Friday, October 15, 2010

caipirinhas: a matter of great importance

So I thought that I would wait a bit to address the issue of CAIPIRINHAS, but I just couldnt control myself. I mean what if one of you just happened to be leaving on your Rio trip and hadnt read these words of wisdom?

FIRST: I apologize for the half full caipirinha above, but I rarely have my camera with me when out having a caipirinha, So this is a rare pic. But you also must note that this is the famous Azeda Beach caipirinha, which is the most beautiful one I have come across throughout my years of study, complete with a pineapple leaf, a purple grape and a fuschia flower. Only a woman with great taste could have made this!

SECOND: Caipirinhas are made with cachaca and lime and sugar, that´s all. Since limes really dont change much in flavor, much less sugar, you MUST invest in the cachaca (sugar cane alcohol). Cachaca is not rum, not even close to it. It is much more flavorful and doesnt have that strong (rubbing alcohol) smell that some people seem to love....

(this is the bottle you are on the lookout for guys!)

THIRD: What does this all mean? When you go to a restaurant and like a pro you ask for your caipirinha (CAI-PER-EEN-YA), please make certain to ask if they have a special cachaca (KA-SHA-SA). It will cost more but it is worth it. Whatever you do do not, I repeat do NOT have a caipirinha made with 51, pitu or velho barreiro (velyo bahayro). Besides getting a bad tasting caipirinha you will get a serious hangover. If you are lucky enough to be going to a respectable restaurant with a choice of cachaca, then go for NEGA FULO (nega fuLO). If they only have those terrible three mentioned above then have a caipiroska which is exactly the same thing but made with vodka.

FOURTH: Unfortunately all great trips come to an end. When you go home I bet you will be craving a caipirinha. Lucky you, I am going to share the secrets to an excellent caipirinha. Look for some Leblon cachaca which many stores now carry in the States. Buy your juicy limes and I assume you have some sugar at home. Cut the limes lengthwise down the middle and remove the pith with the knife. This is terribly important because the pith is pure bitterness - arg dont want that! Now you should have two pithless halves of a lime. Flip the piece over so it looks like a turtle and make thin slices, but not all the way down to the bottom. Now take the pieces and crush them with a mortar and pestle. Put the smashed limes, one and a half shots of cachaca, two big spoons of sugar and lots of ice into a cocktail shaker, shake like mad and put the whole mess into a beautiful crystal glass, and if you have a flower to decorate with, then all the better!

FIFTH: If you are in Rio then go to the Academia da Cachaca (Cachaca College!) bar/restauarant. It is located in a fun part of Leblon and you can sit on the sidewalk and people watch while you try one of their 50 brands of cachaca, or one of their 20 types of caipirinha! Rua Conde Bernadotte, 26. Tel.(21) 2529-2680

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bira restaurant: only for Cariocas

Welcome to Bira! If this photo on its own doesn't inspire you for some serious seafood stew, you must be on a perpetual diet.

Why would I write that Bira is only for Cariocas? They will certainly very happily accept your money, but they wont accept your credit cards. Furthermore you will have to take an extremely long cab ride. But I wouldn't be writing this unless it was well worth your time (and money!).

This is where my husband and I had our rehearsal dinner for our wedding over 10 years ago. Our guests are still talking about it, or that which they remembered after too many caipirinhas! So, as I am still married to the same wonderful Carioca husband, and above is one of the mini Cariocas we have since created, take a day on the weekend and make the trek to BIRA.

I would suggest renting a cab for the day, through your hotel. This way you can make a day trip out of the affair. First relax in the sun at one of the wildest (as in wildlife) beaches in Rio, called Prainha (tell the cab it is after Recreio beach, he will know). It is in the middle of a wildlife reserve and is, again, one of those non-tourist, Rio native type places. Few gringos to be found here!

Now back to this crazy stew they serve at Bira! After the beach at Prainha, ask the cab to go to Pedra da Guaratiba, which is a small town over the hills. The trip on its own is very picturesque, but again our focus here is food! Once you get to the military entrance in Pedra da Guaratiba there is a sharp turn left and you will go up the hill to Bira. Your cab drive will have to ask some people, but it is easy to find.

The name of the stew is Moqueca. As a national dish you are almost obligated to order it. It will come bubbling to your table, and taking this photo was quite a task as the seafood steam kept fogging up the lens. The stew well reflects that which is Brazil, lots of African flavor, with the coconut milk and palm oil, as well as some coriander to freshen things up a bit. Fish through the stew and you will find octopus, mussels, fish and shrimp. For those of you who are less adventuresome you can order the same stew but just with shrimp and fish. Both come with manioc flour (better than it sounds!) and rice.

And last but not least you are basically eating in a tree house! The view from here over another nature reserve is absolutely spectacular. If you are lucky a mico monkey might scamper though the trees (dont worry they hate octopus stew!). And of course I would never recommend this place if it didnt also have fabulous caipirinhas! (you might want to order some shrimp pasteis to start). Bon appetit!

Rua Barros de Alarc√£o, 476, Pedra de Guaratiba, 2417-1716

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jobi: a Carioca favorite

Thirsty? Jobi can help. This bar in Leblon, Av Ataulfo de Paiva 1166, has been helping thirsty Cariocas for many years. You can sit on one of those high (and uncomfortable) bar stools out in the middle of the sidewalk watching Rio fauna walk by or sit at a cozy table inside. Either way you will feel like a real Carioca.

Have a beer and shrimp empadinha, or how about some delicious provencal octopus, or dried beef with butternut squash? The names of these dishes, granted, are a bit odd but they are: delicious! If you are feeling a little less adventuresome try a steak sandwich or steak with cheese, and if you feel rich order the scrumptious parma ham on french bread sandwich.
But please, as I have seen some sad gringoes do in the paast, do not order a pizza (go to Braz restauarant instead!) nor an omelette (try Market restaurant for this) here.
Bon appetit!

Beaches: Ipanema guide

Time to go to the beach!

Easy, put on your Anika bikini, grab a towel, don't forget the sunscreen and off you go, right?


Going to the beach in Rio is a true art form, and one to master. I want to help you all fit in, be temporary Cariocas and give you the inside scoop on what is going on in this wonderful city. So that being said I will ask you to first leave that HOTEL TOWEL at home, got it? Put your pareo, sunglasses and sunscreen in your big ol´ beach bag, put on your Havaianas and hit the beach guys.
Now...which beach?
See, things aren't as easy as they look in Rio. You might think, well I am staying in Ipanema, so I will go to the beach in Ipanema. Yes, you will, but each part of the beach draws a different crowd, which makes it quite fun, as well as a complete anthropological study.

(BTW you might not want to go to Leblon beach, even if you are staying there bc the water can get pretty dirty)

You will notice that there are what they call "postos" with numbers on them. They are easy to reference and to find and that is often how friends decide where to meet. I am going to generalize below so don´t be offended.

Posto 9: Has been the cool Posto for many years. Maybe for that reason it is not as cool as it once was, but it has a generally attractive crowd of people in their 20-early 30's.

Posto 8: Located in front of Farme de Almoedo street and you will certainly notice all of the rainbow flags and very pretty boys in very tight speedos!

Arpoador: At the far left hand side of Ipanema if you are facing the water. It has a mixxed crowd and is one of my favorite parts of Ipanema. There are millionaires and poor kids from the slums all sunning and enjoying the beach. Afterwards you can walk up the rock and have an amazing view of the sunset.

Country: In front of the fanciest country club of Rio, this is where the golden boys and girls of Rio come, hey if you aren´t golden in your early 20's when will you be? Between Henrique Dumont and Anibal de Medonca streets.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

sugarloaf: the secret side to the landmark

Now I know you all, like good tourists will be heading to Sugarloaf, and well you should. It is absolutely stunning up there and lots of fun to ride the cable car a la James Bond in Goldfinger. However, did you know that there is also a beautiful TRAIL that wraps around the Sugarloaf rock?
Above is Praia Vermelha, which is the beach slightly to the left of the cable car entrance. Once you have located the beach, which is plain simple, you can locate the trail. On the left hand side (if you are facing the water) is CLAUDIO COUTINHO trail.
Can you tell that this place is magical? And I am not even showing you photos of the cute little mico monkeys that run around on the trees. Beyond the monkeys, this is one that even your great grandma could walk - paved, barely any incline, and only 2.5 km, is that 1.5 miles? And that is round trip guys!
If you are feeling particularly inspired, which I think you will, halfway through the trail on your left hand side (clearly because the right hand side is a cliff going into the ocean) is an opening for the trail that goes up to the first level of SugarLoaf. This trail is NOT for your grandma, and maybe not even for you, unless you like trails that would be better skied down, meaning extreme incline. But I have walked this trail, albeit about 10 years ago, and it is extremely satisfying to have walked up SugarLoaf, instead of paying a fortune for the cable car. Note however that you will have only made it up to the first mountain, not the second.
On your way down? Dont forget that you are very luckily in the same neighborhood as Bar Urca (another one of my famous posts!), so dont delay and go have a cold beer on the wall overlooking the Bay, along with the best view of the city.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

time to SHOP !

Holidays are comprised of: beach, bars, dining and oh my gosh, how did I ever get this far on the blog and not address the important issue of SHOPPING? What is wrong with me?!?

SO to make up for lost time I going to give you the inside scoop on how and why all of these Rio girls look so fabulous! Ready - FARM! Now please dont judge a store by its name, because the name is ridiculous, I agree with you there...but this place is to die for.

Since you are probably staying in the south zone of Rio anyway (Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon) you might as well go to the flagship store located on Visconde de Piraja 547. I warn you that you will probably take over an hour, so leave the man at the beach, hotel, wherever, just dont bring him shopping!

The sales girls are total sweethearts and many of them speak English and are basically models walking around showing off the best way to wear the clothes. They have it all here: clothes, bikinis, shoes, bags. Hope you have fun, and dont forget to check out the music dial in your dressing room, where you can play DJ while you try on the goods!

I couldnt resist filling you in on another TOP SECRET place. So you absolutely love the crazy prints and colors at FARM and wish your darling daughter, niece, goddaughter etc could look just as great as you? I knew it! and so did the designers at FARM, which is why you can now get in a cab and in 5 minutes get to the store called FABULA, located in Leblon in the Rio Design Center mall on Ataulfo de Paiva.
Have fun girls!

bar Urca: top secret

Now if this image doesn´t get you straight on a plane to Rio, then it is time to jump off a bridge! Tell me, does YOUR local bar look like this one?

This has got to be one of the most Carioca (Rio native) establishments out there. You go to the Bar Urca - Rua Candido Gaffre, 205 ( 10 to 15 minute cab ride) counter across the street, ask for your beer and snacks, wait, messed up on the order of things here....

FIRST STEP: scout out a good spot on THE WALL (aka muro in Portuguese), which is far enough in the shade for your liking. Leave your buddy to protect the wall area you have staked out.

SECOND STEP: (carefully!) cross the street, remembering that Rio drivers do NOT, I repeat do NOT stop for a pedestrian, they enjoy seeing how fast they can make you run for your life as you cross the street.

THIRD STEP: safely on the other side of the street and at the bar? Good! Order a Bohemia (BOW-EM-YA) beer and 4 (CUATRO) pasteis (PASS-TAYS) de camarao (CAM A RAU). You are about to eat shrimp empada type snacks, but better!

FOURTH STEP: cross the street with all of your yummy food and beer, and please oh please look ALL ways before crossing so you and your beer dont become road kill. Dont forget that this step becomes exponentially more dificult the more beers you have had!

FIFTH STEP: sit on the wall, with your beer, your buddy and pasteis, looking out over the Guanabara Bay and figure out how in the world you are going to get a job in this amazing city and live here for the rest of your life!

Mission complete!