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Rio de Janeiro didn’t need to be told to host colorful outdoor fresh food markets. The feira is a carioca tradition, with wooden booths going up overnight at their weekly locales and filled with wares so standard any local could recite for you off his head what you can and can’t find there.

But with a little kick from the tools of the digital age and a hipster-era recalibration of the local palate, the Rio feira has gotten a particularly nice new edition. Junta Local brings together local producers and budding chefs in a biweekly, rotating-location food-fest, often accompanied by live music.

Junta’s organizers imagined several things. One, creating a digital platform to connect buyers and sellers, lowering prices while also expanding consumers’ options. Two, bringing those products to neighborhoods that could use some enlivening on the weekends, when cariocas are often at the beach or at the air-conditioned mall. And finally, looking out for what Brazil does well – homemade cheeses, craft beers, fruit popsicles and locally grown produce like mushrooms, chuchu (chayote), potatoes and jiló (a small green vegetable related both to the tomato and the eggplant).

“Everything in Rio is between big-time producers and hippie natureba producers. We wanted to do something more democratic,” said Thiago Gomide Nasser, one of Junta’s organizers. A large number of their items are organic, though Nasser said Junta emphasizes small-scale producers over organically certified ones. The feira usually has between 20 to 70 producers, depending on space, and Nasser sometimes mounts a small stage for participants to discuss their products and methods.

Queijo Com Prosa at Junta Local, photo by Nadia SussmanWe visited on a recent Sunday on a pedestrian-friendly crossing of alleyways in the downtown area of Praça XV, an area usually moribund outside commercial hours. Peppy bossa nova floated around the packed stands as friends ordered handcrafted cheese platters for an extraordinarily kind price of 20 reais (about US$5), with a side of organic honey from Queijo com Prosa. Their canastra and savory, smooth parmesan come from the bucolic state that neighbors Rio to the west, Minas Gerais. We particularly liked the queijo minas with alecrim (rosemary).

At Junta, you can have a varied lunch or happy hour and then bring home ingredients for your next meal. Italia in Barattolo offers a nice selection of antepastos and spices for home cooking. For a most Brazilian option, try the pot of jiló e especiárias. All of Italia in Barattolo’s ingredients come from the state of Rio, said partner Mirella Guida, and that keeps their flavors fresher. Other vendors offered nice twists like mirtilo (blueberry) and cachaça jam; a chilled Branco Valmarino chardonnay from Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul, at a comfortable 13 reais ($3.25) a glass; and a stunningly good vegan burger make of carrot, zucchini, oats and flaxseed.

A vendor at Junta Local, photo by Nadia SussmanWhat Rio de Janeiro does well – albeit imperfectly – is to bring together people from diverse parts of the city during that time that cariocas most deeply cherish, their weekend leisure. That’s when the city’s stark dividing lines are blurred by exuberant gentileza (courtesy and kindness) and a shared love of those things that are so intrinsic to being Brazilian. Junta embodies that bright side of the big city that can warp into an intimate village when the mixture of flavors, sounds and places is just right.

Hours: Feira on Saturdays and/or Sundays, approximately every two weeks in the Urca, Botafogo, Centro and Glória neighborhoods. Check “Próximas Feiras” on for upcoming fairs.
Nadia Sussman

Published on October 27, 2015

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