A 85-day adventure by No Cheese
  • Day85

    So much for "No Cheese"

    December 23, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ☀️ 35 °C

    I have such a weakness for pizza.

    Not far from where we're staying, "Bella Blu" offers an all-you-can-eat pizza deal for $R27.90 (about $10 CAD) on Mondays to Thursdays after 6 pm. It's marginally more on Fridays and weekends. This really is a great deal since the price for just one pizza is normally about $R40.

    I'd been resisting and resisting eating pizza till I could resist no more...

    The all-you-can-eat pizza works a little like a churrascaria but instead of meat, the waiters come by offering you slices of different pizzas. There was a surprising variety of pizzas on offer even discounting those with meat toppings. None of the pizzas were vegan though, due to the generous use of cheese. I think I must have tried 7 different pizzas including one with palm hearts. I picked the ham off the Portuguesa pizza that came with mozzarella, tomatoes, onions and quail eggs. My favourite was the one with arugula and sun dried tomatoes.

    Then came the dessert pizzas... oh my. The one with coconut and condensed milk was amazing, only to be outdone by the one topped with mozzarella, banana and cinnamon. I would never have thought to add mozzarella with banana but boy, it really worked.

    The crust on the pizzas were nice and thin and I prayed my gluten relief pills would do the trick.

    I admit though that Roch and I both suffered the next day with bad bellies... I mean really bad bellies... from too much cheese... argghh!
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  • Day79

    Local markets in Rio's Zona Sul

    December 17, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    We finally found some local markets in Rio. The discovery came about while searching for tours in Rio and I came across a "Fruit Tasking & Food Market Tour" at http://www.fruitbrazil.com. Although we never took the tour, we did take advantage of the weekly produce fairs listed for Rio's South Zone:

    Monday: Rua Henrique Dumont in Ipanema
    Tuesday: Praca General Osorio in Ipanema
    Wednesday: Praca Edmundo Bittencourt in Copa
    Thursday: Rua Ronald de Carvalho in Copa
    Friday: Praca Nossa Senhora da Paz in Ipanema
    Saturday: Rua Frei Leandro in Jardim Botanico

    We went to both markets listed for Copacabana and were astounded by the wonderful selection, quality and price. Yesterday, at the Praça Edmundo Bittencourt market, we bought 3 beautiful heads of different lettuces for $R5 ($1.82 CAD) and 8 small papayas for $R5. Today, at the Rua Ronald de Carvalho market, we bought 2 large papayas, 8 passion fruits, 24 oranges, 6 small cherimoyas, a bag of tomatoes and a big gooey piece of manioc cake all for $R29 ($10.57 CAD). The best bargain were the oranges, 2 dozens for $R5!

    We experienced a bad case of sticker shock when we returned to Canada from Thailand. Methinks the sticker shock will be even worse returning from Brazil.
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  • Day77


    December 15, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    Caipirinha is Brazil's national cocktail. It's made with lime, sugar and "cachaça" which is a hard liquor distilled from sugarcane. You can get one at any bar, or at eating establishments that serve alcohol, or even at the beach. We finally tried our first caipirinha after being in Brazil for 19 days.

    Many online reviews rave about the caipirinhas at Academia da Cachaça located in Leblon so that's where we went. Academia da Cachaça serve the traditional caipirinha made with lime but also caipirinhas made with pineapple, passionfruit and other seasonal fruits. We ordered one with lime ($R 12.50) and one with passionfruit ($R 17.50).

    The traditional lime caipirinha is reminiscent of a margarita or pisco sour but not half as good. The taste of the cachaça is just downright unpleasant. I preferred the passionfruit caipirinha just because the passionfruit hid the taste of the cachaça better. Overall, I'm not sure it's an experience I need to repeat.

    The caipirinhas at the Academia weren't large - the ones we saw on the beach were twice as tall - but on an empty stomach, boy did they pack a punch. We both felt pretty zoosed after we drank them down so we staggered over to the Pão de Açúcar across the street and ended up ordering a pizza margherita to soak up some of the alcohol.
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  • Day72


    December 10, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    After Salvador, Rio feels like a different country. Salvador felt edgy and a little dangerous. Rio by contrast is very vibrant and cosmopolitan, or at least Copacabana is. We haven't had occasion to venture further than Ipanema yet.

    Copacabana is a fairly affluent neighbourhood and the cost of fruit reflect this. Mangoes, bananas and papayas are easily R$1 to R$1.50 more per kilo than in Salvador and we don't see bargains like pineapple for R$1 like we saw in Salvador but the relative sense of safety here is a good trade off.

    Our newest yummy discovery is açai sorbet. We read online that the best açai was at Amazônia Soul in Ipanema so we headed there yesterday to try a bowl. A large bowl costs R$22 ($8 CAD), almost three times as much as the bowl we tried the day before at Sorvete Alex in Copacabana. True, the R$22 bowl was amazingly good and creamier in texture than the R$8 bowl... but not that we thought the R$8 bowl tasted bad. In fact, we quite loved it. I guess we'll have to do more investigating :-)
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  • Day68


    December 6, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    We spent the last week of Salvador by the beach in the Barra neighbourhood. Overall, Barra felt much safer than Pelhorino but it took us a few days to get over our jitters from being mugged last Sunday. We essentially lay low and just took advantage of the yummy fruits that we easily found at the various fruit stalls peppered throughout the neighbourhood.

    The quality of the fruit at the fruit stalls was high but the prices were low. A fruitarian's dream! A mango or small papaya typically cost R$1. A big bunch of bananas cost R$4. The most expensive fruit we bought was soursop at about R$10 each. We bought two of them and wished we bought 20 mangoes instead with our R$20. Soursops look like a cherimoya on the inside but they sure don't taste like cherimoya. They're a little sour, a little musky... not our cup of tea. We essentially tossed them in the garbage.

    Our dining out included a moqueca at Todo Azul and more memorably, the buffet lunch at Oliva Gourmet located in the Barra Shopping mall. The buffet was R$37.90, all-you-can-eat including pastas made to order. The buffet itself had quality food with lots of vegan choices. I particularly enjoyed the grilled veggies which were not too oily, the rice salad made with broccoli and mushrooms, and the mini pao de queijos. The paos aren't vegan since they're made with Minas cheese but they're gluten-free since they're made with cassava. The texture and taste were phenomenal, cheesy and a little chewy. Roch thought they were like savoury marshmallows.

    We also tried the beans and rice at two of the three mama-papa restaurants around the corner from where we were staying. Beans and rice were really the only vegan/vegetarian options available to us at these eateries but no complaints as the food was usually delicious and a generous portion typically cost R$10. Washed down with an ice cold Skol and life was pretty sweet.
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  • Day61

    The Flavours of Bahia

    November 29, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    Bahia is considered the soul of Brazil where the country's cultures and races have mixed to produce what many believe is authentically Brazilian.

    Bahian cuisine has Portuguese and native Amerindians contributions but the greatest influence came from the enslaved Africans who brought with them their own style of cooking. Malagueta chili peppers and dendê oil features prominently in many if not most dishes.

    Roch tried his first "acarajé" yesterday from an 'authentic' street market Baiana as compared to the Baianas we see in the historical centre who are carefully dressed for the tourist trade. Acarajé is made from shelled fradinho beans (similar to black-eyed peas), which are mashed together with ground shrimp and other ingredients, formed into a ball, then deep-fried in dendê oil. It is served split in half and then stuffed with vatapá or caruru, shrimps, and salad, and hot chili pepper. (Vatapá is made from bread, shrimp, coconut milk, finely ground peanuts and palm oil mashed into a creamy paste. Caruru is made from okra, onion, shrimp, palm oil and toasted peanuts and/or cashews.)

    For dinner, we sampled our first moqueca, one of the region’s most popular dishes. Moqueca is a salt water fish stew that's slowly cooked in a terra cotta casserole. It's made with coconut milk, garlic, onion, cilantro, pepper, tomatoes, and the ubiquitous dendê oil and the flavour is reminiscent of a Thai curry. We had a vegetarian version at Bar Zulu so it wasn't authentic per se but oh my, washed down with an icy Skol beer, life just does not get better.
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  • Day59

    Terra firma

    November 27, 2015 in Brazil ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    It's so fruitfully delicious to be back in tropical climes. We've been gorging out on mangoes and papayas once again while discovering new fruits for the first time.

    Our first bite of a cashew fruit didn't exactly make us sing hallelujah. "It's OK", we both thought. But somehow by the third or fourth nibble, we slowly got hooked to it's subtle flavour and juicy flesh.

    When Roch tried an umbu for the first time, he thought it tasted like 7-up! We're just coming into umbu season (December to March). Umbus are apparently unique to Brazil so we'll have to enjoy them while we're here.

    Saturday, when we took the bus to the Novo Mercado do Rio Vermelho, we noticed a hustling and bustling outdoor market along the way so we decided to check it out on the way home. We bought a dozen green mangoes, 3 papayas, 10 small cherimoyas, and a big bunch of bananas for R$ 9.00 - that's $3.27 CAD!!!

    The first time we bought the green mangoes, it was with the help of Kelly, our hostess at Pousada Colonial. We bought them from the fruit man who passes by the pousada with his cart of fruit every day around 12:30 pm. If Kelly didn't encourage us to buy them, I doubt we would have because they didn't look ripe yet they felt overly soft at the same time. However, the first time we tasted these green gems, we went gaga. So fragrant and so sweet. One of the best varieties of mangoes I've ever eaten.

    We also found a fruit man in the old part of time who sells fruit that's sliced up and ready to eat. It was entertaining just watching him carving up the pineapples. Locals would come along and drop him a real (R$) and help themselves to a wedge of watermelon or a piece of pineapple. We had to, of course, join in with a couple of reals of our own.
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  • Day56

    Pullmantur, Sovereign

    November 24, 2015, South Atlantic Ocean ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

    We’ve been onboard the Sovereign for 9 days. For the first part of the journey sailing from Malaga to the Grand Canary Islands, there were only about 300 passengers so the boat was relatively empty. The passengers were older and more European. Many of them spruced up for dinner – elegant dresses for the women, suits and ties for the men – even when the suggested dress code was casual.

    However, this changed significantly once we got to Las Palmas. The average age went down as the majority of the original passengers disembarked and a younger free-spirited clientele embarked in its place. Shorts, t-shirts, and torn clothing made their appearance in lieu of elegant dresses and suits and ties – even when the suggested dress code was gala.

    The food on the Sovereign has been both excellent… and not. Watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe have been the staple of my breakfast for the last 9 days and I have no reason to believe this will change for the 2 days remaining. In addition to the melons, pineapple is usually available along with oranges and granny smith apples. Why there are no bananas available is a little mind boggling. They’ve only shown up once at the midnight tropical buffet where we also got to sample papayas and guavas. Luckily, dates and raisins are available as toppings for the muesli so I occasionally indulge in those when I need a more caloric breakfast.

    Normally on a cruise, I tend to avoid the lunch buffet, preferring instead to save my appetite for the sit-down dinner at the end of the day. However, as vegans aboard the Sovereign, the lunch buffet has proven to offer the best and yummiest choices. Typically, there’s a salad bar, a section with specifically vegetarian options, and an Asian section that also offers vegan/vegetarian choices. Even the regular section usually has an item or two available to vegans, like those little oh-so-delicious roasted potatoes. There’s usually a whole variety of deserts, cookies, mousses, bread pudding, crumbles, rice pudding, fruit tarts, cakes, as well as the ol’ reliable slices of melons, pineapple and fruit salad.

    Dinner, on the other hand, has been a disappointment. Although the menu offers an appetizing variety for the carnivore passengers, there is usually only one vegetarian option available and it’s rarely gluten and dairy free. Add to the fact that despite changing tables twice, we still find ourselves at an empty table with no other dining guests to chat and mingle with and you can understand why dinner is not our favourite meal onboard.

    That being said, our assistant waiter, Jose has been a real charm. When we got transferred out of his section after arriving at the Grand Canaries, we asked to be transferred back. Jose is a real sweetheart, very personable and always service with a smile. When he found out we were having a tough time with the menu, he arranged to have the chef make us a special vegan dish – Indian curry. If it weren’t for him, Roch and I would probably skip going to the dining room and just go upstairs to the buffet instead. The buffet serves pretty much the same menu as the restaurant but usually has a salad bar, and if we’re lucky, a compose-your-own stir-fry station.

    With 2 more days at sea, I’m starting to look forward to terra firma and all the tropical fruits that Brazil supposedly offers.
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  • Day47

    So long, Spain

    November 15, 2015 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    We took the bus back to Malaga to catch our cruise to Brazil. We couldn’t check in to the Sovereign till 15:00 so we walked around town and had one last tapa and caña to say goodbye to Spain. We stopped at the Azahar Tapas for a slice of tortilla and a tapa-size portion of paella. The caña was San Miguel and the portions were generous. Everything was so yummy and inexpensive, plus the owner was super nice. We couldn’t understand why the place wasn't jammed packed full.

    We were sad to leave Spain, but we know we'll be back.
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  • Day46

    Sevilla oranges

    November 14, 2015 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    We bookended our stay in Sevilla with paella, returning to La Paella Sevilla with my family before we caught our bus back to Malaga. Lucky me, they had vegetarian paella when we went back.

    In between our two paella sessions, we ate a lot of mandarin oranges. Our favourite stall at the Mercado de Feria was selling them for 2€ for 2 kilos and though we could get mandarins for the same price elsewhere, the mandarins at this particular stall were exceptionally sweet and juicy. We bought 2 kilos as part of the breakfast we brought over to my family when they arrived. We ended up buying them 5 kilos more… then 2 kilos more…

    I didn’t eat out with my family very much but I did join them at the Bodega Mateo Ruiz across from the Airbnb apartment where we were staying. The bodega was a family run local joint, a true Spanish experience. There was absolutely nothing vegan on the tapas menu painted on ceramic and posted on the wall. The only vegetarian option - the asparagus tortilla - was no longer availability due to lack of popularity. Everything available was laced in garlic and doused with olive oil. My family loved it. They stood at the bar alongside the local clientele and happily chowed down their tapas and soaked it all in.
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