Of All The Gin Joints You Never Heard of in a Place You Never Heard Of

By on August 30, 2012

Of All the Gin Joints You Never Heard of in a Place you Never Heard of, Perhaps this Tipico Place will Lure You to Brazil.

Brazil’s national drink, a sugar cane liquor that’s a cousin to rum is in all the bars in Belo Horizonte, usually served in a Caipirinha. Yum.

Belo Horizonte, the third largest city in Brazil, not known to American Tourists, having none of the beach charms of Rio or Sao Paolo, has one distinction,  well maybe two.

One,  it’s the headquarters for Google in South America, and, it that isn’t enough for you, this city of 5 million souls is known as the bar capital of the country.

Bar, in Brazil, means many things it does not mean to Americans.  First off,  it’s usually a neighborhood hangout. Well, wait a minute, aren’t all bars neighborhood hangouts? Second,  food is served, as in more than bar snacks – although those abound – from plantains to yucca – to the inevitable pork skins stirred into pinto beans. (Don’t say no until you’ve tried it.  I’m gonna be buying chichirones at home to crumble into beans from now on.)

But the bars of Brazil offer more.  Local music, soccer games flashed onto huge screens so that the crowd spills out into chairs on the sidewalk and street, sitting in the iconic white plastic chairs, drinking beer, and cheering their favorite team.

Last night, we went to a tipico bar in the neighborhood of our hotel, the Royal Savassi Boutique, in the Savassi neighborhood.  The Status Bar, Café Cultural and Art Center lived up to its name.  In the window, they’d made a table out of the front of an old corvette, and in the opposite glassless window sat a couple musicians playing bossa nova that was simply stupendous.

Bossa Nova in a neighborhood bar. This guy came to New York and played the Blue Note with Woody Allen in 1985. does he have a cd? No. boo

Musical instruments lined the walls.  The bar was deep and narrow and when you got to the back they were selling books and magazines.  Lotsa radical political tracts, Tintin in many interations (I bought one for Noel), and an assortment of hard goods ranging from magnifying glasses to dvd movies in a purely quixotic collection that most certainly represents the taste of the owner.

When I ordered a Caipirinha (I’m on a quest fo find the best possible version of this lovely drink served in a soda glass,  chock full of the national sugar cane liquor, cousin to rum but its own thing,  it was notable for the fact that it bubbled up from the bottom in an endless steamy invitation – made possible by the addition of dry ice to the bottom of the glass.  Now there’s an idea whose time has come.

But the main attraction was the music.  Bossa Nova as played by two Brazilian men,  one in a boat necked sailor’s shirt and his partner in a dark leather jacket.  They said they’d played NY in 1985 at the Blue Note with Woody Allen.  I was not surprised.  They were that good.Did they have a CD? No. They did not.  Sigh.  It was live music in the way that live music should be remembered – in your heart.

It was a stupendous night.  I enjoyed every moment.

Going where no tourist has ever gone before,  I’d say get yourself to Belo Horizonte on the first opportunity.  Whether you’re looking for a stake in the IT game with Google and the offshoots that make up the burgeoning IT business in this city,  or just for a vacation.  It’s a wow.

Where to stay:  Royal Savassi Boutique Hotel,  Rua Alagoas, 699, Savassi, Belo Horizonte – MG-Brasil.

Tel 55-31 2138 0000.  reversas@royalsavassi.com.br.

Status Café Cultura E Arte (don’t miss it), Rua Pernambuco, 1150, Savassi, Belo Horizonte-MG- Brasil

Tel 31-3261-6045.

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About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”