By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The winter season in the Southern Hemisphere sends temperatures in Rio down to an average of 21°C (70°F) in the coldest month July, with lows statistically at 18°C (65°F). One way to keep warm in a location without heating systems is over a delicious, warm and hearty meal.
British expatriate living in Rio, Tom Le Mesurier of popular food guide Eat Rio, explains, “Rio’s coldest weather typically coincides with the time of Festa Junina, the harvest festival-like parties that run through June and July.”
“The favorite dishes of these Festas Juninas are perfect for driving away the chills: Canjica is a sweet, warming porridge made with hominy (corn), coconut, condensed milk and flavored with cinnamon and cloves,” Le Mesurier adds.
“Wash that down with a glass or two of Quentão, a hot, sweet drink of cachaça and/or wine with cinnamon, ginger and other spices – much like mulled wine. Throw in some forró dancing and you won’t feel the cold one bit.”
Beyond the annual Festa Junina favorites, Le Mesurier shares, “I think the colder months are perfect for feijoada (I never understood how people can eat this rich, heavy dish during the hot summer months). My favorite example is at Academia da Cachaça in Leblon.”
Feijoada is indeed a staple on the Carioca menu, especially on the weekends, but during the weekdays as well. “There’s also an excellent feijoada at Botequim do Joia (R. Júlia Lopes de Almeida, 26 – Centro) every Friday lunchtime, but get there early as it often sells out before latecomers arrive,” says Le Mesurier.
For those digging deeper into the cultural cauldron, he adds “Another excellent ‘winter warmer’ is mocotó, a rich, velvety soup made with cow foot. You can find this served up from soup carts all over the city. I particularly like Feijão, Angú e Cia which you can find on weekdays on the corner of Rua Voluntárias da Pátria and Rua Dona Mariana in Botafogo.”
Another suggestion to warm the bones is moqueca baiana, or Bahian-style moqueca, is a classic option and finding the best in Rio is a worthwhile endeavor this time of year. Moqueca is a hearty fish stew based on coconut milk and traditional fish from the state of Espírito Santo and Bahia.
Back in the heart of Ipanema, the Gringo Cafe has been serving the tastes of home since 2010, and American expatriate and owner Sam Flowers shares, “We notice a significant increase in dessert sales every winter. Also a lot more hot coffee verses iced coffee and juices.”
Located on Rua Barao Da Torre 240, the restaurant offers chili (both with meat and vegetarian) which is warm, spicy and is very filling, as well as macaroni and cheese, another warm dish, but also cheesy and creamy and a great comfort in the cold weather.
Flowers also shares that “the BBQ ribs are meaty, spicy and just right for warming you up,” and “pancakes are a top seller all year-round but in winter they are even more popular, hot off the griddle with warm maple syrup.”
Luckily the winter in Rio still offers plenty of sun and beach time (although in shorter windows), but if the cooler temperature has you down, head to the kitchen or a favorite restaurant to cheer up.