and education, Rafa has invested deeply in training his personnel to be the main channel between his work and the discerning dinner. “If you train your staff really well, they will seduce the costumer with our menu options.” Rafa said.

Rafa Lasai

Scallops, cleaned

Scallops, cleaned

The only near traumatic problem with Lasai is getting in. While I was interviewing Rafa for this article, two people knocked on the door trying to make a reservation for that same day. Rafa had to tell them he was completely booked. What a delicious problem he created for himself. Should you manage to acquire a reservation, you will feel like an insider and taste Brazilian cuisine unbound, which is always unexpected in Rio.


Photo Credits by Rafael Costa e Silva


Restaurant Lasai





Going Back in Time at Volta, a New Restaurant in Rio

October 1, 2014


The act of cooking simple food well in a very cosmopolitan city requires years of training and experience, and a self confidence that must be based on previous successful enterprises.


Spanning from such path is the new brave restaurant Volta. Could any carioca’s intentions for dinner sound more timeless and deliciously grown up? Just say the word “Volta” and you think about “Voltar no Tempo” or to go back in time, which is exactly the manifesto behind this new restaurant’s concept. A dance into the past, a mythic combination of old farm props, crockery and tableware with grandmotherly cuisine.

pratos Volta

cops Volta

Tucked away in an unremarkable space on Rua Visconde de Carandai, at Jardim Botanico, a street that doesn’t attract a lot of foot traffic, Volta has nonetheless become a crowded neighborhood favorite since its opening in late 2013.

The walls are decorated with a collage of traditional recipes such as Bombocado , Mãe Benta and Queijadinha.

colagem Volta

The chandeliers are a creative design of cups and pans stacked together with the purpuse of lighting.

chandellier Volta

The china and earthenware takes me back to the farm I used to visit when I was a child.

There is a first rate cocktail list, prepared by Thiago Politi,

Thiago Politi

Thiago Politi

who likes to create his own drink recipes and infusions. Beautiful bottles showcased upfront at the bar calls your attention to small details.

volta volta











There are accents and furnishings, including an antique armoire bought in Petropolis (on the mountain regions of Rio) and naked chairs that complement the style.

armoire volta

And there is aptly pampering service, including dishes like Fish of the Day, Chicken with an Okra Ravioli, and Roast Beef Gradma Style.

chef Volta

Ermelino Verissimo

The Chef, Ermelino Verissimo is with the company for more than 2 years, and brings considerable experience to the task. Volta, from the same group that brought Venga to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, has been meticulously focusing on perfecting the execution of its dishes.

A tender coxinha appetizer is beautifully presented and delicious on the stomach.

coxinha volta

The Bolinho de Bacalhau com Espinafre was among my favorites. The Roast Beef is a sublime hunk of glorious meat, the kind you dream about hours later.

If you are lucky enough to have room for dessert, don’t forget to try Manjar de Côco com Ameixa (Coconut Flan with a Plum Compote),

dessert Volta

or Pavê de Brigadeiro (Brazilian Style Tiramisu).

dessert volta

For anyone seeking to go back in time, Volta is a great choice. It reminds me of that movie, Volver, by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar and his actress muse Penelope Cruz—an incredible and sensitive drama. It also makes me think of Venga, the group’s first enterprise, a Spanish restaurant with appetizers meant to be shared.

This restaurant, this movie, this conversation, makes me think, yet, of another movie, also with Penelope Cruz called Woman on Top. I have its soundtrack, full of bossa nova and Brazilian melodies. It’s the kind of music I think about when I close my eyes and think of the foods I ate at Volta, the movies that marked my life, and the people I met along the way. Makes me want to “voltar”.


Craft Butcher Shop

September 1, 2014
Ryan Fibiger (left) and Paul Nessel (right)

Ryan Fibiger (left) and Paul Nessel (right)

Today ‘s sophisticated food culture includes TV shows, glossy magazines, and comprehensive newspaper articles that have elevated our understanding of food—and of meat. People used to buy meat at traditional supermarkets, sold in small packs of styrofoam and plastic wrap, without really knowing where the meat came from. Now, it’s a whole different ball game.

Craft Butcher

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Ryan Fibiger at his outstanding Westport, CT butcher shop, where he offers highly prized and boldly flavored cuts of meat. He is the first generation of butchers in his family, and is fast expanding his reputation as one of the best butchers in the country, changing the way food lovers and home cooks connect with meat. An old fashioned butcher shop with modern day ideals—simple as that

The store opened in November of 2011, and two years later, expanded to a bigger location across the street

Craft Butcher


craft butcher

The profile of the clientele is mixed, and the shop is not intended for the elite. Craft Butcher is for one and all, global style. Ryan didn’t anticipate that the core of his business would come from an international crowd that now live in Westport or nearby. ”These are the people who grew up with a butcher near their home, and look for the same experience here in the US,“ he said.

craft butcherRyan spends most of his days helping people find the exact cut of meat they are looking for. People really prefer to buy sustainably raised meat, which goes along with the farm-to-table concept.

craft butcher

The same craving that drives homecooks to farmer’s markets for local produce, has made meat sourcing a sport equally praised.

Growing up in Michigan, Ryan was surrounded by good food, but nothing on the professional level. He pursued a career in finance, and married a great cook, his wife, Katherine Fibiger. As the couple moved to New York City, they immersed themselves into its hip food culture, and started to dream about it.

craft butcher


craft butcher

“I was looking for a way out of the business world, and my passion for food grew bigger. My wife suggested we open some kind of food business, but definetly not a restaurant.

They began to research and visit farmers, and suddenly the idea of a butcher shop started to take shape. Ryan studied the craft of butchery with Fleisher’s Organic and Grass Fed meats in Kingston, NY.












“We invested everything we had to open this shop,” said Ryan. They partnered with Paul Nessel, and Mark Heppermann, two other chefs and butchers.

The team share the value of quality and sustainability. They only source whole animals, and follow a nose-to-tail philosophy, meaning they use every part of the animal.

craft butcher











“We get a lot of special orders. Seventy percent of the business is pre order, very customized, like double cut pork shop, bone in beef, etc. Most of these cuts are not American, and most of the people cooking these meats aren’t either”, he explained.

At Craft Butcher, the animal is pretty much slaughtered at site, which gives them the freedom to create and name new cuts.

“We have our preferences, for example I prefer cattle to be grass fed, but we are sympathetic to the fact that here in the north-east, there is a lot of snow, so it’s ok, if they feed the cattle some grain, because we trust our farmers.” said Ryan.

Education is really their best selling product, right after meat, of course. Leading people by the hand is what they do, and if you are looking into advancing your meat theory, this is the place to go.



Nespera, a Velvety Sweet Brazilian Fruit

August 11, 2014


nesperaPassion fruit, coconut, pineapple, papaya, and mango are some of the first fruits associated with Brazil. But one of my favorite fruits from home is a small, pastel orange-colored little fruit that has a velvet skin and a juicy flesh. I am referring to nespera, aka Brazilian Loquat or Japanese plum.

Ripe and Sweet

Ripe and Sweet

Nespera is commonly displayed at table centerpieces in Brazilian kitchens but not fully explored in our cuisine. Eating the fruit in its raw state is still the prevalent way of enjoying it.


My son Thomas picking nesters

In fact, I can’t remember seeing nespera on a Brazilian menu. But this unappreciated fruit deserves more attention. On my last trip to Brazil, we picked fresh nesperas right on our backyard, from a tree in our Teresopolis house. I grabbed one still warm from the sun, so juicy, sweet, crisp, and perfect that it was almost a sanctified act.

The fruit is original from China and Japan, and abundant in Brazil, Israel, Spain, and India as well. The scientific name of the tree is eriobotrya japonica, of the Rosacea plant family. Nespera trees can reach up to 26 feet high (8 meters) and have strong branches acting as a strong grip to hold the fruit and protect them from falling during rain and winds. Each little branch can bear 2 to 5 fruits. The dark green leaves are thin, shiny, and long, giving the perfect balance of shade and sun to ripen the fruit.


When compared to other fruit grown in Brazil, its production has not yet become truly relevant, although, things are slowly starting to change, thanks to a region in São Paulo called Mogi Das Cruzes (birthplace of Neymar, since we are fresh from the World Cup).

In 2012, only two thousand tons of nesperas were produced, of which, 85% came from this region. In 2013, the region produced 20 thousands tons and in 2015 they predict 30.

One problem buyers face is the brown spotting the fruit starts to acquire after it is harvested. Because nespera is quite perishable, each fruit must be wrapped in paper (in Brazil they use newspaper) before being harvested, making the treatment quite labor-intensive. Another problem less obvious is that because nespera is not so explored in our own cuisine, even Brazilians are not fully familiar with the fruit.


Biting into a nespera, whose season extends from May through October, is an easy task and a pleasurable one. The velvety skin is easy to peel off, but it is so thin and delicious that I don’t even bother. Each fruit contains between 2 to 5 brown pits that you spit while grabbing another to eat. Next time you go Brazil, be sure to try this delicious fruit!



The World Cup of Food

July 1, 2014


My Favorite Places to Eat in Rio

June 6, 2014

Hello World Cup!

If you are going to Rio, here are some of my favorite places to eat:


Aconchego Carioca

Aconchego Carioca

Aconchego Carioca

Aconchego Carioca is rickety bar in Rio located at a not so touristy area, but worth the trip. Katia Barbosa, the chef and owner prepares the famous bolinho de feijoada, which is a fritter version of the Feijoada stew. The restaurant also boasts a good selection of beers, including numerous domestic offerings.

Rua Barão de Iguatemi, 379

Praça da Bandeira

Tel: (55 21)2273-1035



Located at a perfect corner of Leblon, Jobi represents the quintessential carioca spirit. For over 50 years this place has been enchanting the city with its impeccably Portuguese cuisine prepared in a tiny little kitchen that nonetheless serves extraordinary food.

Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva, 1,166/ Loja B

Leblanc, Tel: (55 21) 2274-0547

Chico & Alaide 

Alaide and her many delicious recipes

Alaide and her many delicious recipes

Chico & Alaide serves some of the best Petiscos (Brazilian tapas) and chopp (beer). The owners are as charismatic with their food as with their smile. Take a seat at one of the tables lining the street outside and enjoy some of the best finger food in Rio.

Rua Dias Ferreira 679,



Claude Troisgros

Claude Troisgros

Olympe, from French chef Claude Troisgros a more refined dining option in Rio, perfect for that special evening meal. He focused on the fusion between French cuisine and Brazilian ingredients and the result is just super.

Rua Custodio Serrao 62,

Jardim Botanico



Iraja combines good service, reasonable prices and a modern take on typical Brazilian dishes to create a winning formula. The desserts, in particular the hot chocolat brigadeiro cake, have a fantastic reputation throughout the city.

Rua Conde de Iraja, 109




Chef Ludmilla Soeiro

Chef Ludmilla Soeiro

Zuka fits all the occasions. It is packed day and night. The chef Ludimilla Soeiro is very creative and on top of every dish that comes out of the kitchen.

Rua Dias Ferreira 233 B




Photo Credit Camilla Maia

Photo Credit Camilla Maia

If you are wondering why a Spanish tapas bar has made into this Rio list, I will tell you that this is one of the few botequins that have embraced the spirit of Rio combined with Spanish influences as heartedly as Venga.

Rua Dias Ferreira, 113/Loja B

Leblon Tel: (55 21) 2512-9826

Rua Garcia D’Avila 147/Loja B

Ipanema tel (55 21) 2247-0234


Academia da Cachaça

Academia da Cachaca

Academia da Cachaca

If Caipirinha has a birth restaurant, then Academia da Cachaça is the turf. The fragrance of the national cocktail drips from the glasses as waiters carries dancing trays. You can choose among a wide variety of cachaças, from Magnifica to Seleta to Leblon cachaça.

Rua Conde Bernardote, 26/ Loja G

Leblanc, Tel: (55 21) 2239-1542



Pavão Azul

Under the leadership of Vera and Bete Afonso, this tiny place in Copacabana has a spot in the carioca’s heart. Pavão Azul specializes in comfort home food, as if you are eating a dish prepared by your carioca grandmother.

Pavão Azul

Rua Hilário de Gouveia, 71- A


Tel: (55 21) 2236-2381



No matter what time of the day, or night, tables at Bracarense are always occupied. If you look around you’ll see a mix of regulars, beachcombers, straight from the office people, and oil-business-man from all over the world who now call Rio home. A squad of speedy waiters keep the beer flowing while also distributing Bracarense’s signature’s bar delicacies, which are devoured piping hot.


Rua José Linhares , 85-B

Leblanc, Tel: (55 21) 2294-3549


Filet de Ouro

Just as you cannot go to Bahia and not eat Acarajé, you cannot go to Filet de Ouro and not eat Filet Osvaldo Aranha, a simple piece of Filet Mignon topped with golden fried garlic accompanied by rice, potatoes and farofa (toasted manioc flour).

Filet de Ouro

Rua Jardim Botânico, 731

Jardim Botânico Tel (55 21) 2259-2396


Braseiro da Gávea

If one restaurant can represent an entire neighborhood, then that it the case of Braseiro da Gavea, the highlight of this neighborhood: Gávea. It captures the bohemian atmosphere of the place and the flamboyance of the carioca crowd.

Braseiro da Gávea

Praça Santos Dumont, 166

Gávea, Tel (55 21) 2239-7494


Enchendo Linguiça

It’s certainly impossible not to be swayed by the amount of sausages offered at Rio’s botequins. Enchendo Linguiça, however is the “it” place for sausage lovers. The name translates to stuffing sausage and apparently that is what they do all they long.

Enchendo Linguiça

Av. Engel Richard, 02-loja A

Grajaú, Tel: (55 21) 2576-5727


Oro, by chef Felipe Bronze, opened in October 2010 and took Rio by storm. Other chefs in Brazil have embarked on a smiliar path, but Oro stands out. It reaches a level of art in cooking, an idealization of ingredient interpretation.

Rua Frei Leandro, 20

Jardim Botanico, Rio de Janeiro

Tel: (55 21) 7864-9622


Chef Felipe Bronze, photo by Tomas Rangel

Chef Felipe Bronze, photo by Tomas Rangel

Pipo opened doors in July of 2013, bringing him back to Rua Dias Ferreira, and offering culinary delights in a looser way, more in sync with the culture and current economy of Rio de Janeiro.

Rua Dias Ferreira, 64


Tel (55 21) 2239-9322





Barreado: Monica Justen finds creative escape in her love of native Brazilian cooking

May 1, 2014
Monica Justen

Monica Justen

In the kitchen of her Fairfield home in CT, Monica Justen pulls an authentic Barreado from the stove. A large pot of braised meat, the smell is divine and there are kitchen gadgets everywhere.


Barreado is the name of a typical dish from the state of Paraná, in the south of Brazil, where Monica Justen comes from. It consists of meat delicately cooked with bacon, onion and spices at low temperature for about 12 hours in a clay pot that is hermetically sealed with a starch paste of manioc flour. The name of the dish comes from the term barrear a panela, meaning to seal the pot with this manioc paste. The dish is served with manioc flour, banana, oranges, and pepper sauce.


I tasted Barreado on a trip to the south of Brazil a few years ago, more specifically in Morretes, a city that claims paternity of the dish.

Barreado from Morretes

Barreado from Morretes

It wasn’t until I met Monica through a group of Brazilians, that I had the opportunity to savor this fantastic dish again. I instantly recognized we share a love of cooking and asked her to teach me how to make this typical dish from her region.

Monica prepared two versions of the recipe, one based on beef shank, and another using store bought beef stew, which comes from the London broil. The difference was incredible. In any braise, bone-in meat is key to flavor. In Monica’s tests, the first one (bone-in meat) displayed great depth of character and its tenderness far surpassed the one prepared with beef stew.

Forget already cut, we concluded. All the luscious marrow of the shank is part of the appeal of cooking any type of meat on the bone. For an authentic Barreado, I love how Monica separated the meat from the bone, and the two met again in a later step of the recipe.

Bone and shank, separated

Bone and shank, separated

The encounter of braised meat with flavored stock was heaven.

“It wasn’t until coming to the US and having to take over most of the cooking job at home, that I decided to learn a little more about this dish”, she tells me while we both enjoy Barreado.

Monica was born and raised in Curitiba, and came to the US four years ago with her husband Marcal Justen, a prominent lawyer in Brazil.

Monica and Marcal

Monica and Marcal

The couple moved to the US in association with a Yale scholar program in New Haven, and chose Fairfield as their home.

It’s not surprising that Monica’s tastes buds, known for her delicious slow cooked stews, rendered in this superlative Barreado, a kind of practical adaptation of the Brazilian dish into the reality of our American kitchens. For Monica, cooking Brazilian cuisine in the US requires some adaptability. “Long ago, I decided to get Le Creuset pots that are known here as Dutch oven pans. They are made of cast iron, which allows for perfect braising, slow cooking, risottos and the like. And the best: easy clean-up”, says Monica.

In June, Monica and her family will go back to living in Brazil. Now 45, Monica enjoyed the american lifestyle to the fullest, entertaining, going to shows, theaters and most importantly, making friends along the way. Monica has quickly become a source of information for our Brazilian group of friends. A lawyer as well, she is not afraid of the transition and is ready to embrace the next chapter of her life in Brazil.

Just as she deploys master creativity to fashion her kitchen recipes, she applies the same courage to cook Barreado, as she does to move back to Brazil. If bone is key to flavor, adaptation is key to life.


My kind of girl. We’ll miss you Monica!



Monica’s Barreado

Adapted by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz for this blog


Serves 6


6 bone in beef shank

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt ad freshly ground pepper

4 oz bacon, diced (about 4 to 5 strips)

3 garlic cloves, finely minced

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

3 fresh bay leaves

Freshly ground numeg

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons tomato paste


Side dish:

2 cups manioc flour

2 bananas

1 orange cut in segments

¼ cup freshly chopped parsley


1.  Heat the oven to 325˚F and place a rack on the lower third set.

2. Separate the meat from the bones. Clean the excess fat from the meat, but don’t worry too much about the thin membranes, they will melt in the cooking. Heat a large stockpot and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the bones and cook them, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Pour 6 cups of cold water, bring to boil, then adjust the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid has thickened and flavored, about 40 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cut the meat into 1–inch cubes and season with salt and pepper.

4. In a large Dutch oven pan add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon until it just starts to crisp, about 4 minutes. Lower the heat, add the garlic and cook until it just starts to golden, about 1 minute. Add the onion, bay leaves, nutmeg and cumin, and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the mixture gets soft and tender, about 6 minutes. Add the meat and cook, stirring occasionally. During this step, the meat will release its juices moistening the mixture and turning into a delicious kind of refogado (sofrito). Add the tomato paste and season lightly with salt and pepper.

5. Strain the broth; you should have about 5 cups. Pour over the meat, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, and transfer to the oven. Braise until the meat is super tender, about 2½ hours, checking often to make sure simmering is at a gentle boil and liquid level is right. You can always add another ½ cup water if necessary. (In a traditional barreado, the manioc paste helps prevent some evaporation. Here, you need to check more often.)

6. Remove from the oven and let it rest at room temperature, covered for 30 minutes. Using a large spoon, smash the meat to shred everything into thin threads. At this point, the dish looks more like a soup than a stew.

7. To serve, place about 3 tablespoons of manioc flour on the bottom of a plate in a circular motion. First, add some of the liquid from the barreado to form a paste, then add the meat. Garnish with banana, oranges, and chopped parsley.

Brazil Ahead Portuguese School

April 1, 2014

brazil ahead

Keeping up with this globalized world can be a full time occupation in today’s fiercely competitive corporate ecosphere. You hear a million different languages just by walking down the streets of a mega metropolis like New York City. With a strong similarity in structure to Spanish and often confused with Russian, Portuguese is not such an easy language to learn. But with Brazil on the podium with the world economy leaders, and the two big events ahead, Portuguese is  turning out a common language these days. That doesn’t mean it is only spoken by native Brazilians. Crisithiane Vieira Rozenblit is making sure that Portuguese is an easy access language to any one who wants to learn it, especially to Americans who do business with Brazil.

Brasil ahead

The school Brazil Ahead started six years ago and is already establishing itself as the go-to place for someone looking for Portuguese classes in New York City. The idea came at ease to a person who already had a back round of teaching English in Brazil, like Cristhiane had.


The school is for the most time an education center geared to all things Brazil, and joins the constantly improving schools of languages such as Berlitz and Rosetta Stone, hovering just below their popularity since the business is so young. But the company is growing exponentially with events like the World Cup and the Olympics right around the corner. Cristhiane deserves that because she’s pulled off her most meaningful trick yet: a place to celebrate the joy and spirit of Brazilian culture.

Brazil ahead

She came to the US looking to change careers and rethink her life. Her initial intent was to study marketing at FIT, but while she was busy planning things, faith brought her back to her roots when she started teaching Portuguese in New York as a way to pay her bills. Word of mouth proves itself with Brazil Ahead, when suddenly the number of private students was so big, that was worthy the start of a new business. The school offers classes to American people who are looking to learn Portuguese, and to kids of all ages who live in the US and have English as their first language. The New York branch is located on Lexigton Ave (between 42nd and 41st Streets) employing 14 people and has over 300 students at this point.

Brazil ahead

Last year, Brazil Ahead opened a branch in Westchester, NY and is already planning new branches for Connecticut and other areas outside New York City. From a personal perspective as a Brazilian married to an American, I find myself in a confounded state of confusion when I see myself speaking in Portuguese to my kids only to have them answer me back in English. And while they understand it perfectly, and speak Portuguese with their Brazilian grandparents (my parents, who live in Brazil), they don’t know how to read or write in Portuguese. Adding to this state of disorder, is my own mix of languages on the very same phrase, as if I could switch from one language to the other in a matter of seconds. Well, my brain sometimes delays my thought process, and the result is often two languages on the very same phrase. Example: “Não é fair”. or “Hoje tenho um apontamento.” Or “Estou parqueando o carro.” The surprising fact, is that I often get the sense that I was understood. Cristhiane, who lives in New Jersey and commutes to Manhattan, falls into a state of languages one degree even more complex: three languages in the mix. She recently married an Israeli man and the couple has a son, Uri, who is tri-lingual: Portuguese from the mother, Hebrew from the father, and English at school. Watch Uri’s video here.

Brazil ahead

It is no coincidence that Brazilians like myself are looking to connect our kids with stronger roots of our native culture and have turned our attention to places like Brazil Ahead. By going back to our own culture, we are surely leading the way to a better future for our kids, and for our country too.

If you’d like to bring Brazil Ahead to your area, feel free to get in touch with Cristhiane.

Brazil Ahead

380 Lexigton Ave, 17th Floor (Between 42nd and 41st Street)

New York, NY 10168

Tel (646) 567-7133

e-mail: info@brazil-ahead.com


NBC 4 New York’s Raphael Miranda, Brazilian Weather Reporter

March 1, 2014
Raphael Miranda

Raphael Miranda

With an Emmy award to his credit for his coverage of Hurricane Irene (August 2011) and the coverage of superstorm Sandy on October 2012, Raphael Miranda could have easily layed in bed to take a rest after working days into nights to keep the public updated and informed of the weather to come.

That’s typical in the life of this half Brazilian reporter and weatherman. I met Raphael when I was at NBC 4 New York’s studio cooking for a segment with Merck, as we promote our campaign  Cuida Tu Diabetes Cuida Tu Corazon.

Raphael and I

Raphael and I

I knew of his Brazilian side by watching him on TV often enough to catch him teaching a few Portuguese words on air to his guests co-hosts Pat Battle and Gus Rosendale.

His path to this ascending career has been an unusual and interesting one. Raphael Miranda was born in New York to an American mother and a Brazilian father, who immigrated to the US in the 60’s. All of his father’s family still lives in Brazil and Raphael grew up flying back and forth between the two countries.

His words are ever measurable, his diction is perfect, his accent is crystal clear of any other language influence—and his Portuguese, impeccable.

Raphael Miranda

Recounting all this, Raphael, 36, chats in his articulation of words, which is well balanced and very high in Brazilian spirit, even when the weather he delivers is far from Brazilian tropical weather; the rain, the snow, and the chill. On January 7th of this year, when half of the country was frozen into record low temperatures, Raphael was a source of heat and hope announcing that in only two days, temperatures would go back to normal.

Watch him on TV; through his toned voice and earnest smile, he’ll bring peace to your day even when reporting nasty weather. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter and you’ll feel the warmth of his personality through constant updates of the weather forecast.

Interacting on social media is a huge part of his job

Interacting on social media is a huge part of his job

As we sat for lunch at the new NBC’s Cafeteria at Rockefeller Center, he worked his way through sushi and talked about his career, how none of this was actually planned, and how it’s been close to five years that he ‘s been at NBC.

He didn’t know what path to take right after college. When he graduated from NYU with a degree in Spanish literature, he spoke broken Portuguese and decided it was a good time to live in Brazil. At first, he went to Minas Gerais, where his father’s family is based, but then, relocated to the sunny state of Recife where a cousin was living.

Life is good in Brazil

Life is good in Brazil

In Recife, Raphael taught English to children in school, but after two years, he started to miss the crazy lifestyle of New York City, while also realizing that he might have other ambitions.

Turns out that life takes Raphael in directions that even he gets surprised.  Planning, he tells me, has never been much of his personality.

Career. Flow. Brazil. With those words, suddenly he started telling me about a boyfriend he left in Brazil, how he went back a few times to try to bring him here, and then excitedly about his husband Douglas, and how this is an aspect of life that he is extremely proud of: to be openly gay in broadcast journalism, and active in the LGBT community.

Raphael and Douglas

Raphael and Douglas

Upon his return, Raphael got a job in retail as a manager of a fancy store at Madison Ave—a job he didn’t enjoy very much. Eventually he got sick with meningitis, which set him back for a while, forcing him to do some thinking.

“One day, I reached out to Craig Allen, a weather man who I really admired, and to my surprise, he replied”, said Raphael. He asked the veteran for career advices and in a few short years, Raphael received degrees from Brooklyn college and Mississippi State University in broadcast journalism and meteorology. He prepared a reel, sent to a few stations, and got an offer at the Westchester News Channel, in New York. From there, he went to NBC.

To write about him is to gradually succumb to our own hopes and dreams, in a very inspiring way. There just doesn’t seem to be any lack of energy around this man. Raphael is elegant in his own work, incredibly talented, and entirely committed to his profession.

Raphael monitors the weather through various computer screens

Raphael monitors the weather through various computer screens

Schedule wise, broadcasting the weather is a job that demands nothing less than total submission to the craft. “I am out of rhythm with the rest of the world. That is the hardest part of my job,”, he said. Most days, he has to go to bed around 7 pm and wake up at crazy hours. “But not every job is perfect, and I like the camaraderie between my colleagues. We are all on the same boat. “

Sleeping at work: Raphael, Lauren Scala (traffic reporter) and their producer XXX)

Sleeping at work: Raphael, Lauren Scala (traffic reporter) and their producer Tere Mele

During our conversation, I asked Raphael about his eating habits and his link to Brazilian cuisine. Raphael has been a “on and off” vegetarian. Now he is on the “on” phase, but with a little more flexibility, eating fish and chicken.

To end this article in “food” style, I asked Raphael to share with us one of his favorite recipes.

Below is Tilapia with a Lemon Butter Sauce, which I adapted for this blog.

Tilapia with a Lemon Butter Sauce

Tilapia Raphael Miranda

Serves 2


½ cup all purpose flour, plus 2 teaspoons

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lb tilapia filets (about 2 whole filets)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup white wine

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley


1. Pre-heat the oven to 200˚F.

2. Place the flour in a large plate, season with salt and pepper and whisk well.

3. Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper and dredge on the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.

4. In a large saute pan, melt 2 tablespoon butter over medium heat and cook the fish on both sides until opaque, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the fish to a plate and keep warm at the stove.

5. Add the wine and bring to a boil over high heat, reducing almost entirely. Add the remaining 4 tablesppons of butter to the pan and lower the heat to a minimum not to break the butter.

6. Add the 2 teaspoons flour and whisk well. Pour the lemon juice and cook the sauce until thickened. Stir in parsley. Return the fish to the pan and baste the fish in the sauce on low heat. Carefuly transfer fish to warm plates and spoon sauce on top.

Rita and Bianca’s Chocolate Cake

February 1, 2014

Rita and Bianca Chocolate Cake

I have two full knifed draws in my kitchen and usually, I don’t allow my kids near them, even though they prepare food, in some capacity, every single day. That doesn’t necessarily mean they cook. It means packing a sandwich for lunch, cutting strawberries for snack, and so on. Knives and fire are off limits. But when it comes to oven, kids just can’t resist, especially when it has a bright light inside that allows you (or your kid) to watch the baking process.

Take my daughter Bianca, for example.

Bianca, quite entertained

Bianca, quite entertained

Say the word brownie, cookie, or cake, and she will come to the kitchen jumping like a sheep (actually she will come cartwheeling), and exploding with baking mojo.

We often bake together, and I absolutely love it. It takes me to haven! And then, I often I catch my self wishing that Bianca will be the kind of person who will make her own chicken stock (like me) and fry her potatoes in duck fat (like me). The reasons for my delusions, no doubt, are as complicated as any mother-daughter relationship.

On a recent trip to Brazil, I came home one day to the wonderful aromas of deep chocolate cake, crumbly yet moist on the inside, with a smooth ganache covering the entire cake.

Chocolate Cake

I asked Rita, the lady that helps us around the house, how she prepared that delicious cake, and she told me Bianca helped her.

Rita and Bianca

Rita and Bianca

I was like, “Yeah, right, Rita. Come on, how did you make it?”

Rita: “ I am not kidding Leticia, Bianca really helped me. She knew what ingredients to include, and we pretty much eyed balled it together.”

Me: “Did you write the recipe??”

Rita: “No.”

Meanwhile, Thomas (my son), who witnessed their adventure in the kitchen, heard our conversation without listening to a word we were saying. He was too busy eating the cake.



Their cake. Rita and Bianca’s Chocolate Cake.

I could look at the cake and know it was going to be delicious. But when I tasted it, I couldn’t believe its perfection.

I asked Rita and Bianca to repeat the recipe—and the magic— so that I could write the recipe. Then I tried to replicate the cake in my American kitchen for this blog.

Both Rita and Bianca approved. I hope you will too!

Bolo Chocolate Rita Bianca

Nescau is a sweetened chocolate milk mixture typical from Brazil. The brand belongs to Nestle— the came comes from the mixing the words Nestle and Cocoa (in Portuguese the word cocoa is cacao, therefore Nescau). The product was launched in Brazil in the early 1930’s and by 1960 it was a very established product. In the early 1970’s Nestle marketed the product even more and today it is a staple Brazilian ingredient. It is very easy to find Nescau in any Brazilian specialty store, including many sources online, but one can use ovaltine or Nesckuick as substitute.

Serves 4-6

For the Cake:

1  1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (200g) all-purpose flour

¾ cup (105 g) nescau ( see headnote)

1 teaspoon (4g) baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 stick (8tablespoons, 115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup (100g) sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup (250ml) whole milk

For the Glaze:

¾ cup (200g) heavy cream

6 oz (170g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Equipment: one tube mold (with capacity for 5 cups), buttered and floured

1. Make the Cake: Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F.

2. Whisk together the flour, nescau, baking powder, and salt.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 4 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, and beat for one minute more, then beat in the vanilla. At this point the batter will look a little crudely—that’s normal. Reduce the speed to low, then add half of the milk, then half of the flour mixture; repeat with the remaining milk and flour until homogeneous.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared mold and bake in the oven until the cake starts to pull from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the cake to rest for 5 minutes, then invert onto the rack and let it cool to room temperature.

5. Make the Glaze: Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a boil, then pour over the chocolate; let it stand for a minute to melt the chocolate; whisk until smooth. Let it cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. When is pourable but cool, pour the glaze on top of the cake.