THIS must be as near as I can experience Brazil, at least for the moment. Brazilian men pacing the floor, toting and offering you the next best export to Havaianas and Giselle Bundchen -- the food!
The yet to reach Brazilian global domination product started from the mountainous countryside of Rio Grande do Sul of Southern Brazil. Centuries old Gaucho culture, a fusion of traditions from European immigrants and natives that brought about a very important cultural element-the cuisine.
Delicious barbecues! It is all about the roasting, fabulous fare roasted on pits of open fire. This is the centuries old Gaucho way of preparing their festive meals that is passed from father to son, each generation the caretakers of the culinary tradition.
And Fogo de Chao was born, a foobooz term which translates to "Fire of the Ground" in English.
Jai and Arri Coser, siblings and both born in the Gaucho culture region, took their cue and brought their cuisine to the rest of the world. And so, the Brazilian chain of churrascaria aka Brazilian steakhouse was born, it was 1979.
From Porto Alegre to Sao Paulo and 1997 to the USA, the Fogo de Chao chain is expanding and sharing the Brazilian passion for sharing their culture and preserving their authentic tradition of preparing their Gaucho cuisine.
It was an unexpected surprise for me and the rest of the US “virgins”. Tenny showed us that there is much more to the Alamo and River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, he made sure that we get to have this exquisite Brazilian dining experience.
Seated after having a couple of great cocktails of Mojitos, we were to follow these steps to have an exceptional diet-busting meal:
1. Sit down, relax, and enjoy a drink and the server will explain the Fogo dining experience.
2. Begin your limitless enjoyment of traditional Brazilian side dishes of over thirty items including pão de queijo-delicious warm cheese bread, crispy hot polenta, garlic mashed potatoes and caramelized bananas, fresh cut vegetables, imported cheeses and cured meats.
3. Turn your card green side up and begin your journey to Gaucho dining. The green signals will call the gaucho chefs to head to your side and start their service.
Choose some or better yet all of the 15 cuts of delectable fire roasted meats that are brought to your table and served and sliced form their skewers: Picanha (top sirloin), the house signature steak; the most tender of cuts, the Filet Mignon, plain or wrapped in bacon for double the fun and twice the sin; the Beef Ancho or rib eye; the Alcatra or top sirloin; the most distinctive and flavorful cuts of meat from Southern Brazil-the Fraldinha or bottom sirloin; the grilled for hours Costela (beef ribs), a Southern Brazilian favorite; the succulent New Zealand imported lamb or Cordeiro; the Frango aka chicken, prepared lightly basted or bacon wrapped; the mouth-watering baby back pork ribs or Costela de Porco, a favorite in the churrascarias; another house specialty- the Parmesan cheese coated Lombo (pork loin); and the Brazilian-style cured pork sausage Linguica, grilled perfectly crisp on the outside and hot and juicy on the inside.
4. When you are satisfied, flip the disc to the red side until you are ready for more offerings.
5. Now crown your meal and indulge yourself with their delicious gourmet desserts which you must always make room for. If the server neglected to mention this, then you have to stay a little longer, digest your entrée until you are ready to satisfy your sweet cravings.
Try the Fogo de Chao signature papaya cream or the creamy South American flan. We dove into their Turtle Cheesecake?, Molten Chocolate Cake? and their Key Lime Pie. Yummy!
A word of advice, making a reservation is always wise since the place gets packed most of the time and most importantly try to make it early as possible, you will need an entire evening to get to experience the maximum enjoyment of the entire Gaucho offering from starters to dessert. Resist the cheese bread, it is always served warm and it will prove to be very, very tempting and once you bite, you can’t stop- this will stuff you long before you start your gastronomic trip to Southern Brazil.
Although Fogo de Chao took its root in Texas, they have expanded all around the US, so worry not, there must one near the state you are visiting. Either that or go for the real thing- go to Brazil!
Aaah, another day in gastronomy paradise! Fogo!