Saturday, July 9, 2011

How to survive a Brazilian Winter

Heat wave electric radiator

by Joris Laarman

Out of stock
U$ 12,000.00


This design approaches the radiator with a new mindset. Its original shape discards the old radiator design and makes it into a decorative piece that you no longer want to hide. The decoration is also functional as the increased surface area provides more radiation of heat. And if you look at the pattern very closely you may discover hidden details.

Heat wave electric radiatorHeat wave electric radiator

Ok, now that I got your attention!!!!
U$12,000.00 freaking THOUSAND DOLLARS and get this, OUT OF STOCK!!!
Ha! I am glad those Bush tax cuts to the rich are being well used! :)
Now, if you think this is expensive, the same little electric radiator in Brazil can be purchased by R$70,000.00, and it's obviously available, no wonder it's OUT OF STOCK OVER HERE!!!!!
Now, if you can gather R$70,000,00 from the change you find in the bottom of your purse or wallet, you can go to DECAMERON DESIGN  and get one of these to warm up your Brazilian winter, because they are NOT AVAILABLE in the US at the moment.
Now, all joking aside, Brazilian winters have traditionally been under rated and have caught many unadvised expats by surprise over the years.
I will never forget the startled looks, palid faces and the goose bumps ( from cold ) on the legs on my Danish friends when they arrived in Sao Paulo in the Fall of 1988. They were coming to live in Sao Paulo for a year on a Rotary Program Exchange Student.
The Danish students were wearing Bermuda shorts and short sleeves shirts. Sao Paulo's Airport temperature at that evening was hovering between 4 C and 6 C ( 39F and 43F ), now, I don't care if you are from Florida or from Denmark, that is cold, and those poor students were shivering. We rushed them to the car and turned on the heaters trying to bring their blue lips to a regular shade of red.
Needless to say, the conversation topic was how cold it was, and how unadvised they had been about the Brazilian/Sao Paulo weather.
This was the first time in my life I understood how poorly informed most foreigners are about Sao Paulo's winter temperatures.
We were off to the Mall to purchase some heavy sweaters and proper winter gear, these poor students were told they were coming to a tropical country, and they pictured palm trees, and drinking coconut water on the beach.
Oh, boy, were they in for a big surprise, and I am just describing to you the experience of the Exchange Students that came to Sao Paulo. I can't even begin to imagine the weather shock for those going to parts of South of Brazil where snow is not unheard of, places like Curitiba, Florianopolis and other parts of the south.
Now, if you are an expat and you are living in Brazil, you already know it is not 27C ( 80F ) year round, at least not in the southern states of the country, certainly not in Sao Paulo.
Many homes in my parent's Sao Paulo neighborhood have fireplaces and most people have small space heaters but more and more homes in Sao Paulo and parts of southern Brazil are beginning to build homes with insulation and heating systems. New apartament buildings with built in fireplaces are no longer rare.
The most common heating system in Brazil still are the Air Conditioners with the HEAT function added to it, either the simple window units, or the split units ( which are more common lately ).
Other options are available if you are willing to break ground, no, literally, break your floors and install radiant floor heaters, either heated by gas or electricity, the most efficient form of heat available today, we installed it in our bathroom in Rhode Island and highly recommend it.
This is how it looks:

Radiant floor heaters can be installed under your Brazilian tile floors

HERE is a link to an UOL post today on all forms of heaters available in Brazil today, with prices and links to where to find them. Even if you are not fluent in Portuguese, you can browse thru the pictures and choose your favorite type of heating which will show a website in Brazil or a store where that specific type of heating system or heater is available for you.

Electric radiant heater being installed at Brazilian home, under floor
There are choices for every budget, from the simple space heaters to the ( crazy ) sophisticated R$70,000.00 aluminium radiator to hang on your wall. :)
If you don't want to spend the price of a new "expensive" Brazilian car to purchase a space heater, you might want to take a look at Lojas Americanas, they have small space heaters at for only R$59,90 and free delivery.
You can also find a great selection of space heaters at
So, if you are new in Brazil and are not yet familiar with your options, here are other great stores such as Buscape, the oh so popular CasasBahia, ExtraSubmarinoFast Shop and last but not least PontoFrio.
Now, if you want to install an American style home heating system in your new Brazilian home, you know,  the type you install during construction or a major renovation, you can check out ASTRO SOL for boilers, solar powered heating systems, outdoors heaters and many other options.

Arno space heater- R$161,00 MADE IN BRAZIL

Britania Space Heater- R$89,91 - MADE IN BRAZIL


You can always opt to go old school like my grandparents in true Brazilian style and forget about heaters all together.
My grandma usually just put some socks on and watch the soccer game ( Corinthians ) drinking some hot cocoa and call it a day.
My grandmas and my mother love to bake and cook a lot in the winter, principally in the mornings, for breakfasts, to warm up a cold day.

Donut shaped "Bolinhos de Chuva" dough!

"Bolinho de Chuva" is a popular Brazilian recipe and SUPER simple( great for cold mornings in my opinion )
Translates to "Small rain cakes", don't ask me how they got this name, but if I had to guess, I would say people stayed home when it rained and made "Bolinhos de Chuva", "Small rain cakes". :)
Gil tells me it's because people use a spoon to drop the dough in the frying pan and when it falls in the pan it's in the shape of a rain drop.

Frying "Bolinhos de Chuva"

But the shape varies, so that might be debatable, there are donut shaped, perfectly round shape as in donut holes and there are the typical rain drop shaped. ;)

Donut hole shaped "Bolinhos de Chuva"


-1 Cup of Flour
-1 Cup of Corn Starch ( Maizena )
-1/2 Cup of Milk
-4 Table Spoons of Sugar
-1 Table Spoon of Baking Powder ( Fermento in Portuguese )

Tradional Brazilian Bolinhos de Chuva, in the shape of a rain drop :)
How to prepare:

Beat the Sugar and the Eggs first and when they are well mixed add all the other ingredients slowly until you have a smooth dough.
Heat up a pan with your favorite oil for frying. Add the "Bolinhos de Chuva" to fry them over low heat.
You can make them into Donut Shape or Donut Holes, your pick.
When they are fried, roll them in Sugar and Cinnamon. Enjoy! :)

Or, my favorite, for cold days, my grandma prepares a "Gemada com leite e vinho do Porto" or "Gemada with warm milk and Port wine".

Gemada with warm milk and a little Port Wine-Great for cold mornings 

One Egg Yolk ( uncooked )
One Table Spoon of Sugar
Beat the sugar and the egg yolk with a fork until is well mixed and smooth ( Gil's family add cinnamon )
When your "gemada" is nice and smooth, you can add some steamy milk and a little bit of port wine, or just milk ( if you are an expat who thinks your babies will explode and evaporate in thin air if you add coffee or wine to their baby bottles).
Ha! They will survive, thrive and won't become alcoholics, I promise. I am living proof. :)
Enjoy your Brazilian winter and stay warm.

Gemada with warm milk and Cinnamon-Gil's mama's version



Alex said...

Hahahah those poor Danes! When I go to SP I'll make sure to bring my winter coat and thermal underwear! Then after that I'll go over to Outchi Backi and buy the biggest steak I can get to inject calories and fat into my system. Just kidding about Outchi Backi. I'll go to Fogo de Chao instead!

Danielle said...

I'm with the grandma! I don't think our tiny apartment's electrical board can support a space heater, considering that the power goes out when we use the shower's "hot" feature for more than 5 minutes.
So lots of socks, blankets, and hot chocolate it is!
By the way, these recipes look AMAZING. Though I don't think I can justify spending 50 reais on a bottle of port wine.

GingerV said...

camillo and I laugh about living in a tropical country. it has been cold (ha! 10-17c) up here in Cond. Stucky since May this year. the house is built for warm weather, windows and doors that don't seal, wood floors over concrete, high ceilings and tall windows.... I have a little space heater that I take from room to room - but if I run it, even in just the evening, our electric bill goes from R$150. to R$450 and upward. can't imagine the cost of those heater under the tile floors. am courious though if there is a heat converter for the fireplace. to send the heat back into the room insteat of up the chimney.

Ray and Gil said...


Yes, there are options to convert the heat from your fireplace into other rooms of the house. I have a friend who did just that on his country home in Sao Paulo. You should visit a fireplace store, they will certainly point you in the right direction.
The most energy efficient option I have seen is the radiant water heater pipes installed under your floor, you can install a solar powered boiler connected to it, that way you can keep your house warm with solar energy, and floor radiant heat is the best quality, most comfortable.
We installed radiant floor heater in our bathroom in Rhode Island and it is super efficient, ours is electric, but you could do natural gas water heated.
It does require a costly renovation, but it might be worth it on the long run, considering the price of electricity to run even a small space heater.


Ray and Gil said...


You might need your thermal underwear if you visit Campos do Jordao, Curitiba and other parts of the south.
Your winter coat will be enough to walk around Sao Paulo on a cold winter day.
Fogo de Chao is AWESOME!
I think the closest one to you/us is the one in downtown Philly, it is really, really good!
New York city as "Plataforma", on 49th street, between 8th and 9th Ave., they have live Brazilian music at certain hours and different days of the week. Make sure you have a reservation, because they are usually packed. :)


Ray and Gil said...


Nothing will get you warmer for a cold Sao Paulo winter day than a "Gemada with hot steamy milk and a dash of Port Wine" ;)


SN said...

Ray you are awesome for posting the recipe for bolinhos da chuva! They taste like funnel cakes from the fair if you put powdered sugar on them :) I have never been able to make them on my own until now! Thanks again!

Ray and Gil said...

Dear Sara,

You are so welcome!
You are right, they taste exactly like "funnel cakes".
Well, enjoy my grandma's recipe, it is super simple but it's been in our family from generations, my grandma says they used to make it in Germany.
All you need now is the whipped cream and strawberries on top ;)


The Reader said...

We did buy a good space heater this year; the cold was just.too.much.

Luckily we have windows in the main living area that face the morning sun, and that's enough to warm that one room IF we have sun. Because Ginger is right, running the heater? Oh my word the electric bill!

(we got ours at Leroy Merlin; great place for home needs)

Ray and Gil said...


I hear you, electricity in Brazil has always been high. I used to have space heaters in the bathroom only, and only turned it on when I walked out of the shower, and that was enough.
However, when I move back to Brazil I will be breaking up tile floors and intalling radiant floor heaters, they are economic and provide very comfortable heat.