The wonderful time spending a day walking the streets of Rio de Janeiro with the food tour company Culinary Backstreets was captured in my article here. Learning about the foods, fruits, spices, and drinks that Brazilians enjoy was certainly the highlight of our trip to South America.
Now, this article highlights all the tried and true tourist spots that are must-sees when visiting this exotic beautiful beach fronted city. Rio de Janeiro is a city that surpassed our expectations of it. The food, the people, the atmosphere, and the beaches were all captivating, fun, relaxing, and colorful. With the upcoming Olympic games, hopefully this photo journal will help all those journeying to Brazil enjoy what to do and see.
Just flying into Rio is such a transformative sight. The sparkling blue waters dotted with tiny white pushpins of sailboats curve artistically in and out of the tumbling elongated hills jutting up extravagantly and sprayed with tropical looking foliage.
The food markets, like in Praça General Osório in Ipanema on Tuesdays are bustling with smiling vendors, tropical fruits bursting with juices of every flavor, and a spirit of entrepreneurship that seemed thriving and bold. We munched on crispy savory Bolinho de Bacalhau (codfish balls) and washed them down with the celebrated national drink called Capirinha (made from cachaça, or sugar cane) while holding our glasses aloft and wishing each other saúde”(toast to your health). At the top of a towering hill, underneath a huge passing tramway that would glide over our heads, we tucked into generous plates of spiced arroz (rice) covered with plump camarã (shrimp) simmered in a tomato broth made by several women who welcomed us into their favela (low income but bustling energetic artistic housing areas of Rio)
When arriving at any major tourist destination, there is always the question to see or not to see the main tourist attractions. Do we go off the beaten path or do we see the tried and true? For us, seeing the tried and true locations were experiences that offered tantalizing viewpoints of Rio unlike anywhere else…so in this city…they were worth it.
Coincidentally, the author of a new Brazilian cookbook called Churrasco (Brazilian style bbq), reached out to offer a copy for me to review since I would be experiencing the Brazilian food scene. What a fun opportunity to see first hand and experience the kitchens, food tours, and street life of Brazil and then return home and dive into Evandro Caregnato’s cookbook that celebrates all things grilled and bbq’d.
It was difficult to not dream of steaks, gaucho culture, and the churrascaria experience. The photos generously spread throughout the cookbook are gorgeous and mouth-watering.
Spending time on Ipanema Beach and Copacabana Beach was great fun. I was surprised how relaxed and quiet the beach scenes were compared to the rather raucous party images that abound in the media. It was easy to walk at the edge of the surf for long stretches at a time watching the children playing, being entertained by the volleyball games underway, and passing clusters sunbathers stretched out under the hot Brazilian sun.
Food vendors line the beaches and offer everything from light snacks, fruity drinks to bold and hearty rice and seafood dishes.
Because we spoke no Portuguese, we made what we considered to be the most useful tourist decision of the trip. We hired Julio Merz, a personal driver, to whisk us from one part of Rio to the next. Not only was Julio able to make moving around the city a breeze, we were able to cope with the 100˚F temperatures (with his air conditioning) and he offered story after story of entertaining bits of local information that we would have totally missed. I highly recommend Julio for his warm and patient personality.
When we returned home, I knew I was going to grill a big steak dinner to capture what I’ve learned of the beef scene in Brazil but also to rekindle the stories of churrasco, gaúcho culture, and cuisine that I read about in Evandro’s cookbook. I slowly caramelized a sliced onion and sautéed some quartered mushrooms for added flavors on top of the steak and added garlic, red wine, and thyme for wonderful depths of flavor.
Enjoy the photo journal below. I’ve captioned each photo so if you are journeying to Rio for the Olympic games, then some of these spots could be added to your agenda.
Mentions in this post:
Churrasco Cookbook – Evandro Caregnato’s beautifully written and photographed cookbook
Julio Merz – personal driver in Rio. 99720-3222(vivo) 7814-5313 (nextel) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Pao de Acucar – Sugar Loaf Mountain. Attainable by gondola ride and worth the gorgeous views. Sip on the delicious tropical fruit drinks offered by little shops at the top.
Christ the Redeemer statue– We booked a half day tour through Viator bus service to get us there and back. Nice relaxing air conditioned bus ride. Picked us up and dropped us off at our hotel.
J.W.Marriott – wonderfully situated right across the street from Ipanema Beach
Botanical Gardens of Rio
Aprazivel – gorgeous tree top-like restaurant in the Santa Teresa neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Beautiful night time views over all of Rio. Restaurant is like being in a tropical tree house. Food was delicious but they didn’t allow photography.
Useful Information from Brazil: Part I
Culinary Backstreets Rio – specialty tours that go “off the beaten track” of regular tourists hot spots
Julio Merz – personal driver and excellent tour guide. I would highly recommend Julio. He made it possible for me to travel all over the city in the safety (and air conditioning) of a car. email@example.com
Confeteiria Columbo – one of the original belle epoque tea & coffee house during the heyday of Portuguese rule
SAARA Street Market – low priced street market selling everything imaginable from costumes, to toiletries, decorations, items for the home…
Imaculada Bar e Galleria – wonderful tucked away bar in the Centro area of Rio
Sausage with Cachaça – garlic sausages cooked in cane juice with onions and pita
Esfirha – stuffed with meat and spices, savory pastries sold on street corners and in front of shops.
Candomblé Religion – religion of African slaves brought to Brazil
Tuesday Ipanema Fruit & Vegetable Street Market -fresh everything and not something to be missed
- salt and pepper to season steak
- dry rub (if desired) - I have a favorite called Pappy's Dry Rub that I use
- olive oil - for both onions and then for steak
- 1 TBS butter - for flavoring steak
- 2 cloves - lightly crushed garlic, skin removed
- Bunch of thyme leaves
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 1 cup of mushrooms quartered
- ½ cup red wine
- Caramalized Onions:
- Heat an iron skillet with a generous amount of olive oil. Slice onions and add them to hot pan. Occasional toss onions and let cook on medium low for 30 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Remove steaks about 20 minutes before ready to cook so they come to room temperature. Season steak generously with salt, pepper or favorite dry rub. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high heat. Season an iron skillet with olive oil until the oil is shimmering. Place steaks onto pan and listen for a nice crackling noise. This means the steaks are searing. When steak releases itself from the pan, flip over to the other side. Remember to also sear the sides of the steak.
- Add the crushed garlic to the pan with the steaks. Continue to flip the steaks a few more times if the steaks are thick so the center isn't totally raw. Add the bunch of thyme to the pan with the garlic and steaks. You might need to add a bit more olive oil to the pan.
- Add the 2 TBSP butter to the pan and swirl it all over the pan with the steak to add flavor to the meat. Using a spoon, baste the steak with the garlic, butter, and thyme mixture. Using tongs, brush the garlic cloves all over the steak. Remove steaks to a cutting board and let them rest.
- While steaks are resting add a little more butter to the hot pan. Add the quartered mushroom to the pan. Sauté mushrooms for 1 minute. Add a little red wine to the pan and continue cooking the mushrooms until caramelized on one side. Flip the mushrooms and caramelize on the other side. Turn off gas and remove mushrooms from pan.
- Serve steak either whole or by slicing, add caramelized onions on top then add sauteed mushrooms, and a few sprinkles of thyme. Enjoy!