Enjoying Rio

I love to eat and I love to eat out. When you read this, I will be spending my very last day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

I am very lucky as I have been at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games for over a week. Tonight I have to go home.

Yes, I went to the wonderful opening ceremonies.

Yes, I went to the “Today Show” and I walked the beautiful beaches of Copacabana. I walked the Olympic park. I saw girls in Olympic gymnastics, beach volleyball and basketball.

Yes, I love to travel. I love the Olympics, but don’t worry, readers, I am always checking out the food.

Rio looks like maybe New York City with a sandy beach coastline. Without the games, one can get good grits just about anywhere. It’s easy to eat in Rio as a lot of the food looks familiar.

Oh, busboy, while visiting this week I made a few great and not- so-great discoveries.

Number one: the coffee, a national drink. Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world and cafezinho “small coffee” is a religion. This espresso-like drink is typically enjoyed after lunch to relax with amigos during the traditional siesta time. I don’t know how they manage to take so long to sip that little cup. I sipped it in less than a minute. Of course, the thick, rich drink had plenty of caffeine, and I was flying. Maybe it should be cafe “zippo.”

Luckily, I discovered there is much very delicious American- style coffee so I can stick with my own habits.

With cafezinho, a small cake called a brigadiero is served. This is a mini chocolate cake, which is a superior combination of our brownie, our fudge and an English truffle. It is very popular at all times and a must at all events. The taste is perfection.

I am finding that desserts here are not so sweet, but are often served with a sweet sauce. So far, the coconut cake is my favorite, even for breakfast when served with a swirl of very dark chocolate. I discovered it on the menu when I was looking for something chocolate. I ordered the coco cake thinking cocoa. Close, but it was coconut. I was not disappointed.

The famous Brazilian flan is on every menu and served at every meal. Each family and cafe has its own special recipe always consisting of milk, sweetened condensed milk and eggs. Note I did not say sugar. One has to be careful. Originating from Portugal, “pudim” has a taste similar to creme brulee at tourist restaurants. At local spots, it can have little or no sugar and is called condensed milk cake. It pretty much tastes like tofu. The caramel sauce helps.

The Brazilians eat fruit, and all visitors to the Olympics are enjoying the plenty. Our breakfast buffet boasts fist-size chunks of papaya, mango, honneydew melon, deep red watermelon and thick slices of ripe pineapple, small silver bananas and plates piled high with the most common fruit in Brazil – the guava. At first sight, I thought “this is one great hotel” as they spare no expense when buying fruit.

I soon learned that “frutas” are sold cheaply on the beach, street corners, food trucks, restaurants and the grocery. At the Olympic Park, acai ice is the fruit confection of choice. Originally marketed in Brazil as a super food for surfers, this cup of antioxidants is coveted by all athletes and visitors to the games. It is sold from carts in small cups with a spoon. It is very refreshing and the taste is OK. It’s sweet, but the texture is a little too sticky or gooey for me.

Of course, the fruit drinks are fabulous – fruit I know and fruits I never heard of. I have enjoyed guava juice, cashew (yes, from the nuts) juice, watermelon juice and pineapple juice. Coconut water is available gratis in a large cooler in the lobby of the hotel. On the beach there are whole coconuts in barrels to buy. The seller will slice a hole with a large knife and slip in a straw. The juice is refreshing and delicious, even though it is not cold or sweet.

When we got off the plane, we were served a taste of cachaca – fermented sugar cane juice. It reminds me of Japanese sake but not as strong. I later had it in the Brazilian national cocktail, caipirinha, served with a load of fresh limes and sugar. Delicious but dangerous.

At the Olympic venues, there are many kiosks of Skol beer, a sponsor. And yes, cola is everywhere at the venues. They sometimes give away and sometimes sell Coke, Coke Zero and Crystal water. I prefer juice.

I am grateful for this experience, the food and the friends we met.

“In Brazil, fun is contagious, joy is contagious.” – Hoda Kotb.

Comments? Anita@anitaalacarte.com.