Recife is the capital of the state of Pernambuco – known for its beauty, an abundant flora and fauna of tropical climate and, above all, for the production of a distillate called cachaça, obtained from the distillation of cane sugar. Based on this spirit, the famous caipirinha cocktail is prepared, with ice, sugar and lots of green lime.
When one visits Recife, the first thing to ne noticed is the intense heat and humidity. It’s like the essence of summer. Multiplied by two! The city is located on the Atlantic coast. The beaches seduce with their turquoise waters and yellow sand. But, be careful of the sharks. There are signs everywhere to prevent us from attacks.
It is the third largest city in Brazil, after Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Colorful and noisy, with its old town, and also modern bars and shops. It was the oldest capital of Brazil, founded by the Portuguese in 1537. When the king of Portugal divided Brazil into captaincies, not all prospered, but Pernambuco lived a true golden age with the cultivation of sugarcane.
I had only 24 hours for a historic walk. I recommend you to start with Olinda, with its cobblestone streets and colonial houses of all the colors of the rainbow, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. Its historic center is considered the best preserved of all colonial Brazil.
Next, you should see the oldest center of Recife itself. Its point of orientation is a monument called Marco Zero. From there you can walk and admire its buildings, bridges, dykes and canals, built in the likeness of Amsterdam, when Recife came under Dutch rule between 1630 and 1654.
One of the obligatory stops is the church of San Antonio with its Golden Chapel. It is one of the most attractive examples of the Baroque style, which astonishes with the decorative details covered with 22-carat gold plates.
After a long walk through the old city, comes the time to taste the local flavors. It is a coastal city, so fish lovers will be delighted. In a restaurant on the waterfront, I immersed myself in a huge pot of clay with a fish that swam in a broth of tomatoes and onions. Really, great with Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc, but even better with Casillero del Diablo Rosé. Luckily, both wines were available on the wine list.
The main influences of Pernambuco cuisine came directly from Portuguese, African and indigenous cultures, and many recipes have been adapted with ingredients easy to find in the region. The typical dishes of the state reflect that miscegenation, responsible for one of the most creative culinary offerings in Brazil, unique in flavors, colors and aromas.
The day starts with a delicious tapioca pancake with freshly grated coconut and lots of condensed milk. Uff, it’s addictive. The tapioca is made with cassava gum moistened and tempered with salt, which is not rolled, but bent in the middle. They can have an infinity of fillings. The tapiceras (sellers of tapioca) are easily recognizable in the tourist points of the city.
One of the most famous dishes of the region is the buchada. It is prepared with the goat stomach stuffed with a chopped mince of blood, intestines and liver, sautéed with mint, lemon, garlic, onion and seasonings. I’m not going to lie to you. I admit that I could not finish it. Be aware of the flavors of the blood, that confer a metallic touch in the mouth. That’s why I recommend this dish with a light and fresh Casillero del Diablo Pinot Noir. It may be one of your favorite pairings.
For lovers of meat and red wine, I propose a pairing of Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon and a dish called cambrel or chambaril, which is a type of stew prepared with ossobuco and condiments. It is served with pirón, made with the boiled broth and cassava flour.
Another very interesting dish is the horneado (baked stew), elaborated traditionally with ox ossobuco, pond, bacon and seasoned and cooked sausages, along with sweet potato, cabbage, carrot, ocra and banana, served with white rice and pirón. A divine pairing is with a juicy red like Casillero del Diablo Carmenere.
For all of you with the sweet tooth like me, I have good news. Recife is a true world capital of confectionery. I mention only the mythical Bolo Souza León– one of the most traditional pastries of the Pernambuco cuisine. Its name comes from the family that created the recipe. It has a creamy consistency and is prepared with cassava paste, hot sugar boiler, eggs and butter. With Concha and Toro Late Harvest, naturally!
I was crazy about the cardboard – one of the most popular desserts in Pernambuco gastronomy. It’s very simple. Its preparation consists of fried banana covered with roasted rennet cheese, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. There is also a version of the dessert in which a scoop of ice cream is added. With a glass of sparkling wine is a heaven on the palate.
And for wine enthusiasts, the tasting of wines from the San Francisco Valley is a must. This irrigated region, located in an unprecedented latitude in the world wine map, is in the interior of Pernambuco and is responsible for the production of 15% of the national fine wines.
Recife is an excellent option for a summer experience, with good food and surprising pairings.