By Bryan Gregory Sanders, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Winter has tipped its hat as the sun sets a bit earlier this time of year, although luckily Rio’s climate allows more perfect days than not. But on those days where one is stuck in the rain, feeling chilled or under the weather, there is always the warm, soulful and healthy traditional Brazilian soup to seek refuge with.
Restaurant Alessandro e Frederico has a constant flow of shoppers, locals, and visitors. On cold days, most are after the popular Canja, a chicken soup with batata barôa or mandioquinha root (arracacha or white carrot), carrots, tomato, parsley, green onion, and Brazilian rice.
The batata barôa here substitutes regular potatoes, adding flavor to this Brazilian favorite, which reminds customers of what they had growing up – a reminder of home.
Andrea Farias, the maitre’d at Alessandro e Frederico pushes the healthiness of their Canja and vegetable soups repeating that, “the soups are carefully made upon ordering to ensure the freshness of the ingredients and that the home style feeling goes out with every bowl.”
A few blocks away in Ipanema, there is the famous bookshop Livraria da Travessa, known for its selection of books, and foreign titles. Upstairs however, in their trendy in-store restaurant, Bazzar, is where the secrets are kept.
Their three soups will warm one’s bones and might possibly bring a tear of satisfaction to the eye. Their batata barôa thinly sliced vegetable soup brings that mandioquinha deep flavor and golden color. The soup is thick and creamy and warms the soul, with a price that won’t set anyone off their book buying or wifi thieving.
Their sopa de tomate com gruyere is a simple tomato soup, though less traditional, has a melted gruyere cheese drizzled on top, adding a Swiss touch on an Italian immigrant dish.
The recommended favorite, sopa de palmito, brings it right back to Brazil with a creamy palmito (palm heart) soup which the chef and manager would adamantly not share the secret. It really is worth a stop in rain or shine.
Across Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (the large lagoon known as Lagoa) rests the vast forested reserve Parque Lage and within it the old Lage Mansion and Escola de Artes Visuais (School of Visual Arts).
The deep green trails of the park do not provide enough protection on a rainy day, but the great Italian styled stone halls and columns of the school provide a great sanctuary to socialize with hip art types and really get personal with their sopa de ervilha com linguica (green pea and sausage soup).
The soup pleases with the slight graininess of the peas, crunchy croutons, and olive oil to top it off. Then after, if heading into the rain is still not appealing; order bolo de banana (banana cake) and a coffee to soak in the history of the place.
So with the rain and colder months ahead, one need not look too far to get cozy or to find the warm comfort food like at home, no matter where home is. And if the weather gets too much to venture out in, luckily Alessandro e Frederico will also deliver – as long as your Portuguese is up to it.