Thursday, October 16, 2014

What I ate in Rio

What better way to begin my Brazil entries than to write about my first trip to Rio de Janeiro.

Like you, I've seen multiple images of this city - including it's Christ statue, favelas, beaches, and bikinis.  However, seeing Rio's beauty in person for the first time struck me like a lighting flash. The topography is like nothing I've seen before,its buildings seemingly carved into every available crevice between mountain peaks. The sun's nightly light shows are surreal, live samba bands take the rhythm into your bones and make it impossible for you stay still, and let's just say I'm still relishing in the taste of those caipirinhas.
Sunset above Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro, seen from Pao de Azucar
We stayed with dear friends who booked a babysitter and lead us into a taxi that weaved its way through the winding Rio streets, up and down its hills and mountains, and into the "Centro", or old town. The taxi pulled up to an old house, and to be honest I was hesitant to enter a building with such questionable structural integrity. My worries subsided as soon as the bouncers opened the door into a live samba experience I'll never forget. The place is called Trapiche Gamboa, and it is awesome. It's where Brasilians go to dance samba. And oh my goodness, can these people dance.
Live samba at Trapiche Gamboa, Rio de Janeiro
I dance salsa and have been known to swing my hips and shake my shoulders in my day, but the speed of samba took my dancing abilities to a whole other level. Samba-dancing women are able to shift their feet and swing their hips at an incredibly fast pace, while keeping their upper bodies quite still. They manage to hold on to their caipirinhas while they move this fast. So. Much. Fun.

Speaking of caipirinhas, I didn't want to be the only dork taking photos of the caipirinhas I drank that night, so I'll leave that image to your imagination. Let's just say that they were minty, lime, and cachaca goodness. Here's a recipe, so you can re-create this deliciousness at home. You'll need good cachaca (sugar cane hard liquor) to get close to the real thing.

Trapiche Gamboa also offers a lovely little menu. My friend ordered moela, chicken gizzards, which were sublime. I tried to guess the ingredients, and also walked to the kitchen to ask for the recipe. The cook who prepared them wasn't there, however, so I'll have to try to re-create the recipe at home. 
No matter what I put in the chicken gizzards and caipirinhas that I'll make at home, I'm certain I won't be able to replicate the way they tasted that night, in the energy and rhythm of Trapiche Gamboa. The gorgeous dilapidated house with its enormous iron chandelier and early 20th century tile designs speak of a time before ours, but that continues to enchant the  Brazilian dancers that flock to keep the culture of samba, caipirinhas, and chicken gizzards alive and kicking.