cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cakes and Thanksgiving

Hello Codets. Just got back from a few cake deliveries this morning. Our cakery is severely growing. I even handed out business cards in an elevator while on delivery this morning. These babies take a lot of work but their turnover is fantastic. Biggest issue cropping up is enough space to make multiple cakes at a time and of I'm a nightmare when delivering cakes. Delivering cakes in the midst of Sao Paulo morning traffic is hell. I have to hold the cakes on my lap to prevent annihilation during the common event of slamming on the breaks for a rogue motorcycle or not-so-stealth lane changer. Sao Paulo drivers remind me of big dogs who live with small dogs; the big dogs act like the small terriers and try to get into places they really shouldn't. Two foot gap? Of course my car fits. Perhaps who has it the worst during a delivery is H, whose every tweak of the wheal I curse at. I'm learning to relax, but cakes are precious cargo. For today at least, all our little cakes made it safely to their destinations.

Cakes aside, this Thursday is Thanksgiving.  I won't be doing anything special. We celebrated an early Thanksgiving last Wednesday (a holiday here) with a large group of our gringo friends. Giant turkey, mashed sweet potatoes, apple crumble, wine, wine, wine and i made cornbread stuffing, roasted balsamic pears and a pumpkin torte. The best part about a hot (meaning weather) Thanksgiving is that you really can pile on the ice cream. I am thankful to have this large misfit group of friends in Sao Paulo to act as my surrogate family. To fill in the void of like-minded ideas, gestures, customs that come with your own culture. Then again only a few of us were actually from the US or Canada. Perhaps we share these things simply because we are all out of place. My friends here come from everywhere. From Malaysia, Spain, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Argentina--but we all feel at home at Thanksgiving knowing that we made one of the largest cities in the world feel a little bit smaller. Well, that and getting a giant group of international hard core foodies and wine-enthusiasts together usually results in a good time. Happy Thanksgiving!

My cakes this morning were both small; about 15 cm in diameter. The Tiffany blue textured cake comprised of brown sugar vanilla cake (and was gluten free) and had two layered fillings of Irish cream chocolate truffle and Swiss meringue butter cream. So overall ten distinct layers. The outer frosting was traditional butter cream. The pink cake was a vanilla angel cake with two layered fillings of vanilla Swiss meringue and strawberry cream, also a total of ten distinct layers, also finished in traditional butter cream. viva la cake.

I have one final and quick announcement to any Sao Paulo residents reading this---please come to the SP Night Market in Jardins this Saturday, it is the final market of the year and is focused on Christmas shopping. I will be there selling Vietnamese pho (come at lunch time!) a few sweets and a few fun edible Christmas gifts that yes, will last until Christmas. see you there -and to the rest of you, have a lovely Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


 Hello Codets. Don't be cross with me, i know it has been a while. But i have been swamped with work and had a nasty case of salmonella poisoning which left me feeble and whimpering on the floor in the corner of my bathroom. Not a pleasant time. In any case, i am sitting here today on a gray Sao Paulo monday with a sunburn on my legs for the first time in the four years i have lived in brazil to tell you about our adventures in the past week, particularly the Indochine dinner i kept going on and on about.... that was November 7th. I also need to report a few photo shoots, my cakery and how irksome cake pops are.

The Indochine dinner. Really there is nothing to say other than how stunned i was by the success. I am not trying to praise myself, but honestly there were no problems. Not one. The only hiccup was that one of the "guests of honor" arrived very late forcing my entrance to sit plated for longer than i had wanted. But that's it. No complaints, nothing broke, i didn't burn anything. It was like, magic. I went Gordon Ramsey on my crew maybe only once or twice, but everything went out quickly and the stew was served hot! 40 stews served hot! I even received a standing ovation at the end when i explained the meal with a impromptu speech. The whole event seems like a blur looking back, but luckily H was there to take a few phone photos.

What was the event. It's difficult to explain. I was hired by a social organization called SP Night run by a group of women in Sao Paulo. The organization holds various events including socials, markets and connection evenings. This was a connection event, meaning people with similar business interests were invited to "mingle" and treated to a three course dinner. The event was held at a private country club style house called Tofiq House located in undoubtedly one of the most glamorous and well-to-do neighborhoods in Sao Paulo. I chose the theme Indochine because i am most fascinated by Vietnamese cuisine, and to kick it up a notch for guests paying two hundred a seat we specified it to Indochine; meaning Vietnamese dishes influenced by French flavors or techniques. It was quite a challenge.

The menu took about a week to get straight. I have to thank, and give credit, to one particular blog that helped me beyond belief. I spent hours pouring over posts at The Ravenous Couple, a blog featuring beautiful Vietnamese and contemporary foods. Their recipes for bo kho beef stew, various banh mi sandwiches and instructions on glutinous rice balls gave me a concrete stepping stone to tweak into my own Indochine versions. So thank you Ravenous Couple!

The menu was as follows; a welcome cocktail featuring mint, tangerine juice and gin, a starter play of of the classic banh mi French baguette sandwich (i turned it into a bruschetta), main was a spicy beef stew featuring white yams and fresh herbs, and finally dessert included a pandan creme brulee and fried glutinous rice balls filled with banana and cinnamon served with a coconut cream.

I was nervous as hell going into it, but i got it done. and it was quite the thrill, a dream actually. I owe a lot of thanks to my team for helping, including my sous chef, two waitresses and two cleaners. Impossible without great help. I can't wait to do it again.

The day after the big event (i arrived home at about 2am) i had two large bakery orders to fill. When it rains it pours. I have been selling a lot of layer cakes kitchen is turning into a cakery. We had a baby's first birthday cake along with a cheesecake, cupcakes, cake pops, caramel apples and creme brulee to make the day after Indochine....i honestly felt like a zombie pushing my cart through the supermarket aisle. But the results were well worth the pain. We also got a quick photo shoot in of the cutie pie one year old. Making cakes is starting to be quite relaxing....i will take that back next week when i have two orders to deliver on the same morning but for now I still love looking at them.

This is my Sao Paulo life now. I have been waiting almost four years to be busy and now i am. And im loving it. I feel like i have my own purpose, my own space in this vast country whereas before i felt like a floating immigrant destined to teach for no merit other than birthright. The immigrant dream of being a "self made man" and turning nothing into something isn't the American dream; it's the dream of anyone starting from scratch in a terrifying and intimidating foreign land. Once you find your place you start living rather than floating. See you next week.