Celebrate the Foods and Culture of Brazil at Central Market with Passaporte Brazil

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For two weeks of every year, Central Market holds what in essence is an international festival in its stores by paying homage to the food and cultures of the another country. Three years ago, I attended my first "Passport" event when they celebrated the foods of Argentina. The following year, it was Spain, and then last year, it was France.

This year, Central Market is giving its customers "Passaporte Brazil," two weeks of food, cooking classes, music and more, dedicated to all things Brazil. They kicked it off in the usual style with a huge white tented party this past Thursday evening.

The kickoff party usually reflects the personality of the country. Last year, it was a more formal, seated affair that embodied the elegance of French dining. This year, the party was staged more informally as a walkabout buffet, with cocktail tables, a large dance floor for dancing and a stage set up for a live samba band to get everyone in the party spirit.

Party guests were greeted with freshly cut coconuts and fresh-pressed sugarcane drinks as they arrived. Inside the tent, festively dressed servers sporting straw hats served hors d'oeuvres of quince and queso fresco, hearts of palm canapes, and cheese bread.

As you walked around the room, different tables offered a choice of starters, coffee, beer or wine, and entree. For starters, I really enjoyed the small round black eyed pea fritters called acaraje, a type of Brazilian street food, were slit with a knife, then topped with tangy salsa, bechamel and shaved okra. The fritters were crispy and fun, with a good balance of creaminess and acidity from the toppings.

A delicious traditional black bean stew with beef and pork or, feijoada, was served with rice and small pickled red peppers, earning two thumbs up from a few Brazilian ex-pats from the Brazilian-owned Tramontina retail factory in Sugar Land.

Grilled chicken, stuffed tomatoes, roasted plantains, and traditional salads, like the hearts of palm salad, or the Sao Paolo salad with apples, peas, grapes and carrots, were also on offer as well, examples of dishes that will be served in the Central Market prepared food section.

For dessert, guests were treated to sumptuous Brazilian bonbons, or brigadeiros, in dark or white chocolate. So delicate they practically melted in your hand as you held them, the super smooth, sweet bonbons tasted like a freshly made chocolate truffle without a hard outer shell -- these will also be on sale inside Central Market.

We were also given a demonstration of Brazilian fight dance, or capoeira, presented by a local company of dancers, before the samba band took over with the music of Brazil.

The kickoff party just marks the beginning of the two-week Brazilian celebration. During the week, stands will be set up in front of the store to showcase Brazilian drinks and Brazilian food. There are cooking classes, as well as wine and coffee classes offered through the Central Market cooking school. Brazilian prepared foods will be ready made for easy takeout. Brazilian's best flip flops -- Havaianas-- will also be on sale. And in the produce section, don't miss a huge selection of exotic, colorful, tropical fruits typical of Brazil.

Passaporte Brazil takes place at Central Market for two weeks only -- April 24 through May 7, 2013. For more information, and a schedule of events, please visit http://www.centralmarket.com.

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