National Hispanic Heritage month started Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 15. The 30-day observance is significant because it covers the anniversaries of independence for Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, México and Nicaragua.
ArgentinaThe cuisine: A fusion of Old World European, Spanish colonial and native Quechua and Hapuche Indian cooking styles and ingredients. Vegetarians tread lightly: This is the high-protein capital of the world — particularly beef.
Order authentic: Empanadas; pizzas; al dente pasta; polenta; quiche; fresh corn tamales; beef stews; malbec wines; dulce de leche — a sweet thick caramel paste for pastries, breads, pancakes, ice cream and other foods — is a national obsession.
Where to sample: Choo Choo Churros, 5810 Lake Underhill Road, Orlando; 407-382-6001.
BrazilThe cuisine: Perhaps one of the most layered of the cuisines with influences from native Amazon Indians, Africa, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lebanon and Syria.
Order authentic: Feijoada, a national bean-and-meat dish; grilled or roasted meats; farofa, a toasted manioc flour used as condiment; linguica, a Portuguese-style sausage; soft cheese bread; caipirinha, Brazil's signature cocktail, made with lime, sugar and cachaça, a potent alcohol distilled from sugar cane.
Where to sample: Texas de Brazil, 5259 International Drive, Orlando, 407-355-0355; Vittorio's, 5159 International Drive, Orlando, 407-352-1255; Brasas Grill, 109 Brevard Ave., Cocoa, 321-638-1338; Pao Gostoso Brazilian Bakery, 5472 International Drive, Orlando, 407-447-8946.
ChileThe cuisine: European cookery blended with that of native Mapuches Indians.
Order authentic: Seafood soups and chowders; meat casseroles topped with creamed corn; bean soups; onion-filled el pequen empanadas; and tamale-like humitas.
Where to sample: While there isn't a designated Chilean restaurant in town, you can find decent bites of the cuisine at Maya Grill in Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, 407-939-3463.
Order authentic: aborrajado, deep fried plantains stuffed with cheese; roscón, a soft and sweet bagel filled with either dulce de leche or guava jam; lechona, mixture of yellow pea purée and pork meat with a side of rice arepa (oreja de perro)and corn; a traditional platter of bandeja paisa con arroz, frijoles, carne asada, chorizo, chicharron, morcilla and huevo y arepa — rice, beans, slab of steak, fried pork skin, black sausage, chorizo, sweet plantains, corn cake and fried egg on top of a mound of white rice; bistec apanada, large breaded, thin-cut steak chimichurri sauce and red beans; sancocho, a popular soup of vegetables and poultry or fish with recipes differing from region to region.
Where to sample: Cafe De Colombia Bakery, 2512 S. Semoran Blvd., Orlando, 407-249-0202; Oh! Que Bueno, 1125 S. Semoran Blvd, Orlando, 407-447-5026; Pio Pio, 2500 S. Semoran Blvd, Orlando; 407-207-2262.
Order authentic: sopa de ajiaco, garlicky beef and potato soup; bistec de palomilla, breaded fried steak with a spritz of lime; lechon, roast pork; cafe con leche, shot of robust coffee augmented by steamed milk; mojo sauces made with oil, garlic, onion, spices such as oregano and bitter orange or lime juice; ropa vieja, shredded beef; Cuban sandwich, a pressed sandwich with sliced roast pork, thinly sliced serrano ham, thinly sliced Swiss cheese, dill pickles and yellow mustard on buttered Cuban bread; medianoche, a Cuban sandwich on a rich challah-style egg bread.
Where to sample: Black Bean Deli, 325 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-628-0294; Habana Grill, 937 W. S.R. 436, Altamonte Springs, 407-682-6834; Rice & Beans Cocina Latina, 504 N. Alafaya Trail, Orlando, 407-380-9962.