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The Taste of Brazil

With the soccer World Cup just days away, we've got our sights set on host country Brazil.

You might not be able to travel there in time for the first matches on Thursday, but perhaps one of our local Brazilian hotspots might make you feel like you’re there.

Brazil native Paula DaSilva — executive chef of 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale and runner-up from Season 5 of the reality show, "Hell's Kitchen" — gave us her favorite South Florida spots where she finds traditional comfort foods and drinks.

DaSilva immigrated at age 7 to Boston, where her parents opened a restaurant. When she turned 14, the family moved to Boca Raton and opened a new Brazilian restaurant in Pompano Beach. The kitchen became her after-school playground.

"I didn't have a choice," says DaSilva, 35. "After school they needed help, and we would go and help."

In the beginning, she cleaned vegetables and picked out bad grains of beans, but soon she was cooking complicated dishes on the stove. At 18, she enrolled in The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and began her solo career.

Casa do Pastel

430 E. Sample Road, Pompano Beach, 954-781-8778

Similar to an empanada, a pastel is stuffed with sweet or salty fillings (think ground beef, chicken, cheese, guava, dulce de leche and chocolate). The main difference is in the pastel dough, which is thinner and crispier. Casa do Pastel offers 41 flavors.

"Not all places do it well, this place here does it really well," DaSilva said. "They do a great job making it fresh."

Restaurante Brasil

23160 Sandalfoot Plaza Drive, Boca Raton (561-487-2860), 843 Sample Road, Pompano Beach (954-781-3414),

The highlight of this traditional self-service eatery: the meat, including steak, chicken, pork and homemade sausage. Here, you choose food from a buffet and pay according to plate weight. DaSilva praised the picanha, a different cut of top sirloin. "It has a nice tender fat cap on top, which gives it an extremely great flavor," she said.

Casa do Pão

22829 N. State Road 7, Boca Raton, 561-852-8390,

Make sure you have an empty stomach before entering this Brazilian bakery because the options are endless. DaSilva's faves: traditional cheese bread, and fruitcake, made with layers of fresh fruits and homemade whipped cream. "If you want to look for fresh pastries, beautiful breads or desserts for you to take to your next party, this is really the place to come and get it," DaSilva said.

Chima Brazilian Steakhouse

2400 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 954-712-0580,

DaSilva chose this spot specifically for its caipirinha. Also known as the Brazilian mojito, a caipirinha is made with fresh lime, sugar, ice and topped with cachaça. DaSilva's tip: This is what you should be drinking while watching World Cup matches. "This is really one of my favorite places here in South Florida to get this national drink that, unless you flew to Brazil, you're only going to get it here.", @babicorb or 954-356-4710

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