Last week, we arrived in Florianópolis — Floripa, as it’s referred to locally. Located in the state of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil, Floripa includes one main island with a group of smaller islands, a continental portion, and a whopping 42 beaches. Helloooo paradise.
In between work calls and emails (a.k.a. reality) we spent seven glorious days exploring the picturesque coastline and sampling the local cuisine. Some of the beaches, like Lagoinha do Leste, are completely isolated and tucked away and suit our tastes perfectly. Others, particularly in the northern part of the island, are teeming with locals and tourists and plenty of eateries to ensure there’s no reason to leave the beach. We like that, too.
I was excited to finally try Brazilian feijão, a black bean stew and common side dish usually eaten over rice. It’s the basis of what many recognize as the country’s national dish, feijoada, which also includes salted pork and beef. And every meal (seriously….EVERY meal) was served with pirão, a traditional gruel made with fish stock and manioc flour. It was not a hit. The texture was odd for me, something like a congealed, tepid stew, and flavor-wise it was pretty bland. An acquired taste, perhaps?
But seafood is definitely the foodie focus in Floripa, with pages of every menu dedicated to various preparations of fish, oysters and shrimp. Lagoons all over the island are dotted with colorful fishing boats, and full of people tossing their fishing nets in the water.
Aside from a ton of fruit (side note: I swear the bananas are sweeter) we averaged a meal a day, which may not sound like much until you lay eyes on the meals. We tried a few different versions of almoço platters, which included fried fish, feijão, pirão, fries, and a “salad” that was always some combination of beets, carrots and tomatoes. I really liked the anchova grelhada version. I had feared it was going to be a bunch of tiny salty anchovies of the packed-in-oil variety, but it was actually a gigantic, mild white fillet.
By far our most ambitious meal was the sequência de camarão, or “sequence of shrimp”. The name strikes me as both accurate and misleading at the same time. It is, indeed, a sequence; every time we thought the final dish had arrived, another one showed up. But it’s so much more than shrimp. There was crab, calamari, buñuelos de algas (fried balls of seaweed), a ton of different fish preparations, and of course, more feijão, pirão, fries and salad. We were actually slightly horrified because it was so clearly more than two people could possible ingest, but we put a good hurtin’ on it. The highlight for me was the peixe mole: chunks of fried fish topped with tiny shrimp in a savory red mole sauce.
Thus far, our mission to detox from the Argentine diet of meat, empanadas and pizza has been a success! Albeit short-lived, as we’re crossing back into northern Argentina this week. It was fun while it lasted, Floripa.