Chow Town

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Taste Brazil in Kansas City with fresh coconut water, sugarcane juice

06/25/2014 11:50 AM

If the World Cup has you curious about all things Brazilian, you’re due for a visit to Taste of Brazil.

The colorful, open-air market and cafe at 25 E. 3rd St. in the City Market sells everything from jumbo bags of dried black beans to Havaianas flip flops. A few weeks ago, I popped in for a sandwich — the traditional pork sausage, served on a crusty roll with melty provolone and herb-laced chimichurri — but stayed a little longer to watch a pre-World Cup soccer match on the flatscreen TV while sipping water from a straw stuck in a fresh coconut.

Taste of Brazil’s fresh coconut water ($5) has a mild flavor and just a hint of sweetness. I think it tastes fresher and cleaner than most bottled versions. And who doesn’t love drinking from a real coconut? It makes you feel like you’re at the beach.

After I sipped the last drop from my coconut, a server asked if he wanted me to cut it open so I could get to the coconut flesh inside. I watched as he hacked open the coconut with a sturdy knife and showed me how to scoop out the soft, milky flesh with a curved wedge of shell.

Taste of Brazil’s coconut water has practically become a City Market attraction over the past two months: Owner Marco Rabello says he goes through 700-800 fresh coconuts every weekend.

Rabello sells coconut water from a stand in front of the market. The stand also serves fresh sugarcane juice spiked with fresh lime, ginger or pineapple. Watching the juice being made is almost as fun as drinking it — a worker hacks the woody ends off long sugarcane shoots that look like bamboo, then forces the sugarcane into a commercial juicer that’s as loud as a wood chipper.

The resulting sugarcane juice has a light green color and sweet, fresh flavor. Served over ice, it tastes like nature’s Kool-Aid — and Rabello says it’s gaining popularity, particularly among City Market shoppers who hail from warmer climates where sugarcane grows.

“It’s especially popular with Brazilians, people from Africa, India, Hawaii and Vietnam,” Rabello says.

A 12-ounce cup of sugarcane juice costs $3 at Taste of Brazil.

Thirsty for more Brazilian drinks? Sip on this recipe for a caipirinha, a refreshing lime cocktail made with cachaca, a Brazilian-style rum made with sugarcane.

Contact Sarah Gish via email at sgish@kcstar.com or tweet @sarah_gish.

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