Monthly Archive: April 2013

Apr 30

Comida di Buteco 2013

What a busy weekend we had! We managed to visit no less than four of the bars participating in this year’s Comida di Buteco competition. I like this competition for a few reasons: it stimulates creativity and competition between bars; it encourages people to support these local small businesses; it’s a great way to discover new bars; it gives me an excuse to go out and eat, drink and be merry with Mrs Eat Rio in the name of ‘research’.

As I understand it, bars don’t just choose to participate in Comida di Buteco – they are invited - and it looks like it gives a serious boost to business. All the bars we visited were packed full of happy customers enthusiastically evaluating the petiscos, cervejas and caipirinhas on offer. Here’s a little taste of how things went…

 

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Botero

Bar: This must be the perfect example of the ‘CdB Effect’ in terms of discovering new places. Botero opened last August but none of my fellow drinking companions had heard of it until it was listed in the competition. Clearly this place is no secret though as it was packed on Friday night. Even though it was really busy, the waitress brought our drinks quickly and even pulled over a beer crate so we had somewhere to put them while we waited for a table. MAP

Dish: Three pairs of bruschettas, one topped with shredded beef rib, one with linguiça and herbs and one with a tiny fried quail egg. Seriously delicious, I scored it 9 (out of 10).

Photo by Marcos Pinto

Photo: Marcos Pinto

 

Overall: I really liked this place – we tried a couple of other things from the menu and they were seriously good. This could be my new favourite local bar!

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Apr 26

Brazilian Brands: Diamante Negro

What is it about chocolate that inspires such adoration? I’m sure you’ve all seen those articles in which “scientists say” all kinds of things about chocolate (it releases endorphins, is good for your heart, etc). But on top of all that science stuff, I think many of us are more than a little sentimental about chocolate aren’t we? I for one could talk for hours about the various chocolate bars and confectionery of my youth (don’t get me started on the infamous case of the shrinking Curly Wurly).

You can gauge the amount of love there is for a product by the intensity of longing that exists among expats who can’t get hold of it anymore (personally I obsess over Marmite, HP Sauce and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk). I wonder how many Brazilians living abroad have saudade for  today’s Brazilian Brand.

 

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Diamante Negrodiamante-negro

Name: Diamante Negro.

Product: Chocolate.

Description: This chocolate bar goes back a long way and (surprise surprise, this being Brazil!) it has a football connection. In 1938, the World Cup was being held in France. Germany had just invaded Austria (the Anschluss even extended to the football teams, leaving the tournament one team short!), but for French journalist Raymondo Thourmagem, the story of the tournament was a Brazilian player, Leônidas da Silva. Thourmagem was so impressed with Leônidas that he dubbed him the Diamante Negro (Black Diamond) and the name stuck.

Lacta, a Brazilian chocolate manufacturer, opportunistically decided to rename their chocolate bar after the great player and again, the name stuck. They came up with a rather nice slogan too: “Viver é bom, com Diamante Negro é melhor” (To live is good, with Black Diamond it’s better).

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Apr 23

Igreja da Penha

At the start of one of my first trips out of Rio, we were driving through the North Zone of the city when we passed a rather amazing sight. Luckily for me (kind of) we simultaneously hit a traffic jam, so there was plenty of time to get a photograph.

Igreja-da-penha

Crepuscular rays shining down on the twin steeples of Igreja da Penha.

 

What a striking sight: a church with 2 steeples, perched on top of a huge rock, seemingly surrounded by favelas. My curiosity was well and truly piqued.

Time passed, other things came up, and Igreja da Penha remained one of those places I kept meaning to visit. Until recently!

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Apr 19

Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Goodnight!

Good morning everyone! Hmm, a time-of-day specific salutation like ‘good morning’ doesn’t make much sense on a blog page that can be read in any time-zone and at any time of day after it’s been published does it? Here in Brazil, time-of-day-specific salutations come in 3 flavours:

Bom dia (sounds like ‘bown JEE-ya’) – Good morning

Boa tarde (sounds like ‘boa TAHR-je’) – Good afternoon

Boa noite (sounds like ‘boa NOY-tche’) – Good night

 

And already I’ve run into trouble. “Bom dia” literally means ‘good day’, but it is used in the way that English speakers say ‘good morning’ (i.e. not used after midday). Also, I’ve translated “boa noite” as ‘good night’, but it is also used in the way that English speakers would say ‘good evening’. Everyone still with me?

Back in England I know instinctively when to switch from ‘good afternoon’ to ‘good evening’ – around 5.30pm – but here in Brazil, I am far less sure about when to make the switch from ‘Boa tarde’ to ‘Boa noite’.

For some reason it always seems to be taxi drivers who correct me when I get it wrong (and they appear to take great pleasure in doing so I might add!). However, seeing as several taxi drivers have wished me ‘bom dia’ at just a few minutes past midnight, I’m not sure I’m going to take too many lessons from them!

 

Taxista-carioca

The Carioca taxi driver. The caption that goes with this image says “he drives with his elbow out the window, pretends the air conditioning has broken down [TL: they always do this!] and definitely doesn’t believe that a straight line is the shortest path between two points!”. See the original post (in Portuguese) here it’s pretty funny!

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Apr 16

Salve Jorge!

It’s been a while since our last music post, so I thought that today we could start with something topical from the legendary Caetano Veloso (bonus points if you can work out why it’s topical).

 

Caetano is a huge name in Brazilian music and deserves a post (at least one!) all to himself.

 

My first Portuguese teacher played that song to me during one of my first lessons. It’s a nice song for someone learning Portuguese as Caetano sings very clearly and the lyrics include some great words such as the rather magnificent sounding deslumbrante (gorgeous/glamorous/stunning).

So, apart from it just being a great song, did any of you work out why I picked that particular track? It’s because in exactly a week it will be St George’s Day, or as they say here in Brazil, Dia de São Jorge.

Back in England there has been a campaign simmering away for years in the (mostly right wing) press to make the day of St George (England’s patron saint) a public holiday. Well, what The Daily Mail, Rupert Murdoch’s media empire and a host of far right organisations haven’t been able to achieve in England, has been a reality here in Rio for years – 23rd April is a public holiday.

Saint-George

“Take that ya dragon!”. George absolutely hated dragons and did his bit to ensure that dragon populations were kept under control in 3rd century Turkey.

 

It’s not just the English and Cariocas who have love for St George. He is also the patron saint of Georgia, Portugal, Malta, Beirut, Preston, the Boy Scouts of America and people suffering from skin diseases and syphilis!

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Apr 13

Photo Post: Crazy flowers

I spotted these crazy flowers when we were in Petrópolis a few weeks ago. To be honest with you I have no idea what they’re called, whether they are indigenous to Brazil or anything else. The flower starts off as a simple, lantern-like pink capsule, but later on this opens up to reveal sections 2 and 3.

I’ve put these second and third sections in expanding panels below so you don’t see all the images at once – just click the panel text to open it up.

Here is the first capsule:

 

crazy-flowers

Looks like a fairly simple little thing doesn’t it? A bit like a chinese lantern crossed with a cherry (or something).

 

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Apr 12

Brazilian Portuguese Tom

He tossed the coin up and I called “Heads!” – he looked down and the expression that appeared on his face told me I’d lost. My friend and I were 18, travelling round New Zealand and had just decided which of us was going to make a rather awkward phone call.

One of us had to call up the bus company and arrange a spot on the bus that was coming through town the next day. The problem was that we were staying in a town called Whakapapa.

whakapapa-tongariro

Whakapapa is in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. Like much of New Zealand, it is spectacular. Source

 

“Er… so what? Just call up and tell them you’re in Whakapapa!” I expect you’re thinking. Well we had just read in our guide book that the Maori pronunciation of the letters “Wha” should sound like “Fu”. Seriously? One of us had to phone up a stranger and say all bright and breezy: “Hi there! Can I book two seats on the bus from Fuckapapa tomorrow?”.

Looking back I can’t think why we were so reluctant to make the call, but as slightly timid 18 year olds I guess neither of us felt very confident about this whole “Fuckapapa” thing (was that really the proper way to say it?). For the record, I made the call, I pronounced it “Fuckapapa” and the woman on the phone didn’t bat an eyelid! (As a footnote to this story, I just did a little search on Whakapapa and found I’m not the only one who has issues with the name!)

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When you’re not familiar with a language, it can be tricky to get the pronunciation right. In Portuguese, my name (Tom) means ‘tone’ which seems quite appropriate because although it is spelt the same, it sounds very different to its English equivalent. I discovered this the hard way when I first got to Brazil.

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Apr 08

The price of tomatoes in Brazil

Something rather strange is going on around here right now. Everyone is taking about tomatoes! Specifically, everyone is talking about how the price of tomatoes in Brazil has gone through the roof! Here’s an example:

diamond-tomato

Precious crop. “I was going to buy you a diamond ring, but preferred to buy you a tomato.”

 

And this was the situation in a supermarket in Rio last night:

expensive-tomatoes

R$12.79/kg tomatoes. This converts to US $6.43/kg or approx $3 for a pound of tomatoes.

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Apr 05

Cachaça de jambú!

I’m feeling pretty excited today – not only is it Friday, but I’ve just discovered the existence of Cachaça de Jambú! We looked at jambú before when I told you about Tacacá, the soup from the Amazon that makes your lips and tongue go numb (surely one of Brazil’s weirdest dishes).

Jambú is an Amazonian herb that gives tacacá its anaesthetic property. It looks rather like a weed, with straggly stems and strange yellow/red pom-pom flowers.

Jambú

The Jambú plant in flower.

 

In Brazil’s northern states (such as Pará and Amazonas) the leaves and flowers of this plant are added to soups and stews. It has quite a nice flavour actually but it’s the strong numbing, tingly effect that really sets it apart from other greens.

 

And now they’re putting it in cachaça! I should be clear here, I haven’t tried it yet but you can be sure i’ll be doing my best to hunt it down at the earliest opportunity!

I heard about cachaça de jambú from this article in Folho de São Paulo. To be honest I don’t know much about it – is the practice of adding jambú to cachaça a new thing or have people been doing it for years? From what I can tell it is made by simply infusing regular cachaça with jambú leaves.

cachaça-de-jambú

Mmmm, Cachaça de Jambú. Image from Folha de São Paulo.

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Apr 03

Rio Buses: Accidents waiting to happen

As someone who uses Rio buses every day, this is a rant that has been building up for a while. I started writing this last night and finished it off this morning. 

Back in November last year I found myself waiting for the bus after work. It had been a long day in the office and by the time I got to the bus stop it was already dark. At that time of night, with steady traffic, my journey home would take around 2 hours.

I waited and waited, watching eagle-eyed for my bus. It is important to stay alert when waiting for buses in Rio. If you don’t pay attention, a bus can easily fly past – they won’t stop if you don’t stick your arm out and at the crazy speeds they travel you can blink and miss one. On top of this, some buses just don’t stop – this is incredibly frustrating, especially when you’ve waited a long time and you’re at the start of a long slog home.

On this particular occasion I had waited about 25 minutes when my bus finally came into view. The guy in front stuck his arm out at the same time as me and we both frantically waved, willing the bus to slow. At the last possible moment the driver slammed on the breaks and pulled to a halt about 3 bus lengths past the stop. We both turned and ran along the dark road to get to the open doors of the bus.

The other guy had run on in front of me and jumped up into the bus first, but as I was jumping in through the open doors behind him, I realised that the bus driver, oblivious to my presence, had already started to pull away, accelerating hard. I was half in the bus with my left hand on the bright yellow hand rail but the other half of my body was still outside the bus. The acceleration of the bus slammed me into the side of the doors that were still open. As the bus picked up speed I clung on desperately with my left hand and tried to swing the rest of my body in while the bus continued to accelerate. It was touch and go for a moment and I came very close to falling out on to the road and possibly under the wheels of the bus.

After a few of seconds I managed to grab onto the hand rail with my right hand and pull myself in. I was in a dazed state of shock as I stumbled up the stairs, past the surprised driver. I paid the attendant and pushed my way through the turnstile. As I sat down I realised that I had just come very close to having a very serious accident. The bus driver was shouting something back at me and although I couldn’t make out the words, I got the impression from his defensive tone that he was telling me it was my fault. It was only after I had sat down that he pulled the lever to close the doors.

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Fast forward to tonight, 2nd April 2013, and I’m waiting at my bus stop again. A few hours ago I heard the news that a bus had fallen off an overpass in Rio’s Zona Norte, killing at least 7 people and injuring who knows how many more. The full details aren’t in yet, but it sounds like this accident was caused by an argument/fight between a passenger and the driver, possibly because the bus was going so fast that it had missed the passenger’s stop. Reports from the survivors say the bus was travelling at high speed and several passengers actually got off the bus before the crash because they were afraid of the situation.

Rio-bus-crash

The Rio bus crash of 2nd April 2013. Vanderlei Almeida / AFP – Getty Images

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