Hot Zone

It is now officially ‘fall’ here which means that the temperature has been dropping and we are experiencing a bit of a cold and rainy front (highs of 74!). I know you are reading this and either thinking ” 74 degrees is not cold!” or “jealous/she doesn’t need it to rub it in, I wouldn’t be complaining about 74 degrees right now”… Anyways, it is cold here and you will see a report on the ‘winter fashion’ soon. On a ‘cold’ rainy day when you live in a beach town what do you do for excitement besides go to a movie? Head over to Hot Zone in Barra Shopping, the ‘Dave & Busters’ of Brazil.

Hot Zone is one of the most modern indoor game zones with 2,000 square meters of pure games and rides chaos!  Over 150 game devices ie: driving games (like above), ‘jump shot’ the basketball game, air hockey, shooting games, dance dance revolution, as well as your favorite ‘chuck-e-cheese’ style games- squirting a water gun to fill up a water balloon, hitting the little ground hogs (don’t even pretend you don’t know what I am talking about!)

There were also some very interesting crazy rides… Yes you are reading correctly, rides in the mall, there was the ‘pirate ship’ that swings back and forth, that ‘tower of terror’ style ride, an ‘auto track’ bumper car style, and a 3D roller coaster (shown above) you sit inside a box while it rocks, flips, twists and turns you as you travel through a virtual roller coaster.  Check out the video:

Virtual Roller coaster produced by Pamela Granoff on WellcomeMat

Of course playings games is even more fun when you win tickets (we won 550)! At the end, after your tickets are counted up there are tons of little items and large ones (6500 tickets and you get a tv!) for you to take home as your souvenir for the day.  Perfect place for kids of ALL ages;)

Have You Tried Real Tapioca?

On many street corners throughout Brazil you will see a small stand/cart with 2 frying pans and a bunch of little containers on it that says Tapioca across the top with various fillings listed below. Yes, the first time I saw this I was a bit surprised to see this makeshift cooking station.  Anyways, for the American’s reading, this is NOT the tapioca pudding you are remembering ie the cup of vanilla custard with little gross balls floating around…. Brazilian Tapioca is a kind of pancake made from manioc starch and water.

Brazilian Tapioca

Brazilian Tapioca

This ‘chewy tortilla’ (think a form of a crepe) can be filled with all sorts of items from ham & cheese to chocolate &  banana. Apparently it is very popular in the Northeast of Brazil where many people there eat it for breakfast, here in Rio I have found it to be more popular to eat as a snack or dessert.  While walking home, my friend wanted to pick one up for her sister (a cheese filled tapioca to be exact)… enjoy seeing how Brazilian Tapioca is made!

Tapioca produced by Pamela Granoff on WellcomeMat

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Craving Good Pizza In Jardim Botanico?

Craving really good pizza in Brazil?! Head over to Braz Pizza Tradicional but try to get there on the earlier side as this spot is known to have quite the long wait! Lines form around 830, at this upscale yet relaxed pizza place (reminds me of Patsy’s in NY)

Famous for their PÃO DE CALABRESA theirfamous bread, filled layered with sausage and other spices, baked in wood-fired oven.’ It is incredible, *also comes in a spinach version for you vegetarians.  Get a nice bottle of red and it is the perfect combo to kick start your evening.

Yes they serve many other Italian dishes that did looked amazing, but this was a pizza mission.  With over 41 pizzas to choose from you are in for a real treat!

Under the strict teachings of Neapolitan pizza makers and with 100% Italian ingredients this pizza will satisfy any pizza craving you have (and I have been eating NY pizza for 5 years now!).  What I found to be a great surprise, is that you can have a combination of any 3 pizzas on the menu (perfect for those who can’t decide what they want because they want all of them!). I recommend the Caprese (your classic base of mozzarella, plump tomato slices, giant leaves of basil pesto and black olives), Primo (Procuitto de Parma and mozzarella) and Basílica (mozzarella topped with arugula pesto and cherry tomatoes).  The waiter will give you once slice at a time, as he sees you finishing that piece he will run over with more.

If it is a nice night, check out the garden seating in the back.  Great place for a group, if you are craving authentic pizza or just want a great casual night out, head over to Braz


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Graffiti: Ipanema

Every day I spot something new, there really is beautiful graffiti in every area of Rio.  Some of the beautiful images are repeated throughout the city. For example this chic below….you can actually find her in Ipanema, Jardim Botanico and in Copacabana (at least that’s where I have seen her).

This also goes for these little bears (below).  You can see them all over the city, each one is painted in different colors, but you can tell they are all part of the same ‘bear family’ done by the same artist.

Check out how realistic the faces look below- almost like someone blew up a picture and mounted it on the wall!


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Dining Out In Paraty: Banana Da Terra

Located in the heart of Paraty, is Banana da Terra, a wonderful restaurant in a house that was originally built in the 17th century. The restaurant is run by chef Ana Bueno-she used to be the Paraty community TV broadcast reporter before radically changing her profession (great move!). She brings strong reference to caiçara and regional cuisine, but with an air of modernity.

We started off with the couvert which included the usual fresh bread basket (Brazilians love their fresh bread), salmon, a soup and a shrimp puff.  It was delicious way to start the meal.

Sticking to tradition, caicara culinary is all about the extract from wilderness, harmonizing with local mother nature… Believe me, chef Ana does and excellent job as her menu offers dishes made with fresh ingredients from the region.

Like the name of the restaurant, most items include some form of banana. The dorado I had was truly amazing, I was actually disappointed when it was all gone. The fish was grilled with herbs and garlic butter with banana and leek crisp, perfection!


If you are looking for a restaurant with a relaxing, tasteful ambiance and incredible cuisine selection, not to mention large wine list, head to Banana da Terra in Paraty.  Next time I go,  I am saving room for dessert (looked incredible)


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Want To Splast Around In the Natural Swimming Pool of Trindade?

While in Paraty, take a 30 minute drive over to Trindade where you will explore incredible beaches with the natural beauty of the mountains surrounding you.  For the first stop on our tour we went to Praia do Cepilho, waves were 10-15 feet high!

Then we drove over to the beach near the village “Ranchos” where our journey began.  Take a guided trek through the mountains to arrive at another stunning beach. Then another trek through the mountain (the ‘trek or hiking part is actually really fun)

Finally you will arrive at Caixa d’Aço the natural swimming pool. It is pretty incredible, a beautiful enclosed completely untouched area where you can swim, snorkel or climb on the rocks.  It’s incredible!

After you have had enough splashing around its time to trek/beach your way back for lunch at VAGALUME.  Located right on the beach near village “Ranchos” it is a fantastic spot for lunch. Considering that this is a fishing village, the menu is full of many fish choices as well as some traditional Brazilian beef/chicken options, note the yuka fries are a must try!   Warning there are a lot of bees, bring bug spray and if you can, have them move your table onto the sand, its more fun, kept the bees away and when huge waves rolled in, your feet get splashed!


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Looking For An Adventurous Dining Experience in Paraty?

You really work up an appetite after swinging from ropes and splashing around the waterfalls!! So why not extend your adventurous day of experiences by heading to Villa Verde for lunch! To get there, you have to walk across Indiana Jones style rope bridge (see below)

Once you make it across get ready to be enchanted by the beautiful gardens, full of floral and fauna. The bungalow style restaurant structure allows for a perfect view from any location. The menu has a number of delectable options, we went for the fresh made pesto pasta (best I have had since I got to Brazil) and the Brazilian style ribs with banana farofa.

Enjoy your meal while listening to the waterfalls cascading in the background then take a walk around the beautiful property before heading back on the road.  A truly adventurous dining experience!


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