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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8 Myths About Rio de Janeiro from Huffington Post

8 Myths About Rio de Janeiro from Huffington Post

MYTH: You’ll find plenty of nudist beaches.

FACT: Rio’s beaches may be noted for skimpy swimwear, but going topless is illegal, except on the city’s sole nudist beach, Abrico.

MYTH: The crime rate just keeps rising.

FACT: I was warned over and over again to avoid walking around by myself during the day and especially at night; that thieves and other criminals were around just about every corner. In fact, I didn’t find Rio any more dangerous than any other major capital city that I’ve visited. And the Rio crime rates have been declining, with 2010 marking the lowest murder rate since these stats have been recorded. And, if you compare vehicle robberies and homicides in February 2011 with those from 2010, each crime has dropped by at least 14%. No wonder: the police are motivated to keep the crime rate low — each gets a $1,800 bonus if their region sees a decline in crime during the year. Plus, with the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the city has stepped up its crime fighting efforts with specialized police units mobilized in the city’s favelas to fight drug trafficking.

Have to throw my 2 cents in on this one: Just because crime rates has dropped that does not mean everything is safe and carefree… If you completely let your guard down here you are an idiot.

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MYTH: Car-choked Rio needs to get its eco-conscious side in gear.

FACT: Like in so many cities in the U.S., cars rule the road. But Rio’s eco-conscious side dates back to the 19th century when, unlike so many places in the world, vast swaths of land that had long been deforested to make way for sugar cane harvesting and coffee plantations were replanted by order of the king. The result: Tijuca National Park, the world’s largest urban forest. And eco-conscious extends to the city’s ability to embrace a vast network of bicycle paths. Some 90+ miles of paths criss-cross the city, including the one running parallel to the four-some miles of sugary sands making up Copacabana, Ipanema and Lelbon beaches, as well as the path circling Lagoa Rodriguo de Freitas, a salt-water lagoon, and along the bayside Flamengo Park. The city also closes lanes of traffic beside the beaches and in Flamengo Park every Sunday making each a pedestrian thoroughfare. More bicycle paths — another 90+ miles — are planned by 2012. In addition, green accommodations are becoming more popular. The Windsor Atlantica is a new eco-conscious hotel that uses solar panels, captures rainwater and serves locally sourced food when possible.

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MYTH: With the free-flowing caipirinhas, drunk driving is a major problem.

FACT: Since 2008, Brazil has a zero-tolerance law on the books. That means any driver found with any alcohol in their blood can be fined hundred or thousands of dollars, have their license suspended or even be arrested. This is strictly enforced in Rio where, as of 2009, Operation Dry Law went into effect, whereby police regularly set up road blocks all over the city and do impromptu breath testing. Young people who ordinary might be tempted to drink and drive don’t because they never know where a roadblock will pop up and they can’t risk losing their license. (But, like in other cities around the world, there are those using social media to warn others about the roadblocks and get around the system.)

** Huge fan of this system! People drive crazy here all the time, don’t need them doing it drunk

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MYTH: Carnival is just another excuse for drunken debauchery.

FACT: Sure, there’s plenty of lively all-night partying before, during and after Carnival every February or March. But, the Samba Parade that takes place in the Sambodromo on a Sunday and Monday from 9pm until dawn is a skillful competition involving costumes, dancing and floats. Qualifying samba schools choose a theme and engage in rigorous practice for months before Carnival. Watching the Samba Parade and visiting the Samba school rehearsals provide plenty of lessons in Brazilian culture. Rehearsals typically start each year in the fall. And, when I visited, I watched Unidos da Tijuca, one of Rio’s oldest samba schools and the one that won in 2010. (They came in second this year with the theme: “This night I will take your soul” which explains the courage and fear of the Brazilian people.) Over many hours, you’ll be mesmerized with the frenetic pace of the dancing and the pounding rhythm of the drums but earplugs are a must because of the high decibel levels.

MYTH: You can’t stay at an accommodation near Rio’s well-known beaches without laying out hundreds of dollars a night.

FACT: You can book a double room for $100 at Lemon Spirit, a low-key hostel housed in a historic building just a block from Leblon beach. The rooms are simple and basically unadorned but if you’re looking for a good deal this close to Rio’s choice sands, this is a good option. And, it also provides opportunities to mingle, especially over the complementary welcome caipirinha. Another accommodation with rooms going for under $150, the charming two-room Rio Dolphin Inn, sits just a few blocks away from Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. With a hammock in the patio; a kitchen refrigerator stocked with coconut water, nuts and chocolates; and a colorfully decorated living room complete with WiFi and cable TV, you might be easily tempted into getting into a lounge mode.

****You will spend around $250 a night

MYTH: The only good time to visit Rio weather-wise is during their summer.

FACT: July to September, the months when Brazil is experiencing winter and early fall, are the mildest and driest months of the year. You won’t get the sweltering temperatures found during Rio’s summer, December through March. This makes it a perfect time for hiking, jogging and bicycling, activities that you’ll want to participate in, as do many Cariocas, because Rio is networked with pedestrian paths and is also sprinkled with lush green spaces that are coursed with trails.

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MYTH: You won’t find cachaca (the key ingredient in caipirinhas) in upscale bars and restaurants. **This is just a stupid myth or comment, of course you will find cachaca everywhere you go!

FACT: Cachaca was once seen as a poor man’s beverage. But, no longer. Cachaca can be found in a plethora of upmarket bars, restaurants and clubs serve up it. And, cachaca’s only role isn’t simply as a caipirinha ingredient. Perched atop 750-foot Urca Mountain beside Rio’s signature granite monolith, Sugarloaf Mountain, Abencoada stocks 50 different kinds of cachaca, which they blend with watermelon, kiwi, passion fruit, cherry or mango juices. At other well-heeled establishments, an array of ingredients, including cinnamon green tea, elderflowers, sake or absinthe can also find their way into cachaca-based beverages. Among bars where you are bound to find fashionable clientele imbibing caipirinhas or other beverages employing cachaca is the Bar D’Hotel at Marina All Suites, the Baretto-Londra at Hotel Fasano and the Bar do Copa at Copacabana Palace.

What Is Your Favorite Flavor of Cachaca?

As part of our Paraty Tour in between splashing around in the different waterfalls we visited a few cacasha distilleries.

Fazenda Murycana (Murycana’s Farm) has one distillery of cachaça as well as a museum (Exposure of the private collection of owners with furniture, decorative pieces and weapons of the seventeenth century to the present day.) a restaurant (The coffee made ​​in sugarcane juice with wood stoves is delicious)

The old mill of Murycana, is powered by a waterwheel, which produces liquor aged in oak barrels. It is distilled under fire wood, and which created the liquor (molasses dripping aphrodisiac as they said)

The huge drums keep the spirits aged for up to 22 years. The farm offers visitors a taste of their drips however the booze is only sold in Murycana Finance. While we were there we tried 3 different types of cachaca: regular, 8 year aged (much smoother),and chocolate (which was my favorite of course).

The next distillery of cachaca we visited was Engenho D’ouro.  Here we saw the artesian process of fabrication. This plantation has a sophisticated production set up for one year aging in oak barrels or jequitiba.  The production is totally handmade as in colonial times:  From the cane plantation, until the alternative energy system that handles the production of the pure and delicious rum.

The also produce soft flavors like rum caramel mixed with molasses, Bluis with leaves of tangerine and Garbiela with molasses clove and cinnamon.  Personally, the strawberry infused was my favorite! I recommend tasting all of the flavors;)

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Scenes of Paraty

Since the historical center of Paraty is such an adorable town I figured I would share a few scenes so you could really get a feel for it.. enjoy

The town (above), love that every door is a different color

Barril is a good spot for drinks and live music, was a very popular spot while we were there,  however skip the food- we waited over 45 mins for a salad that never came… better to go after dinner!

There are many beautiful old churches throughout the city

Since there are a number of cachaca distilleries (will cover that in a future post) there are many types and flavors of cachaca to try— the chocolate one is delicious!!

Not sure if you can tell from the picture, but the waves in Tindade were 15 feet high the day we were there!

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Hottest Place to be Easter Weekend…. Rio

People from all over the world flock to Rio to celebrate Easter! Starting at 8am the beaches are fully packed!

It is amazing because in America if anyone sat this close together people would think it was very strange, here it is completely normal…and no one is bothered by it.

The beach stays crowded till at least 6pm…

Beautiful pink sunset behind the mountains

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Take me to the candy shop

Not only am I an ice cream person, I am a sour candy junky.  Working on a computer most of the day I need my sour watermelon and gummy worm companions. Yes, I am aware how that sounds, but it’s true… if I didn’t have them to nosh on through out the day I would probably not be able to wear anything from my extensive bikini collection.  Surprisingly it is shockingly hard to find any candy that isn’t chocolate here in Brazil- they LOVE their chocolates!  I have been searching high and low for weeks now…. and FINALLY in Ipanema I found a candy store! I was so excited the man probably thought I was a nut when I whipped out my camera.  I didn’t care, I found what I had been searching for-sour gummy worms!

To be fair, it is a pretty great candy store with a huge collection of all types of candy- some from the states (Twix is a favorite here), some Brazilian goodies and a few euro snacks.  If you are like me and need to get your gummy/sour/candy sweet on, head over to Ipanema, Rua Vinícius de Moraes 102 lj B

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Surfing in Grumari

First trip out of Rio! We rented a car for the weekend and headed to Grumari. Grumari is a popular surfing beach in Barra da Tijuca about 45mins west of Rio and it is absolutely beautiful!!!!  Not only a stunning surf beach with huge waves, it is part of an environmental reserve, (together with the Prainha). It is so beautiful, situated between the mountains, a pure non commercialized gorgeous beach.  There are a few kiosks, one or 2 restaurants and a few men selling food on the beach.  Besides that…. a bunch of surfers.  Of course we were there for the waves!

If you are looking at the picture above and thinking, ‘they don’t look that big’… THINK AGAIN! This beach is known for its powerful huge waves, and the surfers are incredible:

http://www.wellcomemat.com/wm_video_1/502B71E94DSurfing Grumari produced by Pamela Granoff on WellcomeMat

If you want to get out of the city for the day or are just craving the perfect swell, then head to Grumari.  

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