Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Prazeres da Mesa ao Vivo - Gastronomic Trade Show in Fortaleza

Fortaleza, my Brazilian "hometown", is a rapidly growing metropolis of about 3 million people, and by most people's count is either the fourth- or fifth-largest city in Brazil. It is, however, a very long way from the cultural and economic centers of the country, which are located in the region called "Southeast" and which revolve around the twin poles of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In earlier times Fortaleza's isolation from the rest of Brazil was extreme, but today, with Rio and São Paulo being only 3 hours away by plane, this isolation is diminishing rapidly.

An interesting example of this was a gastronomic trade show/exposition that I attended last week here in Fortaleza. It was produced by São Paulo's Prazeres da Mesa (Pleasures of the Table) magazine. Prazeres da Mesa has approximately the same media importance and profile as such magazines as Bon Appetit, Saveur, or Food & Wine. Their annual circuit of expositions previously encompassed only cities in the central core of Brazil, but this year they brought the show to Fortaleza for the first time. They had a smashing success of it, too.

Prazeres da Mesa ao Vivo was a two-day event and included cooking classes taught by local and nationally-famous chefs, lectures, a trade show, wine tasting sessions, and two gala dinners. I attended several cooking classes and lectures, and will report in detail about them in the next few posts here on Flavors of Brazil.

I found the quality of the classes, lectures and presentations to be excellent overall. For me, the event was marred only by two problems, which might have been due to the fact that this type of show had never been produced in Fortaleza before. The first was a lack of organization - registering for the show, signing up for individual classes, etc., all required a great deal of patience, persistence, and at times even aggression. The second problem was over-sale of admissions, which meant that many events were sold out within minutes of being open for registration. I'm hoping that next year's event, which Prazeres da Mesa has already promised, will iron out these "opening night" jitters, and that the event will be all that it potentially can be - a glimpse into the rapidly-evolving world of Brazilian gastronomy and food science.

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