It’s time once again to gear up for the pre-Lenten excess of eating, drinking, dancing, and loving that is Brazilian Carnival, which takes place from Friday, February 13, to Ash Wednesday, February 16. In Brazil, the spectacular parades of over-the-top floats, costumed samba school dancers, thundering drum lines, and tanned and toned samba queens will flood the streets, city centers, and sambadromos of Olinda, Recife, and Porto Seguro. There will be celebrations in Salvador da Bahia, where mobile bands called trios elétricos blast axé music, and the samba school competitions in Rio de Janeiro and Saô Paulo. Every Brazilian knows that the best parties to be had are the blocos, or neighborhood carnival parades—these celebrations are stripped-down affairs where drinking, dancing, and mingling take center stage.
L.A. has its own themed bloco, or block party, each year when Brazilian Nites Productions holds its Brazilian Carnaval at the Conga Room—it’s the 15th year of this event, appropriately titled the Brazilian Carnaval of Love because it falls on Valentine’s Day, Saturday, February 14. I’ve attended this party the past two years and have enjoyed the variety of Brazilian music from axé to pagode to funk carioca to Brazilian country music interpreted by L.A.’s network of talented and statuesque Brazilian samba dancers. You will be moved to dance by the Carnaval of Love’s rainha de bateria (drum queen), Marcela Oliveira, and Samba and More. But the best part of all of this is the Brazilian street food and savories that help maintain sobriety, perhaps, after lots of cachaça and Itaipava beer.
Last year’s eats included super-loaded Brazilian hot dogs, acai bowls by Ubatuba Açai, and a fine selection of tender salgadinhos (savories) like coxinhas (chicken croquettes shaped like a little chicken thigh), risolis (small croquettes), pasteis (stuffed pastries), and kibis (kibbeh) served with small packets of ketchup and mustard just like in Brazil. It’s a great time, and once you’ve had your fill of Brazilian snacks and downed a caipirinha or two, it’s time to head back to the dance floor and ponder the eternal question: How do those Brazilian women stay in shape eating fried foods and hot dogs?