A Chowzter Balti Mission in 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.

Read more


Amazon Beer taste test



In the previous post we established that there are a growing number of places that stock decent beer in Rio, but what should you order when you get there? Most of the Carioca beer enthusiasts I’ve met seem obsessed with Belgian ales, particularly those with heavy flavours and high alcohol contents. I suppose that if you’re going to spend R$30 ($13) on 330ml of beer, it’s nice to feel that you’re getting some bang for your buck.

When I take guests out on food tours, we taste a few different Brazilian beers including some from the state of Rio and others from further afield, but my favourite by far are the Amazon Beers. Amazon Beer (Cervejaria Amazon) is a brewer located in Belém in the northern state of Pará. They produce a range of 7 beers and a few days ago I decided to taste 3 of them:


From left to right – Açaí Stout, Cumaru IPA, Bacuri Forest.

Read more


Where to drink beer in Rio




Beer drinkers coming to Rio may be disappointed at first – many bars and restaurants only serve the lightest of beers such as Brahma, Skol and Antarctica. The near absence of flavour in these beers is primarily due to the use of up to 45% unmalted cereals, primarily corn and rice. This lack of flavour is why Mrs Eat Rio refers to these as ‘beer soda’; some people even debate whether you can honestly call these beverages ‘beer’ at all.

Moving up the food chain a little, the fancier beach kiosks and even some beach vendors are starting to stock Heineken. It might not be a wonder-beer exactly, but it has significantly more flavour and bite than the bog-standard beer sodas.


Carioca Beer Enthusiasts

With this background of terrible beer, you might be surprised to hear that during my time in Rio I have met more beer enthusiasts then in any other city. My theory is that if you spend your early drinking years indulging in tasteless budget beers like Itaipava and Nova Schin, then when you finally taste something decent, it blows your mind. I picture an 18 year old Brazilian tasting his/her first Guinness or Duvel, realising that real beer has real depth of flavour and embarking on a journey of beer discovery.

Read more


Micheladas and Cubanas



Well, time got away from me today – I was going to publish my final post on our trip to Mexico at around lunchtime, but then a bunch of other things came up and now the clock is striking 6pm. That final post will have to wait until tomorrow, but I’m still going to throw in a mini-post about one of my favourite Mexican treats: Micheladas and even better, Cubanas.

According to Wikipedia, the exact ingredients and definitions of a Michelada vary according to your location in Mexico, but in general we are talking about a beer mixed with lime juice, served in a salt/chilli-rimmed glass. Then a bunch of other extras are optionally added such as clamato (tomato juice with clam broth), chilli powder, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi sauce. The Cubana variation (which ended up being our favourite) tended to have loads of extra chilli sauce and extra spices and seasoning.

All this backs up the point I made in the previous post about peanuts – why have a boring old beer when you can have a spicy, sour, salty beer instead? Here were a few of our Michelada / Cubana highlights:

Read more

The great Brazilian bar food competition

Back in 1999, a guy called Eduardo Maya came up with an excellent idea. Eduardo has a rather inspiring story I think – a native of Rio, he spent some of his adolescence living in London during which time he developed an interest in food. After graduating in Mathematics, he moved back to Brazil to work a job in finance (we haven’t got to the inspiring bit yet, that’s coming up next).

After some time, Eduardo realised that he didn’t want to work in finance anymore and somehow landed himself a job hosting a culinary themed radio show (I had no idea such things even existed!). And then came his idea: A competition between all the botecos (bars) in the town of Belo Horizonte, state capital of Minas Gerais, where he was working at the time. The competition was dubbed Comida di Buteco.

Eduardo Maya. Chucked in his job in finance and decided to do something he loved. Seems like it worked out well for him. When I look into those spooky eyes though, I'm just glad he decided to use his powers for good...


Read more

Clash of the Corruptions

People in Rio are always talking about the upcoming World Cup and Olympics. Will they be a success? What will become of Rio afterwards? Will the pacified favelas be abandoned and left to fall back into the control of drug dealers? What will happen to house prices? The list goes on.

A recent story was that Jérôme Valcke, the General Secretary of FIFA (football’s governing body), has been visiting Brazil to oversee the world cup preparations. Mr Valcke kicked up a storm by stating not only that beer must be sold in Brazilian stadiums, but that it will be sold in Brazilian stadiums. This is in spite of the fact that there has been a law here making such alcohol sales illegal since 2003 2008 (thanks Andre)! His words were:

“Alcoholic drinks are part of the Fifa World Cup, so we’re going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate.”

Highlighting the fact that you're being arrogant doesn't excuse the arrogance. The head of FIFA, Sepp Blatter (also a scumbag), is a big fan of Valcke, saying: "When he began his work as director of marketing and TV in FIFA four and a half years ago, we were in a financial crisis. Currently we have an equity of 752 million Swiss francs."


Read more

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?…”

Read more

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.

Read more

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. 

Read more

How to drink beer like a Brazilian

Right now it is quite chilly in Rio. In fact it has been cold for the last few weeks and I have to say I am starting to feel somewhat aggrieved – this is not what someone from my part of the world expects from ‘Sunny Rio’. Thankfully, most of the year the weather is just how I like it – hot, very hot or boiling. And the drink of choice when you are in need of refreshment? Cerveja! [ser-VAY-zha]

In the course of my (ahem) exhaustive research I uncovered some interesting beer facts. Brazil is the fifth largest beer producer in the world, making nearly 10 billion litres each year. Most of this is made by an evil company called Ambev which has something approaching a monopoly here. But I was surprised to discover that the average Brazilian drinks just 53 litres each year – compare this to the average Czech who drinks 158:

Top drinking from the Czechs. No big surprise to find Ireland near the top! (

Read more