Often photographed, the Copacabana in Rio has become the most instantly recognizable
beach in the world. For many, this city within a city of shops, nightclubs,
restaurants, theaters, and beach, is Rio. Although a little aged and somewhat
tawdry from a few years of hard times, the Copacabana still has the look.
From morning to night,
stunning bodies, scantily dressed, lay, play, swim, and prowl on miles of
beach, which curves irresistibly in front of five-star hotels and luxury condominiums.
Trendy nightclubs and restaurants in the Copacabana and its neighboring areas
offer visitors the hedonistic pleasures they so relentlessly seek. If they
have doubts, the friendly Cariocas (locals), hawking everything from
bird kites to themselves, will be happy to prove it to them.
The flipside to all this
pleasure and luxury is the favela (shantytown). Known as Rocinha, the
infamous slum climbs the mountain behind the Copacabana. Like the Copacabana,
it too is a city within a city, but unlike the Copacabana, Rocinha is an overcrowded
anthill of narrow streets and alleys with no sewers and deplorable health
Inhabited by drug dealers
and laborers, and threatened during the rainy season by landslides, it is
hardly a picture postcard site. But gazing up at it from the Copacabana, it
looks like an attractive and colorful mosaic amidst grey rock and green trees.
Observing Rio with outstretched
arms, on a two-thousand-foot high summit, is the Cristo Redentor. The imposing,
eye-catching statue of Christ reminds Cariocas and visitors of Brazil's
deeply religious soul. Visible day or night from almost anywhere within Rio,
the one-hundred-foot-high statue sits on its lofty pedestal (Corcovado) and,
from its pinnacle, offers sightseers a breath-taking view of the Sugar Loaf
and the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches.
For those visiting Rio
during Carnaval, the party begins promptly when the mayor gives the city keys
to Rei Momo, the king of Carnaval and Lord of Misrule. From that moment on,
until the start of Lent, it is one wild, supersonic, five-day, 24-hour blast
off of sound and movement, a happy, devil-may-care kaleidoscope of colorfully
costumed and painted party-goersdrinking and sinning non-stop.
Amidst all this partying
is the musica fusion of race and culturefrom hip-to-hip forró
to samba-rock. During Mardi Gras, and throughout the year, the rhythmic sounds
fill the air. But it is during Carnaval that the music reaches its crescendo,
and the hottest musical fashions explode everywhere accompanied by floats
and motion and song.
No matter when you visit,
Rio is the place to befor sun, fun, and, especially, food. Finding good
food (and drink, from tropical fruit juices, suco, to Brazil's personality-altering
alcohol cachaça) isn't difficult. Food is another Brazilian
A large and ethnically
diverse country, each region of Brazil provides food lovers with a special
selection of food that is tastily seasoned without being too fiery. In parts
of the south, for example, there is the German influence; in São Paulo,
the Italian and Japanese influence; and in Bahia, the African influence. The
most traditional foods, though, are adaptations of Portuguese and African
Most Brazilian cooking
is home-style, done in a single pot, and served at room temperature, which
makes it perfect for entertaining. For those who enjoy fire, molho apimentado
(a table sauce) can be added. To truly enjoy the food and the spirit of
the eating experience, the food should be shared with lots of people and with
Brazilian music (preferably a samba) in the background.
Foods favored among visitors
are: salgadinhos (small Brazilian pastries stuffed with cheese and
meets), churrasco (barbecued meats and sausages prepared at an open
fire), feijoada (a meat, beans and sausage stew), and cozido
(meats and vegetables _usually squash, cabbage and kaleboiled together).
Many of the ethnic dishes
popular in other parts of Brazil can be enjoyed in Rio. For a memorable dining
experience in Rio, the following six restaurants are recommended. They are
currently popular, but like all great cities this can change suddenly. Restaurants
open and close, great chefs come and go, and what was isn't and what wasn't
It is, therefore, recommended
to ask the hotel concierge for the latest update before making your reservation.
When planning your evening out, remember that Cariocas like to eat
late (after 9 p.m.), and food servings are usually huge, oftentimes sufficient
for two. The restaurants listed below can be dressy, and for Americans, not
Rua Aristides Espinola 19, Leblon. Telephone: 2294 1496. Antiquarius is an
elegant restaurant with mirror-lined walls and expensive furnishings. Reputed
to be one of Rio's best restaurants, the Antiquarius has won several awards
for its versatile classic Portuguese menu, which includes such dishes as perna
de carneiro (leg of lamb) and Cascais-style seafood with rice. On Sundays,
it offers its jazzed-up version of cozido.
Copacabana Palace Hotel, Avenida Atlântica 1702, Copacabana. Telephone:
2545-8747. This superb restaurant in this legendary hotel is considered one
of the best in Rio. In addition to Italian cuisine, the Cipriani, which overlooks
the swimming pool, serves excellent vegetarian options. The food suits royalty.
Rio, Avenida Prefeito Mendes de Morais 222, São Conrado. Telephone:
3323 2200. The Inter-Continental along with the Caesar Park Hotel (Avenida
Vieira Souto 460, Ipanema; telephone: 2525 2525) are popular on Saturday afternoons
for feijoada, a Brazilian national dish. Made with black beans, feijoada
is filled with a variety of dried, salted and smoked meatsand served
with many extras, including slices of orange to reduce the consequences of
Le Saint Honoré
(French), Le Méridien Hotel, Avenida Atlântica, 1020, Copacabana
Leme. Telephone: 3873 8880. Le Saint Honoré offers visitors French
gourmet food (such as Amazonian pintado, mackerel) and a breathtaking
panoramic view of the beach from the 37th floor. Some consider Le Saint Honoré
the top restaurant in Rio, if not South America.
Rua Barão da Torre 218, Ipanema. Telephone: 3202-9150. Porcão
is popular with Rio's rich and famous for churrascaria, a Brazilian
barbecue. Diners choose as much as they think they can eat from the salad
buffet, and from waiters who move around the restaurant carrying platters
of beef, chicken, and lamb. You should begin your dinner with Brazil's national
drink caipirinha, a wicked mixture of sugar cane rum, brown sugar,
and lime. Porcão has seven locations.
The Academy of Cooking
and Other Pleasures
Those eager to learn the
art of Brazilian cooking should head to the Academia de Cozinha e Outros Prazeres
(Academy of Cooking and Other Pleasures) either by the ocean in Paraty or
in the Minas Gerais mountains in Ouro Preto. Both schools are run by Yara
Castro Roberts, a native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
A graduate in culinary
arts from Boston University, art history from the École du Louvre,
with a bachelor degree in education from the Sorbonne, Yara has the education
to be the extraordinary gourmet cook/teacher that she has become.
The daughter of a famous
Brazilian chef and caterer, Yara has distinguished herself on her own in the
Americas. She was featured in a video Brazilian Cuisine with Yara Roberts
and was the hostess of a PBS series on important Brazilian cuisine and its
cultural tradition. A lecturer at leading American universities, she has been
written up in magazines and newspapers many times.
Dubbed an inexhaustible
ambassador for food and other things Brazilian by The New York Times,
she brings to each class she teaches the best of three worldsFrench
savoir-faire, Latin warmth, and American sensibility. Her cooking school program
at both locations provides an introduction to gastronomy and some background
information about the foods' ethnic and regional connection to the traditions
and history of Brazil.
The school in Ouro Preto
(one hour by air from Rio to Belo Horizonte and another hour by car from Belo
Horizonte) is located in a 17th century colonial, university town.
During the gold rush in the 1700s, Ouro Preto became the richest city in the
New World and the capital of Minas Gerais. Today it is a popular tourist area,
which offers some of the world's best preserved examples of colonial baroque
architecture. Throughout the year, festivals and historical celebrations are
held in the city.
The school in Paraty (three-and-a
half hours by car from Rio) is situated in another colonial paradise. Founded
in 1660, Paraty faces the sea, and is backed by mountains. During the rush
for gold and diamonds in the 18th century, the city became famous
Today it is a beautifully
preserved seaside village with many mansions and estates, and narrow streets
that contain hidden surprises: charming pousadas (inns), colonial houses,
restaurants and art galleries. The village provides easy access to spectacular
island beaches and mountain trails through rain forests that lead to waterfalls
with natural pools.
Yara's Minas Gerais program
offers students seven days of classes filled with savory recipes and enriched
with information on the history, art, music and literature as well as the
local social customs. The classes include Minas Gerais cookery, Brazilian
pastries, the Brazilian tradition of "high coffee," and more. Some
extras are a tour of Ouro Preto, the Baroque art museum and its architectural
wonders, and the not-to-be-missed classical musical performance of an outdoor
The Paraty program includes
boat trips and hill country visits to its core culinary experience. The three-day
program offers students hands-on cooking, trips to a water-powered manioc
flour mill, a hearts of palm plantation, and other pleasant distractions (candy
making demonstrations and outdoor musical presentations, for example).
Price for the Ouro Preto
program is now $2,295 per person, single occupancy. This covers food and lodging
for 6 days. Classes are held in May, September, and November.
The Paraty program costs
$1,395 per person, single occupancy. The price covers food and lodging for
3 days. Classes are held February through November.
is limited to 10 people. Sessions start on Sunday evenings in Ouro Preto and
end on Friday afternoons, and in Paraty, they begin on Friday and end on Monday.
Classes run three hours each day with fun-filled supportive activities afterwards.
Program costs are exclusive
of airfare and include transfers from airport to hotel, all sessions, events,
field trips, print materials, hotel accommodations, breakfasts and gourmet
For more information,
contact Yara Castro Roberts, Rua Dona Geralda 228, Centro Histórico,
Paraty 23970-000 RJ. Telephone: (24) 3371-6468. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pork Roast Vila
Pork Roast Vila Rica style
is an elegant Minas Gerais dish, which is perfect for special occasions. It
dates back to 1808 when gold was abundant and King Dom João VI of Portugal
and his court relocated to Brazil (fleeing Napoleon). Elevated from a Portuguese
colony to a commonwealth, Brazil was now able to obtain ingredients that were
unavailable before like dried fruits, spices, and Porto and Madeira wines.
The pork roast recipe is taught at Yara's Ouro Preto school. It can be served
with sautéed vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, and white rice.
4 lbs. pork roast, boned
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons black
7 ounces apricots
7 ounces ham
1 red bell pepper,
cut in 1/2 inch strips
4 ounces carrots,
peeled, cut in 1/2 inch strips and cooked for 2 minutes
3 ounces olives,
3 tablespoons vegetable
2 cups orange juice
2 onions, peeled
and cut in 8 pieces
Trim all visible fat and
slivers of skin. Butterfly the meat to create a rectangular shape. Cover the
meat with wax paper and pound the meat till it is 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle
with salt, black pepper, and lime juice. Cover and reserve (while preparing
Split the apricots in
half and flatten them. Dry the meat with a paper towel and spread mustard
over the pork, then cover it with ham. On top of the meat, arrange parallel
lines of apricots, bell pepper, raisins, olives, and carrots. Press into the
meat with your hands. Carefully roll the meat pressing down firmly.
Tie with a string. Heat
oil in a cast iron pan and brown the meat on all the sides. Pour orange juice
on the bottom of the pan, and add the quartered onions. Bake in the oven at
375º F for 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, remove the string and cut
into slices. Heat the pan juices and strain. Place onions on a side dish and
the juice in a bowl. Serve the slices of pork with the juice and the onions.
Amazon Style Fish
Amazon Style Fish is healthy,
and it makes a fabulous presentation. No side dishes are needed, when serving
this fish, since it's made with tomato sauce, farofa, and bananas.
Inspired by Amazon cooking, it came into vogue hundreds of years ago when
the Portuguese colonized Brazil. The Indian women in charge of the cooking
would wrap the food in banana leaves and grill it slowly on the moquém
(similar to a barbecue, but made of a wood). The fish recipe is taught at
Yara's Paraty school.
3 lbs. whole yellow tile,
or a grouper fish, boned and open into a butterfly (head and tail still attached)
or six 8 ounce fish filets
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 tablespoon black
3 tablespoons lemon
2 tablespoons vegetable
1 cup chopped onions
6 garlic cloves,
1/2 cup chopped
2 teaspoons Tabasco
sauce or 1 malagueta pepper crushed
1 lb. tomatoes,
peeled, seeded and quartered or a 16-ounce can of whole tomatoes
2 cups fish broth
4 bananas peeled
and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive
oil or butter
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 tablespoon vegetable
2 tablespoons garlic,
3 cups manioc flour
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Brazil nuts,
square banana leaf, if filet (found in South Asian food stores), or 6 banana-leaf
squares for a whole fish.
Wash the fish thoroughly
and pat dry. Spread salt, pepper, and lemon juice over the entire fish, then
place it in reserve in the refrigerator.
In a medium-size saucepan,
heat the vegetable oil and sauté the onions over medium-low heat until
they wilt. Then add the garlic and the chopped cilantro, mixing all ingredients
together well. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and their juices,
and mix with the other ingredients. Add the fish broth and cook for 20 minutes
over a low heat. Let it cool.
Heat oil and butter a
in a skillet and fry the bananas 2 by 2 until light brown, then place on a
In the same skillet heat
the oil and butter over a low fire and sauté the garlic. Add the manioc
flour by pouring it through your fingers into the skillet. Mix the flour and
butter, while scraping the bottom of the pan with a spoon. Season with salt
and pepper. Always mix ingredients gently. Cook until the flour becomes moist
and lightly golden.
Place the fish on top
of the banana leaves and open the fish. Using a spoon, cover the entire fish
with the tomato sauce. Place over the fish lengthwise a mound of farofa
(available in Latin American or Caribbean food markets). Sprinkle with Brazil
nuts and press firmly into the fish with the hands. Place the fried bananas
on top of the farofa and press gently. Carefully fold the fish toward
the center. If using a whole fish, tie it with a string. Wrap the fish with
the banana leaves. (If using the filet, close both sides with toothpicks.)
Place the wrapped fish
in a baking dish, pour 1 cup of water on the bottom of the pan, and bake for
20 to 30 minutes in a 325º F preheated oven.
Open the banana leaves
and serve with the remaining tomato sauce, farofa, and malagueta
sauce on the side. (Serves 6)
Joe David is the author of four books on education, including two novels,
The Fire Within and Teacher of the Year. For more information
about Joe David's writings, visit www.bfat.com.
This article was originally published by ASU Travel Guide, the #1 publication
for airline-employee travel discounts (www.asutravelguide.com),