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Rio’s flying high after last year’s thrilling World Cup and with the Olympics just on the horizon. And this year, the city celebrates its 450th anniversary. But the event we’ve been looking forward to most is the return of the Comida di Buteco, the competition that has pitted local bars known as botequins against each other since 2008, and which takes place from April 10 to May 10 in 19 cities across the country.

Cachambeer's Comida di Buteco entry, beer-marinated steak with orange and peach, photo by Marcos PintoThe competition is all about appetizers – the kind of tasty small plates Brazil’s botequins are known for. Each contestant prepares a special dish exclusively for the event and offers it on its menu for 30 days. During this period, anyone can visit the bars, try the appetizers and award them grades. The bar that receives the highest average grade wins. In addition to the popular vote, a group of 12 experts selected by the event organizers will also try the dishes and assign their grades as well.

Because of the celebrations for the 450th anniversary of the city, this year the number of contestants has increased from 31 to 45, which means there are many newcomers to the competition. That’s good news for the botequim fan because one of the best parts about the Comida di Buteco is going around the city looking for and tasting one’s way through lesser-known bars. (The copious amounts of beer that wash all these snacks down don’t hurt either.)

Art Chopp's entry, Banana Rocambole, photo by Marcos PintoWhile there are 14 new entrants, a few of Culinary Backstreets’ favorite bars are participating again, including Cachambeer, Galeto Sat’s, Gracioso and last year’s winner and runner-up, Bar da Frente and Bar do Bahiano. This year’s rules stipulate that all dishes must include at least one fruit, so we anticipate large quantities of tangerine, orange, coconut and mango sauces, reductions and infusions. They can be great, but tricky to execute too.

For a list of this year’s entrants and the dishes they’re offering, visit the Comida di Buteco website. Find your favorites and give them the grade you think they deserve.

(photos by Marcos Pinto)

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