|DECEMBER 1981 - THE ZIMBOS VISIT SUE AND I, IN LAS VEGAS AFTER THEIR WHIRLWIND HAWAII HONEYMOON.|
G-ZIMBO has her birthday the day after Sue’s. Down through the years whenever possible, we’ve bridged the distance barrier by meeting halfway…or one of us traveling all the way to the other.
The ZIMBOS are not casino folk. Due to their “normal” lifestyle and realistic sleep schedule, a Thursday night is a less than ideal partying time for them. Therefore our joint birthday celebrations, (Broadway shows, restaurants and quiet get-togethers), occur less than half the time.
This year, Sue and I went up to their neck-of-the-woods. J-ZIMBO, (the real JAY Z) took us to a new age steakhouse.
|J-ZIMBO IS THE ORIGINAL JAY-Z. DON'T BE FOOLED BY SHAWN COREY "JAY-Z" CARTER, (1969-PRESENT)...EVEN IF HE IS ALSO FROM BROOKLYN AND A RAPPER, RECORD PRODUCER AND ENTREPRENEUR WORTH $500 MILLION.|
Although this restaurant's menu included a wide range of continental dishes, their specialty is sizzling meats on a skewer, served at tableside.
It was a good omen that when we pulled up at the Rodizio Restaurant, the parking lot was full. However, it was a bad sign too because we parked two blocks away and had to navigate the icy streets on foot, in Arctic 18º conditions.
Along the way G-ZIMBO mentioned, “It’s the Hernandes Rodizio and rodizio refers to the style in which the all-you-can-eat meat is served.”
|THE ULTIMATE PIG-OUT AND BEEF-OUT AND LAMB-OUT AND...|
My teeth were chatting when I noticed the neon sign spelled Hernandes with an “s” at the end rather than the more familiar “z.” I said, “The owners must be Portuguese.” J-ZIMBO grunted in frosty disinterest as I added, “Many Spanish names that end with a ‘z,’ are pronounced the same in Portuguese but end in an “s.”
I could tell that shivering J-ZIMBO was not concerned with my blithering. So I incorporated a baseball theme by stating, “Former major leaguers Dave Lopes and Wayne Gomes were of Portuguese descent.” Once I got his attention I added, “If Lopes and Gomes hadn’t Americanized, we would say their names as, Lopez and Gomez.”
|LOCATED ON THE IBERIAN PENINSULA IN SOUTHERN EUROPE, PORTUGAL (left) SHARES A BORDER WITH SPAIN.|
At Hernandes' front door, my mind flew off on a tangent. I scanned the storehouse of useless information file cabinet in my head and discovered that I only knew two people of Portuguese extraction, KURUDAVE, (half Portuguese) and Penny, (a Heinz-57 with a quarter of her lineage from Portugal). Coincidentally, they both are former casino coworkers of mine.
A few years ago, KURU visited his businessmen cousins in the big city (Lisbon) and other family members (farmers), in the Portuguese countryside. He regretted that he missed seeing the branch of the family on the coast who were sponge fishermen.
From KURU’s vacation, he had a running gag that if it wasn’t for a career in casinos, he might have been better suited to being a sponge diver.
Penny, (in her mid-seventies when she retired a few years ago) split her Portuguese heritage with Spanish, Italian and German blood. She featured a gruff, street-smart exterior that was accentuated by a sharply New York accented voice (wth a scary, gravel-like quality). She came-off as unsophisticated but was fluent in the languages above. When reminded (provoked…and she was easily provoked), that in the 1950’s, in name of love, she turned down an opportunity to work at the United Nations, she would brag, (in a sea of profanity), “These cheap bastards (our bosses) can kiss my ass before I’d lift a pinkie to translate for them.”
I was dealing a busy roulette game and Penny was my “check racker,” (the helper who prepares new chip stacks for the dealer from the previous losing bets).
|THE CHECK RACKER (left) IS THE ASSISTANT WHO KEEPS THE ROULETTE GAME'S TEMPO MOVING. THIS POSITION IS ALSO CALLED A CHECK MUCKER, (THAT TERM WAS DERIVED IN NEVADA BECAUSE A "MUCK RAKER" IS A PERSON WHO CLEANS THE FLOOR IN MINES...GOLD, SILVER ETC).|
A check racker has little responsibility. That makes heavy conversations with the actual dealer common. On this occasion, Penny lived up to her reputation for crude directness which was doubly unusual due of her “maturity.”
She and I were gathering up the losing chips between the spins when she commented, “My daughter got a puppy but soon found out that the mutt had distemper. The vet wanted a ton of money to put it down…” I spun the roulette ball. My attention was split between listening to her and doing my job. But I’m almost certain she said, “So I gave my daughter money and told her to take her rugrats out for ice cream. Then after they left, I got a hammer…" I was interacting with the players while Penny kept yammering. The next thing I heard was, “When the kids got back, I told them Ralphie ran away.” I said, “Wow.” She said, “It’s okay. I heard on TV from Dr. Oz that if little kids don’t have much of an attachment just giv’m something else to do and they’ll forget…” I said, “You mean Dr. Phil…” She cut me off, “Dr. Oz…Dr. Phil, same shit.” Then Penny smirked, “I made everything hunky-dory by having them draw-up ‘lost puppy’ signs to put up.”
I was flabbergasted by the time I spun the ball next. The new winning number was twenty-five. One of the players had a big hit. I was figuring out the payoff while the image of Penny burying poor Ralphie flashed through my mind. So to clear out the negativity I proclaimed, “My son’s birthday is twenty-five…” Penny barked into my ear, “I had the friggin’ world by the bawls when I was twenty-five…”
At the same time, KURDAVE was passing behind us. I tried to block-out Penny by announcing to my players, “There goes the world’s most famous Portuguese sponge diver…” This bit of nonsense pissed off Penny, the same woman who just implied that she took a hammer to a puppy’s head to avoid veterinary costs. In an intimidating fashion, she got in my face, “What’s wrong with the Portuguese?” I was digesting the absurdity of her reaction as she said, "Well..." I couldn't believe that fossilized battleax was so thin-skinned. When I didn’t respond she addressed my supervisor, “That Steve used to be such a nice boy.” I was shaking my head at the irony of her dishing it out and not being able to take it as Penny stormed off to a less busy table. Lucky me, never spoke to me again.
J-ZIMBO interrupted my daydream in Hernandes' warm vestibule, “You do realize that a rodizio is a Brazilian-style restaurant?” I said, “Oh. But in Portugal and Brazil they both speak Portuguese.”
To prove how chic these contemporary, upscale rodizios have become, it was a frigid Thursday night and every seat, in both dining rooms plus the bar were full. Luckily the company was great so it didn’t seem long until we were escorted to a table. On the way, the floor was slippery. I figured my shoes were icy or wet from being outside and forgot about it.
My innards were still freezing so before I settled in, I excused myself and went to the restroom. At the urinal, I felt both of my feet slipping away from my body. I buoyed myself to the privacy wall and realized that the floors were greasy…yuck.
We were enjoying a cocktail when J-ZIMBO phoned another close and mutual friend RBOY. RBOY’s birthday was also that day, (before he moved to Connecticut…decades ago, he was included in many of our bashes).
Shortly after J-ZIMBO hung-up, Sue’s over-sized menu accidentally toppled her wine goblet onto J-ZIMBO’s lap. The table was drenched and it looked like he had peed himself. But J-ZIMBO was a trooper and laughed it off. I gave him a lot of credit because I was in a nasty draft that made me feel like I was outside. Then good fortune shined down on me when management insisted on relocating us to a dry (warmer) table.
Everybody except me ordered regular food. I took advantage of the rodizio concept and ordered the tonnage of meat. That meant that a rotation of gaucho chefs would cruise the tables with long skewers of roasted meats and slice what the customer wanted. Too bad my son Andrew wasn't around to hear my "José Jalapeño on a Steek" jokes.
|FEATURING MANY MEXICAN STEREOTYPES, "JOSE JALAPENO ON A STICK (STEEK)," IS ONE OF VENTRILOQUIST JEFF DUNHAM'S PUPPETS.|
Our meals entitled all of us to delicious bread and butter and some tasty garlic and oil dipping sauce. Also included was an all-you-can-eat, cramped “gourmet” salad bar…that other than some unspectactular fennel was actually quite ordinary. Additionally, all the dinners came with authentic Brazilian side dishes.
I would soon find out that there were sixteen different (mostly) meats to choose from. The first I had was chicken…and it was the best I ever had. The continuous service included turkey wrapped in bacon, pork, lamb and goat kebob. I was also served filet mignon, robust garlic top sirloin and several other cuts of steak. I had prime rib, beef ribs, tilapia and shrimps. I ate it all, (except for lamb and the yucky-poo cheesy pork).
Everything I had was good. But I’m sorry to report that after the fantastic chicken everything else was pretty much the same. So while it was a feast for the eyes, (trust me I ate well and gorged myself), the novelty of a rodizio wore off fast.
While the table was being cleared, under the guise of another restroom visit, I sought-out the maitre d. It was a major turn-off to return to the ice skating-like slip-n-slide greasy floor. When I found him, I asked him if someone would sing “Happy Birthday” to the girls.
The dessert cart was jammed with scrumptious looking delectables but nothing caught my eye. I went off the board and got a scoop of chocolate ice cream. While waiting, I watched a gaucho server carve meat at another table. The waiter held the long shafted skewer by a lat bottom that resembled a sword hilt. He leaned closer to the customer and didn’t realize that the angle of his steek became acute. Unbeknownst to him meat juice and some gristle poured on the ground…thus answering the slippery floor puzzle.
I was offered pineapple with my meal. Nobody loves fresh, cold pineapple more than me. When I go on a cruise, I eat pounds of the stuff (no exaggeration) every day. I was full from my huge dinner but the idea of a little dish of pineapple sounded refreshing. Soon, I found out that rodozios are famous for serving all-you-eat pineapple. In my mind, I’m thinking Sue and the ZIMBOS are going to be watching me scarf-down pineapple for quite a while.
Seconds later, a gaucho dude appeared with a steek with large brown orbs on it. He said, “Pineapple sir?” I cautiously said, “Yeah. But why is it that color?” He said, “That’s cinnamon.” I hate cinnamon so I figured I would cut it away. Things went from bad to worse after the careful surgical procedure I performed to eliminate the unwanted spice. Then I realized that the damned pineapple was roasted….are you kidding me??!!*$?
It was nice when several gauchos and the maitre d came over with a candle in the girls’ dessert and sang happy birthday. But as the candles were blown out, the rest of the meal went out with a similar fizzle. My dish of ice cream (which was great) had latticed icing across the top that was disgusting. I ate around it but the bottom was soaked in a lake of the same rancid gooeyness.
We all ordered coffee. I hate to complain but whatever coffee-flavored beverage these guys passed off on us couldn't possiblybeen coffee. I was the worst I ever tasted. NONE of us took more than a couple of sips.
The maitre d arrived with check and complimentary glasses of port. If we thought the coffee was bad, the wine tasted more like the “all purpose icky tasting medicine” featured on the “REN AND STIMPY” cartoon show.
|THE "NURSE STIMPY" EPISODE FIRST AIRED ON AUGUST 18, 1991 AND FEATURED SOMETHING WE CAN ALL RELATE TO, ALL-PURPOSE ICKY TASTING MEDICINE.|
I was again skeeved by the slippery floor on the way out. I got better traction on the icy street, as the bad tastes in my mouth gave way to a numb butt from the cold. Before the J-ZIMBO-mobile's heater could thaw me out, I thought…what’s wrong with the Portuguese? And of course, I thought…NOTHING! Then my mind wandered a little more…what’s wrong with BRAZILIANS? And again I thought nothing…they were all pleasant and cordial…but rodizios...not so much.
I just hope Sue enjoyed this part of her month-long celebration and I was glad to include G-ZIMBO and RBOY too.