Tag Archives: Brazil

Paçoca de Amendoim – Brazilian peanut candy

Brazilians love little candies and treats, and at some places, like Perini supermarket, you can buy the individual bite-sized treats and create your own box of goodies. One of these popular treats is Paçoca de Amendoim – kind of a riff on Peanut Fudge – with the added texture of Manioc flour. The name comes from the Tupi word Posok which means “to crumble.” Making Paçoca is super simple, and we found versions at Pink Bites (using cookies instead of manioc) and Flavors of BrazilAs Flavors of Brazil points out – there is a dish also called paçoca that is completely different – think beef and onions. We actually ran into this situation at the São Cristóvão market in Rio – which has food from the Northeast – both kinds of paçoca were for sale. Be careful you order the one you’re intending!

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The Best Pizza in Rio de Janeiro: Bráz Pizzaria

Bráz Pizzaria
R. Maria Angélica, 129
Jardim Botânico  Rio de Janeiro

brazilPizza has taken on a life of its own in Brazil, and you can find a place to get a pie on nearly every corner in every town in the country. Though we have previously documented how Brazilian pizza is a little different, there are some Brazilian pizzarias that adhere to more of a traditional Italian style, and Bráz is one of them. Most of the outlets of Bráz are in São Paulo, the epicenter for high-quality pizza in Brazil, though now there is a location in Rio. Bráz is often honored as one of the best pizza places in Brazil by publications in the US and across Rio de Janeiro and Brazil. We visited the Bráz Pizzaria on the restaurant row of Rua Maria Angélica, near the Lagoa, and we are happy to report that it is now our favorite place for pizza in the city.

Braz Pizzaria

The Interior of Bráz Pizzaria, Rio de Janeiro

The Rio outpost of Bráz is brand spanking new, though it has been deliberately made with an old school flair, with white subway tiled walls and exposed brick. Naturally, the only thing to order at Bráz is the pizza. There are a wide variety of topping choices, from traditional Margherita and Four Cheese, to more unique specialties of the house (there are probably over 30 varieties in all). The house specialties included some with distinctively Brazilian flavors including the “Primo” with the Brazilian Caqui fruit (similar to a very sweet tomato), mozzarella and prosciutto. The “Tacchino” includes smoked turkey and Brazilian pizza staple, Catupiry cheese.

Braz Pizzaria Slice

Vai-Vai Pizza slice (somewhere under the arugula)

In addition to pizza, we ordered a Burrata appetizer, which was produced in Puglia, Italy. The cheese was very good, but did not compare to those we had in Naples (seeing as it was shipped over, I guess. We’re spoiled!) All pizzas came in a small, medium and large size. For our main course, we ordered two medium pizzas for four people – which was just the right amount (no leftovers). The first pizza was the tradicional “Calabresa” pizza, with olives, pepperoni and onion. The second pizza was the Especialidade “Vai-Vai” (named after our favorite São Paulo samba school) with arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella. The pizzas at Bráz have a thin crust, with a slightly chewy bite, maybe just a little thicker than traditional Neapolitan pizzas. Both pizzas we ordered were generously topped, and all of the ingredients were fresh. However, be forewarned that everything you order will come with a LOT of said toppings, so you had better like onions or arugula.

Braz Pizzaria Slice

Calabresa Pizza Slice

For dessert we got a brownie a la mode (perhaps not the most adventurous choice) and a gelato. But we were a little surprised by the gelato – it came out as a wrapped Popsicle, not as a scoop in a bowl. As a final note, though the interior of Bráz was entirely pleasant, their bathrooms were a standout – each of the men’s and woman’s had its own private sitting area and outdoor garden. An outdoor garden with a fountain is definitely not something you see in a restroom every day. We greatly enjoyed our visit to Braz, it was definitely some of the best pizza we’ve had in Brazil, if not THE best. Even pizza aficianados from São Paulo would have to agree.

Braz Brownie A la Mode

Braz Brownie A la Mode

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A romantic night out at Zazá Bistrô Tropical in Rio de Janeiro

Zazá Bistrô Tropical
Rua Joana Angélica, 40
Ipanema – Rio de Janeiro

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Though we thrive on Açaí bowls and Acarajé, sometimes we want to visit someplace a little fancier. To celebrate L’s birthday we decided to gussy up and visit Zazá Bistrô Tropical in the heart of Ipanema, voted as one of the most romantic restaurants in Rio. You will notice the restaurant in its prominent corner spot right away – it is painted brightly blue and festooned with lights, giving you a clue to the eclectic decor inside.

Zaza Bistro

Zazá Bistrô

When you enter Zazá Bistrô you are immediately struck by the whimsical décor – the walls are brightly painted and covered in artifacts (we especially enjoyed the altars on the first floor). There are two floors in the tiny restaurant – the first has bistro tables and a bar, and the second floor was decorated in a Moroccan style – with low tables and throw pillows. Zazá is also known for its unique bar menu – featuring a number of flavored Margaritas and Caipirinhas. The electric décor and menu also attracts an intentional crowd. We were seated near a veritable United Nations of diners: Brazilians, English, French, Argentines and Germans. Also appealing to the international clientele, there is both an English and Portuguese Menu.

Zaza Bistro Altars

Zazá Bistrô Altars

The menu is eclectic as the décor, with a variety of Brazilian dishes with Southeast Asian touches. We enjoyed the cover: a basket of potato, manioc and sweet potato chips with wasabi yogurt sauce and tomato salsa (R$ 18). The international influence began with appetizers – which included Indian samosas and Moroccan chicken pastillas. For main courses, there was a wide variety of eclectic dishes, featuring seafood heavily. After a period of perusal, we ordered the mixed seafood ceviche with mangoes and green coconut curry (R$ 29) and the seared prawn and lemon risotto (R$ 65). A close runner up was the organic curry chicken (R$ 48) with coconut milk, lime, ginger and banana. Both of the dishes were flavorful and mixed Brazilian and Asian flavors elegantly, though the portions were slightly small. Vegetarians will also be happy to know there are several meat and seafood-free options.

ZazaRisotto

Zazá Risotto with mood lighting

For dessert there are a variety of house-made choices – we couldn’t resist the “Devil’s” chocolate cake (R$ 18), which was composed of a bittersweet chocolate souffle with a crunchy topping, accompanied with lemon sorbet. The rich chocolate cake, along with a little cafezinho was a perfect end to a night out. The food was tasty – but the lovely atmosphere, especially on the candle-lit second floor – completely made the night. Our evening at Zazá Bistrô was relaxed and delicious, and  we definitely recommend it for those looking for a fun (but still relatively reasonable) night on the town.

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Açaí in Salvador: Cometa Açaí

Cometa Açaí
Rua Miguel Bournier, Barra
Salvador, Bahia, Brasil

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Cometa Açaí is a little different from most juice shops in Salvador – and certainly a lot newer – we remember it was under construction last year when we were in Salvador, and this year it is clean, bright and open for business. Cometa is definitely a little more upscale than neighboring açaí places in Salvador, and we appreciated the spacious, open seating area, which was raised above the sidewalk. This feature allows you to avoid sidewalk traffic and parked cars (unlike the other places on Rua Miguel Bournier). The menu is typical of the other juice shops in the area with Açaí bowls and assorted juices, though there is also a little selection of sandwiches and even some temaki sushi rolls (for R$12-18) though ordering sushi at a juice bar is maybe a little weird.

Cometa Acai Interior

Cometa Açaí Interior

Value: 4/5 Our 400 mL bowl of açaí was a respectable R$8.90, with no extra charge for granola. You pay a little extra for strawberries or bananas.

Taste: 12/15. This was more of a Para-style açaí, with a little more sweetness. Overall, we have decided we like this flavor profile a little more than the super-sweet Rio variety.

Texture: 8/10. Overall this açaí was pretty smooth, but had hints of icy graininess that could have been improved.

Granola: 5/5. We received the standard Tia Sonia granola that you get in Salvador – but we didn’t have to pay for it!

Extras: 5/5. Though you don’t have much of a view – this was our favorite seating in all of Salvador (at least so far). It’s definitely a place you can linger over your bowl.

TOTAL: 34/40 – Pretty respectable!

Cometa Acai Interior

Açaí na Tigela at Cometa Açaí

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Mineira Food in Rio de Janeiro: Bar do Mineiro

Bar do Mineiro
Rua Pascoal Carlos Magno 99
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro

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We visited Minas Gerais, the culinary heartland of Brazil, at the beginning of March for the first time. Brazilians love the homey and simple style of Mineira food, and it is popular throughout the country. One of the top places to get Mineira cuisine in Rio de Janeiro is a Bar do Mineiro, founded in 1992 by the Paixão family from Carangola in Minas Gerais. Bar do Minerio is located in the eclectic, bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa, and is a simple affair, full of character.

Bar do Mineiro

The inside of Bar do Mineiro

Somehow Bar do Mineiro is more than the sum of its parts. The décor is unpolished, the food is simple, but it could not be more inviting! The menu is pretty expansive – especially the appetizers – which in true Brazilian fashions involves a huge variety of fried tidbits. We especially liked to bolinhos de aipim (fried manioc fritters) stuffed with carne seca or cheese (R$ 24) and the pastéis de feijão (black bean fried pastries – R$ 28). Another popular option is linguicinha mineira (R$ 36), fried linguiça sausage and onions served with sliced baguette.

Bolinhos do Aipim

Bolinhos do Aipim

If you want something more substantial, there are many chicken, fish or beef options including tutu à mineira (R$ 44) – a classic Mineira dish of meat and beans, along with entree options of steak and fries (R$ 48), or fried fish and rice (R$ 45). Bar do Mineiro is also known for its Minero-style feijoada on weekends (R$ 36 for one) – the iconic Brazilian stew of smoked meat, sausage, beans and greens (everyone makes it a little differently).

Bar do Mineiro

Grab a Table at Bar do Mineiro

Bar do Mineiro also served as the site of our friend M’s first taste of cachaça – in a caipirinha, of course! Along with caiprinhas and caipiroskas (caipirinhas with vodka instead) many of the patrons were enjoying a nice chopp (Brazilian draft beer). Bar do Mineiro is a great place for a laid-back meal or just to meet with friends over drinks. If you can’t make it to Minas, this is definitely the next-best thing.

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Guido’s Restaurante in Boipeba

Guido’s Restaurante
Praia Cueira, Ilha de Boipeba, Bahia, Brazil

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While in Boipeba, we struck up a conversation with one of the residents. He asked about our day, and in the course of swooning over the perfect beaches and coconut palms that we had stopped for a beachside moqueca at Guido’s, the only restaurant around for miles. “Guido’s!” he exclaimed. “The tourist trap!”

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The Tourist Trap!

Certainly, there are many other restaurants on Boipeba island. And many of them are much more frequented by locals, and may even have very good moqeucas (though not lobster) for as low as 30 or 40 reais, less than half of what we paid at Guido’s. But our thought: if eating at a tourist trap means a beachfront cabana with tables and chairs haphazardly pushed into the sand; spending R$ 85 (About $42 US) for an excellent lobster moqueca for two plus drinks, made fresh front of you;  and where you then get to sit and relax for hours because there are all of 2 other people at the restaurant, all while discussing how lucky you are to even be in such a place, then yes, you should eat at this particular tourist trap.

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We’ve never seen a tourist trap where they make the kitchen is visible to all diners. Except Benihana.

Guido’s is the only thing around for miles, smack dab in the middle of Cueira beach, located midway between Boipeba’s largest town of Velha Boipeba (Old Boipeba) and the smaller town of Moreré. You can walk there from either town, or take a speedboat with other travelers that drop you right by the restaurant. It is from this that Guido’s may get its reputation, but if you are there, it is a great option. Its location is appealing, as the beach curves out in both directions to make a very small bay.

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Moqueca de lagosta and accompaniments, including an ocean view.

Guido’s specialty is lobster, pulled fresh from traps around the island, and prepared at a small outdoor kitchen, seen above. The menu has a range of options, but most go with either fresh lobsters which can be purchased by unit, or as we did, with a moqueca de lagosta – lobster moqueca (R$ 80). Our moqueca was flavorful and fresh, and the lobster cooked very well. Neither of us had eatern lobster in some time, and this moqueca left us wondering why we had neglected it for so long. The moqueca, as always, was accompanied by the standard Bahian fixings: rice, fresh veggies (tomatoes, onions, carrot slices, etc), farofa, a pot of beans, and pimenta, the spicy sauce of malagueta peppers that is not for the faint of heart.

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Tourist traps usually have bad food, or are overpriced. Guido’s has neither.

Guido’s did not blow our minds. It was not even the best place to eat on the island – we’re saving that for our next review. But if you want to eat great lobster, on the beach with a great view, while relaxing the day away, there can be no better option. We’ll be back.

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Finding the Best Acarajé in Bahia: The Rating Scale

With our quest to find the best açaí bowl in Rio de Janeiro now complete, we turn our energies to sorting out the best of our favorite Bahian dish: the classic acarajé. From the cobblestone streets of the Pelourinho to the beaches of Barra and the largos of Rio Vermelho, no Baiana in Salvador is safe from our rating scale. We’ll be searching far and wide to find our favorite in the city. Here’s our rating scale:

Value: Out of 5. Below R$3, 5/5; 3-4, 4/5; 4-5, 3/5; 5-6, 2/5; 6-7, 1/5; over 7, 0/5.

Taste/Texture: Out of 15. We need a solid acarajé, not too mushy or too hard, and a fresh, baiana-made taste.

Vatapá: Out of 5. How amazingly peanuty is it? How’s the texture? Did you let it sit too long in the sun? You will be harshly judged for messing up our favorite condiment; but handsomely rewarded if you do it well.

Salada: Out of 5. Perhaps even more overlooked than Vatapá – salada is the Pico de Gallo-esque mix of tomatoes and cilantro that is supposed to add a little crunch to the mix. How fresh is it? Does it add anything to the acaraje or is it just a watery mess?

Extras: Out of 5. Friendliness? Speed? Cleanliness? General awesomeoness of baiana outfit? Anything extra goes in this potpourri category.


For now, please enjoy our favorite song about Acarajé – “Retratos da Bahia” by Riachão

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Texan BBQ in São Paulo

brazilWe have often said that one of the things we miss most when we are in Brazil is American Barbecue.  However, we have just learned about an American BBQ joint in São Paulo, BOS Barbecue (Rua Pedroso Alvarenga, 559, Itaim Bibi, São Paulo). BOS BBQ is run by a team of Texans and Brazilians, and there is even reported to have the first American BBQ pit in all of meat-obsessed Brazil. BOS specializes in ribs and pulled pork and has several varieties of BBQ sauce to choose from (Espresso, Honey and Classic). First macarons and now BBQ – we could definitely live in São Paulo! Here is a complete review of BOS BBQ in Portuguese.

BOS BBQ

The Interior of BOS BBQ

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Pastry Post-Doc in Brazil: V Café

V Café
Rua Senador Dantas – 45, Cinelândia
Rio de Janeiro (Other Locations Nationwide in Brasil)

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Sometimes you just want a nice icy Starbucks-style coffee beverage laden with sugar and syrup  – and when you do, in Brazil, the answer is V Cafe! There are tons of these cafes over Brazil (owned by Parent company Viena), and a small branch is even conveniently located in one of our favorite bookstores – Livraria Cultura. Our two go-tos at V Café are the Mocciolata and the Cioccolata drinks (R$ 11 each). The Cioccolata is a very frothy iced hot chocolate, and the Mocciolata is basically the same – but with a shot of espresso. We appreciate the attention to detail in V’s drinks – all of the drinks come in real glassware – not paper cups – and a little cookie on the side – how nice. Of course there are also a wide variety of hot espresso and cappuccino drinks available.

V Cafe Mocciolata

V Cafe Mocciolata (and cookie)

There are wide a range of desserts available – including a rotating variety of cake slices (chocolate brigadeiro, orange and hazelnut are favorites), puddings and cookies. But if you are in the mood for a little something more, there are sandwiches (including salmon and brie/apricot) and even some healthy-looking salads. Seating at V Café in Livraria Cultura is at a premium, and people often bring a stack of books to while away the time while munching. We definitely can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy afternoon.

V Cafe

V Cafe in Livraria Cultura

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Dining on the Lagoa in Rio: Quiosque Arab

Quiosque Arab
Avenida Borges de Medeiros
Parque dos Patins, Quiosque 7
Rio de Janeiro

brazilThe Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (most commonly known just as “Lagoa” or “Lake) in the Zona Sul of Rio de Janeiro is a wonderful place to hang out on a nice day. There is a trail around the lake, paddle boats for rent, and of course, a nice activity is simply watching the sunset over the lake. There are many restaurants surrounding the lake as well as many smaller open-air kiosks – “quiosques” in Portuguese. They range from simple beach-food vendors to full-service restaurants that just happen to be open-air. One such restaurant is called Quiosque Arab, the sister restaurant to the fancier (indoor) Restaurant Arab in Copacabana (Avenida Atlântica 1936), which as one might guess, serves Middle-Eastern food. The Quiosque is a pretty extensive affair, with a large number of tables, and a complete blanketing of big green umbrellas.

Lagoa

The view from the Lagoa

There was a pretty extensive menu at the Quiosque, with a large amount of Arab appetizers including, kibbe, esfihas, breads, hummus and salads. There was also a full menu of entrees, which was heavy on kebabs and beef and rice dishes. M ordered the chicken kebab (R$ 45), which was served with tomato-y rice and tabbouleh. L ordered the Falafel Sandwich – (R$ 26). The char-grilled kebab was flavorful, and with a generous potion, however there was so much rice it seemed to be a filler to make up for a lack of other sides. The falafel itself was tasty, heavy on parsley flavor, and slathered with a generous helping of hummus, though the pita itself did not hold up (literally) to its fillings. If we ever visit again we might partake in the tea service – which looked delicious (and included cookies).

Lagoa Food

Kebab entree + View of the Lagoa

The food at the Quiosque was very good, but it goes without saying that you are paying for the view. But it is quite a view, especially as you watch the sun set over Cristo Redentor. On some nights there is also live music starting at 9 PM and the lake takes on a club-like atmosphere until the late hour of 3 AM on weekends. For early-birds the restaurant opens every day at 9 AM, where you can get an Arab breakfast (Café da manhã árabe) for R$ 36. We would recommend Quiosque Arab for a light lunch or dinner, since the prices will add up pretty quickly of you try to eat heartily.

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Chocolate Shops in Ouro Preto

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While wandering throughout historic Ouro Preto you will see stores selling Doces Caseiros, but you will also find them selling the one thing we like even better: chocolates. We visited a couple of chocolate shops while we were in Ouro Preto, and were surprised by the quality of the chocolates and the extensive menus. If you have a sweet tooth, you will never go hungry in Ouro Preto.

Puro Cacau (Rua Conde de Bobadela, 162) stands out on the street due to the large chocolate fountain in the window. That was surely enough to draw us in. A trip to the chocolate fountain (with a skewer of strawberries) cost a mere R$ 5. We were also pleased to find they had milkshakes, which were excellent (we went with cookies and cream). The menu also had a selection of paninis and wraps, which were good, but nothing to write home about.

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However, as the name would imply, the main reason to visit Puro Cacau is for the chocolate-related offerings. The entire front of the store is given over to selling jars of doce de leite, homemade bon bons and alfajors (Argentine sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche). You can also buy simple candies and truffles by weight out of glass jars. There was something deliciously retro about filling a paper bag with little chocolate candies. Even beyond chocolates there was an unusually extensive selection of bottled drinks and beers from around the world.
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Chocolates Ouro Preto (Praça Tiradentes, 111)

Chocolates Ouro Preto became our go-to lunch and coffee spot when we were in Ouro Preto, not to mention the fact that we had many a sweet treat there.  For those of you that are always plugged in (guilty here) there is also free Wifi.

Chocolates Ouro Preto

Chocolates Ouro Preto – right on Praca Tiradentes!

In the front of the store you can buy their chocolate items, including a huge amount of chocolate bars and very delicious truffles (R$ 2.50). We particularly enjoyed the passionfruit filled dark chocolate variety. We also appreciated the amazing selection of coffee drinks and other juices for those who are trying to be caffeine-free. There was also a large assortment of ice cream flavors.

For those with a bigger appetite, there were other savory treats, including full entrees soups and breads. We had one particularly delicious soup: creamy mandioquinha. Kind of like cheesy cream of potato soup, but better! There were also various salgados, pão de queijo and pão patate.

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Authentic Mexican food in Rio: Azteka

Azteka
Rua Visconde de Pirajá, 156 – Ipanema
Rio de Janeiro

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Mexico FlagLiving in Chicago spoils one for taco choices: there are amazing taquerias everywhere, from the high-end fancy places to tried-and-true local establishments, and the price is nearly always right. But Brazil seems to have the opposite problem: Salvador has but a few Mexican restaurants, and Rio de Janeiro even less, proportionately. However, Mexican food fans in Rio now have a new option.  The relatively new restaurant Azteka, helmed by transplanted Chicagoans  Aglika Angelova and Miguel F. Campos, aims to bring Mexican street food to the streets of Rio. When we heard chef Campos was from Chicago, we knew we had to visit, especially since our Mexican food cravings were strong after months out of the country (the tortillas we managed to find in Lisbon didn’t exactly satiate our craving).

Azteka Exterior

View into Azteka. Actually a lot of seating for an Ipanema establishment!

Azteka is a small restaurant, conveniently located right on Praca General Osorio in Ipanema. The decor is nice and modern, looking a little like a gussied up Chipotle. The menu at Azteka consists of burritos, tortas, tacos and quesadillas, with the choice of cochinta pibil (slow roasted pork), chicken, beef or pork al pastor. For starters there are dishes of house-made guacamole and pico de gallo. We ordered two cochinita pibil tacos for R$24 (about $12) and an Al Pastor quesadilla for R$ 26 (about $13).  Both were excellent: really good flour tortillas are difficult to pull off, and these made-in-house versions were great. The cochinita pibil was full of flavor and the al pastor was juicy and tender, and just a little bit sweet. Salsas were stars of the toppings, but the tacos were never overdressed: just lime, onion, cilantro and a little cheese, all the hallmarks of taco chefs who know what they are doing.

Azteka Tacos

Awesome tacos. Worth US$7 apiece? In Rio, definitely.

That said, Rio is an expensive food town overall, and Azteka is no different. The tacos were fantastic, and would easily compete with the best we’ve had in Chicago, but the price was no comparison: we paid over US$30 for four total tacos at Azteka, when we would pay $10 or less back home. But there can be no argument with the quality of food, the depth of flavors, and the care put into their preparation. We will always pay more for excellent food, and we were happy when the quality matched the price in a city where that does not always happen. The food at Azteka is definitely tastier than your average La Pasadita back in Chicago. Azteka satisfied all of our Mexican food cravings, and if we lived in Rio we would certainly be regulars.

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Pastry Post-Doc: Cappuccino at Confetaria Colombo

brazilM does not like cappuccino. Or coffee of any kind. At least this is the story he told himself, until an encounter with the most delectable, sweet, delicious coffee drink he has ever sampled: the famous cappuccino at Rio de Janeiro’s landmark Confeitaria Colombo. It took a lot of nudging for him to try it. With the parents visiting us in Rio for a week, M’s Mom raved about her cappuccino, proclaiming that it was the favorite thing she ate during her week in Rio. “Could it really be that good?” M thought to himself. A week later, having breakfast together with a friend, both L and friend were sampling cappuccinos in front of M, and finally, on a whim, he decided to go for it.

Colombo Cappuccino

The famous Colombo Cappuccino

He would end up having two. Topped with a generous amount of homemade whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon, this is more a sweet coffee drink than a real Italian cappuccino, hitting sweet and spiced high notes that purist coffee drinkers may scoff at. But not M: this was a pastry in a coffee cup, and just what he needed to get over his dislike of coffee drinks. If you are ever in Rio, do yourself a favor and head into Confeitaria Colombo, even if just to sample its famous – and very worth it – cappuccino. Score local points by standing at the bar!

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A Place for Macarons… in Salvador!

franceWe recently wrote about the boom of Macarons in São Paulo. However, the trend has even trickled down to Salvador, the 3rd largest  city in Brazil. In Shopping Barra, there is a relatively new store, called Avignon, which specializes in chocolates and macarons. The macarons are R$ 4.50 apiece in come in a variety of Brazilian and classic French flavors. When we visited there were: Doce de Leite, Chocolate, Almond, Passion Fruit and Strawberry varieties. While good, the macarons were a little soggy, not surprising given the humidity in Salvador, I guess. However it was great to sample a macaron after a 6-month drought! Other treats available at Avignon included financiers, croissants and a selection of chocolates.  There is also a small menu of drinks including espresso and hot chocolate. Definitely a taste of France in Bahia!

Macarons at Avignon

Macarons at Avignon by Gabiela Baleeiro for iBahia

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FIFA, McDonald’s, and the fight for acarajé in Bahia

brazilWhile we are in Salvador partaking in the city’s extensive acarajé offerings, visitors to Salvador for next year’s FIFA World Cup (possibly us!) will not have such an opportunity. For a series of complex reasons outlined by Jamie Anderson on her blog about life and culture in Salvador, the sale of acarajé will be banned within two kilometers of the refurbished Estadio Fonte Nova, the site of all the World Cup games here. Instead, McDonald’s – a major World Cup sponsor – will have full rights to all food distribution. As such, Bahia’s main street food – a major source of income for locals, and an integral part of the experience of Salvador – will be banned in favor of an American fast food establishment. Coca Cola’s recent billboard in support of baianas and acarajé (seen below) is a great commentary on the issue: Coca Cola claims it is working to “preserve this culture,” but what does it mean that a large corporate entity is working to preserve a culture of Afro-Brazilian street food? We’d like to think that acarajé is doing well otherwise, and will do even better if allowed to continue on its own terms.

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Needless to say, we at ETW do not support the move, and you can do the same: sign the petition at Change.org in support of baianas’ right to sell acarajé during the World Cup.

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Middle-Eastern Food in Brazil: Al Kuwait

Al Kuwait
Av. Treze de Maio, 23 – Centro
Rio de Janeiro

KuwaitbrazilsyrialebanonRio de Janeiro is full of middle-Eastern restaurants, ranging from
four-star white-tablecloth places to corner botecos, owing to the large Arab Brazilian population. Al Kuwait falls into the latter category, and does a brisk lunch trade selling Middle Eastern dishes, salgados and juices. Moreover, we figured we had to try this place since Al Kuwait claims to have some of the best kibbe in Rio.

Kibbe

Kibbe at Al Kuwait

Kibbe is extremely popular in Brazil, and is found in almost all snack bars, Middle Eastern or not. A kibbe in Brazil is basically a miniature football-shaped meatball (again, sounds like something Ron Swanson would appreciate, right?) composed of ground meat, bulgur and other fillings, which are then fried. For lunch we each ordered a kibbe and an esfiha (one cheese and one meat), another iconic Middle Eastern salgado. Now, we always eat at Middle Eastern restaurants in Chicago and we have never encountered esfihas there. However, in Brazil they are nearly as ubiquitous as kibbe (you can even get them on the beach). Esfihas are savory triangle pastries filled with meat or cheese, which are prefect to eat on the go.

Esfiha

Esfiha at Al Kuwait

However, Al Kuwait had a nice outdoor seating area, so we took a seat to enjoy our snacks. The kibbe was much larger than we expected, but true to advertising, was excellent and had a great texture and flavor. The esfihas were also oversized, but not as memorable as the kibbe. We also enjoyed that we could wash down our somewhat-heavy meal with some fresh juice (Mango, Passion fruit and Pineapple were on order). There is also a full menu of entree-sized middle-eastern specialties if you would like something a bit more substantial, including hummus, baba ghanouj, kebabs and Brazilian specialties like picanha sandwiches. Al Kuwait is a great place for lunch, especially if you want a taste of typical Arab-Brazilian cuisine in a laid-back setting.

Al Kuwait

Dining Al Fresco at Al Kuwait

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Homemade Sweets / Doces Caseiros from Minas Gerais

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Minas Gerais is also known for its sweets (Doces) made from various fruit pastes, that are often seen in huge wheels of candy. They are pretty impressive to see – imagine a treat the size of a giant Parmesean wheel – but in vivid orange, green or pink! You then pay by the weight to get a little chunk for yourself to take home. When we were in Minas Gerais we saw these giant wheels of candy around town, but even if you are not in Minas, major grocery stores often boast their own doces for sale by weight.

Cocada/ Doce de Coco

Cocada/ Doce de Coco – made from Coconut.

There are shops all around Ouro Preto advertising that they sell “Doces Caseiros / Tradicionais” (Homemade/Traditional Sweets). Though we are quite familiar with Doce de leite, we had never encountered some of these varieties before such as: Doce de Abóbora (pumpkin candy), Doce de Goiaba (Guava Candy) and Doce de Coco (Coconut Candy). The consistency of these treats is basically like fudge, though maybe a little more dense.

Doces Caseiros in Rio

Doces Caseiros in Rio

Also popular in Minas are sweet in spreadable form, especially variations on doce de leite (dulce de leche or milk caramel). You will see this type of spread very commonly with add-ins or swirls of another flavor – including chocolate and peanut. We had a chunk of doce de leite/peanut candy in Ouro Preto and it was heavenly, especially since we were going through peanut butter withdrawal.

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Pastry Post Doc in Brazil: Casa Cavé

Casa Cavé
Rua Sete de Setembro, 127 – Centro
Rio de Janeiro

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Rio de Janeiro is home to some beautiful colonial architecture as well as some wonderful, classic coffee houses that would be right at home in Lisbon. Casa Cavé is one of those places, featuring excellent pastries and drinks at reasonable prices in a salon that reminded us of our time in Portugal (there are even Portuguese azulejos on the wall). Cavé used to be in a larger, more ornate building just around the corner, which still bears the name “Casa Cavé” on the front, so don’t get confused (as we did – more on that in a future post). You can now find Casa Cavé by its distinctive green sign.

Casa Cave Sign

Casa Cave Sign

When you first enter Casa Cavé, you are greeted by an enormous wall of cookies and a wonderful pastry counter. The specialties at Casa Cavé are Portuguese pastries sold by the unit, and many people opt to take their cookies to go (you pay by the kilo – at a very reasonable price). Once you get past the long, glass counter of treats, you arrive in the larger tea salon, “sala de cha,” where you can enjoy coffee and other snacks. The interior is pretty, with almost a Grecian twist, very much reminding us of a Lisbon coffee house.

Casa Cave Interior

Casa Cave Interior

The selection of pastries was pretty overwhelming, and included everything you would expect in a Portuguese bakery, with some Brazilian favorites thrown in. In the tea salon you can get everything from the bakery, as well as a selection of coffee, juices and light sandwiches. Unfortunately there were not any iced coffee selections (this is Brazil in the Summer heat of 36°C/96°F, so we were surprised)! We had a “ratinho” (true to name, the treat was shaped like a mouse/rat), miniature bem casados (Brazilian dolce de leite sandwich cookies) and pastel de nata. All of the treats were delicious and freshly-made, and we were surprised that the pastel de nata was pretty much up to Portuguese standards, with a nice flaky crust. We were also pleased that nothing set us back more than 3 reais apiece.

Casa Cave Treats

Casa Cave Treats

We could have spent all day sampling the baked goods at Casa Cavé, and we were happy to see some of our Portuguese favorites in Brazil (Jesuitas, Linguas de Gato, Pasteis de Nata). If you are looking for a quiet spot to relax in Rio, Casa Cavé is a perfect break from chaotic modern-day Centro.

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Pastry-Post Doc in Brazil: American-Style Cookies at Besi in Rio

Besi
Rua do Carmo, 61 – Centro
Rio de Janeiro

brazilWe are very keen on the Brazilian idea of including cafes in bookstores and other places you might not necessarily expect a cafe. Case in point: Besi Cafe is located in the back of an adorable homegoods and kitchenware store. The cafe is all the way in the back and its is quite difficult to make it past all of the tempting Le Creuset implements and cast iron without buying something (though I suppose that is the point). Besi has a full menu of salads and sandwiches, however the coffee drinks and cookies are the specialties. What is called a “cookie” in Brazil greatly overlaps with what is a cookie in the USA. However, what is often absent from Brazilian bakeries is a good old Tollhouse-Style gooey chocolate chip cookie, or one of those big jumbo soft cookies you find in classic delis.

Besi Cafe

Kitchen goods store + Cafe = Besi

We were kind of homesick for that “big old cookie,” so we were very pleased to hear that Besi Cafe was known for their American-style cookies. When we visited, there were three varieties of cookie on offer (R$6 each): Sea salt chocolate, Triple chocolate chip (milk, dark and white chocolate), and Cinnamon with dark chocolate chips. The sea salt chocolate cookie was almost flat, but had a wonderful flavor (sea salt + chocolate is always a winner combination). The cinnamon and chocolate chip cookie was more leavened and had a strongly cinnamon flavor and was chock-a-block with chips. Of the two varieties, we preferred the chocolate for its flavor, but the texture of the chocolate chip. Unfortunately, Besi did not deliver a cookie that was top notch on all fronts, but rather a series of good cookies. We also greatly enjoyed the cappuccinos with foam art, not heretofore seen in Brazil, (R$ 8) made with Minas Gerais-gown Cafe Suplicy and the loose-leaf Moroccan mint tea ($R 5). While not a perfect imitation, the cookies at Besi are great for a quick fix when a craving hits.

Besi Cafe Cookies

Besi Cafe Cinnamon and chocolate chip cookie (one piece taken out and reassembled)

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The Best Açaí in Rio de Janeiro!

brazilHow time flies! Our time in Rio de Janeiro has drawn to a close, and we are in Salvador da Bahia now, which means it is time to tabulate the results for the best açaí bowl in Rio. We had a lot of fun sampling açaí spots all over the city, and you can see all of our reviews below. Along the way we learned the difference between regional styles of açaí and sampled more granola and tapioca puffs than we’d ever imagined. So without further ado….

The winner of the best açaí in Rio de Janeiro is: Tacacá do Norte

Incidentally, the best açaí bowl in Rio, at least according to our metrics, was the last bowl we tried! Tacacá do Norte had near-perfect Northern-style açaí, with a good price point. Our top Carioca-style açaí was at Polis Sucos.

The Results (Highest to lowest score):

Tacacá do Norte: 36 / 40
Barraca do Pará: 34 / 40
Polis Sucos: 34 / 40
Amazônia Soul: 32 / 40
Bibi Sucos: 31 / 40
Vero Suco: 30.5 / 40
Kicê Sucos: 27.5 / 40
Pioneiro dos Sucos: 22 / 40

Acai at Tacaca do Norte

The Winner: Acai at Tacaca do Norte

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