When it comes to artisanal fare, Brazilians are spoilt for choice, from the endless array of traditional sweets that read like an anthropology of local history and ingredients, to the more ubiquitous savouries, like pão de queijo – cheesey bread balls.
If there’s one artisanal food you probably wouldn’t associate with Brazil, however, it’s cheese (queijo in Portuguese). Sure, there’s no shortage of stringy mozzarrella loading up pizzas, or creamy Catupiry and requeijão sneaking their way into everything from deep-fried pastéis to sushi, or the squeaky sticks of queijo coalho, sizzling on barbecues at the weekends. And no self-respecting Brazilian breakfast table would be complete without a few slices of bland, processed cheese. But when it comes to finding traditional artisanal cheeses, as well as tasty local replicas of European cheese styles, read on for where to shop.
Cheese enthusiast Fernando Oliveira's bright Vila Madalena shop is dedicated to selling artisanal Brazilian cheeses made by small producers from north to south. Chances are no two visits will meet with the same selection, be it in different varieties of cheese, or the same cheeses that have matured. But that element of surprise is precisely one of the pleasures. Rua Aspicuelta 35, Vila Madalena (3812 6449/ alimentosustentavel.com.br).
Bruno Cabral, passionate cheese enthusiast and chef at Donostia tapas bar, launched his site to sell a curated selection of Brazilian artisanal cheeses and advocate for the small-scale producers, as well as generate consumer interest in Brazilian cheeses otherwise unknown and unavailable due to restrictive interstate sales laws. Order mestrequeijeiro.com.br cheeses via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (11) 96411 6196. Delivery charges vary.
Gracing one of the entrances to the Mercado Municipal, the Queijos Roni stall is run by Roque Bruno Tadeu Peta, better known as just Roni, the fourth generation of a family of cheesemakers, originating from Italy. Roni supplies cheese for many of the official ‘Mercadão’ events. Look out for the long provolones dangling from the ceiling, and don’t miss Roni’s fresh ricotta and mozzarella. Rua D, box 2, Mercado Municipal, Rua da Cantareira 306, Sé (3326 1488/queijosroni.com).
Also in the Mercado Municipal, Empório Cruzília stocks its own suprisingly good local versions of brie, camembert, gouda and gorgonzola (approx R$10 per cheese), made in the town of Cruzília, in the south of Minas Gerais. Rua D, box 8, Mercado Municipal, Rua da Cantareira 306, Sé (3228 0814/cruzilia.com.br).
EAT Empório Restaurante
Blending restaurant, café, bakery, sushi bar and organic grocery store under one small warehouse roof, EAT is a gourmand’s paradise, albeit with the prices to match. Alongside imported cheeses, you’ll find local La Bufalini buffalo mozzarella balls from Guaratinguetá, in the São Paulo countryside, and Serra das Antas goat’s cheese and brie, made on the border between Minas Gerais and São Paulo, as well as more workaday Brazilian brands like Tirolez gouda and edam. Avenida Doutor Cardoso De Melo 1191, Vila Olímpia (5643 5353/emporioeat.com.br).