Eating Rio

by Richard Frisbie
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Sep 13, 2007

To eat like a native, or Carioca, in Rio de Janeiro, you must eat a light breakfast. The meal usually centers around fruit, and sometimes includes a ham and cheese sandwich, often grilled. Lunch is the heaviest meal, a veritable groaning board of meats, and starch, and if you're lucky, a vegetable. While it is sensible to eat your largest meal midday, there was too much room for excess in the meals I was served.

At dinnertime, late & light is the way to go. I frequently had just appetizers with drinks in a local family eatery, called a Boteco. A typical Boteco is Belmonte, which has several locations throughout the city. The night I ate at one there were two tables of three generations of family eating together, besides couples of all ages and folks 'catching a bite' before clubbing. The jerked beef and catubiry cheese empadas were great with draft beer!

You can’t stop the beat ...

I attended a sneak preview of Hairspray this week, and I’ve got to admit-it’s a hell of a lot better than I thought it was going to be. In fact, dare I say, it’s good.

You can’t blame me for being skeptical-director Adam Shankman’s last movie was Cheaper by the Dozen 2.

But his version of Hairspray, albeit more family friendly than either John Waters’ version or the Broadway musical, is an admirable interpretation, and while John Travolta’s take on Edna Turnblad is a 180 from Harvey Fierstein’s Tony winning work, he’s a hoot-and man, can he still dance.

Queen Latifah, Michelle Pfeiffer, both great. But the standout for me (and granted, it’s also partially because I’m a gay man and he’s hot) is James Marsden (see photo). I mean, I knew all of these other people could sing and dance. But Cyclops? Hadn’t a clue.

James plays Corny Collins to the hilt. I mean, he sings, he dances, and since he’s playing corny, he smiles. Do you know how hot this guy is when he smiles? He doesn’t even have to loosen his top button and I’m sold.

Is Paris turning?

OK, I’m just going to jump right in and admit something-I raced out of work at 5:30 last Wednesday to make sure I’d be home in time to see Paris Hilton on Larry King. I wish I could be more like Melissa Etheridge’s baby momma and stick to blogging about how pointless the appearance was and how I was opting to go see Sicko instead, but I was curious, and I knew you would be too-see how I managed to make you my scapegoat?

Here’s what I learned. The dumb act that Paris claimed was just an act because she is, indeed, a smart young girl? OK, maybe she’s not as off as Anna Nicole, but she’s not exactly bright. Thoughts that she shared with Larry taken from notes she kept while behind bars sound more like a third grade essay on what I’d like to do to help change the world than a mission statement outlining the 26-year-old multi-millionaire’s philanthropic endeavors. She wants to stop the cycle of women getting out of prison only to go right back because they have nowhere else to turn. She wants to fight breast cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Oh, all this while she’s filming a sixth season of The Simple Life-the show that bases its entire plot around Paris being dumb. But she doesn’t want people to see her as dumb anymore.

OK, so here’s my pitch for a season six plotline. Paris and Nicole, sick of the media painting them to be drunk driving, party hopping, uncultured whores, take their shtick to Washington D.C. where they campaign for stem cell research and rehabilitation for the prison community’s poor. When government leaders don’t cave on the spot, they promise their nearest tech geek a kiss if he hacks into top secret files and changes government policy to reflect their platforms.

Isaiah sings the blues

I hate to keep dwelling on Isaiah Washington, but the man has gone from homophobic to remorseful to rehabilitated to fired and mad as hell to this-an interview with Newsweek in which he plays the race card, saying the fact that he’s Black played a part in his being fired from the series.

Excuse me for one second, but if T.R. Knight had used a certain word to describe Isaiah Washington in an argument with another cast member and that exchange had been leaked to the press, they wouldn’t have even let T.R. Knight finish out the season. He would have been escorted off the lot immediately. Just look at all of the new projects on Michael Richards’ plate-exactly. The man has nothing, absolutely nothing in the pipeline.

A smarter man would take this as a lesson learned and move on, not seek out pity wherever he can find it. I officially say, here and now, I will never promote or support another project Washington participates in for the duration of his career.

Jodie and Queen Latifah going public?

Queen Latifah, on the other hand, I will support. I swear, there’s something in the water this week because two, count them two presumed lesbians turned up in rather "out" ways, beginning with Jodie Foster lending her support to The Trevor Project and Lala doing the byke thing throughout Weho.

First up Jodie. The perpetually private Foster made a rare public appearance this week at a Trevor Project event honoring Nathan Lane. Now straight celebs support Trevor Project in droves (the organization provides counseling and 24-hour hotline assistance to suicidal gay and questioning teens), but Foster, who never says a word about widespread rumors regarding her sexuality, hardly ever goes out for anything-while I applaud her for getting all dolled up for this worthy cause, I have to wonder-is this Jodie’s way of trying to tell us something?

Latifah’s definitely telling us something with this picture. One week after Los Angeles Gay Pride, she’s gunning it through the streets of Weho on a hog, dressed in sweats? Nice to see Dana Owens is keeping it real-I certainly don’t mind.

How low can she go?

New development on the Lindsay Lohan front-guess who was allegedly coked out when she crashed her Mercedes into a curb in Beverly Hills? That usable amount of coke the police kept saying she had in her car-word is there was slightly more coke in that vial minutes before the hit and run.

How this will play into the case the police are building against her remains to be seen-the fact that Lohan has not been seen since she entered Malibu rehab center Promises a month ago might help. If she were being photographed stumbling out of clubs around the world, they’d probably have a stronger chance at conviction.

Spice Girls are back!

And, just because half of my office is in a veritable Spice tizzy over the news, I’m pleased to inform you that Posh, Ginger, Scary, Sporty and Baby are reuniting for a nine concert world tour at the end of the year.

Since only two of them managed any sort of real music success on their own (you can credit Sporty and Ginger-Sporty for having written or co-written 11 number one singles in UK, second only to Madonna, and Ginger for selling nearly 7 million albums worldwide) and Vicky Beckham is probably sick of being known only as ’that waifish yet fashionable creature on David’s arm’, the timing’s right. I mean, after all, Scary has a new baby to feed if Eddie Murphy won’t, and none of them are getting any younger.

So while the perhaps more appropriately named Spice Women prepare to hit up six continents in just over a month, I’ll be biting my tongue as friends who are nearing 30 dust off their old Spice CDs, relearn choreography and prepare to attend the gayest concert event since Cher said goodbye for the 11,000th time.

That’s all we got, folks-thanks for dropping by, and until next time, remember-take the time to stop and smell the gossip.

Muqueca de Peixe

I had Muqueca de Peixe once at Azul Marinho, a seafood restaurant on the edge of Ipanema Beach. It was typically Portuguese - a delicious combination of sea bass with bell pepper, tomato, lemon juice, and coconut milk as a stew, served family-style in a bubbling hot pot on the table.

Curiously, the appetizers here were spreads, presented eight to a tray (two trays for our party of six) including ham, cheese, egg, crab, olives and more I wasn’t sure of. Pretty to look at, though.


Rio has some good local beers, light lagers, including Bohemia , and a draft called Chopp that was also good. The local booze is called Cacha?a, an alcohol made from distilled sugar cane juice that has a kick similar to tequila. I drank it in shots, and also in the National Drink, the Caipirinha, which is made with cacha?a, lime, sugar and ice, (like a margarita, but without the salt). I had it a few times with pineapple, too.

At the Gugut Restaurant they served their version of the Caipirinha frozen. Any way it’s served, it goes down like fruit punch - so refreshing - but carries a terrific wallop. It’s definitely a refreshing drink that’s guaranteed to get you on the dance floor! It certainly worked for me at the club Rio Scenarium in the Lapa District. I couldn’t stop dancing. Getting home - that was another matter!

Fancy Desserts

The most extensive selection of desserts and pastries that I found is available at Confeitaria Colombo. Chef Renato Freire walked me through two floors of kitchens where more than 50 pastries and 25 empadas are cooked in this 110 year old coffee house. These kitchens also supply four restaurants on the lower floors that offer every range of eating, from simple soup to an incredible buffet.

A Simple Dessert

On the other hand, a typical Brazilian dessert, if there wasn’t a grand selection of pastries offered, was milk, pumpkin and banana. But not everything is what it seems. By milk, I mean a rich caramel of sugar and milk simmered into a tawny sweet paste. The pumpkin had cooked cubes of flesh in a thick pumpkin sauce seasoned like a pie, only with coconut slivers cooked in. (I’ll steal this idea next Thanksgiving!) The banana was stewed dark brown, chunky, and sweet. Sometimes these were served with a bland white cow’s milk cheese, sometimes plain.

I’m not a big fan of desserts, but this one grew on me. I would take just a dollop of each to close the meal with these complex flavors.

So there you have it. How to live like a Carioca: eat a light breakfast and a light supper, and indulge in a heavy lunch, all washed down with vats of good Brazilian coffee and potent Brazilian caipirinhas. Then -- Dance, Dance, Dance!

  • Confeitaria Colombo
  • Casa de Feijoada
  • Marius
  • The Copacabana Palace
  • Rio Visitors Bureau
  • TAM Brazilian Airlines

    So there you have it. How to live like a Carioca: eat a light breakfast and a light supper, and indulge in a heavy lunch, all washed down with vats of good Brazilian coffee and potent Brazilian caipirinhas. Then -- Dance, Dance, Dance!

  • Confeitaria Colombo
  • Casa de Feijoada
  • Marius
  • The Copacabana Palace
  • Rio Visitors Bureau
  • TAM Brazilian Airlines

    Richard Frisbie is a bookseller and publisher in New York State whose food & wine travel articles appear in LGBTQ and regional periodicals, as-well-as at, and He accepts free copies of books for review, restaurant meals to critique, bottles of wine and liquor for tastings, and all-expense-paid trips in exchange for articles about the destinations. He is paid for these articles. Richard promotes informed, authentic information about food, wine and travel, and does not allow the financial arrangements and/or sponsorship to affect his judgment. You can email him at: [email protected]