Sunday, February 19, 2012

Minha casa é sua casa (My House Is Your House)

     This will be my fifth year taking spanish at school. I'm coming along nicely, I can read the spanish ads on the subway. None of that was helpful when I ate a Brazilian restaurant in Soho called Casa.
     The reason why I haven't been posting as often as I would like is that I've been busy. Homework takes up a lot of one's time, not to mention all of the other stuff that takes up the daily life of a teenager: TV, Facebook, procrastination, all in a days work. But seriously, I haven't had much time to write.
     My brother was on a Boy Scout overnight camping trip (why anyone would want to go camping in the middle of February escapes me) and I wanted to do something fun in the city. My mom, dad, and I decided to walk around downtown New York City (also called Soho) and find somewhere fun to eat.
     Travelwise, I live in a part of the city where most everything in my immediate need is in a mile-radius. From school to church to entertainment to necessities, I can walk just about anywhere, or take the train if I'm in a hurry. Since my schedule is often full, I don't usually get to take a train ride longer than twenty blocks to go somewhere and just walk around. Just walking around certain areas of New York is pleasurable, because all of its culture is packed shoulder to shoulder in such small areas so you can experience so much of the city without having to travel extensively.
     One trick for picking a good place to eat (this principle also applies elsewhere) is to stay off the main streets and avenues. Sometimes the most commercial places to eat can be the most tourist-y and not so authentic. Take a couple cross streets, head away from the taxi cabs. This is what we did, and we ended up in a small spaced Brazilian restaurant. Customers were laughing and talking, the waiters were casual but busy, and there were wooden decorations all around.
     The first part was to order drinks. A Brazilian brand of soda, cashew fruit juice, and passion fruit juice were our choices. The fruits were not sweet, but they were refreshing with a slightly bitter aftertaste. The soda was similar to ginger ale, but not quite as sweet. For the main courses, my dad and I shared a squid, shrimp and fish with coconut milk, cilantro, tomatoes, and "dendê" palm oil served with fish and yucca purée. The spices weren't heavy, and there was a familiar, almost homely feel to the dish that almost made you forget you were eating fish paste and squid. For less intensive foodies, it's a much easier take on squid than most.
     My mom decided to try the Brazilian national dish, which included a casserole of black beans and prime meats served with white rice, sautéed collard greens, vinaigrette sauce, farofa, oranges and chili sauce. I only sampled a little bit of her food, I was too busy chowing down on my own. I enjoyed the farofa, which was like breadcrumbs with dried fish bits. It wasn't your typical grilled cheese sandwich, but I figured it would taste pretty good on macaroni and cheese. For the meats, there was braised short ribs, pork loins, and sausage. There was a bit too much fat of the pork loins for me, but the meat was really tender and well prepared.
     For dessert we shared caramel flan and coconut pudding with plum sauce. I'm a big fan of flan already, and the caramel flavor was a fun way to prepare flan. I also really liked the coconut pudding. The texture reminded me of the custard of crème brûlée, but with small coconut flakes. It wasn't overly sweet, which compensated for the fact that the plum sauce was overly so, but not unpleasantly.
     The design of the restaurant was cool because there were decorations and knickknacks you could buy in Brazil, from chess pieces to wooden dolls to hanging fruit decorations. It was a small space, but packed with people. In all it was a really great eating experience.
     Oh yeah, did I mention that this was my first time trying squid? Now that one experience is over, I'll move onto deep sea fishing!

Here's to small spaces with big appetites and taking back roads,

P.S. For Casa's website, go to

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