The Best Ice Cream in Rio | Culinary Backstreets
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Carioca summer culture is dictated by the heat. It’s courteous to ask guests if they’d like to take a quick shower upon arriving at your home (because everyone takes multiple showers a day in the summer). Beer at parties must be estupidamente gelado. Movie theaters sell out even for so-so films because the air conditioning inside is delícia. This year, the Rio city government took the bold step of legalizing the use of knee-length shorts for city employees and bus drivers during the summer.

Four other critical ways that locals chill out are: sorvete (traditional ice cream), picolé (popsicles), gelato and sacolé (anything frozen in a plastic sack). Kids make sacolé at home for cheap summer treats, and in the summer, you’ll easily stumble upon a home in a favela selling them from a family’s window or vendors on foot hawking them on the beach. Fillings vary from fresh fruit to chocolate with sweetened condensed milk to alcoholic beverages like caipirinha.

It so happens to be that rare time period in Rio in which cariocas are wearing scarves and boots – July is winter here in the Southern Hemisphere. Put on an extra layer and try one or more of the following.

Mil Frutas
There’s a handful of Rio locations of this exuberant brand, and we enjoy the Ipanema shop, which is located on one of the city’s poshest streets. It’s also a short walking distance to the city’s lagoon, an excellent place for a long jog or bike ride that is often overlooked by beach-hungry tourists. Just as the name indicates, this mini-chain is the place to go to sample the best Brazil has to offer in fruits, including guava, tamarind, the small, punchy red pitanga, and our favorite, seriguela, a sweet, yellow-orange fruit from Brazil’s northeast. To commemorate the Festa Junina – midyear festivals that have their origins in European midsummer celebrations and that nostalgically celebrate a more rustic Brazilian life – Mil Frutas also serves chocolate with cardamom and cinnamon and cheese ice cream with doce de leite.

 

Tacacá do Norte
Locals would be up in arms if this Amazonian snack shack in the Flamengo neighborhood didn’t make the list. In addition to having Rio’s purest açaí and a curious and beloved tacacá (tangy shrimp stew), the small bar also has a variety of ice cream flavorsTacacá do Norte, photo by Lianne Milton hailing from the Amazon. They all mix well together; we tried taperebá (like a tart mango) with açaí and chewy tapioca beads (called mestiço on the menu) and carimbó, which is the beloved cupuaçú fruit mixed with Brazil nut ice cream. If it sounds like overkill, you’ll only be overwhelmed by how stunningly well Amazonian fruits harmonize with one another.

 

Vero
The first of a series of gelato enterprises to open across the touristic Ipanema and Leblon neighborhoods, Vero has classic gelato flavors, like tiramisu and hazelnut, and has also pulled off several successful experiments with more innovative ones, like gorgonzola and mustard. Its most distinguishing claim to fame is its most esteemed client – Pope Francis had a gelato from here during his 2013 World Youth Day in Rio. We were particularly impressed on a Vero, photo by Taylor Barnesrecent visit with a vegan, no-sugar-added tapioca gelato, made with rice, almond and coconut milk and creamy green banana. It’s also a regular stop on the carioca drunk munchie route, since it stays open until 12:30 a.m. each night and doesn’t even close on holidays.

 
 

Sorvete Brasil at CADEG, photo by Jimmy ChalkSorvete Brasil
We can’t recommend enough a trip to the CADEG warehouse-turned-eatery. Sorvete Brasil has its factory on the first floor, where Severino de Ramo Aragão, now in his 70s, has been making icy treats for half a century. We like the green corn, which tasted like lightly salted popcorn, and the classic mango.

 
 
This feature was originally published on July 20, 2015.
 
 
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Jimmy Chalk and Lianne Milton and Taylor Barnes

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