Category Archive: Food and drink

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 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 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 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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Oct 28

Brazilian Recipes: Baião de Dois

baiao-de-dois-ingredients

A few of the things you’ll be needing for today’s recipe for Baião de Dois.

 

Today I am stepping into dangerous territory – I’m going to tell you about one of the classic recipes of Northeast Brazil. Why dangerous? Well try to imagine a beloved recipe from your hometown/region. Now imagine that some idiot from another country comes bumbling along and tries to tell everyone how to make it, but of course the bumbling idiot gets it so, so wrong. So before I get myself into an on-line version of this classic culinary car crash from Keith Floyd, I will quickly attempt to pre-empt outraged complaints by saying that this is just my way of doing it and I accept that true Nordestinos may do it differently.

OK, so with that pusillanimous pre-emptive apology out of the way, let’s get on with it shall we? Baião (sounds a bit like ‘buy-OHWN’) is a style of music and dance from Northeast Brazil (if you’d like some extra Nordestino atmosphere, why not have Luiz Gonzaga sing Baião in the background while you read the rest of the post?). So if “Baião de Dois” is a dance for two, then who are the principal protagonists in this culinary caper? You guessed it – Mr Rice and Mrs Beans:

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Oct 18

Manguinhas – another reason to visit your local feira

mango-manga

 

Here’s a little factiod for you: while many fruits have evolved bright colours to attract birds (birds have excellent colour vision), mangoes are generally a dull greenish-red colour because they have evolved to be eaten (and therefore distributed) by fruit bats and other animals that rely more on smell than sight to find food. See? 3 years studying zoology wan’t a complete waste was it? According to my old ecology lecturer, we silly humans have spent the last 100+ years attempting to breed bright, colourful mangoes which appeal to the average human shopper.

There are mango trees (mangueiras) all over Rio. In fact here’s the view out of my window right now:

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Oct 08

Soups and Stews in Botafogo: Feijão, Angu e Cia

feijao-angu-cia

 

A few months after I arrived in Rio, I got my first job. I was working half way along one of Botafogo’s main streets, Rua Voluntários de Pátria. Back then, life in Rio was a bit scary and bewildering, full of lessons to be learned: how to catch a bus, how to get a waiter’s attention and how to have lunch.

That last item might seem strange (what is there to learn about lunch?), but I soon found that my London lunching tradition (a quick sandwich eaten at my desk) wasn’t going to work in Brazil. The idea of eating at one’s desk seems to be rather repulsive to Brazilians, and on this question I have come to see their point. I soon realised that I needed to find somewhere outside of the office to eat. I took to the streets of Botafogo in search of something quick, convenient and delicious. Here’s what I found:

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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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