From High Society Tea to Saara.. There is something for everyone

After the seeing the beautiful churches (see my last post), it was time for a ‘snack’. We headed to Confeitaria Colombo, a well known Belle Époque’ tearoom that opened its doors in 1894; quickly becoming the ’ rendez-vous’ place of choice for Rio’s high society members. The ornate late 19th century decor really did remind me of Belle Epoque Paris — or a painting by Monet. At the front of the restaurant is a bakery and candy shop so you can see all of the wonderful goodies right away.

The very high ceiling (which has a stained glass circle in the center) is ringed by a balcony of people who want something more than just a snack or sweet. The room itself is surrounded by enormous Jacaranda-framed mirrors which are absolutely stunning!

There are hundreds of different ‘snacks’ (if you are craving something salty and or fried) as well as a wide selection of different desserts.  We started out with some of my favorite snacks: a pastel carne (ie ground beef in a pocket), empada( little pastry filled with either chicken, shrimp or cheese) and I tried my first camarao frito a meaipe (large friend shrimp with too much batter— if you take off half the batter it is delicious!) Then it was on to desserts….As you can see we got a chocolate napoleon (something safe-I know I like these!) and we tried a few traditional Brazilian and Portuguese desserts…

  The Pasteis de Nata (custard tart traditionally Portuguese) which was good, but extremely sweet, so I would recommend sharing it even though it is small.  We also tried something similar to quindim (basically egg yolks, sugar and butter)… I was not a fan.  In general the desserts here are either chocolate (safe for me), passion fruit (it is huge here) or ‘egg yolk’…they love their egg yolks here….personally, I will be sticking to sorvete (ice cream!)

In a city that has replaced much of the old with less attractive modern construction, Confeitaria Colombo was a welcomed surprise.

Then it was off to Saara, which is like NYC’s Chinatown during a New Year festival every day. Syrian, Lebanese, Greek, Turkish, Jewish, Spanish, Portuguese and Argentinean immigrants are among the pioneer merchants in what is known as ‘Saara’ and thousands of people fill these streets daily.  Saara (ie Chiantown) is a mixture of all sorts of vendors.

   On the street level there are tons of different merchants selling everything from different foods/spices to clothing and home goods. As you can see from the picture below, this store had containers of everything you could think of (olives, cherries, cake decoration sprinkles, spices etc).  Very convenient to do a ton of shopping in one place, and everything here is 10times cheaper than the rest of the city.  However, beware… these little stores are VERY hot (no ac here), get crowded and there are flies buzzing around.  In general, because of the bacalhau it doesn’t smell great…wouldn’t want to be here on a really hot, crowded day!

The second stories are old art deco buildings that are falling apart. If you stare at it long enough you can see that once upon a time they were beautifully colored buildings.  We were going to explore the National Library but since Obama is coming to town this weekend people were ‘practicing’ their protests in the square…so decided to call it a day and we will venture downtown another day.