CADEG Festival Brings Portugal to Rio

By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One of Rio’s better-hidden gems, the CADEG market in Benfica presents its very first gastronomic festival this month. From November 18th through the 29th, the 22 participating restaurants and food stalls will serve dishes with the classic Portuguese bacalhau (salted cod) as the main ingredient.

Saturday lunchtime is always lively at CADEG's wealth of restaurants, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil news

Saturday lunchtime is always lively at any of CADEG’s many restaurants, photo by Doug Gray.

The Centro de Abastecimento do Estado da Guanabara, better known as CADEG, has undergone numerous changes through the decades, with the surrounding neighborhood gradually getting safer. As such, the area is becoming a prime destination for more adventurous tourists interested in finding good quality and value food a little off the eaten path.

A three-floor fruit, vegetable, plant and flower market, CADEG’s reputation as a well-known stop for early morning bargains is receiving increased competition from the growing popularity of its many restaurants also located within the 100,000 square-meter space. The surprising quality of the dining in an indoor market location continues to attract more and more visitors to the area.

Today, CADEG is repositioning itself as the ‘Mercado Municipal of Rio’. Located in São Paulo, the original Mercado Municipal is a famous market featured in food and travel shows, including chef Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” series.

In hosting their first food festival, CADEG’s proprietors are taking the opportunity to showcase their offerings to a broader audience in a bid to increasingly become an important stop for local food-lovers and tourists alike.

With Christmas just over a month away and Portuguese traditions very much alive and well in Rio, possibly more so than in any other city in Brazil, the bacalhau festival is a timely one. For some Cariocas, no Christmas celebrations would be complete without a meal of the salty cod.

Santo Gostinho's  Strudell de Bacalhau, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News

Santo Gostinho’s Strudell de Bacalhau, press image courtesy Tratto Comunicação & Consultoria.

Of the more popular establishments within the market, Barsa is one of the few North Zone restaurants regularly featured in Rio travel guides. “The food is simply magnificent,” the I Eat Rio blog says in its review of the restaurant. “The cooking at Barsa is more akin to what you might be served in somebody’s home — somebody who knows how to cook really well — than in a restaurant.”

For the festival, Barsa will offer Coroa de Bacalhau – cod loin with strips of potatoes, Portuguese onions, quail eggs, olives, cabbage, and herb sauce with red chili (R$108).

Another well-known CADEG vendor, the bakery Santo Gostinho, will offer Strudell de Bacalhau (R$62) during the festival. Again, the bacalhau is served with olives, potatoes and onions, but this time it comes wrapped in very thin puff pastry.

Taking a taxi is advisable (approximately R$35 from Copacabana), but traveling to CADEG’s first ever gastronomic festival might be the perfect reason for many to head to the north of the city and uncover a different angle on the magic that Rio has to offer. As Taylor Barnes wrote in his excellent food blog, “A trip to the CADEG offers some insight into how hard-working Rio lives.”

What: Festival Gastronômico do Mercado Municipal do Rio De Janeiro (CADEG)
When: November 18-29th
Where: Rua Capitão Félix 110, Benfica
Entrance: Free (dishes priced from R$3-R$163.80)
For additional information, including the full list of participating restaurants and menus, see CADEG’s official site (cadeg.com.br).