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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Nov 28

Festa Crackers – a British-Brazilian Christmas cultural exchange

festa-crackers

 

 

There are people in life who attempt things that haven’t been done before; people who put self-belief before self-doubt to try something new. Imagine how boring the world would be without those people! Well I met just such a person a couple of weeks ago:

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Nov 25

Less change in Brazil

change-in-brazil

 

There’s a lot of talk about change in Brazil. And whether we’re discussing pulling people out of poverty through the Bolsa Família scheme, or the changes required to improve health and education for Brazil’s poorest communities, change is usually thought of as a positive thing. Well today I’d like to make the case for less change in Brazil. Here’s Exhibit A:

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Nov 14

Brazilian Body Slang

homem-camarao

Homem Camarão image source

 

People can be cruel can’t they? They can also be pretty hilarious and at times the line between the two can be oh so slender. Just the other day I was absentmindedly listening in on a conversation between Mrs Eat Rio and one of her friends (let’s call her Maria) when I heard something strange. The conversation was focussing on one of Maria’s ex-boyfriends who, according to the conversation, had been rather dull and a complete gym-freak. What Maria said next caught my attention – she described the guy as a camarão.

“A camarão?” I thought to myself, “He was a shrimp?”. What could that possibly mean? Was his skin a strange shade of orangey-pink? Or perhaps he was kind of stinky? Wrong! It turns out that this is a way of referring to someone who has a tasty body but an ugly face. So, so cruel…(but also made me chuckle).

This set me off wondering what other funny phrases there are to describe people’s body parts. Turns out there are quite a few:

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Nov 07

Should I tip in Brazil?

nova-capela

The longest serving waiter at Nova Capela being very good-natured about having a camera in his face!

 

A question I’m often asked by people visiting Rio is: “Should I tip in Brazil? If so, how much?”.  It’s usually North Americans who ask this question and I’m sure that is due to the strong tipping culture in that part of the world. Well, the short answer is “For restaurants, yes – 10%”. The more helpful answer is “Yes, but the standard 10% is usually added to your bill without you having to think about it”.

This ‘not having to think about it’ aspect of tipping in Brazil got Mrs Eat Rio and I into trouble last time we were out of the country. We were approaching the end of our trip to Mexico (where a gratuity is usually left off the bill) and as it was our last night in Oaxaca before returning to Mexico City, we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy meal at Casa Oaxaca. It was a wonderful night and all the way home we chatted about the delicious food, the beautiful design/décor and the friendly, attentive service. As we got back to our hotel room, I stopped dead: We forgot to leave a tip! It was too late to go back and we were leaving first thing the next morning, so we were in a tricky situation. I gave them a call and they told me (very graciously) not to worry about it and thanked me for calling. I decided the least I could do is give them a recommendation, so here it is. If you get the chance, go!

casa-oaxaca

Delicious morsels from chef Alejandro Ruiz of Casa Oaxaca. Here’s what Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants had to say: “The flavour combinations are often surprisingly striking with Ruiz never shying away from big-hitting palate punches. Food is rarely as refreshingly honest as it is here.”

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