I was lucky enough to travel to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. While I was there, in addition to watching world-class athletes compete, I also enjoyed the food. Here are highlights …
Rodizio from a churrascuria
Churrascarias are restaurants that serve an assortment of rodizio, or grilled meat on skewers, considered the hallmark of the churrasco style of grilling. It works like this: Once you’re seated, you order your drinks and visit the extensive salad bar that has a selection of salads, vegetable side dishes, charcuterie and cheese. Once you get back to your table, the meat parade begins. One by one, the passadores, or meat waiters, come to your table hunks of meat (in various cuts and types) on a giant skewer, and you decide whether you want a piece or not. If you do, the passador slices off a piece, and you take it, using your own personal pair of tongs. If you want to pass on that meat course, let the meat waiter know, and he’ll go away. This continues until you’ve reached maximum meat capacity.
In Rio, I visited a Fogo de Chão in the Botafogo neighborhood (Av. Reporter Nestor Moreira, s/n – Botafogo), and this restaurant also has multiple locations in the United States. We were served a seemingly endless array of beef, pork, chicken, and sausages. Everything I had was well seasoned, perfectly grilled, and absolutely delicious. I was feeling a little adventurous (and famished after 16+ hours of travel!), so when the grilled chicken hearts came, I more than happily agreed. And I’m glad I did: When cooked properly, chicken hearts take on a firm and chewy texture, without any gaminess. They were fantastic.
I also went to a churrascaria called Marius Degustare (Av. Atlântica, 290 – Copacabana) that takes rodizio to a new level. In contrast to the elegant setting of Fogo de Chao, Marius Degustare makes you feel like you’ve walked into a pirate’s underwater treasure trove. While the setting was unique, the restaurant also served wild boar ribs and an array of fresh seafood: raw oysters and sashimi, lobster, and giant prawns. They also served grilled pirarucu, (which I learned is one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world), the flesh of it was tender, flaky, meaty and absolutely delicious.
Pão de Queijo Brazilian cheese bread
Not long after arriving in Brazil, I became quickly obsessed with pão de queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread. I quickly found myself looking forward to enjoying a handful of these with my cup of morning coffee.
These balls of awesomeness are all at once crispy, fluffy and chewy—and addictive! The technique involves making a pâte á choux dough from manioc (cassava or tapioca) flour: Think of these as the Brazilian version of the French gougére. Once the dough is formed into balls and baked, the outside is firm and crunchy while the inside is chewy and cheesy. Pão de queijo are typically sold as snacks and are available everywhere. I not only ate these at my hotel’s breakfast buffet, but I also enjoyed them at Barra Olympic Park, where they were available either in a single serving (about the size of a lemon) or in a bag containing about six mini balls that one could snack on while watching Olympic athletes compete. The best part? They’re gluten free. I’m really excited to make them from scratch! Here’s the recipe I plan to use.
Overall, the food in Brazil was flavorful, rich and a perfect complement to the unbelievable experience of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.