Bite Off More Than You Can Chew: Churrasca

My parents and I were fortunate enough to be invited to the family and friends, soft opening at Churrasca IMG_6982Brazilian Steak House in October. That experience was amazing, but I always like to have a go at a new restaurant after it is officially open before writing a review…lucky for me, my older brother came to town, and I got to eat myself into a food coma once again!

First of all, let me set the stage for you…most of us have been to Fogo de Chao or Texas de Brazil or a place of that kind at one time or another. Don’t get me wrong, those places are great, but they don’t hold a candle to the quality of food, the service, and the atmosphere at Churrasca.

The Salad Bar: My brothers and I have fought for years over whether or not it was sacrilegious to visit the salad bar at such an establishment–I love a big, fat, juicy steak more than just about anyone, but, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m also big on getting my veggies. So you can guess where I stand on visiting said salad bar. What I’m not big on are carby things–bread, rice, potatoes, etc. do nothing for me…so why is it that I wanted a second helping of their potato salad?? It’s like nothing I’ve ever had before, and I really had to make myself not go back for more! They also had some of the best smoked salmon, most delectable varieties of cheeses, and an array of fresh vegetables (including these small peppers that had been marinated in I don’t know what, but they were heavenly)! It also included your usual options, like tossed salad and fancy meats, but I didn’t want to waste my time with something I could get every day. The tabouli left a bit to be desired, but when you have my mom as a mom, it’s kind of tough not to be a snob about anything Middle Eastern/Mediterranean. My recommendation: while it may be tempting to fill up on the salad bar, resist the temptation! It is absolutely delicious, and you should try just a little bit of each…but remember, the best is yet to come!!

The Service: Call me old fashioned, but I love it when I’ve been somewhere enough that the staff has paid attention to what I like and dislike. The weight staff at Churrasca is not only friendly, but all of their IMG_0542servers figured out exactly how I like my meat (medium rare if anyone cares to know!) in just a couple of trips to our table–and I wasn’t sitting at a table where everyone liked their meat the same, but they figured it out quickly. Another welcomed contrast between Churrasca and some of the other similar restaurants I have frequented was the timing–there’s nothing worse than having a mound of food on your plate that gets cold because it’s just not possible to eat fast enough. The weight staff cut reasonable portions of everything asked for and seem to have their circulation timing down to an art. My glass was never empty, and they periodically checked back with us to see if there was a specific cut we wanted. After having had a less than pleasurable experience at a chain restaurant in Lubbock just a couple of nights before, this kind of attention and service was greatly appreciated.

The “Main Course”: After returning from the salad bar, there was a basket of cheese rolls waiting for us. IMG_0050Remember what I said about not being too keen on starchy, carby things?? Well, that too goes out the window! I’m also not sure how these things are made, but I’m fairly certain I ate an entire basket of these crispy on the outside, cheesy and gooey on the inside little gems–and I’m not sorry about it! They also had servings of fried plantains and mashed potatoes ready for us on the table. SIDE NOTE: I learned something new during the soft opening…you are supposed to combine a bite of the meat with a bite of the plantain for an authentic Brazilian treat–it may sound weird, but trust me; it’s a surprisingly wonderful combination. Back to the meat…when my brothers and I were younger, we turned everything into a competition, including eating. When we would go to a Brazilian steakhouse, the rules were simple–we would start the timer as soon as we received our first serving, and whoever could eat the longest without stopping won. I would like to say we have matured since those days, but I would be lying…I’d also like to say that I won, but that too would be a lie. Despite my failure to out-eat my older brother, I feel like I still held my own! It wasn’t too difficult though because every cut of meat was more extraordinary than the one that came out before. My favorite cut is the rib eye, but if you asked me to pick one from Churrasca, I honestly couldn’t do it–the top sirloin, bottom sirloin, filet, beef ribs, and garlic steak were flavored and seared to perfection. Then there were the pork ribs, bacon wrapped chicken, lamb chops, sausage, leg of lamb, and the marinated chicken legs that couldn’t have been more juicy and expertly created.

I could go on and on, but instead I’ll just leave you with this…if you live in Lubbock or are planning a visit, Churrasca is a must!

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Extended Family

If you know me or have read my blog, you know that there are things that I’ve never and will never get on board with as far as my Middle Eastern culture is concerned. But one of the things I’ve always appreciated about my culture and heritage is the importance of family. I have “aunts” and “uncles” who actually have no blood relation at all but that would absolutely walk into oncoming traffic for my family and me, and we would do the same for them. Some have been in our lives since before I was born, like my Tetha Soad (tetha is grandmother in Arabic). I lost all of my grandparents by the time I was 8 years old, and Tetha Soad has not been “like” my grandmother; she IS my grandmother. Others have entered into our lives more recently. But the thing every one of those people have in common is that they are family.

Of course, when I was a kid, I found the constant get-togethers and dinners and luncheons tedious when I was younger. When I was younger, we would all get together once a month at least for a dinner. There was a rotation in place, and each family would get to choose the restaurant when it was their turn…I called it the monthly meeting of Arabs-Americans Unite. I don’t know where that came from or why, except for I’m pretty certain I thought I was being awfully clever.

I understand that I have gifts and reminders and blessings all around me. And I get that I am fortunate to have the love and support that I do. But this whole thing is still not easy–not leaving the house because it hurts too much, not being able to wear anything that doesn’t resemble maternity clothes, not being able to work out, gaining weight, looking down in the shower and seeing that my leg muscles are almost completely atrophied, not being able to work full time, missing my cousin’s surprise 40th birthday party in Mexico, not having a functioning phone because I dropped it in the toilet because my knee gave out, not being able to walk or run my dogs or even cuddle with them…just some of the things that are difficult to deal with.

But last night, after having not left my parents’ house in days and not really feeling up to even leaving then, I received a reminder of just how amazing and special my extended family really is. This beautiful group and diverse group are from Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, and everywhere in between. No family has the same story or has walked the same path, yet there is such a deep and sincere understanding of each other and so much unconditional love.

Everyone was invited over to my aunt and uncle’s lake house for dinner. I wasn’t feeling well most of the day, but I knew that if I didn’t go, my mom wouldn’t to leave me home by myself. So mom helped me into the shower, I got dressed, and even put on makeup (begrudgingly of course, but when your mom says “Why don’t you put on a little makeup. You’ll feel better if you look alive,” somehow you suddenly feel compelled to do so). This was my first outing that didn’t include a doctor, wheelchair rental, or quick Christmas fix at the local holiday store since the big surgery, and I was feeling a little bit nervous. The nerves came partly because the pain had been so intense and partly because I knew that everyone would look so nice and put together, and I would look like a grade-A bum in my over-sized yoga pants and long-sleeved t-shirt. My parents helped load me into the car. My brother drove, dad sat in the front seat, and my mom sat in the back with me so that I could stretch my leg over her lap. And even as my brother was pulling the car out of the garage, I was thinking “I don’t feel good. I don’t want to go. I should just tell them to go and just let me stay home.” I didn’t say anything though. This meant so much to my parents, and I didn’t want to ruin their night because I didn’t feel well and was sad I couldn’t wear real clothes.

I should have known better. I should have remembered that they have seen me at my very worst and my very best. They’ve seen me decked out in formal dresses, and they’ve seen me as a sweaty, nasty mess right after a game. They could have cared less what I was wearing or what I looked like. They cared about how I was feeling and if I needed anything more than anything else.

Middle Eastern tradition says that whenever you walk into the house, you greet every single person with a hug and the double cheek kiss. But one of my uncles immediately pulled up a chair and said, “Sit down, sit down! Everyone can come say hi to you!!” Shortly after that one of my aunts suggested that I go to the back living room area where the sectional was, so that I could prop up my legs and be more comfortable. We laughed and talked and told stories for hours. They asked me how I was feeling and were actually interested when I explained how some days are better than others, and how the bad days just suck the life right out of me. When they asked me what I’ve been up to or how I was doing, they were genuinely interested in my answers and not just filling time or regurgitating pleasantries. Before dinner started I listened as our Syrian family openly shared their fear and grief over lost loved ones or the potential of losing loved ones because of all of the turmoil and bombings, and then observed as everyone rallied around them with prayers and words of comfort. There was such honesty and transparency, which is not a new phenomenon, but for some reason, last night, I saw it and absorbed it. And it meant the world to me.

After dinner, several aunts and cousins rotated sitting by me on the couch–some wanted to catch up, some wanted to hear about the surgery, and some wanted business/marketing advice. One of my cousins even made me a plate of dessert and brought me coffee. When I started telling her I couldn’t eat dessert because I can’t workout, and I’ve already gained enough weight as it is, she just said, “No, no. You have to eat at least some of it because if you have dessert and I have dessert, that cancels out our calorie intake!” Ohhhh if wishing made it so…but wishing or not, you better believe I enjoyed that dessert!

Eventually the pain in my leg got to be too much, and I needed to get home. Every aunt, every uncle, every cousin came to me to say goodbye and give me their final prayers and well-wishes for the night. And as much pain as I was in, I got that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. I couldn’t help but pause for a moment and be so grateful for the series of events that had to happen to bring us all to that very place during that very time.

There are so many stories, so many incredible turns and twists of fate that made these relationships possible. They are stories that need to be told, and I promise that I will tell them–but not just yet. For now, I just want to thank my mom for helping me get out of the house, and that quirky, hilarious, concerned, and considerate adopted family of mine for being so genuine and amazing.

iPhones and Toilets

iphone in rice

Judge if you must, but I indiscriminately talk to my close friends and certain family members while in the bathroom. Seeing as how my balance is currently shot, and I have to crutch my way everywhere, I have been careful to use my headphones and put my phone in my pocket when having this special bathroom phone conversations–That way I wouldn’t drop my phone on the floor or in the toilet while trying to balance myself on one leg and balance my phone using my neck and shoulder. It seemed to be a method that worked just fine until Saturday night.

Saturday was somewhat mild as far as the pain was concerned. Mornings have consistently been the worst, and Saturday was no different. But going into the afternoon and evening, I actually felt pretty good. That was until I went to the bathroom, and placed my phone (attached to my headphones) on the counter right next to the toilet. I lost my balance and flailed my arms in just a perfect way that my hand got stuck in the headphones and sent the phone flying directly into the toilet. If there is a silver lining, it is that I had not actually gone to the restroom yet, and I was able to get it out fairly quickly. The bad news, it immediately stopped working, AND I tweaked my right leg and knee in a way that had me in more pain than I’d been all day…it sucked, a lot, but instead of pretending like I’m not a grade-A cluts, I’m choosing to share it.

I did the things they tell you to do…shut off the phone right away and shake out and soak up as much of the water as you can. Years ago, I dropped my phone in my dogs’ water bowl. It was completely kaput, and even though I had three phones at that time in my life, I was still certain the world was going to stop spinning on its axis. My little brother told me of a method he had used before–wrap the phone in a large towel, and secure it with rubber bands, then put it in the clothes dryer. So this is where I started last night. With the help of my mother of course, I wrapped up the phone and stuck it in the dryer. A while later, the thing turned on, but it only worked and stayed on when plugged in. I figured that at least it turned on, and I could figure out what to about it the next morning.

The next morning came, and now my phone no longer worked and was instead flashing the Apple logo at me. I tried to turn it on and off, plug it in, unplug it, plug it into the external battery pack, and basically everything else I could think of….no dice. I’ve never tried the rice method (fill a ziploc bag with rice and submerge your iPhone in it for at least 24 hours), but I was and am desperate and willing to try anything. So, as it stands, a $3 bag of brown rice stands between me and having to drop a stupid amount of money on a new phone.

The good news is that it seems everything has been backed up properly, and earlier Saturday, I got all of my music and pictures onto my laptop. That’s definitely good news, and the opposite happening could have made this situation even worse. And while I would like to pretend that I’m feeling liberated or something wonderful because I don’t have my phone attached to my every movement, I don’t. I hate it. All day today I wanted to reach for my phone to do things and couldn’t–check the weather? Nope. Check the scores of all the games on my lovely ESPN app? Not a chance. Look up news stories pertaining to the conversations we were having at our family Sunday brunch? No can do. Oh, and then of course there’s making phone calls to friends and family like I usually do on Sundays–that didn’t happen either.

I know there are unbelievably horrible things happening all across our country and around the world. I understand that in the grand scheme of things, a non-functioning cell phone isn’t that big of a deal. But I’m in pain, can’t move or walk very well or drive or travel in any way, and right now, my lifeless cell phone is stressful and frustrating, and one more potential financial burden that I could do without right now.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow when I pull my phone out of the rice…in the meantime, fingers are crossed and prayers going up.

*Please note that none of the things I’ve mentioned are based on any sort of scientific fact or research, so try at your own risk!!