Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mexican Christmas Foods

Christmas is a time to get together with family and friends to celebrate, and food plays a big part in any Mexican Christmas celebration. In Mexico it is customary to have a family dinner late on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena). Here are some of the foods that are traditionally eaten at Christmastime in Mexico, either at Christmas Eve dinner or during the festivities leading up to Christmas such as las posadas. If you're in Mexico for Christmas, be sure to sample these festive dishes, and if you can't be in Mexico for the holidays, you can add a Mexican touch to your celebration by including some of these foods.

Ensalada de Noche Buena - This salad usually contains lettuce and beets, but other ingredients vary according to location and the chef's preference, and may include apple, carrot, orange, pineapple, jicama, pecans or peanuts, and pomegranate seeds as a garnish.

Tamales are cornmeal dumplings which may be prepared with a variety of different fillings. They are wrapped in corn husks (or occasionally banana leaves), and steamed. 

Bacalao - is a popular recipe in which the cod is stewed with tomatoes, capers, olives, and potatoes, but it may be prepared in a variety of ways.

Romeritos - A green leaf vegetable with small leaves, this plant resembles rosemary, for which it is named. Romeritos are most often served as romeritos en revoltijo, with shrimp cakes and doused in mole. 

Pozole - Pozole is hominy soup made with pork or chicken and seasoned with chile and garlic. It is served with garnishes of shredded lettuce or cabbage, thinly sliced radishes, avocado, oregano, and lime wedges. 

Pavo - The Christmas turkey may be roasted, or it may be served with mole, a rich sauce made of ground chiles and other ingredients.

Buñuelos - Served with a hot drink, buñuelos make an excellent treat on a cold night. This crispy fried treat is like a sweet tostada which is sprinkled with sugar or doused in syrup. 

Ponche Navideño - Mexican hot fruit punch is made with tejocotes (Mexican hawthorn), which look like crab apples but have large pits and a unique flavor. Guavas, apples, and other fruit are added and the drink is flavored with cinnamon and sweetened with piloncillo. 

Rosca de Reyes - This sweet bread is served on King's Day (Día de Reyes), on January 6, but may start appearing in Mexican bakeries around Christmastime.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Best Things To Do In Sao Paulo

As the largest city in the country it is no surprise that a large proportion of visitors to Brazil arrive in Sao Paulo, and it is a great place to get a taste for Brazilian culture and also offers some wonderful attractions. Sao Paulo is the economic capital of Brazil, and is the country's wealthiest city with some remarkable areas including the skyscrapers of the downtown area where many large companies are located. Whether you are traveling to explore the culture and eat at great restaurants, to enjoy the activities in the area or are simply arriving in Sao Paulo before continuing on to the rest of the country, there are plenty of things to do in and around the city.

The first impression that many people will get is that Sao Paulo is just a large modern metropolis, but for those who take time to explore the city it actually has a wealth of historic buildings, and there are several areas that are well worth exploring. One of the most important and impressive sights in the city is the Catedral da Se, which is a fairly modern cathedral that was built in the first half of the twentieth century, and has two main towers rising over ninety meters, while the stunning interior is decorated to reflect Brazil and its culture. The Ibirapuera Park is one of the most important and popular green spaces in the city that has been beautifully maintained, while the Pico do Jaragua is a wonderful walk, and offers a spectacular view back over the city.

See The Brazilian Grand Prix

The Brazilian Grand Prix is traditionally the final race of the Formula One Season, and returned to the Interlagos Circuit just to the south of Sao Paulo in 1990, after a decade away. Brazil has had a long history of producing great racing drivers, and it was during the rise of local hero Ayrton Senna that the Sao Paulo authorities invested heavily in making the circuit the modern and exciting race circuit that visitors can see today. Today, visitors will see that Ferrari driver Felipe Massa is the local hero, and the stands are crammed with fans clad in the red colors of his team, which makes for a superb atmosphere in this exciting race.

Explore The City On A Bicycle

In the majority of cities the mere idea of riding a bicycle through the city center would be quite fearsome, but every Sunday and on public holidays the city opens up many miles of cycle lanes among some of the main sights of the city. Known as the Ciclofaixa de Lazer, this system offers visitors a great way to get an alternative perspective on the city, and will usually allow plenty of interaction with the locals who also like to ride between the major sights including the Ibirapuera Park and the Avenida Paulista. The route itself is designed for families and leisure riders, so most people will be taking a relaxed ride which helps to make it an enjoyable experience for visitors.

Climb The Banespa Tower

This skyscraper in central Sao Paulo was first built to be the headquarters of Banespa, the State Bank of Sao Paulo, and when building began in 1939 it took inspiration and many of its design features from Frank Lloyd Wright's Empire State Building. Standing at over 161 meters tall it was the tallest building in the city for over two decades, and is still one of the most prominent buildings.

Fortunately for visitors, they don't have to walk all the way to the top, as an elevator takes them up to within two flights of stairs of the viewpoint, which offers a spectacular panorama taking in sights like the Catedral da Se and the Martinelli Building, which was Sao Paulo's very first skyscraper.

Carnaval And The Gay Pride Parade

These are two of the largest and most impressive events in the Sao Paulo cultural calendar,  and visitors in the city during each event will find it to be a great spectacle with a wonderful atmosphere. The annual carnival takes place during the bank holiday at the end of February and the start of the March, and has a parade of wonderful floats with excellent samba dancers, and while it isn't as large as the Rio Carnaval, it is still a great event. Sao Paulo's Gay Pride parade is the largest such event in the world, taking place in either May or June on the Corpus Christi bank holiday, and also has a wonderful parade with a great party atmosphere with plenty of dance music and drink throughout the event.