Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Brasa in Northeast

This is my bonus Mama, also known as Matt's very own mother. As you can clearly see from this picture, the woman is awesome. She and Matt absconded with me around 11:30 and headed to Nordeast. Many times I've eyed the bright yellow Brasa sign, but had never had a chance to go in.
We were the first group for lunch and able to score the best table outside. It was shaded with a faint breeze whispering through the trees above us. We were eager and I was starving.

The way the menu is set up, you order an amount of meat (Quarter/Half/Pound)and however many sides you wish (sizes of sides feed either 1 - 2 or 3 - 4 people.) There are sandwich options, but wanting to maximize the food I could taste, we went for the meat and pick the sides option. Ever the democratic group we each ordered a different meat and agreed to share with the table. I called chicken because there was no way I was sharing any crispy skin with anyone. Matt got the beef and Carol got the pork.

I'm very thankful for the glorious day and the opportunity to fully catch up with Carol, but my Lord did that food take forever. All the other tables that were seated after us were served before our plates finally arrived (considering the short menu list, I really don't get how we were last.)

Our first arrival was my chicken.

(Guess who finally remembered her real camera?)

I ripped all the skin off the thigh and stuffed it into my mouth. Herbs sang past my tonsils and down to the gullet. Smokey paprika and thyme partied hardy with the succulent juices dripped off the edges. I stabbed at the potato salad that was the special side of the day, creamy and studded with hard boiled eggs.

I'd also ordered one of the corn cakes. It was so lightly sweet, dressed in shiny honey butter and flecked with corn kernels. The texture was crumbly soft and surprisingly moist. It was like an early dessert that came to hang with the rest of the meal.

Matt's beef arrived next.

This wasn't an easy picture to snag - he wouldn't get his hands out of the shot, immediately shoving the fried yucca into his mouth. They were like a modified French Fry. Crispy on the outside, downy on the inside.

He'd also requested a little fried masa cake. We've been enjoying the fried masa goodness so much at Los Ocampos lately. It was toasted all around, but still soft and warm inside. The firey sauce that topped the masa crackled on my taste buds and punched his poor mother in the mouth, "It's not that hot," he lied.

The meat was smokey and zingy as well. It was tender, falling apart and dripped with sauce. Smokey in a Mexican flavored barbecue kind of a way. The creamy cilantro dipping sauce worked equally well for the fried yucca and my chicken.

Carol's pork arrived just after Matt's beef. She'd chosen yellow rice and beans as her side. The pork was husky and tender, incredibly moist. The rice and beans were sophistication and comfort, simplicity and brilliance. By tasting exactly like wonderful dense black beans and fluffy rice the flavor was what I always read the great chefs strive for - incredible simplicity raised to greatness because of the caliber of the ingredients.

My fork darted from beef to yucca to chicken over to the rice. I was eager to have more of each flavor, floored by the straight forward flavors and the gluttonous harmony they created. Building, racing, stretching until my stomach hit the crescendo like the height of A Day in the Life by the Beatles.

I picked away at my half eaten muffin. Sweet low final note. Satisfied and refreshed for my work afternoon we tried to flag down the waitress for the check. We wouldn't see her again for another 20 minutes and although Matt's iced tea was said to come with free refills, he never got a one.

Everything we found on the menu was sourced locally, from the butter to the meats. The freshness was apparent. Like the ability to taste the soil that encourages the grape in a great wine, each bite was Southern inspiration, but still reminded me of the wild woods smell of the forest where I grew up, the lapping waves and late night warm winds carrying loon calls. Everything tasted like home, but better.

Once we had finally settled up we'd been at the restaurant for over an hour. As much as I enjoyed the flavors, I think the service might have been a little better. It's not the sort of day that should be hurried, either. The bit of humidity softly brushed the back of our necks, while the occasional breeze eased the heat. It would have been a wonderful afternoon to sit back and enjoy all day, but not me. Oh, no. Unlike some people I know who are retired or on summer break, I've got a job to do. So, sadly, and eventually, I made it back to the office still humming.


At 8:27 AM , Anonymous Peggy said...

What a fabulous mother-in-law you have!

At 2:09 PM , Blogger Erin said...

My husband picked up take-out here one night in May and it was fantastic. Rich, but oh so good. We had the pork and the beef plus a bunch of sides- really, how can you decide with the options? The only disappointing item was the cheese grits- I was hoping for creamy and they were pretty crumbly and just not that good.

I've missed your posts! I'm 19 weeks pregnant and can't find a thing to eat lately and am needing some inspiration...


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