Friday, March 25, 2011

Eating in Rio!

Besides taking in the touristic sights of Rio, enjoying Carnaval, and hanging out with great friends, we also did a whole lot of eating. In fact, Keenan and I probably consumed more beef in our one week in Rio than we ever eat in one year. Seriously, we ate so much I am surprised our pants still fit! So here is our eating-in-review, by the day:

Day One: Feeling a bit jetlagged, but very excited to be in Rio, Rod’s parents prepared a traditional home-cooked lunch of roast tenderloin beef smothered in onion and garlic, traditional feijoada (Brazilian black beans), the national dish of Brazil, rice, garden salad, and mango and coffee ice cream. It was delicious and just what we needed after an 11 hour bumpy red-eye flight across the south Atlantic

Day Two: To ring in my 29th birthday (yikes!), we spent the day...eating, one of my favourite pastime. After taking a mini power "walk" along the Lagoa, we made our way to Ipanema for lunch at Via Sete, one of Rod’s favourite restaurants. Known for excellent alcoholic shakes, salads, and chicken wraps, Via Sete is a great place for a leisurely lunch. Opted for the patio for some great people-watching along Ipanema’s most glamorous streets. Carnivores that we were, we each ordered filet mignon with an iced cold Bohemia beer, and a killer brownie topped with ice cream for dessert which was to die for. Later that afternoon, Rod’s parents got me a birthday cake to help me celebrate another year wiser! 
Lunch at Via Sete:

To top it all off, Keenan made reservations for the three of us at Manekineko, a sushi restaurant in Leblon with funky red/black decor and overall fun atmosphere. Manekineko came highly recommended by several of our cariocas friends and they insist that we get the rodízio (all you can eat sushi). I think Rod was terrified and slightly embarrassed by how much sushi and sashimi we can put down. So needless to say, I had a delicious birthday and thank you so much for all your thoughtful birthday wishes. 

Day Three: If you come all the way to Rio, you must try the juice bars and they are everywhere! The variety of tropical fruits in Brazil are amazing...Acerola (contains 100 times the Vitamin C of oranges); goiaba (guava); caju (fruit from the cashew nut); graviola; mango; maracuja (passion fruit); and the list goes on. Juice bars are all over the city and very convenient if you're looking for a quick bite or a refreshing drink while at the beach. The famous and most popular juice bar is Bibi Sucos, located along the Rio's famous beaches. After meandering through the Copacabana Fort, Ipanema Beach, and Leblon Beach, we had a quick lunch of steak sandwiches, juice, and açai at the Bibi Sucos in the Leblon.

Açai is a fruit found in the Amazon and is loaded with rich carbohydrates, antioxidants, omega six, fatty acids and vitamins, making this fruit a "superfood." In Brazil, you can drink açai as a juice, but generally it is eaten as a sorbet mixed with guarana syrup, another plant found widely in the Amazon. Definitely try açai -- it has a similar taste to beetroot with a gritty texture like sand. Guarana soda is also very popular in Brazil.

Taking a break from beef, we went to Braz for dinner. Located in Jardim Botanico, this much-loved São Paulo pizzeria found its way to Rio. The restaurant opened in 2007 but it looks and feels like it has been here since the early 1900s. The crusty pizzas are topped with fresh ingredients is best washed down with iced-cold chopp draft lager poured Brazilian style...with lots of head. 
Day Four: Two other friends arrived Saturday morning and we planned another eating extravaganza to welcome their arrival. Lunch was at Academia da Cachaça in Leblon, which had a fun, jovial atmosphere to kick off the official start of Carnival. As the name of the restaurant/bar implies, this is probably one of the best place in Rio to try different varieties of cachaça, a liquor made from fermented sugarcane and the main ingredient of the infamous caipirinhas. The food was quite good, serving up traditional Brazilian dishes from black bean soup to farofa

Later in the evening, we had dinner at Aprazivel with several of Rod's friends from university. The restaurant is located up in the hills in a bohemian neighbourhood called Santa Teresa. High above the city, the views overlooking Rio were amazing and we could see the lights and the sound the Carnival parade from the Sambadromo. We reserved a table in the lovely outdoor tropical garden, but unfortunately it started raining, but that didn't spoil our time at Aprazivel.  The food was on the pricey side, but very good. I ordered the beef medallion and Keenan had the picanha beef and some very strong caipirinhas that keep us buzzing through our four-hour dinner with great company. 

Samba Parade taking place in the Sambadrome:
Day Five: We ate at a Rio institution after visiting Sugar Loaf Mountain - Porcão Rios - an all-you-can-eat Brazilian BBQ house. There are several locations, but the best one is in Botafogo/Flamengo with the view of Sugar Loaf. Generally regarded as the best churrasqueria in Rio, and for good reasons, the beef here is very good. The wait staff comes around with at least half a dozen cuts of beef; the best cut in Brazil as I was told is called picanha. I recommend coming here in the late afternoon for "dunch." Be sure to come hungry...very hungry and be ready for a serious food coma afterward. We ate so much we had to skip dinner altogether. 

 Don't forget to save room for dessert:
Day Six: After spending a few hours on Corcovado Mountain to see Christ the Redeemer amongst the overcast skies, Rod’s sister and brother-in-law invited us, along with some of her other friends, for a BBQ at their new house in Barra de Tijuaca. On the menu: steak, queijo coalho, linguica, and chicken wings, and Itapava beers.
Rod’s little nephew:
 Beautiful house with a pool, sauna, outdoor kitchen, and a 2br guesthouse:
Day Seven: Mercado Cobal Outdoor Night Market in Botafogo is definitely a locals’ hang out. It’s a great place to socialise with friends over cold chopps or a full sit-down meal or a light snack of pastsis. The atmosphere is bustling often with live bands, but that evening, part of Mercado Cobal was closed for a Carnival Street Party. Several restaurants were open and we were able to snag a table at a restaurant called Joaquina Bar e Restaurante for our last meal in Rio together. Of course, being our last night in Rio, we had to order steak and several rounds of chopp
Other food items to try while in Rio:
Pão de quejo – little cheese breads
Agua de Coco – coconut juice at any beach kiosk
Globo – fried dough (?) – popular snack at the beach
Pastels – thin pastry with assorted fillings (cheese, shrimp, meat) served as a light snack
Quindim – popular Brazilian baked dessert made from sugar, egg yolks and ground coconut
There is a wide range of Brazilian beers, which are always, always served chilled either in an ice bucket or an individual cooler. Here are some of our favourites (in order): Bohemia, Devassa, Skol, Itapava, Antarctica, Brahma.
Restaurants in Rio: 
Via Sete, Rua Garcia D’Avila, 125 Ipanema
Manekineko Sushi, Rua Dias Ferreira, 410, Leblon
Bibi Sucos Juice Bar, Locations throughout the city including Leblon and Ipanema
Braz Pizzeria, Rua Maria Angelica, 129, Jardim Botanico/Lagoa
Academia da Cachaça, Rua Conde de Bernadotte, 26 Leblon
Aprazivel, Rua Aprazível, 62, Santa Teresa
Porcão Rios, Ave Infante Dom Henrique, Aterro do Flamengo
Mercado Cobal de Humaita, Rua Voluntarios da Patria 446, Botafoto Other restaurants recommendations from our cariocas friends:
Artigiano (Italian), Av. Epitacio Pessoa, 204, Ipanema
Quadrucci (Italian), Rua Dias Ferreira, 233, Leblon
Joe and Leo (Best Hamburgers in Rio), Rio Design Leblon
Colombo Cafe (tea and fine pastries), Downtown Rio

Enjoy and saúde!
Now off to Ilha Grande

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