Monday, 12 March 2012


I have long held a grudge against the Brazilian people for introducing string bikinis to geriatric Germans.

When you are lying on your stomach to work on bronzing your back, and your exposed buttocks look like two unbaked dinner rolls that flew out of the Pillsbury tube and landed in the sink when you struck it too hard against your kitchen counter, well….it’s time to get a proper swimsuit.  A bikini bottom should never require more string than a yo-yo factory in order to make it all the way through the valley between Mt. Rodgers and Mt. Hammerstein (“The hills are alive..!”), just to reappear some yards later attached to a tentative triangle of cloth in the front as a nod to the wearer’s long-dead dignity.

But I have now chosen to forgive.

This is in no small way due to another gift the Brazilians have given the world, a gift of inspiration, a gift of good taste: churrasco, also known as all-you-can-eat rodizio-style barbecue!

Alison and Duncan were in Edmonton for a swim meet (Duncan was doing the swimming, in case you were wondering) for the weekend, so Will and I decided to make a reservation at Bolero, a churrascaria located in Calgary.  Will is now at an age where all-you-can-eat is a lifestyle, not merely a menu choice.  With the more delicate constitutions out of town, it seemed to be a good opportunity to check it out.

If you haven’t been to a restaurant specializing in Brazilian barbecue, this is how it works: at your table you have a little red, yellow, and green “widget”.  If you turn it to have the green end at the top, your table will be visited by a...server?, that’s not right.  Oh, I know: your table will be visited by the “meat fairy”.  The meat fairy carries an oversized skewer of, you guessed it, meat balanced on a wooden base.  In the meat fairy’s other hand is a large knife that is used to peel off slices of animal flesh in a similar fashion to those guys in donair shops.  So long as you keep the green side up, more meat fairies with a dizzyingly variety of protein will appear.  This will continue until you either turn the widget to red or begin to shake and perspire from a bad case of the meat sweats (also known amongst carnivores as an “epic win”).

After seeing the racks and racks of skewers (16 varieties!) in a restaurant like Bolero, one can be forgiven for believing the Last Days are finally here.  How does that prophecy go?  “And the lion shall lie down with the lamb.”  Okay, Bolero didn’t serve lion, but broiling side by side in a culinary demonstration of inter-species harmony, there was  lamb, beef, chicken, pork, and even pineapple!  Yes, when pineapple is elevated to the same status as meat, the Second Coming can’t be far behind. 

Bolero probably has the loneliest salad bar in Calgary.  When you’ve paid $40 to eat all the meat you can, you don’t want to waste too much space on...(shiver)...vegetation.  Actually, the salad bar was pretty swanky and had a nice selection of foodie items like fennel salad, grilled asparagus and sweet coconut rice.  I tried about a tablespoon of most of the choices available, giving me some variety of flavour between visits from the “meat fairies”.

Overall, most of the rotisserie meat varieties were quite good.  (Strangely, the filet mignon was our least favourite.  I'm not sure what was done to it, but it tasted almost "gamey".)  I preferred the picanha, which is supposed to be an inferior cut to the filet mignon but suited me much better, especially when prepared with garlic and parmesan.  Will particularly enjoyed the linguica, a nicely spiced Brazilian pork sausage.

There is a widely circulated theory that Ravel's famous orchestral piece, Bolero (which is basically just a fifteen-minute crescendo ending with a raucous climax), is a metaphor for...ahem...the sexual act.  Personally, I think Ravel was inspired to write it as a cautionary tale after he tried to eat 80 francs worth of meat at a Paris churrascaria.  It's a different kind of build-up to be sure.  

Just don't try to think too much about what the release at the end of the piece represents; it's even more unpleasant than the more commonly accepted theory.

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