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Sep 16, 2009 11:49 AM

El Cerrito: St John's International fall festiivals - Nigerian yam fest and Brazillian Cultural Festival with a salute to Carmen Miranda

St. John's has people representing over 60 nationalities and they seem to celebrate everything. A good portion of the festivities are free such as the Nigerian Yam Festival on October 18th after the 12:30 mass. Here is my report of the dinner which is cooked by the Nigerian parishioners.

Who knew that this would have been Carmen Miranda's 100th birthday ... the Brazilian parishioners at St. John's that's who. The Brazilian Cultural festival on Sept 27th from 10 am to 4 pm will include a tribute to Miss Miranda as well as Brazilian music, crafts and food.

While I have been to the Portuguese festa, Chinese New Year, Filipino Simbang Gabi and probably a few others I'm forgetting, I haven't been to the Brazilian festival or the International Festival this weekend Sept 20 which will have an International Food Court offering African-American, Chinese, Filipino, German, Italian, Mexican Nigerian, Thai and Vietnamese dishes.

So don't know how good these will be or the charges for food. However for anyone interested, those are the dates.

St John the Baptist Catholic Church
11150 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA

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  1. St John's is a pretty cool place. And just in case people are in the mood, there will also be a contest for best dressed and best dancer!

    1. This is today until 4pm and if you like Brazilian food or are interested in trying it, this is excellent. All of it home made ... and in a very good way.

      I almost didn't stop because it didn't look like much. You can see it from San Pablo Ave next to the church in the school playground.

      The hot food is inside the gym. The beverages and baked goods are in stands outside.

      The $3 caipirinha is so nice on this hot day. The older gentleman making them was quite into making sure the lime and sugar were crushed just right. He puts it in a plastic glass, fillls it 3/4 the way with cachaca, rinses out the cup that he crushed the lime with sugar with a little more cachaca, adds that to the drink and puts in a few ice cubes.

      Sitting outside on this sunny day, drink in hand and listening to live Brazilian music was quite pleasant.

      Don't miss the sweets. The tiny bon bon sized baked goods are 3 for $2. One was beyond excellent with a toasted coconut topping on a thick condensed milk pudding.Many have the consistancy of raw cookie dough. There's flan, the best looking Brazilian cakes I've ever seen, candy and a sweet bread whose name I don't remember..

      I also caught some Brazilian cheese bread hot from the oven. I was watching the two Brazilian ladies make these and hung around until they walked outside carrying a large tray to the baked good stand. They are $1 and have a yeasty, crackly crust with an oozy cheese filling. Must be eaten hot. If they are not hot when you buy them, re-heat in a toaster oven at home

      Inside there is

      Galinhada $8
      Feijoada $10
      Cozinha $3
      Pastel (cheese or ground beef and potato) $3
      Pamhona (sweet or salty) $4

      There's a big pot of oil bubbling oil where pastels are fried four at a time. These are large flakey fried squares filled with ground beef and a few potatoes. Recommended. I didn't try the cheese.

      The feijoada is the real deal and wonderful

      The black beans have lots of pieces of sausage and piggy parts such as ears and tails that are long stewed with an almost velvety gelatenous goodness. Sucking the pieces of meat/skin that barely clung to the bone was similar to enjoying the rich, soft, luciousness of bone marrow.

      It comes with bright, fresh, julienned collard greens, white rice, tasty orange slices and farofa that tasted as if it had been browned in lard. It perfumed the car on the drive home with bacony aroma. You can ask to have the feijoada packed to go.

      Galinhada is a rice dish with corn and bone-in chicken. It is like a Brazilian paella. Golden with saffron it has corn mixed into the rice. This came with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes with green onion and green pepper. I wasn't going to get it, but one Brazilian lady sits down at the table, takes a bite and says to her husband "this is very good". It is.

      I'm a little burned out on tamales right now so even though the Brazilian version, pamhona, was good, it wasn't my favorite thing. I got the sweet corn tamale which was very corny, sweet and moist. Didn't try the salty version.

      Anyway, if you have a chance to get down there before 4 it is worth it.

      Almost all the food at St. John's ethnic festivals has been top notch. The Nigerean Yam Festival is coming up next and the food for that one is free. There is a charge for the Nigerean beverages.

      4 Replies
      1. re: rworange

        rworange, was that the same Brazilian cheese bread sold at the Lake Merritt Farmers' Market? I'm blanking on the name of that one, unfortunately. Were there more flavors? The LMFM has a few, including bacon.

          1. re: casalbore spirit

            I meant the name of the folks selling the bread...

          2. re: pockyjunkie

            No. This was made from scratch. The ladies had a big bowl of dough and cheese. while I was eating the pastel, I watched while the ladies chatted and rolled the pao de queijo with their hands. Of course I had to stick around to try one of those hot from the oven.

            It was all great food. Well worth it to stop by next year. Everything was made by the Brazilian parishioners. Sometimes homemade food isn't all that. These people did an exceptional job.