By Sierra Shear
I first experienced Brazilian food during the movie Bridesmaids, where a very familiar scene unfolded; a woman convinced her friends to go to a hidden restaurant with authentic and cheap ethnic food. The Melissas and I had the same discussion many times in D.C. and continue to here in Austin. We’ve never been hit by the affliction that overcame the women in the movie, but have ventured to our fair share of hole-in-the-wall, maybe kind of questionable, but delicious establishments.
Melissa B and I made our way to Rio’s Brazilian Café a few weeks ago, a tiny restaurant in a residential neighborhood on the east side. The building is painted bright green and yellow and features a drive-up window, which we found unusual for a joint that runs at such a leisurely place. It seemed more like they converted an old liquor store or gas station into an eatery. Respect.
This place wasn’t sketchy in its cleanliness or smell – which, in my opinion, are the usual tip-offs to a dining experience that might not end well. However, it did have its quirks. All the waiters looked like skinny, hipster versions of Fabio. Their hair varied in length, but they had the same mannerisms and seemed to move at the same, not particularly deliberate pace. Ultimately, we found it fascinating that the owners were able to hire matching waiters.
To start we ordered the cheese bread. It’s gluten-free and people freak out about it on Yelp. It’s more than rave; this bread has a cult-like following. Melissa and I liked it, but both found it a bit more gelatinous in texture than we would call bread. Tasty and cheesy, but misnamed.
We both tried one of the salgadinhos, which were very similar to empanadas filled “with sautéed shrimp, garlic, tomato, onion, and green pepper, then rolled in bread crumbs.” They were good, simple, and about as filling as a taco. A spinach salad with walnuts, beets, and apples completed the meal. It was fresh and could easily be made at home, but it was satisfying.
Later that week, Josh and I ventured down to south Lamar to try a trailer called Luke’s Inside Out. Guy Fieri, the host of my favorite show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and the subject of my favorite New York Times restaurant review ever, visited the trailer and made them famous for a rabbit sandwich. As a former bunny owner, I opted out of trying the hare and we instead ordered barbacoa nachos with mango on shrimp chips and the spicy Szechuan fried chick sandwich. Both were delicious.
Trailer Barbacoa Nachos
Friday rolled around and it was finally time for my weekly lunch with Cooper. While always pleasant, sometimes these lunches end up happening at three or four in the afternoon. Cooper’s a busy guy, and I’m just over here watching West Wing until my eyes start to water. I can really only watch so much Netflix until I start feeling bad about myself, so I decided to be proactive and stave off my mid-day hunger by cooking until he had time to pick me up. This might sound counter-intuitive, but it works.
I decided to make Alton Brown’s Overnight Cinnamon Rolls recipe. I wanted something that would be good for breakfast and that I could keep in the fridge and bake the next day before going on a pilgrimage to see the Alamo. It was a labor-intensive recipe that would take me a while to prepare and used up a lot of ingredients I had lying around. Not that I needed to convince you, but I thought it was a pretty great idea.
It was. After about 20 hours of rising and kneading and steam proofing (a first for me – you put an overnight dough in the oven over a pan of boiling water, and it again doubles in size), the rolls came out perfectly. They smelled so good that even a few of my friends on the Paleo diet couldn’t resist them, which was the biggest compliment of all.