Monday, March 17, 2008

Dining Table Matters: Review: Nelore Churrascaria

Formerly Gol! The Taste of Brazil, this steakhouse offers top-notch sirloin and ribeye, and tasty sausage.

Nelore Churrascaria



Nelore Churrascaria features gauchos who roam through the dining room offering skewers of various delicious meats for diners. (ROYALL MEDIA, INC. / March 11, 2008)

Scott Joseph | Sentinel Restaurant Critic
March 16, 2008

Click here to find out more about Nelore!

I had intended to tell you about Gol! The Taste of Brazil. Instead, I offer my review of Nelore Churrascaria -- it turns out they're the same place.

I visited the restaurant as Gol! but learned this week it is being rebranded as Nelore. It seems too many people thought it was a golf shop or sold soccer supplies. But it's only the name that is changing. The decor, the staff and the food will be the same. And that's a very good thing.

If you've never visited a churrascaria -- a Brazilian steakhouse -- here's how it works: You're shown to a table in the vast dining room, the centerpiece for which is a large salad-bar station. Tables are nicely appointed with white cloths, napkins, flatware and stemware -- and a two-sided disc at each place setting. One side of the disc is green, the other is red. Leave it at red to begin.

After the server takes your drink order -- and I'll have something to say about that in a moment -- you get up from the table, grab one of the large white plates from the stack next to the salad bar and start loading up. Pace yourself; you've got a long meal ahead.

Here you'll find various greens, dressing and other recognizable salad accouterments. But you'll also see such things as hearts of palm, big artichoke heart bottoms, freshly sliced prosciutto, thick asparagus spears, taboule, chunks of Parmesan cheese, mozzarella, balls of red beets, earthly mushrooms and potato salad.

There are also some hot items in silver chafing dishes, including Brazilian-style rice and beans, black beans, white rice, mashed potatoes, fried yuca, grilled plantains and, for reasons I cannot discern, chicken Stroganoff. Return to your table -- don't touch that disc yet -- and enjoy your starters. The quality varied from item to item when I visited, and nothing was truly stellar, although I enjoyed the asparagus. The hearts of palm were disturbingly woody.

You may return to the salad and appetizer bar as often as you wish, but it is my counsel that you go easy.

Because once you've finished that course, and you turn your disc green side up, your table will be descended upon by servers dressed as gauchos, Brazilian cowboys with poofy pants. Don't laugh at them because they're carrying long pointy skewers and sharp knives. They're also carrying the best part of the meal.

That would be the meats, and they start arriving at a dizzying pace as soon as one of the gauchos notices a green disc.

He -- they were all men when I visited -- will ask if you would like what he is offering, and upon your approval, either slide it off the skewer onto your plate or slice the meat for you to grab. Don't use your fingers: There are tiny tongs on the table for meat handling. After the gaucho slices a corner, grab it with the tongs as he slices the rest of the way through.

It's difficult to tell you which ones to try because there are so many. The good thing is that you can try them all. That's also the bad thing if you failed to follow my advice and filled up on mashed potatoes and chicken Stroganoff.

There are a few to watch for. The quality of the sirloin and ribeye was as good as you'll find in a high-priced steakhouse. And usually the server can accommodate requests for rare or medium-rare from the same skewer. One of my guests wanted her meat a little more done, and a gaucho said he would fetch some, but he didn't return.

We all loved the sausages, which had just enough spicy heat and garlic to wake up our tongues. And the flank steak had that meat's characteristic grainy textures and loads of flavor. (By the way, you'll find on the salad bar a bowl of farofa, which looks sort of like sawdust. It's ground yuca and is used as a condiment on the meat. Give some a try.)

The chicken offerings were all terribly dry. And although mention was made at the beginning of the meal of salmon, none was circulating through the dining room. The only seafood we saw were shrimp, grilled in the shell to be eaten with or without.

All of that food will cost you $39.95, a terrific deal. If you turned your disc over early enough to signal you didn't want any more meat so you could save room for dessert, have the flan ($8.50), a rich, dense custard with a sweet caramel sauce, or cr�me of strawberry ($8.50), a pudding-like whipped concoction.

But let's go back to the beginning of your visit. When the server asks if you'd like something to drink, order a caipirinha, the unofficial national cocktail of Brazil, made with lime, sugar and alcohol distilled from sugar cane. Or a mojito with mint, lime and rum. Both were wonderful, quite possibly the best I've had of either, anywhere. There is also a modest wine list that focuses, appropriately, on South American labels.

Service was quick and friendly. The dining room, though large, is more upscale than most I-Drive locales.

There's really no way to come to a place such as this and not eat too much. As long as you're going to overeat, it might as well be on good food.

Scott Joseph can be reached at sjoseph@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5514. Read his past reviews at OrlandoSentinel.com/dining

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Alumni Gather for Event in Gulfport, Speed Networking in Orlando

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March 12, 2008
Stetson University

Alumni Gather for Event in Gulfport, Speed Networking in Orlando

Members of the Alumni Board of Directors met with Pinellas County alumni and current parents in the Mann Lounge at the College of Law Feb. 15. All guests were proud and excited about the updates provided by President Doug Lee and Vice President and Dean of the College of Law Darby Dickerson regarding the DeLand, Gulfport and Tampa campuses.

The Stetson University Alumni Association held another round of Speed Networking in Orlando on Feb. 26 at the Country Club of Orlando. Alumni made their way around tables exchanging business cards and minute-long introductions. At the end, participants were given the opportunity to continue networking with anyone that they were interested in learning more about.


The Orlando Speed Networking group shows all of the contacts they made.

The Alumni Association also opened the event to current junior and senior Stetson students who may be looking for a summer internship or job. Lizzie Guenther ’09, a junior Marketing major, said, “I’m so glad I came. It was very exciting, and I feel like I have a lot of possibilities for internships to follow up on.”

Speed Networking continues to gain interest after being introduced last year by Alumni Board member Will Royall '04. Be sure to check the Alumni Association Web site for the next event in your area.

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