Mar 17

Junta Local – A food event in Rio that actually works!

junta-local-eat-rio

I’ve had some very disappointing experiences with culinary events held in Rio. Not long after we moved to Santa Teresa, Mrs Eat Rio and I were really excited to hear that there was a kind of ‘eating market’ event being held in the nearby neighbourhood of Lapa. Various restaurants and other food producers would be selling small dishes at stalls – it sounded like the perfect way to sample lots of different dishes/ingredients and simultaneously have a fun and gluttonous day out. In short: just my cup of tea.

We skipped down the hill with empty stomachs and high expectations. Then we saw the line and our hearts sank. There must have been nearly 500 people waiting, the line snaking up through the Lapa Arches and then doing that miserable switch-back thing that tells you you won’t be getting in any time soon. With the heat of the afternoon sun beating down on us, we decided to find our culinary entertainment elsewhere.

Fast forward to late 2014 and the culinary events that everyone was talking about revolved around one thing: an exciting ‘new’ concept called Food Trucks. It may have taken a while for food trucks to reach Rio, but the idea still held quite a thrill for me. I was picturing amazing pulled pork buns, kimchi slaws, artisanal beers, kickass cocktails and a million other foodie clichés tasty treats.

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Feb 27

Dangerous fun in the skies over Niterói

santos-dumont-take-off

Long exposure of a plane taking off into the night sky over Guanabara Bay with Niterói in the background.

 

Have you ever had one of those moments when you saw something so weird that you just couldn’t explain it? A few years ago I had such a moment when I was looking out over Guanabara Bay towards Rio’s near neighbour, Niterói. The night sky above the bay is often pretty busy – passenger jets taking off and landing at Santos Dumont airport, helicopters buzzing around, perhaps the odd fireworks display or some beams of light coming up from a concert somewhere. However, on this occasion I spotted something quite different.

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Feb 09

Balas Baianas – ‘sugar glass’ coated coconut candy

Feira-de-rua-Rio

 

Did I ever mention how much I love Rio’s street markets? Hmm, only about 20 times in the last year I suppose… Still, I’m sure that anyone who’s had the pleasure will agree that they’re utterly awesome. I visit these feiras da rua at least 3 or 4 times a week and although most of the markets are fairly similar, there are always a few variations depending on which location/day of the week you happen to be visiting.

One of my favourite markets is held in Glória on Thursdays and that’s all down to the availability of a rather delicious bala (candy / sweet / lolly) (USA / UK / Aus). Regular readers will know that I am not a sweet-toothed person – when it comes to Brazilian ‘classics’ like brigadeiro and quindim, I tend to agree with Jamie Oliver – and yet this item of confectionery has me hooked. It’s a sweet, creamy coconut centre surrounded by a thin, glass-like coating of caramel-candy. Adriana, the woman who sells these balas, calls them Balas de Coco, but that name is also used for another candy which is quite different, so I’ll be sticking with the alternative term, Balas Baianas.

In the interests of being self-sufficient, I decided to have a go at making these sweets myself and it turns out they’re not that tricky.

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Jan 30

Thanks for nothing

eat-rio-front-page

A sneak peek at the new Eat Rio site! Coming soon soonish…

 

Afternoon all! Well, the new website is coming along nicely, but I’ve pretty much given up on the idea that it could be ready in time for carnival. In the meantime we’ll all just have to make do with the current, somewhat ‘busy’, layout.

Normally at this time of year I have just one thing on my mind: Carnival. The official start of carnival is just 2 weeks away, but there are already plenty of pre-carnival events going on such as technical rehearsals at the Sambodrome on weekends and various blocos dotted around town. With carnival come turistas, most of them estrangeiros and as most of these foreign tourists don’t speak Portuguese, they have a bit of a challenge on their hands.

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Jan 20

Taking Brazilian cuisine to New York with #SkypeMoments

skypemoments-dinner-nyc

Ah well, so much for my high hopes of two posts on a Friday. I was actually kept very busy on Friday night by a rather exciting project. For anyone who hasn’t read my previous posts on the subject, some time ago I became Skype’s ‘Brand Ambassador’ for food. They have quite a few different Brand Ambassadors – travel, photography, sports and film to name a few (see the full list here).

In the build-up to Christmas, the good people at Skype got Frank Bell (Skype’s Music Ambassador) and me together to come up with a plan. The idea was to stage some kind of fundraising event that would involve music and food as part of Skype’s ‘Social Good‘ project. We eventually decided to host a dinner party at Haven’s Kitchen in New York. Frank would be performing live, both on his own and also accompanied by a collaborator over Skype. I was given the task of designing the menu for the night and Skyping in to oversee the preparation on the night and also to say hello to the guests.

Of course I’ve put menus together in the past – I guess every time any of us have guests over for a meal we have to decide on a series of things to eat, right? But this was a different proposition. My menu was going to be prepared by a professional chef (David Mawhinney) and his team and served to around 40 influential New Yorkers who had been selected to attend the event. I was definitely feeling the pressure.

Chef-David-Mawhinney

David Mawhinney of Haven’s Kitchen doing his thing.

I decided to opt for a menu inspired by Brazilian cuisine – I have always thought that many of Brazil’s best dishes are better suited to chilly winters than stifling summer heat, so New York in the depths of winter seemed perfect. Here is the final menu:

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Jan 16

A Chowzter Balti Mission in Birmingham

Balti-Birmingham

 

To finish off the tales of our recent trip to England, I wanted to tell you about an unexpected culinary adventure that took Mrs Eat Rio and me to Britain’s second most populous city: Birmingham.

A couple of things to quickly say about Birmingham. Firstly, unlike its Alabama namesake, you don’t pronounce the “h” when saying the city’s name (here’s how it’s done - North American visitors: learn this before you arrive to avoid ridicule). Secondly, despite the recent report from satirical news agency, Fox News, non-Muslims are very welcome in the city. This is a constant source of relief to the 79% of Birmingham’s residents who are in fact non-Muslim themselves…

It was almost 2 years ago that I first met Jeffrey Merrihue, founder of Chowzter. Before long he had signed me up to curate the Chowzter list for Rio. I also do occasional writing jobs for them and take part in their awards events. Jeffrey is one of those people who is described by many as ‘larger than life’ – full to bursting with ideas and enthusiasm, particularly when it comes to great food from across the world. Jeffrey left his home in the US years ago and today lives in London, so when he heard we were in town he came up with a typically crazy plan. We would go on a Balti Mission to Birmingham.

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Jan 09

Christmas Culinary Adventures in London

sloane-square-christmas

 

Hi everyone! Remember me? Well I wouldn’t blame you if you’d forgotten all about Eat Rio – it’s been a shameful 4 weeks since my last post. I’ve never left it that long before and such a long hiatus deserves an explanation. How about tell you what’s been going on since this time last month?

 

Eat Rio Food Tours

eat-rio-food-tours

Going from strength to strength. Eat Rio Food Tours are currently sitting at #14 in TripAdvisor’s list of activities in Rio!

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Dec 12

Interruptions and Interjections

interruptions

 

When I first arrived in Rio, I naively thought that once I had a good grasp of Portuguese my communication woes would be over. What I went on to discover is that the actual language is just part of the challenge. The rules of conversation here are quite different.

While a certain amount of interruption is common in English, I found that Cariocas take the art of interruption to new heights. These interruptions were pretty annoying at first – I would be trying to describe some event or experience but the person I was talking to wouldn’t let me finish a sentence! And even when the person I was talking to was listening attentively, someone else would come along and barge in with their own topic with little regard for the fact that we were already speaking about something else!

I later found that Cariocas (this may or may not apply to Brazilians in general) have a suite of verbal tricks to counteract the constant interruptions:

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Dec 11

Ferro e Farinha returns!

ferro-e-farinha

 

To say that Rio is not known for good pizza is a bit like saying that Manchester is not known for sunny weather (sorry Mancunians!). Cariocas have a strange habit of eating their pizza with sachets of tomato ketchup or even (gasp) mustard – that’s how bad pizza in Rio is! One of the biggest complaints about Carioca pizzas is that they are topped with way too much (bad) cheese and not enough tomato sauce (perhaps that explains the ketchup?).

I used to wonder whether perhaps Cariocas just liked their pizza that way. Perhaps they didn’t want decent pizza? Well, just over a year ago, Sei Shiroma and his Ferro e Farinha team came along and disproved that little hypothesis. I wrote about Ferro e Farinha back in September 2013 when they were just getting going and the response I had to that post (it is still one of my all time most-read posts) made me realise that people in Rio (locals and expats alike) were crying out for a better quality pizza.

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Dec 01

A solution for Santa Teresa while we wait for the Bondinho

santa-teresa-bonde

Anyone who has visited Rio’s Santa Teresa neighbourhood over the last 3 years may have been a little confused. The picturesque streets that trace the area’s steep hills and hairpin bends are covered in tracks, yet the Santa Teresa tram has not been seen here since August 2011. Instead you see posters on walls and stickers in car windows showing the image above.

Back when I first moved to Rio, the tram of Santa Teresa, better known as the Bonde or Bondinho, was a major tourist attraction. The bright yellow wooden tram cars were rickety but pretty and made for an utterly charming way to get around Santa Teresa. However, although tourists and locals flocked to the trams, all was not well.

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