By Fiona Hurrell, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Nothing is quite so comforting on a chilly night as a steaming plate of feijoada or a delicious bowl of stew enjoyed within the warm surroundings of Rio’s coziest restaurants. While countries in the Northern hemisphere prepare for summer, Brazil and its Latin neighbors are adapting to the cooler climate and indulging in some comforting winter foods.
Amongst the favorites is of course the traditional Brazilian feijoada, which consists of a black bean stew cooked with pork or beef and accompanied by side dishes of rice, fried aipim (cassava) chopped couve mineira (collard greens) and farofa (toasted cassava flour).
Although many restaurants and bars in Rio serve Feijoada, the two that score among the highest in terms of taste and quality is Casa da Feijoada or Brasileirinho.
Casa da Feijoada, as the name would suggest, specializes in this particular Brazilian dish and nothing keeps out the winter cold quite like a warm plate of rice, meat and beans.
Often the dish is accompanied by a small glass of cachaça, which complement’s the flavors of the meal, and orange slices to freshen the pallet.
Casa da Feijoada is located in Ipanema on Rua Prudente de Moraes and is exceptionally good value for money with a feijoada for one costing approximately R$54.
Alternatively, Brasileirinho, which is located opposite the Praça General Osório in Ipanema, has a traditional feel that extends further than the cuisine. The walls of the restaurant are adorned with pepper pots, rum bottles and craft boxes whilst the scrub top tables add to the homely ambiance.
Stews, Feijoadas and barbequed meats are amongst the most popular choices and all of the dishes are cooked according to the traditional recipes of the region from which they come.
A favorite among Rio’s expatriate population, the Gringo Café in Ipanema is also rolling out its winter menu, which includes Turkey Potpie, turkey and vegetable soup, plus meat or vegetarian Chili con Carne (with beef).
Chef and owner Sam Flowers says “Our menu doesn’t change a lot [during the winter months], but we do see higher sales of the typical comfort foods – meatloaf, meatball sandwich, spaghetti and meatballs, macaroni and cheese.”
Another option for warming winter food is Restaurante A Mineira in Humaita, serving traditional dishes from the state of Minas Gerais. The all-you-can-eat buffet selection is huge, with a wide choice to suit pretty much all tastes and dietary requirements.
The prawn stew is particularly good, as are the Caldos (broths) and the desert table is exceptionally well stocked with a variety of sweet treats so be sure to leave room. Arguably the best restaurant in terms of value for money since the price is fixed and allows diners to eat from the buffet as many times as they choose.
Finally, Botequim in Botafogo boasts home cooked Brazilian specials that will certainly be in demand as the temperatures drop. The building itself, which is full of character, dates back to the early twentieth Century and was once the home and office of Architect Ivan Oest who transformed it in to a restaurant himself in 1979.
The menu perfectly complements the traditional décor, featuring classics such as beef stew accompanied by banana farofa, rice with egg and sausage and carne seca (baked meat) served with pumpkin puree and a bean and rice mix.