Tag Archives: Rio

Rio bites

Of course one form of tourism which can be enjoyed whatever the weather is the gastronomic variety. We packed a lot of food & drink into our time in Rio, including:

Açai
I’m starting to develop an addiction to this delicious, refreshing dish. The dark purple “superfood” berry from the Amazon is frozen and then blended along with another native fruit, guarana, to make a smooth, sorbet like dish which is eaten with a spoon. You can get lots of extras mixed in to make all sorts of interesting and nutritious snacks, like granola, bananas, honey, ginseng etc. The stained, Joker-esque mouth you’re left with is all part of the fun. London needs this!

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Chlorophyll
Mark’s “suco” or fresh juice of choice. Faintly medicinal taste, like mouthwash, but he swears he can feel it doing him good.

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Bolinhos and caipirinhas

Man, caipirinhas here are STRONG. The combo of caçhaca, lime and sugar sounds basic but something magical must happen when they get together. Halfway through my second I was swearing that I had never had so delicious a cocktail but frankly I was too pissed to make a sound judgement (still, win win). Bolinhos are a classic Brazilian bar snack ideal for lining the stomach and soaking up the booze – hot fritters with a variety of fillings e.g. salt cod or shrimp, not unlike arancini.

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Here’s an awesome sandwich which also helped mop up excess cachaça:

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Churrascaria and picanha

The Churrascaria Palace (http://www.churrascariapalace.com) was recommended to us by our new friend Chris, a Londoner who moved to Rio some years ago. Dozens of waiters crowd around, brandishing giant swords or trolleys holding chicken thighs, sausage, various cuts of beef, lamb, pork, chicken hearts and more. Meanwhile you can help yourself to all sorts of salads, sushi, sashimi, oysters, hot dishes like moqueca (seafood stew). The highlight was Brazil’s favourite cut of beef, picanha, which is juicy, fatty and flavourful.

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Pão queijo

Little balls of cheesy bread served everywhere as a classic snack or accompaniment to coffee. Chris told us a funny story; “pão” pronounced the Portuguese way (sounds something like a nasal “powng” means bread. “Pao” is slang for cock, so you get a lot of tourists asking for cheesy cock, fresh cock, hot cock etc.

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Fruit

Açai is just the start; the sheer variety and quality of fruit available in Brazil is staggering. I literally skipped with glee around market stalls carrying mouthwatering piles of familiar (yet, obviously, far more fragrant and tempting than in the UK): mango, guava, papaya as well as Amazonian specialties I had never seen before such as fresh cashew fruit.

Tapioca

Brazilians make crepe like pancakes with tapioca and stuff it with cheese, ham and sweet fillings like chocolate and banana for a snack.

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Confeteria Colombo

This 19th century Belle Époque cafe in the heart of Rio’s Centro district is such a must-see that the road signs direct you to it. The high ceilings, large mirrors and vast glass cabinets holding fine crockery, bottles and cakes provide a grand setting for coffee. Or in our case, an ice cream dish topped with “threaded egg yolk” which was a bit like custard noodles.

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All you can eat/per kilo

At these places, quality varies enormously but quantities are always enormous. I may well be too, by the time I return to the UK…

Writing from Salvador where after just 24 hours we have sampled several Bahian specialties – update to come soon!

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Rio sights

After flying long haul from LHR, Mark and I had just three full days in Rio de Janeiro before we headed off to Salvador, Brazil’s former capital in the north east of the country, in time for Carnaval.

In those three days we had just one brief afternoon of the glorious blue skies and scorching heat we dreamt of to keep us going through a dreary, grey, rainy British winter. The rest of the time we experienced a dreary, grey, rainy Brazilian summer.

Sorry to be so British and harp on about the weather, but it really showed how something as simple as rain or shine can set the tone for a whole city. Gloomy drizzle seemed to turn the bright, upbeat attitude of typical “Cariocas” down a notch. People make fun of Brits for whipping off their tops and dusting off the barbecues as soon as the clouds part but I’m sure most cultures would be the same if they battled with that climate. Conversely, Ipanema beach was deserted at the first sign of less than perfect weather and the volleyball-playing body beautiful crowds returned as soon as it was restored.

Luckily the vivid colours of Escadariade Selarón are vibrant even under clouds. A Chilean artist has covered around 215 steps with thousands of tiles from around the world, including Kazakhstan evidently. Niiiiice!

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Many of Rio’s sights depend on clear weather to ensure the famous views are at their most stunning. Unfortunately, this was our view from the top of Corcovado, home of the iconic Christ the Redeemer:

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(The map in the foreground helpfully shows us what we should have been looking at. Ha bloody ha.)

Although we did get to see the statue’s face and a tiny sliver of the bay below when a chink in the clouds momentarily appeared:
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We fared a bit better from the top of Pão de Açúcar, Sugar Loaf – no pink and orange sunset but when the sky darkened, the lights from the city below gradually flickered on, twinkling prettily:

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Mark made a friend

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Best of all was where we found ourselves during the few hours of bright sunshine and blue skies, the top of the Vidigal favela above Ipanema beach. This favela has been pacified so it was very safe to visit – although the motorbike taxis to get us to the top and back down again, not so much…)

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And the paradisiacal Jardim Botanico, where I embraced my inner hippy and hugged a vast tree:

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We will probably return to Rio in a few weeks to experience more than just three days of such a unique city – and will hopefully get a chance to revisit some of the sights in perfect conditions.

For now we are looking forward to an amazing Carnaval in Salvador – we found out that Psy is in town so we will be doing the Gangnam Style dance with a few hundred thousand others on the beach front tomorrow – YES!!

(Note: after much debate, we decided Salvador would be the setting for our first ever Brazilian Carnaval experience; the more laid back, street party spirit of celebrations in the Bahia region had more appeal than the expensive and enclosed Sambadromo in Rio – although one day a return visit to experience both is a must! We arrived in Salvador yesterday – update to come soon.)