Eat Rio Bar Food Tours

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From time to time I’m reminded of how different my experience of Rio would have been if I’d come here alone, without the guidance, recommendations and explanations of a local (a Carioca da Gema, no less). I’m especially struck by this feeling when I meet someone who’s been living in Rio for years but still insists that “there’s nowhere good to eat here” and “all the bars suck”. While trying to suppress my indignation, I rattle off a few of my favourite places and feel somewhat relieved to see a blank look on their faces.

Actually there are great places to eat in Rio

With a little bit of effort and research you’ll find all kinds of hidden gems dotted around neighbourhoods across the city. There are the old stalwarts that have been doing things right for generations – Nova Capela (more on this place in a coming post), Galeto Sats and Botequim do Joia are great examples. Then there are the places giving traditional Brazilian food a light touch and/or modern twist – Café do Alto, Noo Cachaçaria and Puro are firm favourites. For those looking for a cheaper option there are low-cost restaurants all over the city – try Restaurante Adriano in Botafogo, Esquimó in Centro and Lilia in Lapa.

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“There’s no good food in Rio” – pffff!

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How to enjoy Rio carnival

Rio carnival (carnaval in Portuguse) is the biggest of it’s kind in the world – it draws two million people onto the streets daily. But what is it? And how can you get the most out of the experience?

Dating back to 1723, this city-wide, five day party has become synonymous with carefree fun and exuberance – one of the things to do at least once in your lifetime. But like most other things related to this city (and Brazil in general), Rio carnival is not something that can be easily explained in a sentence or two – there are many aspects and intricacies not immediately obvious to the casual observer.

I’m not going to be able to tell you everything about Rio carnival here, but what follows will hopefully help you understand what’s on offer and how you can best enjoy the experience.

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Feira das Yabás

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The home of Portela samba school is here in Madureira, Zona Norte. See from the other side here!

 

Carnival in Rio means different things to different people. Some look forward to the blocos which make up the Carnaval de Rua (street carnival), while others just want to get the hell out of town until it’s all over. Then there is another group for whom carnival is all about the Sambódromo and the competition between the samba schools. The people in this latter group often support a particular samba school in a way more commonly associated with football fans.

Personally I can’t pretend that it bothers me much who wins, but in the same way that I’ve picked a football team to nominally support (Botafogo), I’ve also picked a samba school – Portela. And the main reason I picked Portela was that it shares a home with Feira das Yabás.

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Rio Carnaval 2014 – Off to Paquetá!

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Arriving on Paquetá, we were struck by the tranquil atmosphere due to the lack of cars and motorbikes.

 

Well, I’m officially in a full-on carnival state of mind! Last Saturday, some friends and I went to a bloco called Pérola de Guanabara (Pearl of Guanabara) which was held on the island of Paquetá. Paquetá is a small island in Guanabara Bay that you can visit by taking a 1:15hr ferry ride from Praça 15. It was my first visit to the island so I was already pretty excited, but to combine it with my first bloco of 2014 was an extra bonus. Little did I know that the highlight of this special day would be the ferry ride home!

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Praia do Perigoso

Hello everyone! Remember me? Afraid my whirlwind trip to England didn’t leave any time for blogging – just eating, drinking and catching up with old friends. For those of you suffering the heat in Rio right now, I won’t torture you with detailed descriptions of the English winter weather – let’s just say that the mornings were deliciously frosty.

Back in 40 degree Rio, we are all looking for ways to cool off. The beaches of Zona Sul are packed, especially on the weekends, and although I enjoy the social nature of Rio’s beaches, I think we all dream from time to time of having the whole beach to ourselves.

Well I have the answer! But you’re going to need a car, an appetite for exercise and plenty of water.

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My favourite neighbourhood in Rio

Well people – 2013 is finally drawing to a close and things at Eat Rio have been slowing down a bit too. Running food tours, cooking for Christmas, catching up with friends and family and holding down a full time job – these things take time!

Still, I found a moment in my lunch hour to write a little something. Earlier today I posted a photo of what I think is a lovely little building in Lapa.

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This building is on Rua Riacheulo, just a short walk from the Arcos da Lapa.

 

Looking at this photo got me thinking about how much I like Lapa. As a neighbourhood it is strongly associated with nightlife and although it certainly does get very lively on the weekends, there are also some great things to see and do during the day. Last weekend we went wandering through the market on Rua do Lavradio, doing some last minute Christmas shopping.

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Eat-Rio-Food-Tours

Eat Rio Food Tours!

I hinted recently that I had some big news to reveal. Well the time has come, here it is. There’s a new activity to add to your list of things to do in Rio: Eat Rio Food Tours!

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Tell your friends!

 

The idea was hatched in a bar (naturally) many months ago. I was chatting with Diana, my US/Colombian friend who moved to Rio earlier this year. Diana is as food-obsessed as me, but she actually knows what she’s talking about! She has a degree in Restaurant Business and a Masters in Gastronomy (pretty fancy right?).

So there we were, discussing all our favourite Brazilian dishes and ingredients and lamenting the fact that so many visitors come to Rio but miss out on the best stuff. Well, we chatted away, drank some beers, ate some bolinhos and by the end of the night our plan was decided: we would take people out of the comfort zone of Ipanema, away from the mediocrity of Devassa and show them the best food in Rio!

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Role-Carioca

A stroll in Saúde with Rolé Carioca

Last Sunday, a friend and I got up super early (well, 8am, but this was a Sunday remember) and headed to central Rio. Centro is a weird place on the weekend – most of the huge, wide streets, so busy and chaotic on weekdays, are almost completely deserted.

It’s a shame because Centro has some beautiful buildings and excellent bars and restaurants but almost everything shuts down on weekend – you half expect to see tumbleweeds rolling down Avenida Rio Branco. There are some oases, such as the Saturday samba on Rua do Ouvidor, but the vast majority of the city centre is completely fechado.

There are some reasons to be hopeful – I’m hoping that regeneration schemes such as Porto Maravilha will help improve the situation. While we wait for that though, there is another option but it means giving up your Sunday morning lie-in.

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The people at Rolé Carioca organise walks through the more interesting, historical areas of the city.

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Feira do Rio Antigo

Every first Saturday of the month there is a street market  called Feira do Rio Antigo in Lapa. The street itself is lined with second hand furniture shops and then the pavement/sidewalk is crammed with stalls selling all kinds of bric-a-brac, from antique dinner plates and cutlery to clothes and other bits and bobs. Mix in some bars with chairs and tables sprawling across the street and you have the makings a of lively afternoon/evening.

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Browse the shops and stalls, enjoy a few drinks, soak up the atmosphere.

 

Later on you could head to everyone’s favourite nightspot, Rio Scenarium, which is on the same street. I would say “See you there next weekend”, but I’ll be in Peru…

 

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Something else to do in Rio

A few weeks ago I had a couple of work colleagues visiting town – one from London, the other from Tel Aviv. They had both visited Rio 3 or 4 times before, always for business reasons, and I could tell they weren’t exactly excited to be here. I suspect that most of you who’ve experienced business travel will understand.

My current job doesn’t involve much travel, but in a previous job I travelled to South Africa, Germany, France, Spain and Switzerland. At first I rather enjoyed telling a friend nonchalantly “Oh yeah, I’m off to Madrid next week…”, but pretty soon I came to understand that the reality was bland business hotels, eating in restaurants on your own, waiting around in airports and obsessing over receipts.

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Business travel – welcome to your bedroom for the next 5 days…

 

So, as the weekend approached I saw the glum looks on the faces of my colleagues and decided it was time for them to catch a glimpse of the real Rio! When I asked what kind of things they wanted to do, they both started off by saying “Not the Sugarloaf or the Jesus statue – we went there on our last visit. We just want to go somewhere normal for a few drinks”.

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