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Taste of Brazil
Event offers a night of traditional Brazilian food, music, and dance
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
“If I had to describe Brazilian cuisine in a handful of words, I’d say it’s a fresh, spicy, warm kind of cuisine,” says Cynthia Presser.
And it’s in an effort to bring that warmth and spice to Fort Wayne that Presser organized A Taste of Brazil, billed as a night of Brazilian food, drinks, music and dancing at the Philmore on Broadway Saturday, September 17.
A native of Brazil, Presser moved to California 11 years ago, and then to Fort Wayne — her husband’s hometown — in 2009 when they were expecting their first child. “I didn’t see much of a South American presence in Fort Wayne,” she says. “But then, I see these festivals like Greek Fest and German Fest… so it’s not like people weren’t interested in cultural events from other countries. I thought I could bring a little bit of the Brazilian culture and share a little bit of my background.”
Presser is an accomplished cook who shares many of her recipes on her site cynthiapresser.com. Growing up, she says her household was a pretty eclectic mix of cuisine: her mother is half-German and half-Polish; her father half-Portugese and half-Spanish. Food — preparing it, serving it, sharing it — was a pretty important part of her family’s life. But Presser says she didn’t really share in that enthusiasm until she was in her teens, when she started noticing how appetizing and beautiful some of the pictures in her mother’s cooking magazines looked. “That enticed me to start making those recipes,” she says. “In the beginning I wasn’t good at all. I messed up so many recipes. But trying it again and again, getting interested in different ingredients, looking at my mom’s old cookbooks and recipes, I started getting better. It’s a passion that just got bigger and bigger. Now, for me, my cooking time is like my happy hour, the best part of my day.”
In her own cooking, Presser tries to incorporate elements of Brazilian cuisine into the new recipes she picks up traveling and living in the US. But for Taste of Brazil, the emphasis is (obviously) on traditional Brazilian dishes. “The herbs and spices are what I’m focusing on, because it’s what I miss the most, the flavors from home — passion fruit, guava, bananas and pineapples, yucca root, which is a potato-like root that is very, very common in Brazilian cuisine.”
Brazil is, of course, a big country, and much like the US, different dishes are popular in different regions. At Taste of Brazil, dishes will be served appetizer style, the better to cover as many regions as she can. “For example, in the south, near Argentina, steak is very common, so we’ll be serving a steak dish. In the east, there are thousands and thousands of miles of coast line; a lot of fresh seafood comes from those areas, so we’ll serve a couple shrimp dishes.”
The recipes are Presser’s, but Club Soda will be preparing the food. Presser says she worked with Chef Jesse on the dishes. “First of all, I want to enjoy the party,” laughs Presser. “But really, I’ve never cooked for more than 30 or 40 people at a time.” (only 30 – 40 people?)
Presser says she’s been excited about the response so far — ticket sales have been strong — and would like to turn this into a regular event.
A Taste of Brazil
Saturday, September 17. Doors open at 7 PM
The Philmore, 2441 Broadway
For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit cynthiapresser.com.