Flame on! Roseville’s Brazilian steakhouses opens international doorway
The churrascarias cooking tradition is steeped in hard-won wisdom — a culinary way of life born over centuries in the campfires of Portuguese homesteaders driving cattle across the ranges of Brazil. Now, from the cultural collision of small, Iberian finger foods and heat-licked beef drenched in down-dripping juices, the style of modern churrascarias has gone completely international; and thanks to Flame and Fire, it’s finally come to Roseville with force.
Walking through the doors of the recently opened restaurant feels like passing over the equator: Its décor has a neo-European sensibility with hints of Caribbean flare. Flame and Fire operates with two distinct kitchens. One crew works exclusively on the array of Brazilian and Arabic items in its salad bar. These range from coal-dark, bubbling feijoada — a deeply flavored mix of rice, beans and sausage — to immaculate cheese selections. A simple but unexpected offering consists of tangy sweet potato packed in an orange peel with a dash of mint leaf on top. Another solid selection is the plump figs stuffed with goat cheese. Salad-lovers will also appreciate the fresh tomatoes wrapped in mozzarella and drizzled in reduced balsamic vinegar. On any given evening Flame and Fire’s salad arrangement features around 35 different specialties, including plenty of bright notes for vegetarians.
The second kitchen is a mini-world of stainless steal and huge slabs of beef. Brazilian meats are barbecued on spits, with the flames coming down from above to send the bubbled juices running in a slow, gentle cascade to the rarer parts of the slab.
“What we do is about process — about seasoning, salts and cuts,” Master Gaucho Chef Daniel Mendes explained through a translator. “The cuts are precisely measured in order to have the perfect balance of tenderness, juices and moisture.”
Mendes, who grew up in Brazil, is perfectly happy to join his fellow Gaucho chefs as they wander out into Flame and Fire’s dining room, approaching tables with sizzling, slightly smoking meats stabbed onto their swords. This is known as the Rodizio style of being served: The chefs stop in front of a guest, who tells them how well-done or rare they want their steak, and then watch the Gaucho slice a piece off onto their plate. The kitchen is currently putting the flame to picanha, a Brazilian prime cut of top sirloin, skirt steak, filet mignon and Tri-tip. Other weapons of meat circulating around the tables include succulent lamb, pork chops packed in parmesan powder and chicken wrapped in bacon. The Gaucho chefs sometimes step out of the kitchen like wandering headhunters with spits stacked in fat, flame-cooked chunks of pineapple.
For Executive Chef Adilson Freitas, the mission of Flame and Fire is to bring Roseville an entirely unique dining experience.
“For us, everything is about getting the right meat flavor,” Freitas observed. “I think people will find it different from the steaks they are used to, because in the Brazilian tradition there is no marinating — everything is done through cutting, packing and the right combination of salts.”
Flame and Fire is also looking to leave its mark on the area through the international feel of its bar. Head Bartender Cristiane Donoso has spent most of her career bartending on the sun-baked beaches of Rio de Janeiro. She knows exactly what thirty patrons in hot climates are looking for.
“We have guarana, which is a soda that exist only in the Amazon,” Donoso said. “It has a fresh, sweet taste that is very popular across Brazil.”
When it comes to alcohol, Donoso and her staff supplement a thoughtful wine selection with mixing up caipirinha, a concoction of lemon and lime juice, special sugars and cachaca Brazilian rum. Caipirinha hits the palate with a sharp, citrus infusion over a smooth rum bite. It can be specialized with bits of strawberry, pineapple and kiwi.
“Caipirinha is a very refreshing cocktail,” Donoso remarked. “My specialty is tropical drinks, and in summertime the people on Rio’s beaches know caipirinha is the best thing. Plus it pairs perfectly with the style of barbecue meats we’re serving here.”
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