Few things seem to be more satisfying than the beach. Now, I am not a beach lover, I don’t understand why people would voluntarily lay on the beach, getting sweaty and getting sand stuck everywhere (and I mean everywhere!) on their body. Especially in your socks for the remainder of the day, such a lovely feeling. But I love the beach when it is colder, and in the evenings for dinner.
There is something immensely comforting in sitting on the beach and watching the waves roll in. I am a sucker for deserted beaches, which is close to impossible to find but when the other people are silent and not with too many, I can manage too ;). So when I am in a beach town for holidays, I go for walks on the beach, and try to find good restaurants with tables on the actual sand, close to the water.
When I went to Brazil in autumn 2014, during the first week I visited the island of Isla Grande, a small island with plenty of hiking trails, some good restaurants and most importantly, only since recently a touristic destination. And because it was off-season, I found many a beach deserted.
In the evening of my first day on Ilha Grande, I walked along the main beach road (there are two main roads, both semi-paved and with 4 small alleys connecting the two) and found myself a seat at a table on the beach. The weather was great, a bit cold and rainy, but since I am not overly fond of hot, sweaty weather, this was right up my alley.
It was at this restaurant where I found out that in Brazil the standard principle is to offer one dish for 2 or sometimes 3 or 4 people. Many restaurants do not even have any single-person dishes on their menu. Travelling alone, this occasionally presented a problem, but most restaurants offer you a 1 person portion for 60% of the 2 person price (sometimes 70% at which point I went to look for a different restaurant).
I ordered the Shrimp in Catupiry sauce. Catupiry is a Brazilian cream cheese.
So here I was, expecting a plate of rice with some shrimp, a creamy sauce and some vegetables. What I got was a steaming cast iron bowl on a pedestal, with still bubbling creamy sauce that had a massive amount of shrimp in it. On the side was a large portion of rice, a bowl of farofa (toasted manioc flour, see the Tapioca Travel Log for more information) and some roast potatoes. The roast potatoes turned out to be a rare thing, but rice and farofa were staple side dishes. Vegetables turned out to be much rarer than I had expected, and I went for weeks with hardly any vegetables.
On the side, I had a Caipirinha, the local alcoholic beverage of choice, made with limes, sugar and Cachaça (a strong liquor made from sugar cane). It became sort of a tradition to have a Caipirinha every day at dinner, when possible. Don’t think I was drunk every time, I think I had about 8-9 in total during my 3.5 week trip.
I continued my fish-on-the-beach tradition in Ilha Grande, and had traditional Moqueca the next day, at a great little restaurant on the beach, where I met two amazing Brazilian travelers that I hope to stay in touch with for a long time to come. A Moqueca is a Brazilian Fish Stew (I have re-made it at home, it’s can be found among the recipes), with coconut milk, tomatoes, chilies and coriander. It was absolutely delicious.
Don’t forget the Caipirinha:
When we finished our meal, we found this cute little cake cart that I had seen earlier that day. The picture is from the afternoon. As the cakes had been out in the sun the entire day, I found my nerves giving way and passed up on the opportunity to have some of the desserts spread out. The locals didn’t seem to mind, and the Brazilians I met also had some. Unfortunately, one of them did feel sick afterwards, which might not have been surprising but was a shame none the less.
I have had the pleasure to have more fish in Brazil, as I made it a bit of a standard thing to order fish when available. I think I skipped out on fish only a few days in total. But as my travels did not take me along the coast, I couldn’t have any at the beach. I did get great fish with passionfruit-tapioca-sauce in Manaus, which is in the middle of the Amazon, where I also had this Tambaqui fish:
The waiter insured me that it was a 1 person dish, and the menu said it was 30cm. Since it was half of the thickness, I assumed it would be only a little bit much. I was not expecting the massive piece of fish that I received. For reference, the spoon was a large serving spoon, the limes in the back give a bit of a size indication. It was grilled to perfection though. However much I tried, I could not finish it all.