Saturday, June 28, 2008


OK, time for a food post.

Since Kristal and I moved in together we have tried to limit the number of times we eat out each week. The effect of this has been to greatly expand the variety of dishes we prepare at home. Especially with the new grill, we have been dining in style at a fraction of the cost of restaurant fare. While I occasionally miss the popcorn shrimp at Outback, $10 of steak from the grocery store and a bottle of marinade will feed us for dinner and the next day's lunch and taste just as good (if not better). The only establishment we frequent now is our sushi restaurant (where we are considered patrons). We have discovered the secret to getting a lot of food for a small price, and rarely buy alcohol there (the tea is too nice).

Last night, beyond our wildest expectations, we weren't in a sushi mood. There was nothing to eat in the house save ground beef. Searching the internet was turning up few possibilities for new places to visit, and we ended up driving around Innsbrook in search of a place I thought I saw once...figuring we'd end up a Cheesecake Factory (their extensive menu is bound to have something that tickles our taste buds). In our meandering we came across the Ipenema Grill. It looked....expensive. But for whatever reason our curiosity get the upper hand and we started on a wonderful adventure of meat.

I have no idea what they eat in Brazil. The images that come to mind are beaches, slums and the rain forest. None of those landscapes include a restaurant of any kind. It turns out that the most popular style of dining is the Churrascaria. The service is Rodizio - a kind of all you can eat buffet, in which the meat is circulated on giant skewers by a team a waiters wielding equally huge carving knives. The Prix fixe was reasonable, so we agreed not to bolt for the door...

Before you accept any meat, the practice is to visit the salad bar (also providing side dishes). In hindsight, it is unsurprising that the food has a distinctly Mediterranean flavor; after all, Brazil was colonized by Portuguese, Italians and others, including some of Middle Eastern origin. For whatever reason, it felt slightly Greek, perhaps because of the ubiquity of olives!

On returning to the table, one flips a small acrylic sign from red to green, and the men arrive bearing carnivore heaven. The host mentioned ten type of meat. I tried to keep track, but as the meat-coma set in and my cognitive powers receded, counting to ten became a bridge too far. This is as much as I can dredge from my subconscious: smoked sausage, chicken wrapped in bacon, sirloin, tenderloin, pork ribs, lamb, and the roasted pineapple. All the meat is cooked in a South American barbecue style known as Churrasco, originating with the Gaucho cowboys. As far as I can tell, the key to everything Brazilian is lime juice. Everything was incredibly moist, tender and tasty.

I have to try a local beer whenever I can, and Ipanema offered Xingu. All I'll say is I may never drink another Guinness. Well, of course I will, but every time I do I'll think of Xingu.

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