I woke up with a bloat in my belly. My head was fuzzy and my palms were hot. I slept but was wiped out. I didn’t want to get out of bed. What had I done that put me in this condition? I couldn’t recall getting drunk or ingesting any narcotic that could have caused this malaise—this funk I was in. I tried to remember—to piece together the events of the previous evening that put me in the place I was now.
I drove from the city to Mount Vernon, a suburb just north of the Bronx where our group was to assemble for another eating expedition. We weren’t far from the Lincoln Lounge where, in January of 2012 we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Adventures in Chow City. The place that Eugene had chosen was called Chalanas. He mentioned in his email that it was Brazilian.
The restaurant had a small parking lot. Haphazardly parked cars clogged the lot and I had to park down the road from the restaurant.
Parking and dining “al fresco” at Chalanas.
Zio, Eugene, and Gerry were all in the parking lot when I crossed the street. Mike from Yonkers arrived a few moments later. I noticed he was wearing dark shades. There was consternation on their collective faces.
“Something wrong?” I asked, turning to Eugene who was the engineer of this escapade.
“No, nothing. Why?” he responded, but neither he or any of the others made a move to enter the restaurant.
“What are we waiting for?” I wondered out loud and began to head toward the entrance when a man whose face was beet red stumbled out stammering in Portuguese. I gave him wide clearance and then pushed the door open.
The restaurant was loud with Portuguese chatter. It was happy hour: $1 drafts in small, eight ounce glasses. I ordered one and so did the others with the exception, as usual, of Zio who preferred the chemical nutrition of a Diet Coke with the citrus snap of a wedge of lime. The beers were very cold and surprisingly good.
“What is the name of this beer?” I asked the host, a middle aged Brazilian man with a sly smile.
He blurted out a response to my inquiry, but I couldn’t understand him. His accent was either too heavy, the chatter in the restaurant too loud, or I was already under the influence of something I wasn’t even aware of.
“Shock?” I looked at the others for help. “Did you say Shock beer? Is that a Brazilian beer?” I pointed to the now empty glass.
“Yes, shock of beer,” He said.
I was even more confused. I think I needed some food. Nobody was helping me here.
“Are you deaf?” Gerry yelled to me. “The man said ‘shot’ of beer.”
I pondered that for a moment. “But I asked him the name of the Brazilian beer?” I looked again at our host.
Now he looked confused. “Brazilian beer?”
“Yes, the Brazilian beer. What is it called?”
“Budweiser,” he said.
“Budweiser.” I mumbled and nodded to myself, staring in disbelief at the foamy dregs that coated my glass. I had never had Budweiser quite like what I just downed.
A “shock” of Budweiser
“Maybe you want to try a shot of Brazilian tequila,” he asked as he noted my empty “shock” glass of beer.
“You mean cachaca?”
He nodded. “Yes, Brazilian tequila.” Now my head was spinning.
“I’ll have one,” Gerry quickly responded by raising an eager hand.
“Four tequilas?” The host asked.
“Not for me,” I said, shaking my head. Eugene also declined.
Mike from Yonkers took off his sunglasses and let out a weary breath. “I’ll have one,” he said.
Dinner was self service here and I was more than ready to serve myself. Before I could, our host returned with the “tequila.” Gerry and Mike from Yonkers downed the shots quickly.
“That’s the best Brazilian tequila I’ve ever had,” Gerry announced as he staggered to his feet.
The five of us moved into the adjoining room where there was a coal fired grill. Inside the grill were racks on which skewers of meat were assembled; the juices dripping slowly onto the hot coals. We were to decide what we wanted—and how much and the grill master would carve from the meat on the skewers. For some reason the process was a bit overwhelming to me at that moment. Gerry, however, was raring to go.
When the grill master asked what we wanted, Gerry, his judgment maybe affected by the Brazilian tequila, blurted out, “Everything.”
The grill master stared.
Mike from Yonkers, also under the influence of the tequila, nodded and handed the grill master a large empty platter. ““Fill it up,” he commanded.
I could only shake my head and retreat to the salad bar where I loaded a platter with greens, rice and beans, “eggs and cheese,” and avocado salad. When I looked back, there were two enormous platters piled high with red meat and another with chicken and sausage.
Our plates were weighed and, apparently, recorded by the cashier: “You pay when you finish,” he said.
We returned to our table and almost immediately a procession of forks began to spear the various cuts of meats on the platters and from there into open mouths. I glanced at the two huge platters of red meat and tried, for just a moment, to determine each of the cuts. Was it really important to distinguish one from the other? Though a bit overly salty, it was good grilled red meat and the way it was presented; piled high in the platters, made it as accessible as munching on potato chips or pretzels. I had originally thought that getting the chicken was superfluous. I was wrong. It was outstanding, kept moist by salty and fatty strips of bacon. I couldn’t stop stuffing pieces into my mouth.
…and even more meat.
A woman came to the table to ask if I wanted a drink. I was thirsty and nodded.
“Beer?” she asked.
“No, I’ll take a caipirinha,” I said, not able to resist the Brazilian specialty while dining in a Brazilian restaurant.
She returned quickly with the drink. The caipirinha’s I’m familiar with and wrote about in the trilogy: A Lime Cut Three Ways (see A Lime Cut Three Ways: The First Cut) usually were served in small, Old Fashioned glasses. This one came in a big plastic cup with a straw. I sucked it down as I continued to stuff my face with the red meat and the chicken, occasionally dipping into the rice, beans and greens to offset the animal protein assault.
The Chalanas caipirinha
I finished the caipirinha and for some unknown reason asked Zio to take a picture of me. He struggled but the flash went off.
He took another.
I looked at the results. They weren’t good. My palms were suddenly hot. I was thirsty and needed something sweet, but I didn’t want another supersized caipirinha.
The Brazilian tequila effect
I got to my feet and wandered to the bathroom. When I returned, Eugene told me I owed $20 for the meal.
“That’s all?” I asked.
“And that included the tip,” he added.
I handed over the money.
Gerry disappeared to rush off to another date while Mike from Yonkers, Eugene, Zio and I crossed the street and found ourselves in a Brazilian bakery called Padaminas. The lights were bright in the café and news from Sao Paulo was on the television. Brazilian coffee was probably a good idea, but Brazilian flan was a better one. I took it to a table and stuck a spoon in it. It held the spoon securely upright. I excised the spoon with little effort and then working methodically devoured the astonishing flan.
A flan that holds up a spoon.
Lying in bed the next morning my palms were still hot and my head pounded. I had one caipirinha, granted a very big one, and one small “shock” of Budweiser. They weren’t the cause of my stupor. It was something else. I looked at the pictures on the memory card in my camera including the unfortunate ones Zio took of me. I looked again and then I knew what was ailing me. I had a hangover. But not from the alcohol. The hangover was from an overdose of red meat. I got up, swallowed two aspirin and went back to bed. In a few hours I felt better. The hangover was gone and I was hungry.
Just another adventure in Chow City.
105 W. Lincoln Avenue