Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Health Food It's Not - São Paulo
Here's the view from my seat at the bar at the local padaria. This is where I spend a half-hour while my kids do capoeira, the Brazilian martial art, at an academy across the street. There is absolutely nothing like the local padaria, which is roughly translated to bakery, but is really so much more.
At a smaller padaria like this one, breakfast is whatever can be grilled up--including my favorite pão na chapa (grilled French bread and butter)--as well as assorted baked goods. Some of the bigger ones have breakfast and lunch buffets with fruit and salads. In this picture you can see some coxinhas in the warmer in front of me--these are hot chicken-filled pyramids of fatty goodness. And you can't eat one without the spicy sauce.
And the coffee, ah the coffee. All of them have the giant espresso machines that serve up strong espresso, frothy cappuccinos (which include LOTS of chocolate here in Brazil) and any variation you want. Now if you want a plain old American type coffee with milk, you have a bit of a problem in how to describe it. Some say it is a "carioca" (coffee from Rio) or "americano" (that's a bit obvious) but in the end, you will probably have to describe it to your server and they will ask you about what kind of milk, frothy or hot. Possibly the best-kept secret of Brazil, though, is the fresh orange juice. Fresh squeezed from a speedy machine--I can hear the sound of its grinder now. Zip, zip, zip and a huge glass of orange juice sits in front of you. Delicious.
A padaria is probably most closely related to the old American diners. Quick, no-frills service, good basic food, and reasonable prices. Maybe a diner mixed with a convenience store since all padarias have a small section where you can buy milk, and a few necessities for your pantry, as well as a full baked good section with elaborate cakes and fresh bread.
It's also a great place to hang out if you are eating alone. It usually has a bar (where I am seated at this photo) and then lots of casual tables where you can linger for long periods of time, reading your paper or letting your kids spread jelly on the walls (that NEVER happened. Never. Okay, once). Padarias are mostly open from early morning until early evening--we have the largest one in São Paulo near our house and it is open 24 hours. At lunch or dinner time you can get a great steak, eggs and french fries to soothe your arteries. Salads need not apply (okay, yes, they do usually have some, but it's not the specialty).