Comida di Buteco 2014 is nearly here!


If you like to eat, drink and have fun, Rio really is a great place to live. Sure it might not have the range of cuisines and night life of a cosmopolitan city like New York, nor the levels of culinary sophistication of a city like Paris, but what it lacks in those departments, it makes up in sheer gusto.

It’s only been a month since the excesses of carnaval died down, and already the spectre of the World Cup is looming (62 days and counting!). But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – this Friday (11 April) sees the start of everyone’s favourite bar food competition – Comida di Buteco 2014!

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Last weekend we had a friend from London to stay. This was fun, not just because our guest was nice and not only because she brought us all kinds of yummy goodies from home, but also because her presence pushed us into doing a whole bunch of sight-seeing things that we probably wouldn’t have bothered with otherwise. We wandered around a favela, we went to see some samba (these guys) and spent a fair bit of time eating and drinking in Santa Teresa. 

One of the places we ended up was Armazém São Thiago, a really nice old bar that dates back to 1919. The bar itself does pretty yummy food, but even better than that, on Sundays there is a lady just outside the bar cooking Acarajé

A delicious bundle of spicy goodness. I am designating acarajé as an essential food – see the others in the list by clicking the ‘essential food’ label on the right (Photo: Leonardo Martins).


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How to make a great Caipirinha

Before I get going on the steps for making a great Caipirinha, I want to reiterate the warning I gave in an earlier post – this is a powerful drink. When I arrived in Brazil I thought of the Caipirinha as being the same strength as a standard large measure of spirit (rum, vodka, whisky) with a mixer. It isn’t – I estimate that the standard version served in a bar or restaurant in Rio contains at least 5 or 6 standard measures of Cachaça…


The basic tools required to make a Caipirinha

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True Pepper

I wouldn’t say that I didn’t like Brazilian food when I first got here, but it did take a little time to get to know it well enough that I could appreciate the difference between, for example, good farofa and bad farofa – at first they all just taste like weird, dry powder. After a while you get a feel for it and you start to understand why some places have people spilling out onto the street while others stand empty. 

One criticism you could level at mainstream Brazilian food is that it can be a little bland and stodgy. I’ve learned to love rice, beans and farofa but there are times when I long for a lamb bhuna or a Thai green curry. 


Indian food. Sigh - que saudade…


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The Most Important Word in Brazil

The British (and English speakers in general) are not renowned for their knowledge of other languages. So many people in non-English speaking countries speak our language that our need just isn’t as pressing as that of, say, a Hungarian. So we’re lazy. 

I remember encountering a couple of 40 something English guys living in Medellin, Colombia. Although they had been living there for more than a year, their profound lack of Spanish was astounding. When they wanted to do their weekly shop at the local supermarket, they would hail a cab, get in and then hold up an empty supermarket carrier bag and point at the logo! Amazingly bad!

“Erm, you take-o me here-o?…”

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Two’s plenty…

When I arrived in Rio I had no idea I would end up living here – I thought I would stay for 3 or 4 weeks, one last hurrah at the end of nearly 12 months away from home. So I was in holiday mode – lots of sight seeing, trips to the beach, going out and drinking. And lots of drinking means plenty of trips to the banheiro (ban-YEAH-ro – toilet, bathroom, restroom, loo).

After a few days I noticed that many establishments seemed to be trying to tell me the same thing: “2 folhas para mãos suavemente secas”. And they would always provide this information in the same place – the paper towel dispenser:

Here you see a slight variation on the traditional wording of the message. The meaning is just the same.


Now you don’t have to be an expert in Portuguese to get the general idea here. It’s saying that you should just use two sheets to dry your hands. And that is a good message right? It’s saying economise, it’s saying save the trees, save the planet. And yet there is something about this message that seems to get people a little bit wound up for a variety of reasons…

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Urinal Ice Sculptures

If you are ever looking for a comfortable, dependable bar in Rio, you could do a lot worse than Belmonte (pronounced bel-MONCH). There are seven in total, located in convenient locations around Zona Sul. The food is very tasty, the staff are friendly and they do a mean caipirinha (made with Magnifica if you ask). 

The familiar pale green décor of Belmonte (this looks like the one in Flamengo I think).


One of the things that my female readers, even those who live in Rio, may not know about is that Belmonte provides a little treat just for the guys. When you visit the toilets you will find that each urinal contains several very large chunks of ice, providing an incredibly satisfying opportunity for some impromptu, do-it-yourself ice sculpture. 

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Post-it Peanuts

From time to time a curious thing happens when you are sitting outside a bar in Rio. You will be chatting away, drinking beer and gradually starting to get a little hungry when you glance down at the table and notice what appears to be a small post-it note on which are sitting 9 or 10 peanuts. Where did that come from?

Post-it peanuts – hard to resist when you’re drinking beer and caipirinha


Peanut sellers are found pretty much wherever there are a lot of people drinking at tables out on the street. Their strategy is to nip past, placing a few peanuts on a small scrap of paper on each table. They often whip past pretty quickly so if you happen to be involved in a conversation you might not notice them.

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Pé Sujo – Dirty Foot

-Vamos aos bares não só para buscar alegria, mas também para destilar as emoções.

We go to bars not only in search of happiness, but also to distill our emotions. (Meu Pé Sujo blog)

Literally translated, Pé Sujo means “Dirty foot”. This is the term used to describe the many low-end bars that pepper the city. You will find a Pé Sujo on almost every street in Rio. As the name suggests, these bars are not known for their standards of hygiene – if your feet weren’t dirty when you went in, they most likely will be by the time you leave. They say that when the waiter wipes your table with a cloth, it actually makes the table more dirty! But these grubby drinking dens are loved as a quintessentially Brazilian place to drink beer and share gossip. 

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