The word Brazilian is a sexy word, usually preceding other sexy words like “bikini,” “model” and “wax.” I believe I’m safe to assume that you don’t think food when you hear the word Brazilian, as you would with other nationalities, like Mexican and Italian. Brazilian food in the US is usually correlated with churrascurias (transl: barbecue), such as Texas de Brazil. Steakhouses where men in bow-ties filet meat off a stick at your command of a little flip card on your table with a green side exclaiming “Give Me More Visceral Fat Please!” or the red side stating “I need a break. I’m getting the meat sweats.”
I had one churrascuria experience. I was so satiated from fried bananas and sodium, that I declared stretchy leggings as my pant size for a full two weeks after my dining experience. I decided Brazilian food wasn’t for me, I like meat but I don’t live for it. However, after experiencing Fazendinha da Regina in Ft. Lauderdale, I have unlocked a new aspect on comida tipica brasielera. I have also gained new repertoire of words associated with Brazilian: such as lingiça and the sexiest of all words, pão de queijo. (transl: sausage and cheese rolls)
Fazendinha da Regina, or (to speak American) Regina’s Farm is the backyard of native brasilieros Regina and Elizeu (but he told me to call him Eddy). I found out about Regina’s in the Palm Beach New Times. The article provided her farm much attention as it took me over a month to get my reservation. They host a dinner a few Saturdays per month to raise money for Las Olas Church at the minimum donation of $25 per person for a three-course meal. This type of non-restaurant experience is known as underground dining or a supper club, where it is donation based and not open to the public without invitation or reservation.
With my new intent of fully taking on new cultural experiences as a “Global Local,” I prepared for my “trip to Brazil” by consulting my Brazilian coworker, Lize, to give me crash course in Portuguese and which foods I must look try at Regina’s. Lize scrolled through pictures online and told me, “All of it’s good!” while emphasizing that it was imperative to try the cheese rolls, which are gluten free. (Score!)
I received a personal text from Regina, the day before my reservation, saying I could bring my own bottle of wine or champagne for no corking fee. I decided a sober ride home was needed. I checked the Tri-Rail schedule and was elated to find there was a train that got in at 5:00 pm, with enough time to catch a quick $5 Uber ride from the station to Regina’s to make the 5:30 reservation.
Walking through the gate at Regina’s, there was kitschy decor of roosters and hammocks adorning the outdoor kitchen. An open hearth stood in the center, clad with large steel pots seeping scents of simmering foods. Picnic tables covered with floral tablecloths were dispersed around the mulched yard. I explored the backyard prior to the first course, greeted by cages of rabbits, roaming roosters, and kids getting reckless on a tire-swing.
A young girl came serving the pão de queijo after I cracked open the bottle of wine. Upon first bite, cheese starting oozing out of the center of the heavenly biscuit. If they served these in mainstream restaurants, Red Lobster would surely be out of business. I had about three, restraining myself from grabbing a fourth (or even a fifth) to reserve room for the three courses that were yet to start. A guy at my table didn’t have the sheer will power as I did. I think he hit a record of eating eleven cheese rolls, to the point where the server came to him first when she got a fresh batch out of the oven.
Regina announced the first course, guests gathered at the hearth to get their dishes and first helping. Soup started the meal, and three selections were offered: oxtail, chicken and a steamy cauldron of green soup over a fire pit. You could top your bowl off with cheese, Calabrese peppers, chives and pork rinds. In all honesty, I thought the only acceptable method of eating a pork rind was covered in cinnamon and sugar at Taco Bell. Using pork rinds as a soup crouton opened new worlds of eating pig skin. I tried a little bit of each soup, but the green soup was delectable.
After the first course I heard the grind of the mill, and guests quickly lined up for freshly crushed sugar cane water. I got a cup to split, which did cost extra at $2/cup. It tasted much like coconut water with some sugar dumped into it. Not my favorite, but I think if I had some cachaça (Brazilian rum) to spike it, it’d be a perfect beach drink.
About a half hour later the main course was ready. I took a little bit of everything to try: but the most notable items were the fish (steamed in a clay pot with tomatoes) and linguiça which is Brazilian sausage. The little Polish girl inside me usually prefers kielbasa, but linguiça is now my new favorite. I know what you’re thinking, you’ve had sausage before, but linguiça is a pork sausage typically prepared with Calabrese peppers then skillfully crafted and smoked by Brazilian sausage gods (okay maybe that last part was an exaggeration.) Since the flavor of this sausage is strong, only a little bit of it is used in the dishes, usually with beans.
As the last few guests were still getting their main course, Regina started preparing the coffee in a large filter sock. I asked her for cream and sugar and she said “Just cream, so sweet with sugar cane in coffee” as she stirred the coffee to percolate. The dessert rolled through shortly thereafter: fresh fruit, flan, pastel atrapa marido (transl: cake to catch a husband, made of coconut and sweetened condensed milk), key lime tarts, brownies, guava jelly and cheese slices and my favorite, passion fruit pudding.
At the end of dinner, I was getting my picture taken by the Regina’s Farm sign. In the middle of saying “Cheese Rolls” as I posed for the picture, I was photobombed by a man that put his arm around me. I exclaimed “Come on, man!” for ruining the Kodak moment. He quickly apologized and began to walk away. When I realized it was the owner, Eddy, I said “Oh it’s you! The sugar cane man! Come back!” and we got a picture together and had a chat.
Eddy told us about how they started their backyard tradition, and that Regina cooks for 3 days before the dinner. He asked what my favorite dishes were, and I raved about the green soup. Eddy called over Regina to tell me about this soup, which is actually a Portuguese dish, Caldo Verde. When I asked Regina for the recipe she said “A little bit of collards, a little bit of mashed potato, a little bit of celery…” And that rolled on for about 10 more ingredients to which I decided I should maybe just Google it. (Which will lead to my future post about making Caldo Verde and Pão de Queijo.) Eddie and Regina gave us a hug goodbye as I said “Obrigada!” (transl: Thank you). They asked us to come back while giving me a fresh bottle of water for the train ride home.
My opinions on Brazilian food have been transformed, it’s muito bom!
Tips for Visiting Regina’s Farm
1. Go in the winter/spring when it’s breezy, her backyard gets warm.
2. Bring bugspray! Regina has some, but I brought my own made out of essential oils and the bugs parted like the Red Sea when I sprayed it.
3. If you have a large party, get there early! Some larger parties came late and had to split up because the seating is first come, first serve.
4. They will take adults on the tractor ride, so don’t be afraid to ask.
5. Take the Tri-Rail/Uber! It makes for an easy and sober ride home. I wish I brought 2 bottles of wine knowing that.