Sometimes language is a barrier when traveling, and sometimes not. In Buzios, at Chef Sonia Persianiâ€™s restaurant â€œCigalonâ€, we were served a mouthwateringly good meal. Chef Soniaâ€™s English was excellent as she explained each course and the wine paired with it. It wasnâ€™t until she sent me the recipes later that we ran into some language problems. She does far better in a foreign language than I do, but there were still words that did not translate. (see the recipe following this article to understand exactly what I mean.) Fortunately, her cooking, in any language, is superb!
The Pousada do Sol and Cigalon Restaurant in Buzios is dedicated to Brigitte Bardot, who is credited with putting Buzios on the map in her early career. There is even a statue of her by the shore, immortalized in bronze, sitting on her suitcase. Locals claim that the â€œworld discovered Buzios when Brigitte lived here.â€Â It is also because of her, and to honor her, that Cigalon exists, so thank you, too,Â Brigitte, for a great meal!
Chef Sonia served our many courses and explained each wine she chose with them. The first dish was a green salad with blue cheese, and pears in vinaigrette. The pears created a sharp and sweet pungent burst in my mouth, with the piquant greens dressed with the nutty crunch of black and white sesame seeds. There was a tangine of mashed local potatoes (called â€œBaroaâ€) which are naturally sweeter than what we are used to in the US, and some local mushrooms. This was paired with a sparkling wine, â€œDo Lugarâ€ Brut, so reminiscent of good dry champagne I was surprised it wasnâ€™t French!
There was a Coquille St. Jacques course that was a spoonful of chopped seafood hidden beneath a shrimp foam. It disappeared in one seafoody and airy slurp. I almost ate it too quickly to fully appreciate the subtle flavors, but Iâ€™m betting it was shrimp not scallops. Next, I attacked, more gently this time, the shooter of cheese floating on a puree of beets. The sweetness of beet mousse and the tartness of the farm cheese melded beautifully, with the poppy seeds again providing a visual and textural contrast. I would have enjoyed a bowl of that!
Between courses I admired the view from the back deck of the Cigalon Restaurant. It jutted out over the beach of Buziosâ€™ working harbor, with boats for fishing and boats for recreation picturesquely vying for moorings. Youngsters played in the surf as adults strolled by. It is a beautiful setting with a gorgeous view.
When I returned to the table a new wine appeared. It had a fruity bouquet so powerful it filled the air when the cap was unscrewed. The 2008 Crios Terrones (Argentina) is a crisp taste of peaches and pears, cool and refreshing and a delight with the next course.
A note about screw caps: Many modern vineyards have converted to screw caps to avoid what was perceived to be a rash of poor quality cork. (Contaminated corks ruin as much as 15% of a pressing.) While cork manufacturers have promised better quality control in their cork production, vintners who switched are pleased with the superior taste of their wines in screw caps.
Chef Sonia created a beautiful fish course for this wine. We had a firm white-fleshed fish called cherne (grouper) served on a bed of spinach and topped with a tomato marmalade. It was colorful and aromatic, with the disparate flavors combining perfectly in my mouth. That was joined by briefly simmered shrimp on a chiffonade of lettuce, carrots and broccoli mixed with rice noodles in a delicate citrus sauce. More shrimp foam completed the flavors. The different textures of the vegetable pasta mix were juxtaposed with the huge and moist, perfectly cooked shrimp. Surprisingly, the sweet bouquet of the Crios concealed a dry, fruity taste that pulled the whole plate together. The wine pairings were perfect!
A note about red wines. I like my wine smooth. I donâ€™t like my wines to bite me back as I taste them. For the beef course Chef Sonia chose a Chilean wine, a 2007 Chateau Los Boldos â€œCarmenereâ€, which was such a high tannic burst of flavor that it nearly swallowed me whole! Perhaps it could have breathed more. Nevertheless, when served with a super rare filet mignon smothered in a green peppercorn sauce, it was spot on. I just wouldnâ€™t drink it on its own.
The filet mignon was seared on the outside and raw in the middle, just the way I like it. The spicy pepper sauce filled the hole in my palate that it was designed for – Excellent! – and not too hot. A few of the sweet local Baroa potatoes completed the plating. I couldnâ€™t have asked for anything more, but of course it came anyway.
Regular readers know Iâ€™m not a dessert eater, so the fact that this meal contained two desserts will surprise you. The first was a soupÃ§on of desserts – the shooter held an ice that was the pure essence of pineapple, paired with an anise-crusted flan. As the diminutive ice was the cake, the minuscule flan was the icing – and two tiny spoonfuls of sweetness disappeared.
The final dessert was special both in appearance and taste. It was a breadfruit sorbet, chocolate mousse, pastry crust confection set in a stained glass window of chocolate â€œleadâ€, withÂ strawberry and mango coulis used for the panes. It was almost too incredibly beautiful to eat. I did eat it though, and then asked for the recipe. In as much as I was able to get it, it is included below:
Tarte sablee au chocolat tiÃ¨de
Tarta sablee ao chocolate morno
Dose: 6 pessoas
Cozinha: Tradicional francesa
Periodo: todo o ano
Tempo de cocÃ§Ã£o: 40 minutos aprox.
Ingredientes: Para a sablÃ©e
225 grs de manteiga (butter)
75 grs de aÃ§ucar (sugar)
1 ovo (egg)
50 grs de po de avelÃ£ (ground nuts)
250 grs de farinha de trigo (flour)
3 grs. de impulsor (royal)
Para a mouse:
125 grs de cobertura (chocolate)
60 grs de manteiga (butter)
250 grs de claras de ovo (the part white of the egg)
2 gemas de ovo (the yellow part of the egg)
250 grs de aÃ§ucar(sugar)
10 grs de cacau (cocoa)
Garniture tout chocolat:
300 grs de creme de leite (cream)
400 grs de chocolate (chocolate)
70 grs de manteiga (butter)
Here is an email exchange to clarify the ingredients:
RICHARD — Hello Sonia. Iâ€™m a bit confused. What is the ingredient â€œimpulsor (royal)â€?
CHEF Sonia — Hello Richard, impulsor or polvo royal is like “fermento” in portugues, ou “levadura” in spanish. But not those to make pizza, just dry to make desserts. I have no idea how you can say that “dust” … Yeast …appears in the dictionary:-)))) Good luck!!!
I finally figured out that impulsor (royal) or dust meant baking powder! Thank goodness Iâ€™m a cook, too. Unfortunately, the delicious sauce on the shrimp was impossible for her to translate into a recipe so she didnâ€™t try. Hereâ€™s her description:
CHEF Sonia — I made a pure with baroa potatoe, this one I offered to you just a classical pure, then I did the shrimpsÂ in low temperature just not to finish with the colageno and elastine. It becomes ugly without that…, our sauce called “acidula” is a long recipe, made first with a “demi glace” and then we put into some Pepper (pimenta do reino) and three “agrumes” like lemmon, lima and orange. We reduce it and the final result you tasted.
You can see that we had a great dialog about the very complex recipes. Her cooking directions in Portuguese are followed by the English:
Colocar a manteiga pomada com o acucar e misturar, acrescentar os ovos um a um e acrescentar a farinha de avelas. Incorporar a farinha. ForrarÂ as formas e cozinhar 10 minutos a 160Âº (nosso forno a 130Âº)
Fundir o chocolate e acrescentar a manteiga, misturar as duas gemas e o cacau. Fazer um merenge com as claras e o acucar e misturar ao creme de chocolate. Colocar na sablee jÃ¡ cozinhada e pode congelar neste estagio.
Ao servir, levar 5 minutos ao forno 130Âº C, e decorar com um quenelle de sorvete de peras por cima. Servir imediatamente.
(TARTELETTES) MIX THE BUTTER WITH THE EGGS AND INCLUDE THE FLOUR. PUT INTO A FORM AND PUT INTO THE OVEN FOR 10 MINUTES AT 160 DEGREES CELSIUS.
IN THE MICROWAVE OVEN PUT THE CHOCOLATE FOR A FEW SECONDS AND INCREASE THE BUTTER, MIX WITH THE YELLOW PART OF THE EGGS AND THE COCOA. DO A MERINGUE (WITH THE WHITE PART OF THE EGGS AND THE SUGAR) AND MIX WITH THE CHOCOLATE. FILL THE TARTELETTES ALREADY COOKEDÂ AND PUT INTO THE CONVENTIONAL OVEN FOR 7 MINUTES AT 160 CELSIUS DEGREE.
YOU CAN PUT INTO THE FREEZER TO CONSERVE THEM… OR EAT AT ANY TIME, JUST WARM.
You can figure out the oven temperature (whether 130 or 160 Celsius) with trial and error, and reconcile theÂ â€œ7 MINUTES AT 160 CELSIUSâ€ with the â€œ5 minutos ao forno 130Âº Câ€ the same way, but those are the ingredients and directions for the base of an incredible dessert! Iâ€™d use almond or hazel nuts (she didnâ€™t say what kind of nuts.) Top with your favorite sorbet and serve on an elaborately decorated plate. Good Luck!
If youâ€™re ever in Buzios, stop in to Cigalon and let Chef Sonia Persiani spoil you with her artistry in the kitchen. Youâ€™ll be mesmerized by the view, intoxicated by the fabulous array of fine wines and satiated by the incredible food she serves.
(starting Prix Fix 60 reais)
Rua das Pedras, 199 – Centro – Praia do Canto
BÃºzios – Brasil
Telefones: (22) 2623-0932 / 2623-6284
Morro do HumaitÃ¡ 13
BÃºzios, Rio de Janeiro Brasil
(55 22) 2623-1217
Rates starting at $110/day/double room includes breakfast
Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau
Pousada da Alcobaca
open Tues – Sunday / 8 Reals
Roberto Burle Marx
Richard Frisbie, FOOD Correspondent:
RICHARD FRISBIE is published twice a month to Gather Essentials: Food. It is a food junkie’s take on growing, raising, preparing and – above all else – eating food. Together weâ€™ll explore the trends, addictions, equipment and regional specialties that make up the sometimes mundane and sometimes sublime cooking and dining experience. You can keep up with my other postings and Gather activity by joining my Gather network — I look forward to hearing from you.
You can read all of my articlesÂ http://rfrisbie.gather.com/ or find them with those of the other Food Correspondents, plus celebrity chef content and plenty of other Foodies atÂ http://foodtalk.gather.com
BIO - Richard Frisbie writes culinary travel articles, is a columnist for his local newspapers, and is a regular contributor to the many Hudson Valley, Catskill Mountain and other regional New York publications. Online, he writes frequent articles for EDGE Publications, GoNomad and Travel Lady, as well as Gather.
JOIN MY GROUPS:
Everything About New York State http://aboutnewyork.gather.com/
Travel/Food/Wine BOOK Reviews http://tfwbookreviews.gather.com/
Food Videos Forum http://foodvideos.gather.com/
Join to see some of the kitchens and techniques you read about here at Gather
BLOG – http://www.bloglines.com/blog/rfrisbie
Where some of my Gather work and other things, primarily about New York State, appears.
BOOKSTORE – Specializing in New York State books since 1959 http://www.hopefarm.com