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The Calgary Herald

September 27, 2009

By John Gilchrist

“Gaucho, the Brazilian churrascaria, is all about meat, meat and more meat.”

Brazilian Cuisine Tempts Meat Lovers' Tastebuds

If there's any doubt as to what's on the menu in the new location of Gaucho at 5920 Macleod Trail S. (403-454-9119), the full-sized diagram of a cow divided into its various cuts mounted on the wall should answer the question quickly. That and the huge Longhorn cow head hung on the wall opposite. They might as well have a sign warning vegetarians to stay away.

Gaucho, the Brazilian churrascaria, is all about meat, meat and more meat. The "small" lunch combo, called the Sheriff's Sampler ($22), includes sausage, chicken wings, pork loin, beef sirloin and lamb. That's if you're eating light. The Cowpoke Classic lunch ($28) ups the ante with all of the above plus rump steak, beef ribs, beef wrapped in bacon, sliced steak with garlic and chicken wrapped in bacon. At night, there's even more. (And a $35 dinner prix fixe.) That's a lot of meat.

In the churrascaria style, all those meats are brought to your table on skewers and sliced onto your plate. The servers will keep coming back with more until you indicate that you've had enough. To do that, you'll be given a little cow cut-out that's green on one side and red on the other. Leave the green side up and they'll bring more; turn it to the red side and the carnage will stop. Rolling on the floor and moaning will also encourage them to stop.

But wait! Gaucho does have more than just meat. Owner/chef Ede Rodrigues has installed a mesa quente efria-- a hot and cold table--filled with Brazilian dishes such as feijoada (a rich bean dish), plus soups, salads and other vegetable dishes. For those who are less inclined to mega-meat, you can simply have the mesa with a single meat for $16. And you can wash it all down with a wine list that's loaded with Malbec, Cabernet and Shiraz. Or a caipirinha cocktail made with Brazilian cachaca (non-drivers only!).

The new Richard Interteinerdesigned Gaucho, decked out in meaty tones of brown, red and grey and lit by wagon-wheel chandeliers, replaces the original, smaller Gaucho that was located among the muffler shops a few blocks away. With only 30 seats, the former location was unable to host all the carnivores who wanted a churrasco meal, so Rodrigues decided to move. The new location seats about 80, with a private room for a couple dozen, and has a much larger kitchen.

That kitchen hosts a new Brazilian rodizio barbecue. It's a unique barbecue that holds 62 rotisseries and is fired by a top-mounted gas broiler. With three levels of rotisseries, the meats can be barbecued quickly or set to cook slowly, guaranteeing there will always be enough for everyone.

After all, you don't want to keep a bunch of hungry carnivores waiting too long for their meat fix.

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The Calgary Herald

December 27, 2007

“Sensuous meat-centric barbecue of the Brazilian gauchos.”

Brazilian Barbie Spices up the Season

Just when you thought your taste buds would never recover from holiday overindulging and your brain would shut down from the overabundance of people and "stuff" going on -- the holiday season isn't even over yet -- take "time out" at a small, quiet, fun, charming, delicious, off-the-beaten-track place called Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue.

That's what El Hombre and I did and the crazy season had barely gotten started. For us, sometimes the barest sniff of Christmas can put us off our feed, so to speak. To get back on our feed, we went to see Ede Rodrigues at Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue on a sunny, mild Sunday and indulged ourselves in the sensuous meat-centric barbecue of the Brazilian gauchos.

We've experienced this fun way of eating at Bolero; now we were ready for a more intimate experience chez Rodrigues. Brazilian Rodrigues is a gaucho chef, trained in Brazilian-style rodizio barbecue, where meats are presented at the table on long sword-like skewers, all succulently seasoned and rotisserie-barbecued.

Gaucho is a bit of elegance on the industrial Manchester Road. Do not be put off by the location. Small and cosy, it's done up in chocolate and coffee colours. Each table comes with a meat-garnishing salsa -- molho a campanha, in Portuguese -- which is a chunky "vinaigrette" reminiscent of chimichurri. It adds flavour to the meat, though, frankly, the meat out of Gaucho's kitchen needs no additional attention. We perked up our taste buds with two typical Brazilian drinks: about the best caipirinha you'll find anywhere, plus a creamy, smooth batida, both tarted up with the sugar-cane based liqueur, cachaca (both $6). "It's very easy to be happy here," Rodrigues grinned. First, toddle to the buffet bar and get your sides: green salad, potato salad, a black bean stew to be ladled over rice and sprinkled with toasted yucca flour, like fine bread crumbs which, in Brazil, is sprinkled on everything. Then, the best part, a "mess o' greens" of the collard type, sauteed. Mmmmm.

Then the meat parade begins, perfectly rotisseried, perfectly speared, sliced just the way you want it: sausage, chicken drumettes, rump steak, pork loin, chicken breast wrapped in bacon -- tender, moist, flavourful -- pork ribs, top sirloin, and the perfect finishing touch: grilled pineapple. El Hombre started growling at the end and bearing his canines: I had to get him out of there fast.

Rodrigues has just become a Canadian citizen, but he has clearly not abandoned his Brazilian roots. For that we can be thankful. Go. Eat. Love it. Then go home and take a nap. It's Sunday -- it's OK to nap on Sunday. Gaucho does not do BYOW.

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Calgary Herald

November 4, 2007

By John Gilchrist

“Rodrigues promises a condensed but legitimate version of the Brazilian gaucho cuisine.”

Brazilian Barbecue Fires up in Burnsland

Seems like it was just last week I was writing about a new restaurant located east of Macleod Trail run by a South American chef. That restaurant was the hot new Alloy. But could there be a second restaurant answering this general description? Oddly enough, there is.

Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue opened a few days ago at 3606 Manchester Rd. S.E. (454-9119), just a bolo's throw away from Alloy.

To get detailed for a moment: this is an odd restaurant location and an unusual address. Manchester Road is two blocks east of Macleod Trail and parallels it from 34th to 39th Avenue S.E. In spite of its name, it is not located in Manchester. This is Burnsland, home to automotive shops and light industrial businesses. Perfect for a Brazilian barbecue.

Gaucho is the creation of Ede Rodrigues, an experienced gaucho chef from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. A gaucho chef is trained in the barbecue cuisine of south Brazil, where meats are impaled on long skewers, seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh herbs, and roasted on rotisseries over hot coals.

They are then brought to the table on the skewers and sliced onto your plate in a style called rodizio. Or they're prepared on plates with side dishes and served simply. (That's called churrasco.) Either way, there's lots of meat and rich, bean-filled dishes as well as various salads and potato offerings.

Rodrigues started learning his trade at the age of 15. His first job was peeling and preparing chicken hearts for a local specialty dish in a popular Brazilian restaurant. He worked his way up the culinary chain and when the restaurant expanded to Japan in 1993, he was asked to join the opening team there.

Rodrigues spent seven years in Osaka and then moved to China to open another Brazilian restaurant. In 2000, he met Calgarian Rosina Aiello (now Rodrigues) who was studying in China on an educational exchange. One thing led to another and they ended up moving to Calgary.

While learning English here, Rodrigues enjoyed the cultural immersion of working at a Tim Hortons. Eventually he started catering to members of the local Brazilian and Portuguese communities. Now he's gone public with Gaucho.

Rodrigues promises a condensed but legitimate version of the Brazilian gaucho cuisine. His huge charcoal barbecue holds up to 45 skewers, but to start, he'll only be offering rump steak (picanha), top sirloin (alcatra ao alho), chicken wings (asa de frango), chicken breast (peito de frango ) and Italian sausage (linguica), along with side dishes such as cowboy beans (feijao tropeiro) and potato salad (salada de maionese).

Gaucho is open weekdays 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (On Saturdays they cater.) Typical weekday dining will be churrasco combination plates of meats and side dishes, ranging from $12 to $20. Everything is ready for takeout and you can buy gaucho-marinated meats to take home for your own barbecue. On Sundays, they will do the full rodizio meal for $25.

Note: Gaucho is tiny -- as in 32 seats tiny, so call ahead.

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Calgary Herald

August 2, 2007

By David Parker

“What really impressed me was the quality of the food served.”

Long, Winding Road Leads to Chef Opening Restaurant

The weather, the rock garden and the interesting crowd all went to make the recent backyard cocktail party at the home of Robin and John Sparks such a pleasant evening; but what really impressed me was the quality of the food served. I sought out the chef for a chat and discovered a young man who is making a name for himself in his adopted country of Canada after a circuitous and sometimes frustrating journey. Born in Liberato Salzano in the southernmost province of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, Ede Rodrigues left home for the capital of Porto Allegre at the age of 16 to find work in restaurants.

As an apprentice he did kitchen preparation, waiting on tables and learning his trade for six years at barbecue houses where he would help feed 1,500 people at Sunday lunchtimes cooking on nine-metre-long grills.

Then Ede was invited with a party of 20 friends to move to Osaka, Japan, to work in a Churrascaria -- authentic Brazilian steakhouse -- as a chef. He stayed there for 18 months before moving to Kobe and was resident there during the horrific earthquake of 1995 -- a frightening experience without food and having to share two bottles of water among 12 people for a couple of days.

But he stayed in Japan until 1999, when he followed his brother Vianei to China and became executive chef at the Cathay International Hotel in Shanzhan, Guandong province.

Then he made a move to another hotel in Changsha, capital of Hunan, where he met Rosina, a young Calgary lady who was visiting for six months as an exchange student. She is Italian and he is Brazilian, but third-generation Italian, so they found conversation easy. Soon after her contract was finished she returned to Calgary, but with plans to join Ede back in China, and found work there teaching English to children of wealthy families.

But five years ago Rosina became homesick for her family and Ede was soon here as a landed immigrant with his wife.

He spoke Portuguese, Italian and Japanese, but his English wasn't good enough then to follow his trade, so his first job was as a kitchen helper at Tim Hortons. Not very satisfying, so he answered a Herald advertisement for a funeral home that wanted a salesman with language skills.

He passed the course, but says, "I cried more than in my whole life," so he quit and worked as a cement labourer for two years.

But his brother-in-law pushed him back to his profession, and after cooking a few barbecues for family and friends, Ede was soon catering to private parties and corporate functions.

In a couple of weeks, he takes the next exciting step and opens his new restaurant at 3605 Manchester Rd. S.E.

Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue, decorated in rustic cowboy style, will seat 32 for lunch and serve dinners for private parties only. In the afternoons, it will serve as a coffee house and retail store for his Picanha steak -- a special Brazilian cut of rump that he says must include the fat for flavour -- and his marinated chicken hearts.

I've had the pleasure of eating his barbecued chicken, beef and pork and enjoyed his Feijoada black bean stew that I found a lot tastier than it looked. They will be available at catered events or home delivery for groups of 20 and over.

Rosina was a big helper at the party I attended, but is also a teacher at Our Lady of Peace School in Airdrie, while Ede has been getting used to Calgary and building up his business. He will do well.

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Avenue Magazine

February, 2010

By John Gilchrist and Catherine Caldwell

“At Gaucho, the meat-eating isn't over until you say it's over.”

Blame It on Rio

Ede Rodrigues is a meaty guy. Which is not to say that he himself is huge, but in his restaurant, Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue, the diminutive Brazilian consistently wields skewers of sizzling meat that look bigger than he does.

Rodrigues is a gaucho (a Brazilian cowboy) chef from the state of Rio Grande do Sul. This southernmost corner of Brazil is populated by the descendants of Portuguese and Spanish colonists, native Guarani Indians and more recent Italian and German immigrants, all of whom have a fondness for meaty dishes.

When it came time for a harvest dinner on the area's ranches during the state's pioneer- ing era, meat was first and foremost. Big slabs of beef would be roasted over open fires, and swords heavy with chunks of pork, lamb and poultry would be turned over the coals. Seasoned by salt and smoke, the meats were sliced onto plates and enjoyed by the gathered group. This traditional churrasco dining has given rise to churrascarias, or restaurants that that serve grilled meat, which have become popular around the world.

Rodrigues trained to be a gaucho chef in his home state and then worked with churrasco restaurants in Japan and China. Along the way, he picked up a fluency in Japanese and a working knowledge of Chinese to go along with his native Portuguese. And he also met a nice young lady — Rosina Aiello — who was studying in China. Of his many languages, English was not one. Regardless, Rodrigues and Aiello spoke Italian to one another and they soon came back to her native Calgary to be married in 2002.

Rodrigues went to work in a Tim Hortons, baking and working on his English. He moved into other jobs — including an unsuccessful stint as a casket salesman for a funeral home. One day, some friends asked him to cater an event in the churrasco style. The crowd loved it so much he received two more offers to cater, and then more offers followed.

In 2007, he moved his catering business into a small restaurant on Manchester Road S.E. and, in less than two years, outgrew it. He leased a larger space on the ground floor of Macleod Place near the corner of Macleod Trail and 58th Avenue S.E. and, a few months ago, opened a new, larger Gaucho.

The pride of the kitchen is a 64-skewer, gas- powered rodizio (rotisserie) barbecue that can be loaded with hundreds of pounds of meat: top sirloin (alcatra), rump steak (picanha), pork loin (lombinho), chicken wings (asa), leg of lamb (pema de carneiro), sausage (lingüiça), and so on. It's big meat, but simply flavoured with salt — and sometimes garlic — and the smoky scent of the barbecue.

If you want to try them all, the $35 Cowboy Classic dinner offers 12 churrasco meats, plus asmany trips to the cold and hot table as you'd like. (For the delicate diner, the $22 Sheriff 's Sampler lunch comes with a modest five meats.) This is not the most vegetarian-friendly place you'll ever see. There are salads and such on the hot and cold table, but even the great Brazilian black bean stew called feijoada is laden with meat.

Gaucho's decor reflects the meaty tones of the place, too. Done in carnivorous reds and browns, with an outline of a cow on one wall and a huge Longhorn head mounted on another, it looks like a meat-lover's dream. But it's not heavy and cloistered. Wood stencils on the south-facing windows beam sunlight in a pattern similar to the pine trees of Rio Grande do Sul, and wagon- wheel chandeliers are festooned with incandes- cent lights that brighten the room. Antique, glass- topped wooden shutters and doors double as tabletops, a huge photo of Rodrigues's ancestors fills one wall and chunks of wood front the bar.

The room is enlivened by Rodrigues and his servers and their huge skewers of meat. With knives at the ready that would do well in any Zorro remake, the servers slice meat until you moan, "nao mais," or you turn your green cow cut-out over to the red-and-beige side.

It's appropriate that the new space is on Macleod Trail, once a dusty trail used to drive cattle from down south to the packing plants in east Calgary, and that a cowboy — albeit a Brazilian one — has brought a different style of meat to Cowtown.

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Fast Forward Weekly

June 11, 2009

By Darell Hartlen

“Gaucho serves up a carnivore's dream.”

Delicious Meat Sweats

All it took was one simple meal for Brazil to be added to my list of places I must travel in order to sample more of their regional cuisine.

Before going to Gaucho Brazilian Barbecue, located in a not-so-great location south of Spiller Road, east of Macleod Trail, I can't recall eating anything specifically touted as Brazilian. All I knew heading into this meal was what I had heard: Gaucho is “an all-you-can-eat place with endless meat,” and it had barbecue in its name. Based on the description, I figured it would be a winner, but then again, I've been fooled by monikers before.

At Gaucho, there are only two options: the all-encompassing rodizio ($35 for supper, $28 for lunch), or the smaller build-your-own combos ($13 to $20). We agreed the rodizio option was the only way to go.

For starters, we share two appetizers: the mandioca frita ($8) and pastel frito ($5). The mandioca, better known as cassava, a root vegetable popular in Africa and South America, is fried crisp on the outside yet retains its wonderful fibrous texture. We are also treated to some polenta, that wasn't mentioned on the menu. Like the cassava, it too was topped with sea salt and parmesan cheese.

The pastel frito consists of light pastry dough accented by a splash of cachaça — a Brazilian alcohol made from sugar cane — and is filled with a choice of vegetables, beef, chicken or bananas. We are told that beef is the only option available the day of our visit, which is fine. Reminiscent of Jamaican patties, the three delicious pastel fritos disappear quickly, and we settle in for a dining experience to remember.

The rodizio concept is incredibly simple: on the table there's a little cardboard cow — one side is green, one side is red — and while the green side faces up, the passador will bring meat to your table. Lots of it. The meat is cooked on custom two-pronged skewers that are carried right to your table. A base plate to catch drippings is laid down and the chef cuts you as little or as much meat as you'd like, using what would best be described as a sword.

Soon enough, our side dishes and some oversized plates arrive as we wait for our passador. The family-style side dishes include potato salad, a green salad, feijoada (traditional Brazilian black beans and pork), white rice and tomatoes in a vinaigrette dressing. They are all good, but the real star of the show at Gaucho is the meat.

Over the next hour, we are treated to barbecued mild Italian sausage, chicken wings, pork loin, rump roast, bacon-wrapped chicken, bacon-wrapped beef, lamb, top sirloin garlic steak and, lastly, some generously sized beef ribs, which explains the oversized plates. Every single cut is superb, and the rump roast and bacon-wrapped chicken are both standouts.

After conceding defeat and flipping our cow to red, we are brought some barbecued bananas with powdered chocolate and cinnamon. They are fantastic and mushy, and I encourage you to try it even if you think it sounds unappealing.

Gaucho is definitely not vegetarian-friendly, but for those who like to indulge in a carnivorous lifestyle, Gaucho is top-notch. Does anyone know when Carnival is?

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