Oct 01

Recipe: Bolinhos de Abóbora com Carne Seca

Bolinhos-de-feijoada

Bolinhos de feijoada from Aconchego Carioca

 

Did I ever tell you how much I love bolinhos? When I was first introduced to these little balls of joy, I assumed the word meant just that: little balls. In fact bolinho is the diminutive of bolo, the Portuguese word for cake, so really these are ‘little cakes’, but a better translation would be ‘fritter’ or ‘croquette’. Whatever you call them, bolinhos are hugely popular in Brazil. There are quite a few bars in Rio that owe pretty much all their popularity to their bolinhos.

The photo above shows bolinhos de feijoada from Aconchego Carioca. This is a bolinho version of Brazil’s best-loved dish, feijoada: black bean purée on the outside, shredded couve and bacon in the middle, all encased in a delightfully crispy shell. Along with a helping hand from Claude Troisgros, these bolinhos really put this restaurant on the map. Other bars and restaurants in Rio for bolinho lovers to visit include Bracarense in Leblon and Bar do Gomez in Santa Teresa:

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Sep 23

Coconuts asking for directions

HortiFruti-Coco

“Stop being stubborn and ask someone for directions”

 

Ah, good old Hortifruti adverts. Whether they’re making excellent fruit-based movie puns or racist controversial accent-based puns, they always give me something to think about. Their latest offering covers relatively safe ground – speaking for myself, I know I’m often guilty of being a cabeça dura (literally ‘hard head’, though ‘stubborn’ would be a better translation) when it comes to asking for directions.

But people with cabeça dura living in Rio should really take Mrs Drinking Coconut’s advice – Cariocas still amaze me with their willingness to help out when someone asks for directions. It’s not so much that they’re prepared to help that I find surprising; it’s the lengths to which they’ll go. Imagine yourself in the following scenarios in whichever city you happen to call home:

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Sep 18

Fruits in Brazil: Sapoti and Jenipapo

One of the most exciting aspects of Brazilian food is the wide range of little known fruit. From the moment I first crossed into Brazil from Colombia, I encountered strange fruits and berries that I had never seen or even heard of before. Words like Bacurí, Muricí and Cupuaçú jumbled about in my head after a visit to a market in Manaus. Although it’s not quite so easy to get hold of the exotic Amazonian fruits here in Rio, they do show up from time to time in the street markets (another good place to look is Hortifruti) and whenever I see something new, I try it.

I visit Rio’s street markets at least twice a week and there is almost always this one stall, run by a rather grumpy old guy, which has the weird items. A few days ago I visited the grumpy stall and picked up two fruits that are pretty interesting: Sapoti and Jenipapo.

 

Sapoti (aka Sapodilla)

Sapoti-Sapodilla

 

For all I know, I have been walking past these Sapoti (sounds like ‘sappo-chee’) fruit for years without noticing them and you can hardly blame me can you? As fruit go, these dull brown, tennis-ball sized spheres don’t exactly jump out and say ‘eat me!’ do they?

Better known as Sapodilla or Níspero in their native range of Southern Mexico and Central America, Sapoti (Manilkara zapota) grow on large, evergreen trees. The ripe fruit are firm and when cut open release a delicious sweet fragrance.

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Sep 12

Osso: Meat Mecca in Lima

Osso-lima

 

My recent trip to Lima only lasted 5 days, yet it was so full of highlights that it felt like I was away for a month. Within minutes of arriving, I had dumped my bags at the hotel and was heading to Mistura for a day of serious eating with Mijune (aka Follow Me Foodie) and David (one of the head honchos at Chowzter). Over the following days we attended the Chowzter Latin America Awards, were treated to a personal chat with king of Peruvian food, Gastón Acurio, and ate and drank our way across some of the city’s finest restaurants, bars, street food stands and markets. Lima really is a food-lover’s paradise and not to be missed if you get the chance.

I am always mesmerised by all the amazing seafood in Lima, but on this occasion the two high-points of the trip centred on meat. Today I’ll tell you about my trip to Osso.

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Sep 05

Mistura 2014 & the Chowzter Latin America Awards

sandwich-chicharron-el-chinito

Chicharron sandwich from Lima restaurant El Chinito. Pork, sweet potato and ceviche-style red onions. One of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter.

 

Hola from Lima everyone! I jetted in yesterday on a very unglamorous 4am flight from Rio and stopped in my hotel just long enough to dump my bags before heading off the Mistura, Latin America’s biggest and best food festival. Yesterday I overheard a first time visitor to Mistura saying “This place is just amazing. I didn’t realise it was on my bucket list until I got here!”. I know exactly what they mean – if you’re looking for a huge, rich, delicious, fascinating food experience, Mistura should be on your list too.

This is my second visit and it is proving to be just as enjoyable and interesting as last time. In just a few hours I ate and drank my way through upwards of 35 dishes yesterday. I know that sounds shameful/gluttonous/amazing (depending on how you feel about excess), but I should quickly point out that many of those 35 ‘dishes’ were in fact small tastes of something delicious, rather than full-blown plates of food.

I don’t want to be down on Rio, but the recent Rio Gastronomia event has a long way to go before it approaches the heights of Mistura. I have a hard drive full of mouthwatering photos, but not enough time to show you everything, so I’ll just give you a little amuse bouche for now.

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Sep 03

Proof that British food isn’t terrible

British-cheese

 

A little while back, Jamie Oliver stirred up a whole lot of trouble (while hungover) by describing brigadeiro and quindim (Brazilian sweets) as “a load of old shit” on Brazilian TV. A little while later, Andrew Creelman over at “What About São Paulo?” asked the question Why do some Brazilians think British food is shit? Andrew’s question was partly prompted by Jamie’s ‘foot-in-mouth’ moment and partly because plenty of Brazilians (and other nationalities) have a poor view of British food.

It’s interesting how personally we take criticism of our food, regardless of where we’re from – when I read comments like “Sorry, but British food is disgusting” I can’t help but feel a pang of indignation, just the same as Brazilians felt miffed that Jamie dissed their sweets.

Quindim

Quindim – not everyone’s cup of tea.

 

In case it wasn’t clear already, I’m a fan of Brazilian food, but in the case of brigadeiro and quindim (a mix of egg yolks, sugar and coconut) I have some sympathy for Jamie. I know there are some foreigners who like those sweets, but to most untrained palettes they taste bland and sickly-sweet. Similarly, I wouldn’t expect anyone to like Marmite if they hadn’t grown up with the stuff. So if anyone feels like saying that Marmite is a load of old shit, be my guest (all the more for me!).

But sweeping statements like “British food is terrible” (or “Brazilian food is terrible” for that matter) are generally made by mischievous people who are looking for a rise, or who haven’t had the pleasure of tasting the best the country has to offer. I’ve defended Brazilian food in the past, so today I’m just going to put forward 2 examples in support of British food.

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Aug 29

Amazon Beer taste test

Amazon-beer

 

In the previous post we established that there are a growing number of places that stock decent beer in Rio, but what should you order when you get there? Most of the Carioca beer enthusiasts I’ve met seem obsessed with Belgian ales, particularly those with heavy flavours and high alcohol contents. I suppose that if you’re going to spend R$30 ($13) on 330ml of beer, it’s nice to feel that you’re getting some bang for your buck.

When I take guests out on food tours, we taste a few different Brazilian beers including some from the state of Rio and others from further afield, but my favourite by far are the Amazon Beers. Amazon Beer (Cervejaria Amazon) is a brewer located in Belém in the northern state of Pará. They produce a range of 7 beers and a few days ago I decided to taste 3 of them:

Amazon-beer

From left to right – Açaí Stout, Cumaru IPA, Bacuri Forest.

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Aug 27

Where to drink beer in Rio

Amazon-beer

 

 

Beer drinkers coming to Rio may be disappointed at first – many bars and restaurants only serve the lightest of beers such as Brahma, Skol and Antarctica. The near absence of flavour in these beers is primarily due to the use of up to 45% unmalted cereals, primarily corn and rice. This lack of flavour is why Mrs Eat Rio refers to these as ‘beer soda'; some people even debate whether you can honestly call these beverages ‘beer’ at all.

Moving up the food chain a little, the fancier beach kiosks and even some beach vendors are starting to stock Heineken. It might not be a wonder-beer exactly, but it has significantly more flavour and bite than the bog-standard beer sodas.

 

Carioca Beer Enthusiasts

With this background of terrible beer, you might be surprised to hear that during my time in Rio I have met more beer enthusiasts then in any other city. My theory is that if you spend your early drinking years indulging in tasteless budget beers like Itaipava and Nova Schin, then when you finally taste something decent, it blows your mind. I picture an 18 year old Brazilian tasting his/her first Guinness or Duvel, realising that real beer has real depth of flavour and embarking on a journey of beer discovery.

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Aug 25

Anonimundo – Pegheads and Washing Lines

anonimundo-pedra-do-sal

I first became aware of Anonimundo when I visited Pedra do Sal – Rio’s favourite free samba venue (Monday nights). I was having a bit of a look around when I noticed a brilliant piece of art on a broken down old wall (see above). This chirpy little clothes peg figure was playing the guitar whose string was doubling as a clothes line holding shirts spelling out the word ‘samba’. I loved it straight away.

It wasn’t until quite a while later that I saw another piece of work that was clearly by the same artist. This time I was walking the streets of Lapa during one of my Food Tours, when I saw this:

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Aug 15

Brazilian Chillies

Brazilian-chillis

 

Before I get going, I guess I should address the question of spelling. You know those super spicy peppers that make curries hot? Well there are a bunch of different spellings: chili, chile, chilli. According to Wikipedia, the word originates from the Nahuatl word “chīlli”, so I’m going with the chilli / chillies form.

Anyway, a little while back, my friend Patrick from Como Sur put me on to a pretty cool article at the Saveur website – a Chilli Pepper Guide listing more than 40 varieties. It’s pretty cool, with nice pictures and descriptions, but I noticed that only a couple of Brazilian varieties were on the list. Well, in the interests of filling in the blanks, I thought I’d give you my thoughts on a few of those fiery beauties that grace the pimenta stalls of Rio’s street markets.

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