SOULFUL FOOD… Tobias Harris and the food around him

(Taste of) South America in 3 days… TOO CRAZY!

I tasted South America in 3 days:  the food, culture, experiences and all. You better believe it, here’s the story: It happened during and after my last crazy business trip to Brazil.

I was tired, cranky and a bit hungry when I landed in Sao Paolo, but when Sergio and Carlo offered me to go to a Light Brazilian Italian Buffet Lunch after a nice shower, my immediate response was YES without hesitation. You might think I am crazy. Buffet? Light? Those 2 words do not fit together. Surprisingly, the combination works very nicely in Brazil.

I tried to prove my theory. I asked Sergio why Brazilians love buffets so much, yet there aren’t any overweight people in Brazil. He told me that for Brazilians, buffet is a means to enjoy the type of meals they love to the fullest while they can control the portion sizes. I was enlightened by his answer. I am so used to the “take as much as you can” and “go around as many times as possible” American Chinese buffet principal. But on this trip I learned a lesson, there are more soulful ways to enjoy the food that you love.

I could go on and on about the taste and quality of the food, but I want to highlight one more thing about this buffet experience: the incredible visual merchandising and food theater at this buffet. I did not see the typical stainless steel bins with plastic covers over the food. I saw 2 long tables filled with nicely displayed fare, and 1 “hot” pasta counter. The tables are filled with smaller platters of different kind of bread, cold pasta, chatchuterie, salmon, garden veggies, etc. By using these smaller platters, it prompts the kitchen staff to constantly refresh the table with new platters all the time. It makes the food presentation fresh and bountiful and the theater of the restaurant is all about food. It feels like the food is coming from all over the restaurant, with platters flying in the air to tease the customer’s appetite. What an exciting food experience! I was so ready for the client meeting after experiencing all this excitement.

The meeting went well and I was done with my task in Brazil. Since my hosts from the FRCH Brazil office, Sergio and Carlo were busy with work; I called my friend Flavio to join me for supper. It was 11 PM, and the city of Sao Paolo seemed like it was just getting ready to Party. We decided to go to Brazil’s 24 hr French Restaurant. The restaurant was packed: young, old, men, women, kids. Flavio told me that this is a very popular restaurant in Sao Paolo. He even spotted some Brazilian actors and actresses. I felt so… important and proud to be part of Sao Paolo.

What’s funny is that there is nothing special about the design of this restaurant. It is not fancy, it is not “designed”, and definitely not beautiful. It lacks “design-magazine” quality and is not even a restaurant environment that I would design. However, there is an unexplainable magic about this restaurant. The dining rooms are small and intimate, there is a long and narrow patio, tiny bars are filled with crowds of people, laughter fills the air…everything creates a soulful place to share companionship, love and friendship through food — which by the way, is to die for.  What an experience to cap the long day in Sao Paolo.

I had some time to kill before my return to Cincinnati so I visited the Jardin area, a hip part of Sao Paolo, filled with high-end shops. I stopped by a mod, yet quiet restaurant in the area. I thought a quick and quiet bite would be awesome. I had a realization in this restaurant – people here take their food and drink very seriously. It was around noon, and I was not in the mood to have a glass of wine with my lunch, so I ordered a glass of orange juice and a seared tuna salad. I knew that the drink did not pair nicely with the food I ordered, but I didn’t care. I wanted a glass of orange juice and a seared tuna salad. The waiter immediately asked me if I was sure that’s the order I wanted, and I confirmed it. The waiter then discussed my order with his superior and both of them looked at me in confusion. The restaurant that had been quiet when I entered, filled within a few minutes, and every table was covered with wine and food. There I was… having a beautiful and yummy plate of seared tuna salad with a glass of orange juice. Everyone in the restaurant must have thought I was such an “uncultured” foreigner…

Another 15 hour plane ride and transit re-capped my Brazilian adventure. I was deadly tired when I got home, just to find out that my friends had committed for me to go to the Latin Food Festival in the Cincinnati Fairground. Against my exhaustion, I dragged myself there to find that the rest of South America was right here at home, in the dusty Cincinnati Fairground. Imagine Shrimp Cevice from Honduras, Pupusas from El Savador, different kind of Tamales, everything was so unbelievably YUMMY. It was such a soulful experience. Everyone from different South American cultures was gathered together, enjoying time with friends and family, forgetting their differences, enhancing solidarity and togetherness.

What a soulful experience I had enjoying South American culture. It was a long 60 hours… I was tired beyond belief, but very satisfied… and full, full with the soulfulness of food…


About Tobias Harris
The guy who love to eat!

2 Responses to SOULFUL FOOD… Tobias Harris and the food around him

  1. Amy Foster says:

    Wow, sounds amazing. That tuna salad looks absolutely delicious!

  2. KateK says:

    Ahhh!!! The adventure of eating out in another country!! One of my favorite things.

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