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


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.

What Women Really Want?

January 1, 2014

What Women Really Want?

The other day I was thinking about how grateful I am for having a wonderful therapist. Because of therapy—and this goes way back to my teenage years— I was able to discover what I really wanted to do for the rest of my life: to cook.

But wait. It’s not so simple. In an imaginary conversation with my therapist, disguised as Dr. Sigmund Freud himself, I saw myself lying on his couch, looking at my broken nail, conflicted between my many existential questions, and then I realized that I am not much different from most women I know. I looked at him, and he asked me: “Why does it have to be so complicated, Leticia?  What is it that you—women—really want?”

Where is my nail polisher? I looked in my purse. We don’t want broken nails, that’s for sure. We also want at least one, nice, fancy-looking purse. Every woman must have one.

We want to feel attractive in our own bodies. We want to be credited for our work—and make money from it. We want to be loved. We want to be in love. And we want to have fun.

This could be the sum of it, Dr. Freud, but there is a whole lot more that women want. We want to bear children, or at least, many women do. Then, we want to have more time for ourselves. When we have free time, we want a hectic life. When we have a hectic life, we want free time. We are always looking for the perfect balance. We believe there is such a thing. Got that?

We don’t want to die our hair constantly, although we need to. We like to talk, but we also like silence. We want to listen too; some women are better than others at this. We want to listen to our children, but especially to men, and we don’t give up trying to understand them. When they say“ I love you”, we hear “I want to marry you”. We are truly from different planets Dr. Freud! We want them to be crazy for us, and we want to right to be crazy ourselves.

We want to check our e-mails and have our inbox full. Only juicy e-mails please, but we’ll take a sale coupon at Pottery Barn as well. We want to be speechless and surprised. We want to learn how to be more selfish. At least once in life, we want to think of no one else but us. Are you still with me?

We want to be an inspiration for others. We want to put dinner on the table and we want our kids to eat everything. We want them to sleep the whole night, preferably in their own beds.

We want to turn off the TV. We want to have sex. We want to look good in photographs. We want to be noticed in a restaurant the moment we enter the front door.

We want to go to bed earlier. We want to do something positive for society. We want to help those in need of help. We want to be useful. But we want to be helped ourselves, especially with the groceries. Oh, and with anything regarding cars.

We want to laugh. We don’t want to be taken so seriously. We want to fight for our goals without being obnoxious. We want peace. We want to read more, travel more, know more. We want to kiss, and be kissed. We want to feel alive. We want to grow young. And lastly, we want to eat—AND NOT GET FAT!

What Women Really Want?

That’s all Dr. Freud. As you can see, we’re really not that complicated!


“Ok Leticia, your time is up.” said Dr. Freud. “See you next time.”



Now that I have shared with you my imaginary session with my very own Dr. Freud, I will share with you my fantasy recipe —albeit a real one— that celebrates all those crazy moments I have when I want to indulge completely, entirely, and dream that I am not gaining an ounce of fat from it.

Dulce de Leche Brownies

I would love to hear what is YOUR fantasy recipe? The one you dream about eating forever and NOT getting fat?

This recipe for Dulce de Leche Brownies comes from David Lebovitz, a pastry chef, blogger, and cookbook author whose work I really admire, and whose recipes, often brings me to Dr. Freud’s imaginary couch.

Dulce de Leche Brownies

Dulce de Leche Brownies Adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes 12 servings


8 tablespoons (120g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan

6 ounces (170g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

¼ cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup (120g) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (140g) flour

1 cup (250ml) dulce de leche


1. Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F.

2. Grease an 8-inch square pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

3. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the chocolate and stir constantly over low heat until melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth.

4. Add the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the sugar, vanilla, and flour.

5. Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Drop one-third of the dulce de leche in prune size dollops, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter, then drag a knife through to swirl it slightly. Spread the remaining brownie batter over the top, then drop more dulce de leche by the spoonful. Use a knife to swirl the dulce de leche ever so slightly—if you over do it, the whole thing will bake into a bubbly mess. Just drag a knife once or twice through the batter and leave it at that.

6. Bake until the center feels just slightly firm, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. These brownies actually become better the second day, and will keep well for up to 3 days.

Thank you Alessandra Kalko for the illustrations supporting this post.

In Rio de Janeiro, Pipo: Felipe Bronze’s New Restaurant

December 1, 2013
Felipe Bronze

Felipe Bronze (Photo Credit Tomas Rangel)

On a recent evening in Rio de Janeiro, I went out for dinner at Rua Dias Ferreira in Leblon. At first glance, the word Pipo would seem no more than a cute word to pronounce in Portuguese. But read through this restaurant’s menu, on which one fanciful tapa dish leads to another, and then another after that, and you realize that its name is actually the nickname of a trendsetter carioca chef, Felipe Bronze.

Having trained at the CIA cooking school in Hyde Park (NY), Felipe Bronze (Pipo for those who know him from childhood), had stunts at many legendary New York kitchens like Nobu and Le Bernardim. When he returned to Rio in 2001, he went to work for Sushi Leblon, one of the most profitable restaurants in Rio, also located at Rua Dias Ferreira. He then continued his career in the kitchens of Zuka, Z Comtemporaneo, and Hoteis Marina.

Ambient at Oro

Ambience at Oro (Photo Credit Tomas Rangel)

After a series of kitchen jobs, Felipe partnered with restauranteur Eurico Cunha, and together they opened Oro in October 2010, a restaurant in Jardim Botânico that took Rio by storm. Other chefs in Brazil have embarked on a similar path, but Oro stands out. It reaches a level of art in cooking, an idealization of ingredient interpretation.

Ambient at Oro

Ambience at Oro (Photo Credit Tomas Rangel)

For a foodie like me, it’s as if you take the dream of eating at El Bulli (already closed) and place it Rio. Even better actually, because Bronze applies that level cooking to Brazilian cuisine rather than Spanish, and what he does in the process is a hurricane of creativity.

Smoked Salmon Tartare

Smoked Salmon Tartare (Photo Credit Tomas Rangel)

As you sit, even the napkin comes in a thrilling form of candy that opens up to a hot towel. Salad Caprese with Burrata, comes with a tomato dome. Capelini a Carbonara is an indulgent affair, with a creamy sauce, bacon bits and a perfectly cook egg on top.

Capelini a Carbonara

Capelini a Carbonara (Photo Credit Tomas Rangel)

Feijoada comes deconstructed; to each and every item of the traditional dish, special treatment and attention is given to it. On the plate, you taste Brazil on a luxe scale. Chocolate ice cream with a crunchy Licuri (a fruit from the Amazon) comes with foams and smokes, not to mention table side preparation.

Belgium Chocolate Ice Cream with Crunchy Liruri

Belgium Chocolate Ice Cream with Crunchy Liruri (Photo Credit Tomas Rangel)

Oro is a lifetime experience. The level of cooking and detail is overwhelming, proving that Bronze’s talent in the kitchen is sometimes breathtaking. But is it worth it? That is the question that cariocas are asking themselves, especially now, ever since the recession seemed to have knocked on Brazil’s door.

Indeed, I had one of the most unforgettable meals of my life, but can I afford to go back? A meal for two at Oro can easily cost $600 Reais (Brazilian currency, around US$250), and that’s just starting point.

Let’s not forget the context in which Oro opened. The year was 2010. While the rest of the world was crumbling into deep recession, Brazil was growing at a rate of 7,5%, the highest in 24 years. Oh, glory days!

Oro reflects that moment of Brazil, a restaurant that speaks to a time of splendor, and its success was bound to encourage more of it. Which bring us back to Pipo.

This small restaurant, with its tables open to the street was the last place I’d expect to feel like a “carioca da gema” (that’s an expression for hard core cariocas) after dinning at Oro. But Felipe Bronze managed to deliver an experience that is once transcendent and deeply rooted in Brazilian street foods, to the wallet of cariocas.

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.

The heavenly Bolinho de Pirarucu (Pirarucu Fritters) came from the deep rivers of the Amazon, a riff on Bolinho de Bacalhau (Cod Fritters), though this fish is quite a contender for the cod salting process, and in the north of the country, you may find similar versions.

Bolinho de Pirarucu (Pirarucu Fritters)

Bolinho de Pirarucu (Pirarucu Fritters)

Pastel de Queijo (Fried Cheese Empanadas) has an onion twist, fried and crunchy, simple, and perfectly executed.

Pastel de Queijo (Fried Cheese Empanadas)

Pastel de Queijo (Fried Cheese Empanadas)

Caldinho de Feijão (Black Bean Broth) with a collard green foam is delightful.

Caldinho de Feijão (Black Bean Broth)

Caldinho de Feijão (Black Bean Broth)

Crème de Abacate ( Avocado Cream) comes with a crunch of macademia, brittly and delicious.

Creme de Abacate (Avocado Cream)

Creme de Abacate (Avocado Cream)

Aipirm Frito (Yucca Fries) comes with a foam of Coalho cheese, rich and creamy.

All these flavors, all this food for thought are the first few bites of an array of petiscos. Pipo leaves us with an appreciation for excellent cheap eats. The flavors are so robust and the enviroment as carioca as any botequim. I am not sure if I can afford another meal at Oro. But at Pipo, I can—and I get the same fandango! Can’t wait to go back!


Rua Dias Ferreira, 64 Lojas B e C

Leblon, Rio de Janeiro

Tel (55 21) 2239-9322


Rua Frei Leandro, 20

Jardim Botanico, Rio de Janeiro

Tel: (55 21) 7864-9622

Bring Rio into your Kitchen with My Rio de Janeiro: A Cookbook

November 1, 2013

Cover Book My Rio

Yes! It’s here! My second cookbook arrived and I am over the moon! I started working on this book soon after The Brazilian Kitchen came out and within a few intervews for my blog, I saw another book being born.

My Rio de Janeiro: A Cookbook is now available at Amazon, or Barnes&Noble, or

This is my second book with publisher Kyle Books, and once again my editor Anja Schmidt put together an amazing creative team, including food stylist Paul Grimes and photographer Kate Sears. Some of my happiest days were spent testing, writing, and shooting this book.

Creative team of My Rio

Each chapter takes you to a different neighborhood in Rio. You can visit a botequim (tapas restaurant) very close my home in Leblon called Jobi, and prepare their fantastic Risole De Camarão com Catupiry (Shrimp and Catupiry Turnover);

Risole de Camarão, inspired by restaurant Jobi

Risole de Camarão, inspired by restaurant Jobi

you can go to Búzios and try a recipe inspired by its fish market like Farfale with Salmon and Caipirinha Sauce;

and you can have a taste of the Botanical Garden with the classic Filet Oswaldo Aranha.

Filet Oswaldo Aranha

Filet Oswaldo Aranha

And that’s just a hint! There are many more delicious recipes and gorgeous photos!

I hope you buy the book and please stay in touch with me! Let me know your favorite recipes, comments, and questions!

Below you will find a recipe for Molten Brigadeiro Cake from My Rio de Janeiro: A Cookbook. Enjoy!

Bolinho Quente de Brigadeiro

Molten Brigadeiro Cake

Molten Brigadeiro


Serves 6

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 oz  (60g) 70% dark chocolate, chopped


½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the molds

2 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon (12g) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup (40g) all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for the molds

Special Equipment: 6 individual foil cups, buttered and floured

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

2.  In a heavy saucepan, place the condensed milk, cocoa powder and chocolate, and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. When the mixture begins to bubble and the chocolate melts, reduce the heat to low and continue whisking for another 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened like fudge. You should be able to tilt the pan and the whole batter will slide, leaving the sticky fudge on the bottom of the pan. Slide the batter into a large bowl without scraping it, as you don’t want to incorporate any of the thick residue left on the bottom of the pan.

3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Pour the butter into the chocolate mixture and whisk vigorously until smooth. At first the mixture will totally curdle and break. You will think this recipe cannot possibly work, but keep whisking constantly until the mixture comes together again.

4. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, yolks, salt, sugar and vanilla. Add this into the chocolate mixture and whisk until incorporated.

5. Add the flour and mix until just blended, using a spatula.

6. Pour the batter into foil cups filling them almost to the top (leave about ¼ inch). You can prepare the recipe up to this point and refrigerate for up to 5 days,

7.  Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, or until the edges are firm but the center is still soft. Invert onto a dessert plate. Serve with ice cream (pistachio, ginger, coconut or vanilla are all flavors that work well with this dessert).

© My Rio de Janeiro: A Cookbook , Leticia Moreinos Schwartz

Cacau Noir: Delectable Chocolate in Brazil

October 1, 2013

Cacau Noir

Get ready for a Brazilian chocolate indulgence and prepare to find some of the most exquisite bonbons in Rio de Janeiro. That’s right, even in this hot tropical city, mostly known for beaches, soccer and samba, chocolate too as become a cultural phenomenon, and a new class of chocolatiers is finding innovative ways to revive the country’s cocoa’s production.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to interview one of my favorites chocolatiers of Rio for this blog: Solange and Adriana Wiltjen from Cacau Noir.

Solange Wiltgen

Solange Wiltgen

My belief in Cacau Noir goes back to an enlightning encounter, circa 1994 with this mother-daughter team, who, at that time, were already directioning the faith of chocolate in the mega metropolis with a tiny store located at Hotel Cezar Park.

Adriana Wiltgen

Adriana Wiltgen

I got a taste of Cacau Noir’s production on a beautiful day in Rio. To streamline my visit, we first went to the kitchen in Vargem Grande (pass Barra da Tijuca) where they maintain a staff of fifteen, then to a store.

Cacau Noir

I spent a morning circling between German and French equipments like tempering machines and special refrigerators, watching Solange and her staff prepare a bonanza of delicacies.

Cacau Noir

Cacau Noir

I sampled pepper ganache bonbons, macarrons and pão de mel. I tried a coffee dark truffle, pistachio praline and bolo de laranja. All incredibly tasty and comparable to the bonbons found at Madison Avenue in New York, I can attest.

Cacau Noir

The more I strolled thrugh an impecably clean kitchen, the clearer it was that the level of sophistication is constantly evolving at Cacau Noir. Jacques Torres would love this place!

Cacau Noir

The packaging and presentation is another detail to pay attention to. Graphic design may not be at the heart of a chocolate program, but the patterns of Rio’s boardwalk and its landscapes speaks volume about Brazilian identity and the direction the company is taking.

Cacau Noir

Solange’s creations are designed to evoke a sense of celebration with flavors that range from coconut and mint, to dulce de leche and cachaÇa. These chocolates bring the bliss and spirit of carioca culture into a bite size of joy.

Cacau Noir

Where experience becomes essential is in making the ganache, where chocolate, cream and butter bond and become greater than the sum of its parts. For that , Solange studied at Barry Callebaut Chocolate Technology in Chicago.

Solange Wiltgen, 63, founded Cacau Noir with her daughter Adriana, after parting ways from her twin sister Elvira, which they previously ran Chez Bombom. They attracted a following among foodies, parties, events, and coporate clients, and Cacau Noir has since grown into a company with four boutiques in Rio (located at Rio Design Leblon, Rio Design Barra, Quartier Ipanema, and Village Mall).

The store front is as slick and modern as any art gallery showroom, while the assortment of products highlights a variety of chocolate indulgences.

Cacau Noir

Solange and Adriana both feature an extremely calm style that matches the sophisticated and serene vibe behing their brand. Rarely have I witnessed such tranquility in what is typically known as a caotic kitchen enviroment. It positively affects they way they run their business and handle such a temperamental item like chocolate.

Summer months in Rio can distant carioca’s crave for chocolate, even though the product remains in a temperature controled enviroment at all times. To maneuver Rio’s hot temperatures, Cacau Noir has diversified its products to other confections like brownies, cakes, ice cream, and spoon brigadeiros.

Cacau Noir I take one bite at this intense variation of brigadeiro and forsee the landscape of Rio printed all over, with faith and unlimited confidence in the greatness of both destinies: Cacau Noir and Rio de Janeiro.

Cacau Noir

If you would like to read more of my articles about the upcoming rise of Brazilian chocolate, click here.


Rio Design Leblon, 1 piso, Leblon Tel: (021) 2529-6977

Rio Design Barra, 2˚ Piso, Barra Tel: (021) 2432-8281

Quartier Ipanema, Terreo, Ipanema Tel: (021) 2247-9843

Village Mall, 2˚ Piso, Barra

Le Pré Catelan in Rio de Janeiro

September 1, 2013
Chef Roland Villard

Chef Roland Villard

The first time I tasted Rolland Villard’s cooking, I realized Brazilian cuisine might have more than one French ambassador. We are talking of course, about Claude Troisgros (son of the legendary chef Jean Pierre Troigros) who came to Brazil 30 years ago and has been the most decorated French ambassador of Brazilian cuisine.

But with the recent economic boom, many other renowned chefs from around the globe came to live and work in the country.

Rolland Villard is one of them, and when I visited Le Pre Catelan, the restaurant under his command in Rio de Janeiro, I learned a few lessons.

First, it is foolish to think that only Brazilian chefs can truly understand Brazilian cuisine. Second, it is foolish to think that Mr. Troisgros reins solo. Third, that Rolland Villard is a chef whose work deserves a higher profile, broader notice, and worth following his career regardless where he comes from (France).

He landed in Brazil in 1998, after a period in Africa, and set base in Rio de Janeiro’s Sofitel Hotel, where he oversees the cuisine for all Sofitel hotels in South America.

Le Pré Catelan, the French-named jewel restaurant of the chain, is paying homage to the land that has welcomed Chef Villard with open arms, featuring theme menus that amaze our taste buds. Using a wide variety of ingredients Chef Rolland Villard combines icons from Brazilian gastronomy with the sophistication and refinement of French Cuisine.

The restaurant went through an extensive remodeling to match Villard’s vision of Brazilian cuisine. At the entrance, a stylish and modern madri pearl bar sets the mood.

Le Pré Catelan varanda

Tropical flowers, coral displays, and a glass window overlooks Copacabana’s beach, indicating that you are about to experience Brazilian cuisine with all the ceremony and pampering associated with the best of fine dinning.

Le Pré Catelan inside

But this amazing décor is only a hint compared to the entertainment coming from the menu.

Mr.Villard is enamored with products from the Amazon, and created a menu featuring ingredients from the region. The menu, titled  “A Gastronomic Trip through the Amazon” (R$290.00 , approx US$120.00), combines French techniques with typical ingredients of this region.

“This menu is different from all the others that I have already created. It is very important that the richness and variety of ingredients from the Amazon are appreciated not only by Brazilians but by foreigners as well who, like myself, are amazed with the daily discovery of infinite and exotic flavors”, affirms the chef.

During a trip to the Amazon, Mr. Villard tried a fish that until then was unknown to him, the Tambaqui. It was passion at first sight. From this trip, came the idea of “Tambaqui Ribs with Smoked Mashed Baroa Potatoes and Thyme Sauce”. Mr. Villard spent six months studying how to make smoked mashed baroa potatoes (a kind of potato typical from Brazil) until he achieved perfection, and now the dish is a hit on the menu.

Tambaqui Ribs with Smoked Baroa Potatoes

Tambaqui Ribs with Smoked Baroa Potatoes

Another typical fish from the region is the robust Pirarucú. I think even if you were to spend a week on the Amazon, you wouldn’t be able to taste Pirarucú as divine as Le Pre Catelan’s.

Pirarucu Fish in a Cashew Crust and Tucupi Sauce

Pirarucú Fish in a Cashew Crust and Tucupi Sauce

Speaking of travel to exotic places, a visit to the Amazon has always been on my wish list and many times during my stay in Brazil I have tried to make some plans to hop up. But for a budget traveler like myself, going there these days became too far, too pricey, too complicated. After tasting a series of delightful courses, I began to convince myself that maybe the best way to taste the Amazon may well be in Rio de Janeiro, at Le Pré Catelan, leaving me at least US$1,000 happier.

For those who hunger for the greatest hits of the jungle, you will want to order Chocolate and Coconut Cream Surprise served with Amazonian Fruit Sorbets like Açaí, Cupuaçú, and Taperebá. Forget that old thought that fruit should be eaten in its raw state. Here, fruit comes to life in its best shape and form in these amazing sorbet variations.

Dessert from Amazonian Menu: Chocolate Ball filled with Coconut Cream and Fruit Sorbet

Dessert from Amazonian Menu: Chocolate Ball filled with Coconut Cream and Fruit Sorbet

You can almost hear toucans and parrots singing to you while the cold, creamy, and silky sorbet melts in your mouth.

But Mr. Villard doesn’t stop there. He has also created a theme menu based on Rice and Beans, the backbone of Brazilian cuisine. Almost all carioca restaurants serve classic rice and beans, but none puts a whirl as exciting, creative, and sophisticated as Le Pré Catelan. Here, black and white looks really fancy!

Kidney Bean Mousse with Sweet Rice, Orange Caramel, and CupuaÇu Sorbet

Kidney Bean Mousse with Sweet Rice, Orange Caramel, and CupuaÇu Sorbet

Images of a kitchen meeting, chefs exchanging opinions deeply analyzing the dish comes to mind when you try the iconic Bahian black- eyed pea fritter—Acarajé pairing beautifully with foie gras. It was simply delicious.

Red Rice Chutney flavored with Passion Fruit Sauce puts the combination to the test and feels like a kitchen experiment, underlined with professional excellence.

Guinea Fowl Ballotine stuffed with Mushrooms, accompanied by a White and Black Bean Petit Gateau was an amazing explosion of imagination combined with technique—the flavor exquisitely balanced, the petit gateaux perfectly oozing black bean juices.

Guinea Fowl Ballotine stuffed with Mushrooms, White and Black Bean Petit Gateaux

Guinea Fowl Ballotine stuffed with Mushrooms, White and Black Bean Petit Gateaux

These two menus made me understand why Brazilian and French cuisine, the two in particular, marry each other so well. All around the city you can find new and trendy French spins on Brazilian cuisine, often times pushing creativity over the limit and becoming too much. The difference between cooking this kind of affair is knowing where the tipping point is, and stopping just shy of it. Mr. Villard does that expertly.

He is the only French man among seven other Brazilians in the kitchen. “The only thing missing in Brazilian cuisine is professionalism.” He added. “Brazilians have the talent, but they don’t have methodology. They don’t work with mise en place, and they don’t follow techniques. And that’s what I try to do with my team at Le Pré Catelan” explained Mr. Villard.

Chef Roland Villar and me, THANK YOU!!! Big smile after an unforgettable meal

Chef Roland Villar and me, THANK YOU!!! Big smile after an unforgettable meal

Mr. Villard couldn’t be better suited to capture the exotic ingredients of the Amazon, the classic combinations that are so typical of Brazilian habits, and the joyful spirit of Brazilian culture, and translate it all into cooking. He does that brilliantly, big time.

Le Pré Catelan

Av. Atlântica, 4240

Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro 22070

Tel (021) 2525-1160

Photo credits in this post go to Camilla Maia

Lobster in Maine

August 5, 2013

Lobster in Maine

This summer, my husband Dean and I decided to send our kids to a summer camp in Maine, which requires a long drive down a straight highway from Connecticut.

I heard Maine is a terrific summer destination and vacation spot, so the thought of exploring the cold state during the summer comforted my Brazilian blood and desire to discover its regional assets and cuisine.

Maine has a lot of blueberries and potatoes, but it’s mostly mostly about lobsters. It’s as if the lobster abundance gives meaning to Maine, a symbol of the cold weather this far north.

Lobster in Maine

Lobster from Maine comes with a pedigree as fishmongers have managed to make their fisheries extremely efficient and sustainable.

Lobster in Maine

We stopped by a friendly drive in on the road called Cameron’s, where Thomas got one whole beast on the plate.



Cooking lobster alive can be quite daunting (more about that in a second), and even when the beast is already boiled and plated, it can still be intimidating. But Thomas took after his daddy’s love for shellfish and embraced the challenge. Lobster victory!

Thomas and his dad

Thomas and his dad

I ate a lobster BLT that was simply divine.

Lobster BLT

Lobster BLT

Lobster roll is a big issue here in Maine, and each eatery claims it should be done the way they prepare it. But there are arguments about it: mayo or butter? Chives and celery, or plain? Scallions perhaps? Lettuce? And what about the bread: hot dog bun or hamburger roll?

Bianca at Cameron's

Bianca at Cameron’s

You may find variations across the board, but I have never eaten a bad lobster roll on my trip to Maine. They all range from good to wonderful.

The next day, after we dropped our kids at camp, we met with native author Charlie Wing and his wife Barbara.

Charlie Wing (left), Barbara, and Dean

Charlie Wing (left), Barbara, and Dean

They took us to a salty pier where fisherman dress in tall rubber boats and suspensory, looking like captains of the industry—as they really are— starting their day at 5 am to go fishing.

Lobster in Maine

Afterwards, we ate lunch at Holbrook’s Lobster Wharf & Grille

Lobster in Maine

looking over the low green mountains in the distance and listening to the water rippling against the hulls of fishing boats.

Lobster in Maine

The setting was magical, and the conversation engaging. The menu here represents the essence of this region and the ritual as well; there is no table service.

Menu at Holbrook's

Menu at Holbrook’s

You pay by the window and wait until someone in the kitchen calls out loud for your number. The rest is between you and the lobster.

We brought a large cooler to bring lobsters home, after all, I wanted prepare rolls in my own kitchen. But before I cooked them, I needed to terminate their lives in the most humanly way. Searching through hundreds of articles, they all advised to freeze the beast for 15 minutes before plunging them into a big pot of boiling water. According to science research, this slows their metabolism. The operation brought memories of my training in cooking school and the first time I killed a lobster, watching their tails move as they slowly turn bright red. Not an easy task, regardless of all recommendations, but mission completed.  My plan was to prepare a simple roll with pink meat covered in creamy sauce over a toasted and grilled bun and then, simply indulge. And that’s exactly what I did. Recipe inspired by Cook’s Illustrated.

Lobester Rolls 

Serves 6:

1 lb lobster meat

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 stalck celery, finely diced

Zest of 1 lemon

Few drops of hot sauce, preferably Tabasco

2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 hot dog buns

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1-    Cut lobster meat gently into ½-inch pieces and place in a bowl.

2-    Add the mayo, celery, lemon, tabasco, and chives and fold carefull with a rubber spatula. Season with salt and pepper.

3-    Place a 12-inch skillet over low heat and add the butter until melted. Grill the buns in the skillet until crisp and lightly brownd  on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.

4-    Transfer buns to a platter and spoon the lobster salad into the buns. Serve immediately.

Camoeron’s Lobster House

18 Bath Road

Brunswick, ME

Tel: (207) 725-2886

Holbrook’s Lobster Wharf & Grille

129 Court Street

Bath, ME 04530

Tel: (207) 443-5231

Confessions of a Hopeful Brazilian

July 30, 2013
A visit with Christ the Redeemer brings a lot of hope!

A visit with Christ the Redeemer brings a lot of hope!

Over the last few weeks, my country of Brazil has been going through imperative historical moments. First, the protests and manifestations, then the remarkable Pope Francis’s visit, which ended with a glorious Mass gathering more than 3 million people at the sands of Copacabana beach on Sunday July 28th, 2013.

Between one ongoing event  and another, Brazil has been on the news almost every day. It all started with a simple protest in São Paulo against an increase of 20 cents of Real (our currancy) on public transportation. Through social media, these protests grew across the nation to critizise the government on a wide range of issues such as political corruption, the high cost of living, and the billions of dollars being spent to build stadiums for the upcoming World Cup and Olympic events, while the rest of country receives no injection of improvement.

This men lives in Rocinha and found art as a happy outlet

This men lives in Rocinha and found art as a happy outlet

Despite the violence that emerged from these protests, I am proud to see that “ O Gigante Acordou” or, the giant woke up, with Brazilians screaming and fighting for a better life.

Brazilians with hope: this girl also lives in Rocinha and I see dreams in her eyes

Brazilians with hope: this girl also lives in Rocinha and I see dreams in her eyes

There is almost always a larger context like that when protests of this magnitude dominates the country as spectacularly as it’s happening in Brazil. In this case, the inevitable has occurred: unfortunately, the down global economy arrived in Brazil, after a long steady period at the highs, with a sharp reversal from the booming of previous years.

This is a chandelier made of plastic bottles, a sign of creativity—and hope.

This is a chandelier made of plastic bottles, a sign of creativity—and hope.

I just came back from Brazil this summer, and I have to admit that both these events have touched me deeply, and posed a moment of reflection, making me question, what is now on the table.

Just how long can we live in a country where the government doesn’t invest in infra structure? Just how long can we pretend that we are happy with our music, soccer and samba, while many of our people remain living in poverty? Just how long can we pay an exorbitant amount of taxes, and see nothing in return?

As a cookbook author, there is nothing else that I want to do other than promote all the wonderful things about my country: first and foremost the food, and of course music, beaches, soccer, and the beautiful culture in general.

As a Brazilian however, the level of dissatisfaction and injustice is boiling in my blood, just as in every protestor. The high cost of living is just unbearable and if I begin to attempt to site number examples, like the cost of goods, it is revolting.

Now, as a Brazilian living in the US, I am torn, wondering if any word that I write  makes any sense at all. I look at my life in Brazil, and my life in the US, and realize the new reality, the new world, this new global economy,  and how different my generation is having to face life, with much less than our parents, when it should be the opposite!

But life is bigger than my generation, and Brazil is bigger than this moment. After this trip, I got to the conclusion that I too belong to the hopeful group of citizens who dream with a better country. I can attest that wether I live in Brazil or in the US, what’s most remarkable of all this, is the sheer spirit of Brazilians, which I’ve observed in the highs and lows across the nation, through a sequence of my own experience.

“The Pope may be from Argentina, but God is Brazilian”, Pope Francis joked about this “saying” with warmth in his heart. And I may be putting a lot of stock on this Pope, but so is the rest of Brazil.


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