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Weekends Outside Rio de Janeiro: Paraty and Buzios Brazil

If you’re planning to visit Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, you may also want to head out of the City for a few days.  That’s just what we did this summer (albeit their winter) with two very different attractions: Paraty, a 4 hour drive in lush scenery known as the Green Coast (Costa Verde) south of Rio; and Buzios, a beach and nightlife Brazilian favourite, about 2 hours drive north if the roads are clear.

Paraty is a beautifully preserved Portuguese Colonial town dating from 1667 which served as a thriving port to export gold, coffee and sugarcane in the form of the local spirit, Cachaça. As the railway was built in the 19th century for cheaper transport to Rio and the gold ran out, the town was almost abandoned, hence such a wonderful conservation of the old town for about 250 years.  Since the 1970s the fishing town of Paraty has been rediscovered as a thriving tourist destination.

Paraty Brazil

Paraty is also known for its uneven cobblestone-paved streets in the historical pedestrian centre.It hadn’t rained when we arrived: instead the water collecting in the stones was a sign of the tide gradually pouring in to this part of town as full moon approached. By the time we had left, these streets would have been flooded – something the locals are used to each month but it’s nothing much and doesn’t last long.

One of the first things that struck us were the number of brigadeiro stalls, where the locals were enjoying their sweet fix at teatime – and in the mornings and evenings too!

Brigadeiro street stalls in Paraty Brazil

It’s the first time I’ve seen poinsettias growing as bushes.  Somehow my miserable poinsettias that I try to look after at Christmas time look miserable in comparison!

Ponsettia bush Brazil

Palm Hearts to Cheese Waffles

We had some fun on Facebook, guessing what was this side dish below.  They’re palm hearts, something that we often serve in French salads but they’re conserved in tins, long and thin.  These enormous disks were fresh from the top heart of the palm tree, baked in the oven and served with a dribbling of olive oil. There are plenty of wonderful restaurants to choose from – mainly serving excellent fish.

Our favourites were Banana da Terra and that of the Pousada Literaria where we were staying. Perhaps the most wonderful of breakfast specials was their cheese waffles with honey and rosemary.  I managed to develop a recipe for you back home with the ingredients we find in Europe (it ended up being gluten free) – here it is! I do hope you try this cheese waffle recipe.

Palm hearts, Paraty Brazil

Discovering the Islands Around Paraty

To appreciate the inviting islands dotted all around Paraty, you must take a boat ride.  We were in the expert hands of Davi Trinidade, our Captain for the day with his speedboat Palombeta. I had previously booked our 5-hour day trip online on his site, which is very clear and efficient – and was so impressed that we booked a second day with him!

Harbour of Paraty Brazil

It was wonderful to see Paraty from a different angle…

Paraty Church from the water

And discover paradisiac strips of beach with either smooth sand or finely crushed shell, go swimming and snorkelling. Don’t ask me why, but I still can’t get that mask on my face – so my excuse was to take the photos!

Best boat trips in Paraty Brazil

Meet the Fockers for the day!

The highlight for the girls was watching the turtles then feeding the monkeys on Monkey Island. These cuties would gently hold your finger as they politely took some banana.  Well raised little monkeys indeed! Their miniature faces were captivating.

Monkey Island near Paraty Brazil

Davi’s English was perfect and took his time with us ensuring we enjoyed every moment, including a stop off for lunch.

Discovering Moqueca

Brazilian food specialities

A typical dish served here is a traditional prawn or fish stew, Moqueca, served in a hot clay pot. I tasted a few to try and each one was quite liquid.  It’s served with a typical side dish of Farofa – a combination of manioc flour with some sort of fat or oil to give it a sandy texture – gravy from the stew and chilli oil to taste. This vanilla ice cream dessert looks like it’s served with cherries, right? Instead it was candied bananas, absolutely delicious.

The Twilight House

The Twilight House Brazil

Davi anchored in front of this thatched roof villa with its private beach.  Antoine and I were totally out the cut but the girls were enthralled to hear that this was the famous house filmed in Twilight. The island of Esme, where the couple honeymoon in the saga Breaking Dawn, doesn’t exist.  It’s here in Casa em Paraty, which can be rented – perfect for vampire honeymoons, I hear.

Twilight house Paraty Brazil

Back on Paraty land, another popular form of transport is by horse-drawn carriage.

Cachaça !

Horse-drawn carriage in Paraty Brazil

No visit to Paraty is complete without a taste of the local speciality made famous here since the 19th century. Cachaça is a sugarcane-based spirit which is the main ingredient for the Brazilian cocktail, Caipirinha. The classic cocktail was with plenty of limes but we also adored the fresh passion fruit version too at apéritif time – a great excuse to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary, which we just about totally missed if we hadn’t seen a message from Mum and Dad!

Cachaca store in Paraty

A century ago, Cachaça was called Parati, hence such a famous location for the best in Brazil. After a tasting, my best Cachaça friend was definitely Gabriela, discovered at the main store in Rua do Comercio. She’s a spicy number with cinnamon and cloves.  Add this to a Caipirinha and the evening is sure to start off the festivities!

Best Cachaca in Paraty Brazil

One of my personal highlights in Paraty was a visit to the natural food store, Via Natural on Rua da Floresta. André was so enthusiastic about his products and I left just as excited as he was with my selection of cloves (cravo), cinnamon, dried guava and pineapple, brazil nuts, and – wait for it – pure roasted cocoa beans rolled in demerara sugar! I wish I could make everyone taste one who joins me on my chocolate tours in Paris! For that I’d need a regular supply, André …

Health foods in Paraty at Via Natural

André couldn’t let us leave without trying Açai (ah-sah-ee).  This super-healthy but bitter berry is found around the Amazon river basin and is hugely popular in Brazil.  As a drink, it’s sweetened normally with banana but André had a wonderfully vibrant Açai powder which I look forward to using – particularly as it’s list of health benefits is well worth the try. I’ll experiment with it for some pastries at teatime but in the meantime, I’ve already made a Brazilian version of breakfast granola using the above ingredients.  Fabulous!

Acai drink

I’ll finally leave you with a sunset from Brigitte Bardot’s beach in Buzios, the “Saint Tropez of Brazil”. Cheers to you, readers!

Now I’m finally back in Paris, you may have noticed I’ve been travelling again since Brazil.  Next stop on le blog? The Loire Valley.

(Note: this was not at all a sponsored trip but our private family holiday I wanted to share with you, in preparation for the Olympic Games in Brazil, 2016)

I Love You Macaron Tea – Theodor Paris

I didn’t think I’d actually fall in love with tea. Can you imagine a tea with scents of macarons and pistachios? Heaven. On top of it, this unique brew is called “I Love You” – Je t’aime.

Macaron tea Je t'aime by Theodor Paris Teatime

The teas of Theodor Paris have been a very recent discovery of mine thanks to my friend, Francis for introducing me to Monsieur Leleu’s new creation, the Absolu Oolong.  And when I say discovery, it’s not just that his speciality teas are so different to anything else I’ve ever tasted; like drinking good wine, they’ve helped me learn to appreciate teas’ deliciously complex aromas; take the time and pleasure with my cuppa; (I know, I know –  this sounds corny but it’s true…) even evoke a smile.

I’m so glad I popped in to the original boutique where Theodor started in the 16th arrondissement. It’s just a few minutes walk from Trocadero and I thoroughly recommend a visit with the charming Sylvie. Previously a creamery, the decor is still testament to such a location with the ceiling and wall panels by Anselm in Rue du Roi Doré (golden king street) in the 7th.

Theodor Tea Paris

Guillaume Leleu started up this first shop here in 2002 and since then has been taking the tea world by storm with his Theodor creations, now in 30 different countries. Each year about 100 tons of teas personally selected from around the world (mostly from Asia) are transformed in his zen-like laboratory in the previous Singer factory in Bonnières sur Seine, within rowing-boat distance from Monet’s gardens at Giverny.

Calling himself the Insolent Parisian, Theodor’s founder has us travel with him  – whether it’s through the descriptions of his teas or online – finding beauty in everyday things through his poetic words, embodying the art of tea.

The inspiration of the Impertinent Parisian is embodied in sixteen essences that form the aromatic tea palette in an impertinent and poetic way. Impertinent, because it tempts us to take a shortcut and welcome the unexpected. Poetic, because it makes us discover shifting horizons and jostles our view and senses, provoking us to a game of desire and astonishment in disguise, while inviting us to marvel in front of the revisited daily Parisian routine.

Theodor Paris Tea

Such impertinent essences are represented by 16 colourful satin ribbons that make a statement around each of the characteristic tea tins containing teas of origin, black flavoured teas, green flavoured teas, infusions named “weeds” or herbal teas.

Je t’aime belongs to the “Teas of the Gallantry” essence, represented with a fuchsia pink ribbon. Gallantry expresses “pastry flavours tasting like fruit and candy. They will offer a flattering and indulging pleasure while remaining light and refined.”

The day I visited, Marìa, also from the talented Theodor team, made a pot of this rather special brew.

Theodor Tea Paris - macaron pistachio tea

I Love You‘s pronounced fragrances are indeed pistachio and macaron. Like an alchemist in the kitchen or in a perfumery, Monsieur Leleu creates the macaron flavour by adding ingredients such as pink peony petals (clearly visible), bitter almond, coconut, chocolate, chopped almond pieces, and coconut shavings.

Just as with tasting wine, when the tea was finished I loved swirling around the end of the tea to gather all of the wonderful aromas around the empty, fragranced teacup.

empty teacup of macaron tea at Theodor Paris

This macaron tea has a loving green tea sister, J’aime, flavoured with notes of macaron and strawberry.

As more gigantic tea containers were opened, it was intriguing to sniff revel in the different tea leaves’ bouquets with their added surprises which make up each and every creation.

Theodor tea shop in Paris Trocadero

Jour J (meaning “The Big Day”) is aptly named, as this dreamy white tea (Bai Mu Dan) has astonishing notes to resemble the flavour and sensation of rosé Champagne. Monsieur Leleu cleverly concocts this sensation by adding bits of strawberry, helianthus (or sunflower) petals and jasmine flowers, just to name a few of the magical ingredients.

Likewise, ingredients are added to create a black tea, Sans Complexe (no complex), with lemon and vanilla to arrive at a lemon meringue pie. Tribute, conjures up the most amazing flavours of frangipane, while Oolong Milky conjures up the most buttery and milk fragrances. This list goes on …

Rooibos tea: carpe diem Theodor Paris

This Carpe Diem is red rooibos tea, with “greedy” (that’s another of the 16 essences) notes of red fruits, toasted and sugar-coated almonds. Marìa suggested using this tea to perfume rice by placing just a couple of teaspoons in it while cooking.  Try it.  It’s genius!

Try making this fragranced green tea-infused rice pudding recipe and see what I mean.

Lotus flowers used for making tea

Blue Oolong Lotus is a green tea from Vietnam and the lotus flower is used to impart a scent to the tea leaves by placing them inside the flower just before it closes at night to take on the fragrance of this very special flower. How’s that for creativity?

Theodor Tea Paris

Theodor Tea Paris

The perfect “tea gourmet”: a cup or two of I Love You, rose and chocolate macarons and some almond financier teacakes (the recipes are all in Teatime in Paris).

teatime in paris with macarons financiers and pistachio tea

The only way to have a cup of tea, is by loving it.

I’ll drink to that, Monsieur Leleu. Cheers to discovering the unexpected, new views and senses, and revisiting daily Parisian routine.

THEODOR TEA PARIS
28 Rue des Sablons
75016 Paris

Metro: Trocadéro

Annual Burgundy French Wine Festival (Fête de Saint Vincent)

If you know me by now, wine and I are more than just friends.  So, when you live within 3 hours’ drive from Paris to Burgundy, the Galettes des Rois have been baked, tried and tested, and good friends ask you to join them for the annual wine festival, what would you do? So I missed Burn’s Night again this weekend for this.

Le Chateau du Clos de Vougeot Bourgogne

According to the New York Times, Burgundy is one of the top 15 destinations to travel to in 2015.  I say Burgundy, but let’s say Bourgogne, darlings. If you follow the blog, you’ll remember about the Fête de Saint-Vincent Tournante in Saint Aubin last year – so I’ll not repeat about the festival’s history and background.  This year the 71st wine festival took place in two tiny villages of the Côte de Nuits: Vougeot and Gilly-lès-Cîteaux between Dijon and Beaune.

Before the Fête started on Saturday, we kicked off the weekend for dinner.  Last to arrive at the Château Tailly (that’s what happens when you leave at 4.30pm from Paris – it takes an extra hour just to drive out of it!) our lovely friends thankfully saved some Crémant de Bourgogne apéritif and we quickly dumped our bags in the Hemingway room.  Oh, to drop everything and live like a lord and lady for the weekend… Château Tailly is a Gîte de France (details on previous blog post) and a wonderful, welcoming place to stay in Bourgogne.

Chateau de Tailly Gites de France Burgundy

Like last year, our weekend was organised by our good friend, Hervé, who is Master of Organisation Extraordinaire and thrives on it.  Toma Le Courbe, our talented chef, prepared a meal around a lobster theme: starting with a lobster claw risotto to accompany a Rully 1er Cru.  This was toe-curling!  I am definitely adding more sauce from now on to my risottos. His secret?  A dash of Cognac, tarragon and nigella seeds.

Main course was lobster tail and scallop with lightly spiced bulgur and a velvet crab (étrilles) sauce.  The best wine with this was Jean-Pierre Guyon’s Nuits Saint-Georges white (pinot blanc) – a rare occasion to enjoy this, as it’s normally a red wine.  The cheese course was a typical speciality of Burgundy – more on this with a recipe to come soon.

gourmet French menu by Toma at the Chateau Tailly Burgundy

Next morning the Ceremony officially started at 6.30am –  Chefs Toma and Marie were already bravely serving for the festival.  As the procession took place amongst the winemakers and the red-golden-robed Chevaliers de Tastevin, we visited our high profile but down-to-earth winemaker friend, Jean-Pierre Guyon.

He took us through his legendary wine tastings directly from the cellar in Vosne-Romanée.  It’s not that his winery is on the national road (la route des Grands Crus – D974) and only 20 minutes walk to Vougeot, but Domaine Guyot’s wines happen to be some of the best and purest of nectars in Burgundy.

Domaine Guyot Vosne-Romanée Burgundy wines best in France

Starting from the basic of Bourgogne reds, through to other Grand Crus such as Gevrey Chambertin, we finished off with the festival’s stars, the Clos de Vougeot and Echezeaux 2013 – still in barrels and not yet ready but boy, the flavours!

If it was a blind tasting, I was convinced I was drinking a white Mersault rather than a red Clos de Vougeot (although Mersault is not that far away from here.)  The flavours of cream and soft vanilla opened up in the mouth 10 seconds later – and that was only 2013!  Top of the ladder’s lunch was the most exquisite rillettes pâté.  Needless to say, I used the spittoon if I wanted to get through the day!  Although a couple of Grand Crus ‘accidentally’ slipped down – how on earth can you spit that out?

Domaine Guyon Ban Bourguignon

Le Ban Bourguignon …

Finishing with hands in the air with the traditional Ban Bourguignon song to thank Jean-Pierre, it was time to walk to the Fête de Saint-Vincent Tournante. Luckily I was wearing long-johns and extra thermal gloves since it was absolutely freezing!

Annual Burgundy Wine Festival

The vines dusted with snow sprinkles, take a look at the rich soil or terroir.  With 100 appellations in Bourgogne, the Côte de Nuits has 13 Grands Crus appellations.  For this event, the Grand Crus stars were both Clos de Vougeot and Echezeaux.  What’s so incredible about the wines here is that the terroir is so different in one area to the next so, even although one appellation can be near to the other, the tastes of the wines can be so varied.

Clos Vougeot Burgundy French vineyards in winter

The history of wines here stretches back 900 years when the monks constructed buildings around the vineyards.

Here it wasn’t uncommon to see 1298 like this, written on buildings. The theme this year was therefore, “On the Monks’ Trail”.  Spot the monks propped up around the two villages…

Fete de Saint Vincent Tournante 2015 Vougeot

It takes the villagers weeks to voluntarily prepare for the event, decorating buildings with paper maché flowers.

This year I just bought one sampling pack (well, I’d lost Antoine!): 15€ for 7 tasting tickets, a special St Vincent 2015 glass and map.

festive window in the village Veugeot Burgundy

The French postman? Eewah, eewah, ee-always loves dropping in some letters!

The glass comes in a special pochette that hangs around the neck, so you can wander about the villages without needing your glass in hand.  Just as well, as I could no longer feel my fingers!

Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2013 for the Fete de Saint Vincent Tournante 2015

Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 2013 especially made for the Fete de Saint Vincent Tournante 2015

In the end, I only tasted 2 wines: the ordinary Bourgogne and one of the two Grand Cru stars, Clos de Vougeot.  Poured into a chilled glass, fighting off the snow flakes, it wasn’t just that it was over chilled: we were spoilt by tasting Jean-Pierre’s wines beforehand.  So, I just circulated to enjoy the ambience.

The village of Vougeot is particularly picturesque: I’m returning in the summer to appreciate visiting the Château du Clos Vougeot and the neighbouring wineries.

Andouillette sausages

Andouillette sausages – and Nutella??

Toma and Marie’s stand were attracting some funny-dressed crowds, as the smell of Andouillette sausages were swirling around his tent.  I cannot for the life of me even try it.  The “fragrance” is rather overwhelming. The French mock me, saying it’s the same as our Scottish Haggis. It’s not the same thing.  So roasted chestnuts were my preferred afternoon goûter or 4 o’clock treat.

French roasted chestnuts

Then I stumbled on something, a snow storm took off and stepped back in time – to the Village des Gueux (desgueux means disgusting in French).  I was Asterix in Bourgogne.  Soup, anyone?

Village des Gueux France wine festival

Village Des Gueux

The soup was welcoming to warm frozen fingers.  Let’s say that was about it.  Motivation was strong during the long walk back in the biting winds to the mini-bus, as Toma and Marie had already left their stand and taken off to their new restaurant in Rully to prepare dinner.

Maison Le Courbe French restaurant in Rully, Burgundy

Back to civilisation, after a hot bath to defrost.  I strongly recommend Toma and Marie’s new restaurant at the Maison Le Courbe in Rully.  The courtyard is wonderful (sorry, my photos were too poor in the dark) and suggest you enjoy the view to the château in Rully in the summer, when the weather is more clement.

Menu Maison le Courbe Rully Burgundy

Toma’s culinary skills showed off with his entrée of an Opéra of Foie Gras, smoked duck, pain d’épices and a blackcurrant coulis.  Chicken was stuffed with snails (yes, I eat these too!  Not bad for an ex-vegetarian!) in a creamy garlic sauce.  Cheese?  I must write about this separately!  To finish off was a Paris Brest – a Parisian speciality, of which the recipe is in my book, Teatime in Paris.

Domaine Guyon Vosne-Romanée best wines in Burgundy

At the end of the weekend, Antoine surprised me with some boxes of my favourite wines from Jean-Pierre to take back home.  You mean, you went all the way down to the cellars to get it for me? Oh baby, baby you shouldn’t have. I’m in love…

Burgundy Wine Festival Website

For the latest details on this year’s Burgundy wine festival (always end January), then consult the official Fête de Saint Vincent Tournante website.