Brazil: Meat, Caipirinhas, and Meat VI

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Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Curitiba

Those who don't actually know me very well would disagree, but those who I would actually consider someone dear to me would agree that I do not consider myself hot shit. Naysayers - naysayit till you're blue in the balls - I don't.

It's still mind-blowing to me that people like my band. I know this may come as a surprise to those of you who aren't someone who knows or who doesn't-wanna-know-me, but it is still quite spectacular to me every time someone says to me randomly on the streets: "hey! I dig your band!" The fact that people were due to show up to see the band I play in, in a country I've never set foot in - is nuts to me. 1000-plus pre-sale? What??

Our van pulls up to the gig, and there they are: hundreds and hundreds of some of the most devout Trivium fans on earth. We pull up close to the back entrance, and here is what I was waiting for: the kids rush the van and start pounding on the windows screaming excitedly at us, wide-eyed and smiling with frenzy. We flash em all the horns and head in.. They start chanting "Triv-youm! Triv-youm!" in their Brazilian-accents. I say to my guys: "boys... tonight's gonna be a good night."

Walking into the dressing room, I see three pastry boxes. I lift the lids and a shining light of glory is revealed from within... the beauty of the contents of the boxes has me floored. Marcos is a damn thoughtful guy. Within two of the boxes are assorted traditional Brazilian meat and/or cheese-filled pastries; the third box is loaded with what look like will be so disgustingly-good sweets. All around the boxes are traditional Brazilian and Sao Paulo snacks that Marcos hand-picked for us to have - Marcos is a Sao Paulo-native and knows what's good around these parts.

One is kibe/Lebanese-style with meat and bulgur, a chicken-filled fried ball that reminds me of Cuban-fried meat-stuffed soft pastries, meat-filled pies, cheese-filled pies - each more delicious than the previous. The soft, yet almost crisped texture of the circular chicken-ball is unforgettable. The sweets? Mama Luna (inside Trivium joke).

The orange-yellow circular guy was a coconut mini-flan-esque sweet - a consistency like harder jello and a taste so coconut-caramelly that I was knocked out. The chocolate-ball was beautiful, as was the other duder. I obviously am in love with the hand-held traditionals of all countries... it's the stuff you want.

Post-soundcheck, we try to pull the van out, and in comes the swarm. Trivium-friends pounding and yelling compliments, stuffing their hands into window cracks as the van pulls back. Insanity.

All the while we were enjoying the insanity, Ashley was napping away. These travel schedules are not for the faint of heart. Think this life is easy at our level? It ain't. Sleep is a privilege; your spine will be compressed and mangled by small airplanes and seats in the back of planes and vans and cheap busses that shake like boats in a storm across rocky terrain; sicknesses travel instantaneously via the fart-tube vehicular travel that merely connects you to another form of vehicular travel. Picky eater? Not anymore you're not - unless you prefer anorexia. My wife? I applaud her for being able to keep up with this run. Like I said before, it's early lobby calls to pack in 30-40 pieces of shite, stuffed in with 10-20 other dudes who are just as tired, cranky, sleepy, smelly, and hung-over as you. New to the crew? Be prepared to be berated and degraded. Your sexuality and taste in music and way of dress will be at constant ridicule. The main topic of discussion typically rotates between matters of the fecal, genital, rectal, and sexual-nature. Throw all political-correct-ness down the porto-hole and be prepared to be offended. Airport check-ins take a minimum of three hours. South American airlines? Four to five to check in all that gear - making deals and working out trades to lower the insane overage-charges. Me? I'm used to it. My courageous wife? She's a trooper amidst the chaos.

Don't get me wrong. It isn't all bad. Food is obviously what I always look forward to and what is constantly on my mind - encouraging me to tough through the rough spots of travel and keep optimistic.

Dinner time rolls around, and recharged from her sleep, Ash and I head into town to get some açai. Earlier, Marcos pointed out a local spot - Madureira. It does açai cream: where the berries are mashed, frozen, and served like ice cream. Marcos taught me that the açai (a berry that has to be picked manually out of Amazon-trees) is a wonder-food in Brazil (it is in the USA and worldwide as well) and that the Jiu-Jitsu fighters will eat a bowl of it as a meal when training and that it's all they need. Ancient warriors and Amazonian-tribes will eat a bowl of the berry and go work the entire day - being completely fueled by the super-food.

We have the açai bowl with sliced bananas (Brazilian bananas are smaller, super sweet and have a hint of lemon in the taste) and an avocado-papaya-banana-milk vitamins shake. I wish you could taste what I tasted that night. The açai was so wonderfully sweet, so beautifully tasty in its own natural state - it made me realize all it's magic in simply tasting it. It was somewhere along the lines of blue and blackberries with more sweetness, in a creamy sorbet-form. The lemony-sweet mini-bananas mixed in took it to another level. The vitaminas shake was actually on the savory side - if anything, almost tasting like it would have been salty, but it wasn't. All the ingredients mixed together to create its own flavor spectrum of healthiness. I appreciated that the drink felt as if it ought to have been the eaten meal due to its flavor, and that the eaten meal ought to have been the drink. It was a fun flavor-trade-off.

Fueled by the Amazonian wonder-food, we headed to the show and prepared to witness our first club-headlining, Sao Paulo crowd.

At that point, we had never witnessed anything like what Sao Paulo metal-crowds had to deliver. They were as much a show to us as we were to them. There was no awkward silence between songs, instead they'd take football chants and add our band name into them; the crowd sang our lyrics and our guitar parts louder than the P.A. Constantly in a state of organization chaos - the crowd took care of each other (something that the USA non-metal crowds have zero clue how to do (the last USA tour we did, the non-metal people would get into horrendous fights and people would consistently get injured)), the crowd would make their own cues to our songs and do some spectacular circle pits and jumping parts to our tracks.

There was a magic in the air in Sao Paulo that night. I will never forget my first experience of the Sao Paulo Trivium-crowd. I loved every minute of our new friends in Sao Paulo.

Post-show, I pulled a vintage-Heafy and ordered a room service club, a Brazilian soup of rice and chicken, and two caipirinhas. I gotta tell ya - prettayyy good. Every single meal or snack I've had in South America so far has been of decent to serious quality.

2-4 hours of sleep later - rinse and repeat.

Brazil: Meat, Caipirinhas, and Meat V

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Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Curitiba

It hurts to wake up after 2 hours of sleep after a headlining show after just flying into a new continent. It hurts to pile into a van with other tired, still-drunk band and crew-mates and show up at the airport to check in 30-40 pieces of luggage and gear and deal with airport staff and security and then fly, collect it all, back into a van, then a long ride to a hotel. But hey - I could be cleaning porto-potties.

When we landed in Sao Paulo, the ex-singer of Angra came up and thanked me for my kind words about one of my favorite metal albums he performed on ("Temple Of Shadows"). I was very stoked to meet Edu - his vocal range is un-matched in power metal - especially on "Temple". We chatted the metal-ness of South America and found out we were both playing shows at venues on the same block that night. I met his new band, Almah, we shot some photos together, traded contacts, and were off. Super rad.

The hotel we were put in was right in a nice area of Sao Paulo, so we'd be able to walk about later on. My view out my window was breath taking... Sao Paulo is big... really really big. I've never seen a skyline that basically engulfs an entire sky-scape. Sao Paulo is the fourth largest city in the world and man is that evident when you actually get to look at it from a 20th floor window.

Lunch time. We gather up some Trivs and all of Dragonforce and their crew. We were happy to be reunited with Dragonforce once again; Trivium toured with Dragonforce back in 2007 on the Black Crusade tour (Machine Head/Trivium, Dragonforce, Arch Enemy, Shadows Fall) and its always a blast to see the DF dudes - Fred, Sam, and Herman are some of the funniest dudes I know in a band.

Lunch is at Gallo I Vino, a Brazilian/Italian place. In addition to the country being initially colonized by the Portuguese, massive influxes of Italians and Japanese and all sorts of other ethnicities have their culinary and architectural influence ever-present all about the country. Sao Paulo has the second highest population count of Japanese outside of Japan!

Marcos described the place as having "pasta and chicken" - a very true depiction. We are served chicken wings and then some more chicken wings - served salted and charred; different pastas accompany. Different cuts of chicken and grilled meats start to come out, vegetable dishes as well - flavor-wise, picture a grill-based Brazilian-steakhouse that churns out the occasional great pasta dish or fried polenta fry. Every dish was served simply - never over-seasoned or over-thought. Everything was real good.

We catch up over a good meal with our DF buddies, then head back to the hotel to prep to head to the venue for sound check.

Brazil: Meat, Caipirinhas, and Meat III

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Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Curitiba

The Brasilia show for the South American tour was a late addition; we were due to play at 1:20am… 1:20AM! Trivium's latest stage time to date had only been around 11:00pm or so - so we knew it was going to hurt to play a 90-plus minute set that "early" in the morning, then sleep for 2 hours and fly to Sao Paulo. But Hell… we were in South America.

We wrapped up a very tight soundcheck (tight as in we played well together… not the 90's lame-bro/ Jersey Shore-douche terminology) and headed to lunch. Marcos had to take us back to the same lunch spot as the previous day due to the fact that it was the Brazilian Independence Day and everything was pretty much closed or packed to the brim. We arrived back at Feitiço Mineiro for some lunch. This time it was the whole Triviums, Ashley, and Marcos. By this time, we began getting to know Marcos pretty well; we learned of his half-Spanish, half-Brazilian ethnicity and trilingual skills. Marcos has been a vegetarian for the last 20 plus years and doesn't drink - a feat that I would imagine to be quite difficult in such a meat-oriented, cachaça-drinking country. He taught us that back in the 90s, being a veggie would have been very difficult - but nowadays he has it sorted. It's pretty awesome that he certainly knows his stuff on the meat-based places however; I'm assuming he does his research using local meat-eating pals. 

Marcos owned a label several years back called Liberation Records - distributing Lifeforce to Metal Blade, Roadrunner to Trustkill; nowadays due to lessening CD-purchasing, he sticks purely to booking bands in South America. Marcos books everyone from Lamb Of God to As I Lay Dying to us and everything in between. Throughout the trip, we'd all be getting to know each other better through our common love of Florida. Through the entire tour, Marcos took very good care of us - taking us to the best local restaurants and filling in sight-seeing whenever possible.

Marcos showed us that today, due to the Independence day, Fetiço had a new giant-table spread of black cauldrons of bubbling black soup-looking delicacies. At least 10 pots were on display, one for pig ears stewed in black beans, beef stewed in black beans, offal-cuts and scraps and good cuts in black beans… every cut of the animal. My kind of eating!

Feijoada is a very traditional Brazilian dish. Mention it to any Brazilian and you get that smile that takes them back to mom's and grandma's houses where they would eat feijoada with their loved ones. Feijoada originated as a slave's dish: the Africans that were brought to Brazil would only be left with the offal and scrap cuts of the animals their masters wouldn't eat. They'd boil all the parts down along with black beans, top the meat on top of more black beans, on top of rice. Atop the layering deliciousness, the slaves would add chopped collard greens, and then farofa. The combination of all the aforementioned ingredients then became feijoada. One could certainly see that Brazil's cuisine has quite a major African influence, mixed in with their Portuguese and Latin flavors.

Feijoada is a delightful dish - comfort food at it's finest. Stick-to-your-ribs and fill-your-gut-up goodness that is void of pretense and filled with historical significance. Couple that bad boy with the icy-delicious caipirinhas that were just waiting to be guzzled by the gallon… and you were in good shape. 

Traditional sweets awaited me after my lunch: some flan, coconuty-caramel sticky pudding, some kind of tropical fruit that was candied in a sweet liquid, and then this traditional compressed fruit/condensed milk sweet that is eaten with Brazilian cheese. All the deserts truly emphasized sugar. Brazilians love their sugar - and their deserts display that affection. Too good. 

We headed back to the hotel to nap as long as possible to rest up before the insanely late/early show; I took some Zantac first of course…

Brazil: Meat, Caipirinhas, and Meat II

Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Curitiba

Upon our return to the hotel, some of us walked to a mall that is parallel to our hotel for some waters and to check out a Brazilian mall. It reminded me of a cross between mall, flea market, and outdoor South American market. Tons of people walking about with the happy chatter of the Portuguese-language all about us; loud electronic stores and car salesman of some sort trying to sell us an odd-looking VW by the food-court. Oddly, people keep speaking Portuguese to Ashley. I think everyone thinks she's Brazilian. I know it seems crazy - but I think she does look a little like the blonde-haired, fashionable glasses-wearing Brazilians that maybe one doesn't see as much in comparison to who they'd typically imagine seeing when thinking of a Brazilian. Anywho - we hit a store called "Americanas" which is basically a small store modeled after a Wal-mart of sorts. It's set up like a Wal-mart, only completely condensed into a store the size of a small apartment. Nonsensical flying helicopter kits are setup across from chocolate bars, next to the underwear for boys and potato chips. We grab our waters and head out. 

Dinner is a very short walk from the hotel, and alongside basically everyone but Nick (he was sleeping), we head into a local Churrascaria. This is what one imagines when thinking Brazil-chow, dudes in dress-shirts and vests with sword-skewers of delicious animal, carving it off onto your plate until you have heart-failure or have developed gout. All you can eat you say? This seems to be my kind of country.

There is a salad bar - and Paolo and I think that maybe it ain't such a bad idea to get some fruit and vegetables in to balance all that meat-feasting out. They had hearts of palm, broccoli, beans covered in farofa, potato and vegetable salads, ubiquitous black beans and rice, and lots more in the healthy-department. Before I even take my seat, a dude in full chefs-whites comes by with a drink cart with a bowl of limes and some bottles of cachaça (sugar cane rum) and I know exactly what he's here for. I raise my hand and say "yes please!" 

It is well known that I am into a good cocktail. I have had my share of cocktails all over the world in speakeasies and cocktail bars and New American restaurants and all that (Brazilian) jazz. The caipirinha is Brazil's national drink. It consists of limes, sugar, and sugar cane rum. I've tried it in a couple spots around the world - never Brazil. The caipirinha I drank at this steakhouse whose name escaped me was - and I state this with no exaggeration - the best cocktail I've ever had. Ever. Flavor-wise, it lies somewhere in between a margarita, mojito, and aviation? With just three ingredients - a liquor, sweet, and an acid - it's about as simple as you get when speaking in terms of cocktails. Imagine the first time you had a lemonade as a kid on a hot summer day… it's like that.

Reminiscence alert.

I remember when I was really young, in the summer time, I was doing a project on the planets of the universe… working diligently away as a third or second-grader does, when my mom brings in a snack of sour cream and onion chips and fresh home-made lemonade. The salty snack washed down with sugary, lemony, icy beverage was a flavor that still sparks memory to this day. That's what that caipirinha was like. Drinking lemonade for the first time in your life on a hot day after working non-stop and eating something salty. Hopefully that makes sense.

Back to Brasilia and the steakhouse. Skewers of chicken wings, sausages, beef, ham, tongue, chicken hearts, spicy sausage, linguiça and special cuts basically keep coming by until you wave the dudes away. Everything is grilled simply - maintaining key emphasis on the flavor of the meat. Salt and grill-char open the introductory flavor of each cut, and every once in a while you get a piece of meat that stands out - the ham was otherworldly. Salty, porky, cured and grilled. The chicken hearts were for the Asians only at our table (Ken and I (Ken is Filipino)) and man were they good. The sugary, limey, icy, perfect caipirinhas couldn't have been a better match for the protein-feast; I put down around 4 or so by the end of dinner. 

Besides the carnivorous flesh, there were farofa de ovo e cebolinha (scrambled eggs with farofa), fries, and a cheese-filled empanada of sorts. Trying Brazilian desert for the first time was something special too - a heavy emphasis on sugar was the key feature of the sweets. Sugary sweet was the flan and caramel/coconut pastey-pudding; tropical fruit terrines and mixtures and an açai pudding were also offered - all fantastic. 

Meat coma. We all have a couple more caipirinhas and call it a night.

Brazil: Meat, Caipirinhas, and Meat I

Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Curitiba

Having never set foot in South America previously, obviously I was eagerly anticipating things of the culinary-realm. I've said it before and I'll say it again - you learn more from a country from their food than from anything else they can offer. An added bonus of the trip to South America was that for some reason, Trivium had grown a massive following whilst never actually playing a single show in the territory. From all our band friends like David Draiman to John Petrucci, Lamb Of God to In Flames - they all pretty much said the same thing - "you are going to have the best time out there; with some of the most insane fans you've ever seen."

The flight to Brazil was actually a piece of cake. Trivium is used to the uber-painful 3-5 connections-flight in coach-in-the-back-of-the-plane-middle-seat kinda way, so the 2 flights over was a treat in comparison to the latter. We met our promoter Marcos in Atlanta before the flight to Brasilia, where I quickly and excitedly (probably annoyingly) filled him in of the fact that we need to be eating as much as possible of the traditionals when we hit the ground. His response was "South America is a meat culture… with lots and lots of meat." We all smiled and boarded the plane. 

I suited up in the classic Heafy-flight-sleeping-kit-outfit (hood, scarf on mouth, eye mask, ear plugs, doctor-approved-sleeping-pill) and was out till arrival. The weather was staggeringly beautiful - a cool 70's or so, sun shining, breeze blowing; all our band and crew busy picking their jaws off the floors when they started seeing all the Brazilian women in the flesh. It was gonna be a good tour… I felt it in my bones (the guys felt it in theirs).

We grabbed our shuttles over to our hotel, grabbed some aiight free hotel breakfast and everyone went their separate ways until our first Brazilian meal (lunch) was to come beckoning. Some napped, some showered, some exercised - but when lunch time hit, Joey, Ashley, Paolo, Ken, Mark, Mat, Marcos, and I all headed to Feitiço Mineiro. Our soon to become best-pal-in-South-America shared with us that this restaurant serves food in the style of Sepultura's home-town. Metal. 

There was indoor and outdoor seating with loads of business people and locals alike - no gringos here (I was adamant on strictly non-tourist spots). We opted to sit outside and were told everything is buffet-style, "eat as much as you like!" Shit yes. A massive skillet-table held several cast-iron skillets and pans and pots of sizzling  meats and vegetables. The aroma of sizzling garlic and onions and pork and beans greeted our curious noses with a familiar scent, however just behind that initial scent were notes and hints of spices and recipes we knew we didn't know previously. The amount of cuts of cow and pork and offal displayed made my knees buckle; the cauldrons of soupy-beany-goodness I knew, would be a litte too good for my own good. 

Deep fried bananas (not plantains) and pineapple slices and potatoes and yucca, rice with toasted seeds of garlic (I think), rice with beans, beans with meat and garlic, black beans, mashed potatoes (or was that yucca?), okra grilled lightly, okra grilled heavily. They had ground ground manioc flour known as farofa (something I literally just saw on Bourdain's No Reservation's Amazon episode (so, like a groupie - I was ready to put that stuff in my mouth)), linguiça sausage, soupy beans with tripe, pork-skin cracklins, Brazilian cheese-stuffed mini-bread rolls. They even had long, chopped collard greens that looked unlike any collard I'd ever seen. Oxtail stew, salads and fruits and vegetables unfamiliar. They even had the Brazilian paella: rice, beans, sausage, offal, meat, sausage, vegetables… basically I think everything from the skillet table tossed into the biggest goddamn paella-pan man has ever come to know. 

Seated with most of the band and crew and Marcos, Marcos fills us in on what many of the dishes are; we offer up questions about all things South American and Brazilian, and chow down on some intensely wonderful, rustic Brazilian food. I wash down my meats and beans with a Bohemia beer, which I can only describe as tasting like a true Japanese beer (not that Canadian-brewed imitation Asahi and Kirin and Sapporo that you probably accidentally drink at a sushi restaurant thinking your drinking Japanese). I know that the world-wide perception of Brazilian cuisine is purely limited to the skewer-meat-style spots (as was my perception) - but with this restaurant, I was reminded of the comforting flavors of southern American food (southern USA, not South America) in things like collards and okra and beans and rice and potatoes… but with that Latin American spin in spices, ingredients, and utilization of all parts of the animal (which is a constant in true southern American food as well). A nod to the Portuguese culture was mixed ever-pleasantly with African cuisine as well. Stick-to-your-ribs, unpretentious, simple, grandma-style comfort food. Incredible. 

Having zero room left in my stomach (most likely from my 3-4 plates of food in comparison to most everyone else at the tables' one), we call it quits and head to the hotel for a recharge and digestion before dinner.