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Back from Mexico

Mexico-Diego_Rivera

Detail from a huge mural by brilliant Mexican artist Diego Rivera.

 

Yesterday something quite extraordinary happened to me: I had a day off.

Of course it wasn’t a real day off – I answered about 25 work-related emails in the morning and did a few house-keeping jobs on the website in the afternoon – but, as you can see, I also found enough free time to finally write a new blog post.

Life has been pretty hectic recently. This time last week I was in Mexico with my colleagues from FoodieHub (formerly ‘Chowzter’).

FoodieHub have been making massive improvements recently so the trip to Mexico was a great chance to catch up with old friends and discuss how everything is going. For those unfamiliar, FoodieHub is a network of independent food writers located in cities all over the world. Each expert recommends the essential places to eat in their city, from street stalls and traditional family-run establishments right the way up to luxury fine dining. As the FoodieHub expert for Rio I guess I am duty-bound to recommend the service, but as it happens I’ve been using the site for all of my travels over the last 18 months and I’ve found it to be a brilliant way to track down the essential eats in unfamiliar cities (check out my list for Rio here).

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Balti-Birmingham

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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Osso: Meat Mecca in Lima

Osso-lima

 

My recent trip to Lima only lasted 5 days, yet it was so full of highlights that it felt like I was away for a month. Within minutes of arriving, I had dumped my bags at the hotel and was heading to Mistura for a day of serious eating with Mijune (aka Follow Me Foodie) and David (one of the head honchos at Chowzter). Over the following days we attended the Chowzter Latin America Awards, were treated to a personal chat with king of Peruvian food, Gastón Acurio, and ate and drank our way across some of the city’s finest restaurants, bars, street food stands and markets. Lima really is a food-lover’s paradise and not to be missed if you get the chance.

I am always mesmerised by all the amazing seafood in Lima, but on this occasion the two high-points of the trip centred on meat. Today I’ll tell you about my trip to Osso.

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Mistura 2014 & the Chowzter Latin America Awards

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Chicharron sandwich from Lima restaurant El Chinito. Pork, sweet potato and ceviche-style red onions. One of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter.

 

Hola from Lima everyone! I jetted in yesterday on a very unglamorous 4am flight from Rio and stopped in my hotel just long enough to dump my bags before heading off the Mistura, Latin America’s biggest and best food festival. Yesterday I overheard a first time visitor to Mistura saying “This place is just amazing. I didn’t realise it was on my bucket list until I got here!”. I know exactly what they mean – if you’re looking for a huge, rich, delicious, fascinating food experience, Mistura should be on your list too.

This is my second visit and it is proving to be just as enjoyable and interesting as last time. In just a few hours I ate and drank my way through upwards of 35 dishes yesterday. I know that sounds shameful/gluttonous/amazing (depending on how you feel about excess), but I should quickly point out that many of those 35 ‘dishes’ were in fact small tastes of something delicious, rather than full-blown plates of food.

I don’t want to be down on Rio, but the recent Rio Gastronomia event has a long way to go before it approaches the heights of Mistura. I have a hard drive full of mouthwatering photos, but not enough time to show you everything, so I’ll just give you a little amuse bouche for now.

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Guelaguetza: dancing with turkeys and fun with hats

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We arrived in Oaxaca with very little idea of what this ‘Guelaguetza’ thing was. All we knew was that it was an annual cultural event and we had tickets. The town was abuzz with visitors and colourful flags celebrating the event, but as we approached the venue, we were still guessing exactly what we were going to see.

We stepped out of a taxi outside a stadium-like structure which was perched on top of a hill overlooking the city. As we passed through the turnstiles we were handed what turned out to be a standard party-pack:

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The Chowzter Awards in London

British-bunting

 

First I tell you that I’m quitting my day job so I can spend more time on the blog, and then I go and disappear without blogging for a whole week! Well I won’t apologise as that sounds rather self-important (“How did you cope without me?”), but I will say that I’ve been busy!

Yesterday I got back to Rio after a week in London for the Chowzter Tastiest Fast Feast Awards. Chowzter have recruited some of the best food bloggers from cities around the world in their quest to track down the best Fast Feasts on the planet. A ‘Fast Feast’ could be anything from street food to a generations-old family recipe served up in a modest neighbourhood restaurant – the emphasis is on independent, non-pretentious, freshly prepared and delicious dishes!

As well as the awards ceremony, the weekend was filled with a variety of food related events (sometimes I wonder what I’ve done to deserve this good fortune!). And before that started, I even had a chance to catch up with friends and family around London. Now this, is what a proper pub looks like:

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A Skype Ambassador with a ‘passion for food’!

Tom-Le-Mesurier

Check it out – it’s me!

 

Hi everyone! I’ll warn you from the outset, today’s post is mostly about me – I don’t normally go in for  the whole ‘Dear Diary’ posts, but some big changes are afoot and I thought I should give you guys a quick update.

News Item number one: yesterday morning the nice people at Skype announced that they have made me their newest Skype Ambassador – tweeting the news to over 3 million followers!

 

How cool is that? Currently there are 8 of us Ambassadors and each of us has a particular speciality. No prizes for guessing my specialisation – food! In fact the Skype Moment Makers page where they made the announcement describes me as having a ‘passion for food’ and while that is 100% true, I also rather like the way it sounds like a very diplomatic way of saying ‘greedy’!

Anyway, leaving my gluttony aside for a moment, what will my collaboration with everyone’s favourite on-line communication tool actually mean?

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Chowzter Awards – the Rio result!

Anyone who has been anywhere near Eat Rio or the Eat Rio Facebook page recently will potentially be getting a little tired of hearing about Peru. For those of you who haven’t been following proceedings, I flew to Lima just over a week ago to take part in the Chowzter Latin American Fast Feast Awards.

I have to say that I had a seriously good time: hanging out with fellow food-obsessed people, drinking the occasional pisco sour, eating delicious ceviche – it’s a great way to spend a weekend. But it wasn’t all fun – there were some nervous moments. Yes we were there to have a good time, but we were also there to represent our cities (and countries) of Latin America.

Chowzter-awards

As the ceremony got under way, our compère for the evening took us through a countdown of what had been judged to be the 50 most tasty ‘fast feasts’ in Latin America. As I heard dish after delicious dish described, I started to wonder if my photos and descriptions of Rio’s nominations had been enough. We were up against mouth-watering tacos from Mexico City, empanadas from Buenos Aires, ceviche from Lima and arepas from Caracas. Against such stiff competition, would the judges really be impressed with any of Rio’s offerings?

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Mistura 2013 and Chowzter

A few days ago I showed you some of the faces of the Mistura 2013 festival in Lima – today I think you should see some of the food! I was a big fan of Peruvian food before the trip but I have now progressed to devotee.

Before I get going, I want to say a big thank you to Jeffrey Merrihue and Justin Mellot of Chowzter. These guys helped organise the whole weekend and introduced me to a whole bunch of brilliant people and delicious food. Muito obrigado amigos!

This will be a bit of a photo-fest and fair warning – some of these shots may make you feel hungry, others not so much (especially if you’re fond of guinea pigs…). Those of you who are squeamish may want to pass on the final video in the post…

OK, let’s get started!

[This is a lightbox gallery – just click the image to see them full-screen – but don’t forget to watch the 2 videos at the end!]

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The view from the plane as we flew over the mountains. Moments later we descended through the cloud towards Lima.

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Representing Rio!

Hi everyone! I have to be quick today as I’m very short of time and have a hundred things to do. Tomorrow, at the crack of dawn, I’m flying to Lima! I’ll be in Peru’s capital for 2 reasons – an awards ceremony and a food festival!

 

Chowzter Latin American Awards

Chowzter is a website that makes recommendations for what it calls ‘Fast Feasts’ in more than 100 cities around the world. You can read more about them on their website, but basically they champion local, independent food purveyors with an emphasis on traditional dishes rather than ultra-modern gastronomy – you won’t find too many ‘foams’ or liquid nitrogen on their pages! I got involved with Chowzter earlier this year and have put together my own set of recommendations for Rio.

Tomorrow night I’ll meet up with the other Chowzter people in Lima for the Latin American Food Awards!

 

 

Mostly this will be a great opportunity to meet fellow gluttons and discuss the relative merits of farofa, arepas and tacos (or later in the evening, perhaps we’ll put forward our arguments for the supremacy of cachaça, pisco and tequila!). Read more