Saturday, May 25, 2013

I'm Still Stuffed: Foga de Chao

It has been at least several years ago that I gave up on any sort of buffet or all-you-can-eat type of restaurant.  No matter what a good deal it was, I always seemed to walk out miserable and realizing that, a lot of the food just wasn't that good, but I was eating it because I needed to get my money's worth.   And let's face it, for the most part, even regular, non-seconds and thirds type restaurants give you more than one person should be eating, just so you don't feel bad about paying $9 for a burger and fries.  So when my daughter wanted to go to Foga de Chao for her birthday lunch, I knew I better stop eating Thursday afternoon.

I really don't have any pictures of the food to share here because it just seemed a little awkward to pull out the phone and start snapping away as the feeding frenzy began.  Our first waitress, one of several wait staff who served us, asked if we had experienced Brazilian style dining before.  Though the kids are old pros, Eva and I had never been, so she gave us a short tutorial on how it all works.
Simply, The green disk means bring more meat, the red disk means stop! She also instructed us on using the little tongs to assist the meat carving guy in guiding the assortment of meats onto our plates.  What she should have told me was that I don't want to fill my plate with stuff from the salad bar.

As soon as I sat down with my plate of salad (the salad bar is pretty extensive) and started to eat, a server wearing gaucho pants and holding a spear of meat approached and it was on.  As soon as he sliced a portion of meat onto my plate, another guy showed up with a different sort of meat.  How can you say no?  Before I could even try the Filet Mignon, another guy was giving me bacon wrapped chicken, lamb, brisket, and all sorts of other things.  I couldn't even make a dent in my salad.  Eva suggested I turn the disk from green to red and give myself a chance to eat the stuff on my plate.

One of the pluses is that they bring this meat out while it is still sizzling, and I love it when my food is hot - not just spicy, but temperature wise.  Having said that, I wasn't crazy about everything.  Without question, the Filet Mignon and Beef Ancho were awesome.  The Frango (or chicken) was superb.  Toward the end, I gave the Costela De Porco (ribs) a try and the taste was excellent, but I could not force myself to pick them up and eat like I would at a BBQ place.  I'm pretty sure I had some of everything with the exception of the Lingica or sausage which my son-in-law Tyler reports as being very good.

If I were to ever go again, I would use a completely different strategy:  No salad, and nothing but Filet Mignon.  And iced tea.  And I would turn that little disk to red until I finish what I have on my plate so I could decide whether or not to ask for more.

The service at Foga de Chao is outstanding.  In addition to all the meat serving people, we had at least 3 or 4 different people bringing refills, asking if we wanted clean plates and in general making sure we had whatever we needed.
 One of the waiters could see we were celebrating and brought my daughter a complimentary dessert with enough spoons for everybody.  Very nicely done.

Total bill before tip for five of us, no alcohol or dessert was $185.00.  Considering Eva and I did not eat anything for the rest of the day. I'd say we got our money's worth. 

Have you gorged yourself at one of these places?  Did you think the waiters looked like pirates in their little poofy pants?  Did you wake up in the middle of the night saying, I can't believe I ate the whole thing?  Leave a comment and share with the group,  won't you?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ketchup and Anderklondikes...

I just have a few quick notes to post before we dive head first into must-see Sunday night TV - you know, Mad Men and The Borgias among others that will have to wait on the DVR.
First off, you won't care if you are living in a non-HEB or non-What-a-Burger state, but as we wandered the aisles of our HEB Plus this morning, I noticed an entire section of the condiment shelves cleared out. 
That can only mean one thing!  Yes, fast food ketchup that you usually steal from your favorite burger place are now (or soon to be) available for sale.  This means I won't have to carry a purse with me to the What-a-Burger anymore.
Okay, you recall a while back when I purchased plans to build an Adirondack chair, right?  It was a big fail because I just didn't have the right tools.  Well screw that!  Harbor Freight had a scroll saw for $67.00 and I had a nice 15% coupon on my phone, so after tax, this baby was $62.00 (plus the cost of several new blades I had to buy right away, but we'll save that story for another day).
And after lunch, I got the boards I had already marked for cutting out and commenced to cut.
I still have several more boards worth to cut, but it was so nice to see every thing starting to come together.  Of course, I'll need to do a lot of sanding and I may even bust out the router and put a nice rounded edge on the pieces before assembling it.
Eva still says this is the most expensive Anderklondike chair in the history of the world.  Anderklondike is our new term since we heard Shelby on AxMen refer to a chair he saw with that fun pronunciation.

This was a great weekend for us.  Lots of fun with family and friends.  More posts when I can...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lunch Report: Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que

Finally, after being on our list of places to eat for at least several years, we got our butts to New Braunfels and had a delicious sampling of the fine offerings at Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-b-que.  Now I get it.
The folks at Cooper's have quite an operation and they've got some pretty famous fans.  I hear that a fairly recent former president would order up a feast and have it sent to the White House.  But you won't require a presidential decree to get some of your own tasty treats, you just have to get yourself over there and not put it off like we did.
Set back from a huge parking lot, the building has an entrance on one side so you can walk in and start the ordering process, then proceed in a cafeteria line style down to the cashier.  Unlike a lot of BBQ places we visit, the actual cooking seems to be done in a back area thereby leaving the restaurant itself smoke free.  But that doesn't mean you don't see the meat you are about to eat.

As a grill man presides over a huge selection of ribs, brisket, sausage and such, you point to the pieces you want.  I thought that was pretty good.  From there, you move down the line to get your sides and finally pay for your feast. 
The seating area is community style tables and benches.  You find the amount of space you need, elbow yourself in and get to setting up the paper used to toss the meats on.  I really appreciated the multiple drink stations, huge tea dispensers, and cauldrons full of beans for the taking.

We ordered the family pack of brisket and sausage, and since there were five of us, we also got a half chicken and some pork ribs.   Our grill man gave us the choice of marbled or lean brisket and we took the lean.  Great choice.  With or without the dipping sauce, the brisket was perhaps the finest I have ever tasted.  You hear people describe foods as melting in your mouth, and perhaps Cooper's brisket wasn't dissolving on contact, there was no fighting it to chew like I've experienced at some lesser operations.   If you get nothing else, get the brisket.

I usually don't go for sausage at BBQ places, but this stuff was very good.  The pork ribs were also wonderful.  Things are seasoned with the right amount of rub or whatever they use so that the dipping sauces is purely optional.  

I love me some grilled chicken and while this was as good as most, I wouldn't say it was the best.  Not dry, but I think the dipping sauce helped.
On to the sides.  We went with some mac & cheese and some mac & cheese with jalapenos, then tossed in some potato salad and a roasted corn on the cob for good measure.

Especially good was the mac & cheese with jalapenos.  If you have ever been to a place that sells those jalapeno bombers where they fill them with cheese then deep fry it all, that was the taste of this mac & cheese.  Yum!
 Aside from the fact that it looked weird being packed into a little container, the potato salad was excellent.

Eva did not like the roasted corn, mostly because of the excess pepper, but I thought it was just fine.  They also offer regular corn on the cob if you don't care for the roasted, peppery version.

Honestly, the best side of all was free.  In the area where you get your drinks and utensils and dipping sauce, they have these huge pots of beans with jalapenos floating around for good measure.  Absolutely fantastic.
For five of us to eat with some left over, it was $82.00.  If you want to go in on the cheap, I'd say get yourself some brisket, eat the free beans and have a nice iced tea.   I promise, at Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-b-que, you're in for a Tasty Treat!     

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lunch Report: Texas Land and Cattle...

We had the need for a celebratory lunch on Tuesday, what with it being our anniversary and the day our daughter and son-in-law closed on their first home.  So, with me playing hookey from work, we all met up at Texas Land & Cattle over on I-10 at Wurzbach.  Eva reminded me that we had been to this place before, but I didn't really believe her until I recognized the glass enclosed bar.  I suspect they smoke in there.  You can read about our last visit, here.

Anyway, I'll spare you the detailed description of the place, suffice it to say there is the horns end of a cow mounted on the wall, a few cool cow paintings and a bunch of flat screen TV's throughout the place showing ESPN.

We had fantastic service.  Our waiter was a pro and he had just the right amount of personality combined with, the important ability to leave us alone while keeping an eye on the table in case we started to look like we needed him.  I wish more waitstaff could learn that little skill.  I offer all of these accolades only to say that either he got my order wrong or I told him I wanted the wrong thing. 

The problem is too many choices.  Looking at the menu, I asked for the sirloin and shrimp combo.  The real name for that is Smoked Sirloin and Shrimp Combo.  What he wrote down and served was Garlic Steak and Shrimp.  When I got the food, I was pretty sure it wasn't what I was expecting, but you know my rule of never sending anything back to the kitchen, the spitting and all that. 
So this is what I got.  In fairness, this is a good plate for $17.99.  Of course, what I wanted was $19.99, but I digress.  Eva got a similar 6 oz steak.  I would not say that the steak was bad at all, but the word average comes to mind.  The added garlic mixture on top was certainly flavorful.  The shrimp, I opted for grilled versus fried, were great.  The little dipping oil was okay but not necessary.  I don't know if they seasoned the shrimp, but they came out perfectly done without overcooking and I enjoyed them more than the steak.

The baked potato was a total loss in my book.  It looks loaded, but it was missing butter, there was only a hint of sour cream, and I think it may have been undercooked.  One of the things I enjoy about Texas Roadhouse is the way they do up their baked potatoes, you know, with the salted outer skin and all that.  The other saving grace, besides the shrimp and the service, was the salad I didn't take a picture of.  It was excellent.  
Okay, my son-in-law apparently knew the words needed to order what he wanted.  This was the smoked sirloin I thought I was ordering.  And thankfully, he shared a bite topped with the grilled onions.  Delicious.  If I ever go back to TXLC, this is definitely what I will order, perhaps using the traditional, point-at-the-menu method. 
By all reports, the garlic mashed potatoes were a hit with the kids.  And both my son and daughter had similar comments on their steaks - okay but not great.  So the lesson we've learned here is that TXLC should limit the menu to salad, shrimp, garlic mashed potatoes and smoked sirloin with grilled onions.  Oh, and the tasty baked bread they bring you.  And the iced tea.