The food in Rio, generally speaking, is pretty good – not transcendent, but good enough. Washed down with a capirinha or a draft – “chopp” – beer, it certainly does the job, especially when consumed near enough to the beach to hear the sound of crashing waves.
There's a little cafe down the street from our hotel where I had lunch Saturday: A salad, tenderloin medallions in mustard sauce, parmesan risotto and a lemon tartlet for less than $20. It was delicious.
That's away from the Olympics, on the streets and alleys of the beach neighborhoods of Copacabana and Ipanema and Leblon. For working journalists, the options are fewer and less palatable. There's a cafeteria outside the media center that offers burgers (but not the traditional McDonald's) and a buffet, but with very long lines (so long that no one eats there anymore, per the Brazilian Yogi Berra, which would be … Yogi Berra). The food's supposed to be good enough, but I haven't stood in line long enough to find out. The one time I did, I waited a half-hour in the “grab and go” line for a chickpea-and-quinoa salad that was actually quite good as long as you didn't think about it on a taste-per-minute basis.
Unfortunately, we end up spending more time at venues than the media center, especially at dinner time, which have only small concession stands for the media that offer a typical array of low-grade concession stand fare. The pasta pomodoro comes in a cardboard cup that is microwaved into borderline edibility before your eyes, but if you order pasta pomodoro from a concession stand, you get what you deserve.
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There are two concession-stand items that are legitimately, unquestionably tasty. One is the pao de queijo, which is more or less universally available. It's a Brazilian standard, essentially a dinner roll stuffed with cheese. The ones at the Olympic venues are larger than the hors d'ouevres-sized ones at the hotel breakfast buffet, and very soft and puffy, usually straight out of the oven. Like team handball, this is something we need in the United States as soon as possible.
The other is a linguica sandwich that is apparently only available at the women's basketball venue, which is way out in Deodoro. When I went out to field hockey on Monday, which is next to the women's basketball arena and shares a media tent, I made a deliberate detour through the media area to get one for lunch before getting a bus back to the Olympic Park. Along with a bottle of sparkling water, it's about the best R$16 – about $5.30 – you can spend. There are a few other palatable items, but I don't recommend the double cheesebuerger (sic), which is proof that a vending-machine cheeseburger is a vending-machine cheeseburger no matter what country you're in.
As for the (free) hotel breakfast buffet mentioned earlier, it's outstanding: the best pineapple you've ever had along with fresh papaya and other fruits; fresh unique Brazilian juices like acerola, a Vitamin C-loaded sour cherry; pao de queijo; giant Brazilian cocoa puffs and a full array of desserts which look amazing but are a little tough to stomach at breakfast. (Although I have been tempted.)
So it's possible to load up at breakfast and survive on pao de queijo (or roll the dice on other concession items) through the rest of the day. That's the smart way to do it, anyway. Either way, it's hard to eat well when you're working.
In other news, the bus system seems to be running with considerably greater efficiency, despite Tuesday night's incident where a bus coming back to the Olympic Park from Deodoro had its windows shattered by either rocks or gunfire, depending on whom you ask. If that sounds familiar, that's the return route of the bus I was on Sunday that got lost, which means I probably should have been more worried about my safety than the inconvenience, and the same bus I took back after my sandwich on Monday.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock