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Culinary Culture Connections owners and founders Brian Kermath and Gregory Prang put together an event in DeLand in May that was a night for Amazonian gastronomic exploration and discovery.

Local residents Gary and Jane Bolding volunteered to host.

Chefs were Beto Bellini of Makun Restaurant in Roraima, Brazil, and special guest Almir Da Fonseca, professor at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, and a native of Rio de Janeiro.

The purpose of the event, in line with the mission of Culinary Culture Connections, was to celebrate the flavors, textures and colors of Brazilian culinary traditions, and to promote the idea that threatened ecoregions can be strengthened by supporting the indigenous communities that depend on them.

In other words, to evangelize Amazonian gastronomy while creating buzz about Amazonian ingredients and culinary techniques in America. 

This was an event like I had never experienced. It started with the Bolding home, which was transformed into a culinary-experience venue. Tables set with glassware and cutlery were in the dining room and outside on the back porch.  

{{tncms-inline alignment=”right” content=”&lt;p&gt;First was&amp;nbsp;&lt;strong&gt;cassava&lt;/strong&gt;&amp;nbsp;(the starchy root of a tropical tree found in South America similar to yucca) flour and butter, finished with Uar&amp;aacute; (state of the Amazon) nuts.&amp;nbsp;&amp;nbsp;&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;The dish reminded me of a baked potato chip with a bowl of nutty butter sauce to dip in &amp;mdash; a sort of Amazonian chips and dip.&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;The next appetizer and first course was bite-size portions of&amp;nbsp;&lt;strong&gt;beiju&lt;/strong&gt;&amp;nbsp;(made from grated manioc root, and also known as tapioca) cake of cassava flour with carne de sol (sun-dried beef), with banana pur&amp;eacute;e and aromatic chili pepper.&amp;nbsp;&amp;nbsp;&lt;/p&gt; &lt;p&gt;This appetizer was my favorite; it reminded me of a Wheat Thin topped with savory meat complemented perfectly by the sweet banana pur&amp;eacute;e and the spiciness of the chili pepper.&lt;/p&gt;” id=”4804c400-b8fc-4024-bbc3-2f2e1f78bf25″ style-type=”info” title=”APPETIZERS” type=”relcontent” width=”half”}}

Chef Bellini had been hard at work preparing a four-course meal and appetizer, while Prang and Kermath prepped the Amazonian cocktail.

While guests arrived and socialized, they passed out a cocktail concocted of Cachaça (a distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice), fermented honey of stingless bees, passion fruit, papaya, orange, and jambú (an Amazonian herb containing spilanthol, which causes a numbing sensation on the tongue and lips).

Served in a martini glass, the cocktail was fruity and offered a nice introduction to the flavors of the Amazon.

Next came bowls filled with appetizers, paired with a Brut Rosé Cava.  

Kermath called all the guests into the living room and delivered an opening speech.  

“This is going to be new food to a lot of you. This is Amazonian food, food that native Indian tribes in Brazil use routinely, and are starting to market with aid from a nongovernmental organization called the Social Environment Institute, and Greg and I at Culinary Culture Connections are partnered with them,” Kermath said, to claps and smiles.

After appetizers, we took our places, and the second course was delivered: a consommé sanöma of yanomami mushrooms, tucupi preto (sauce extracted from the manioc root in Brazil’s Amazon jungle and cooked for hours), pimenta Baniwa (a blend of dozens of varieties of capsicum peppers cultivated by the Baniwa tribe), and thin slices of wild-boar fillet paired with a Fumé Blanc.  

The consommé reminded me of miso soup with more flavor, texture and flair.

Next came an elegantly plated Amazonian dish for the main course: a pirarucu fillet crusted with Uarini (a municipality located in the Brazilian state of Amazonas) cassava flour, Amazonian vinaigrette, cassava cream with puxuri (intense aroma spice), and tapioca caviar paired with a Pouilly Fuissé AOC wine.

Pirarucu is one of the largest freshwater prehistoric fish in the world. It is found in the Amazon River and lakes, reaching up to 10 feet and 485 pounds!

With the first bite of the mild, firm textured fish, I was blown away. The combination of the cassava cream with puxuri, and the jelly-like tapioca caviar, was a brand-new flavor sensation.

Last, and surely not least, we had dessert, an egg-white pudding with essence of tonka bean (a seed from the flowering tree Dipteryx Odorata found in northern South America), caramelized tucupi preto, and Brazil or Uará nuts.  

When you put this dessert into your mouth, it almost disappears, leaving you with the savory flavor of the tucupi preto and the texture of the nuts. It was the richest, lightest dessert I had ever experienced.

Chef Da Fonseca has worked for more than 27 years on The Brazil Project, a comprehensive research project on the culinary traditions and gastronomy of Brazil.  

As dishes were brought out, he, Chef Bellini, Kermath and Prang talked with the guests, answering any questions and giving background stories about their travels and the origin of the dishes.

Culinary Culture Connections’ purpose is to create partnerships among chefs and adventurous eaters that recognize and appreciate the social, cultural, economic and environmental value of unique ingredients, ethical trading practices, the preservation of cultural heritage, and environmental stewardship.

Formerly at Stetson University, Kermath, a geographer by training and once a professor of environmental science, has directed programs and conducted research in rural sustainability in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and the U.S.  

His partner Prang is an anthropologist who has spent more than 20 years living and working in Latin America. 

They decided to meld their passions for socio-environmental resilience and food culture to launch Culinary Culture Connections.

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