There’s no better way to learn about the culture of a place than through its food. Sometimes it’s best to begin with the sweets when getting to know a foreign cuisine. Some of these Carioca candy stores also represent points of interest for tourists, as much for the delicacies as for their rich history.
Opened in 1894, the Confeitaria Colombo is one of Rio’s numerous cultural and artistic heritage sites. It was here that some of the country’s most important intellectuals once gathered. With its Art Nouveau touches, the architecture of Colombo is certainly one of the main attractions. Just step inside one of the salons and you’ll feel as if you were transported to another epoch.
The Portuguese sweets and savories are a big hit with tourists and locals alike. Among the most requested sweets are the pastel de nata (egg custard tart), the quindim de camisole (similar to the previous selection, but with coconut milk), the pingo de tocha (a glazed lemon pastry). The popular savory pastries are the shrimp rissole and the coxa crème (Brazilian fried chicken). The kitchen produces 2,000 homemade sweets and savories every day, and they are only available in the city center. What’s more, all these treats are based on original house recipes that have been passed down through the centuries. If you’re looking to explore Colombo while getting a little fresh air, it’s worth trekking out to Forte de Copacabana where a branch was opened up in 2003. It really is the perfect place to enjoy some sweets, snacks, and sandwiches.
Another landmark among the Carioca candy stores is Manon, on Rua do Ouvidor in Centro do Rio, replete with furniture and utensils preserved as part of the site’s cultural heritage. The store dates back to 1942 and the restaurant, a replica of the interior of the Serpa Pinto boat (which once traveled between Lisbon and Rio), was founded in 1950. The flagship dish and obligatory dining option is the pão doce madrilenho, or Madrid sweet bread that includes cream, powdered sugar, and guava paste. Another hit is the Macaranã pastry, made in the shape of the famous stadium of the same name.
Also dating back to 1942, Kurt in Leblon is another Carioca sweet shop that has enjoyed continued success. The shop is small, so order your sweets and grab a spot inside if you can, or head out to the terrace. You can’t go wrong either way. The recipes have all been kept within Kurt Deichmann’s family, and to this day Kurt continues to apply traditional German baking methods, which, due to their European heritage, tend to involve using less sugar. Kurt is a stollen (a kind of panettone sweet bread) specialist, but he also makes great filled cakes, fruitcakes, cakes soaked in cereja liquor, and a fantastic Hungarian cake that you can’t miss. The crowd favorites are an apricot cake and the picada de abelha, which literally translates to: “beesting cake.” It’s a vanilla crème-filled cake with a brittle honey glaze. There are more than 30 different cakes to choose from, so make your choice and enjoy!
The youngster among the Carioca sweet shops, Boulangerie Guerin in Copacabana, is inspired by French pastry shops. Among the pastries on display are Napoleon custard pastries, eclairs, cakes, and macarons. Despite having only opened in 2012, Guerin has already received wide acclaim for its sweets. The man behind the success is Chef Dominique Guerin, who takes pains to see that every ingredient is prepared by hand.