Day 1 at Festival Cultura e Gastronomia Tiradentes

The Daily Meal is in Brazil to see what South America is serving south of the equator


Culinary experts throughout Brazil arrived in the southeastern town of Tiradentes in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, Friday to celebrate South American cuisine at the Festival Cultura e Gastronomia Tiradentes, which runs through Sept. 2. Each day of the festival, the city square is converted into a culinary carnival showcasing traditional regional fare. The Daily Meal is in Brazil to savor Tiradentes' traditional food and the latest food trends.

Some 20 chefs from as far away as Spain, and as close as Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais, have come for the festival, which has celebrated Brazil’s female chefs among others in previous years. This year the focus is on regional food and the chefs who blend flavors to create modern dishes from traditional ingredients. Special dinners, lectures, and discussions, including with The Daily Meal’s editorial director, Colman Andrews, who spoke on the future of restaurant criticism Saturday, are included in the 10-day festival.

"There seems to be a lot of imagination and refinement," said Andrews of the cooking style of young Brazilian chefs he has encountered at the festival. "The most interesting thing is the wealth of ingredients from the Amazon, including freshwater fish, fruit and nuts, and herbs and spices, that can be accommodated into serious cooking."

Each night a different chef hosts a dinner in town. Chef Jordi Roca of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, treated guests to a five-course meal at Pousada Villa Paolucci on Friday.

The $225-dinner started with oysters topped with cava, apple, and ginger presented in a martini glass. A thick artichoke soup with shavings of foie gras, caramelized orange peel, and truffle oil followed. The third course was Mediterranean sole served with a range of sauces, and the main course was a filet mignon with lightly smoked tomatoes presenteded under a smoke-filled glass bell.

The dinner wrapped up with a dessert of dulce de leche and guava with a topping resembling cotton candy and accompanied with sheep’s milk sorbet. Each course was paired with wine or beer.

Begun 15 years ago, the Festival Cultura e Gastronomia Tiradentes was the brainchild of politician Ralph Justino, who wanted to give tourists a reason to enjoy the cuisine of Tiradentes during the off-peak travel season. Restaurants in the area join the festivities by inviting well-known chefs to join their kitchens during the festival to cook up signature dishes for the event. Even in the off-season, the streets are crowded and nearly every restaurant is full, a testament to the festival’s success.
Sean Flynn is a Junior Writer at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @BuffaloFlynn.