Full disclosure: I was invited to taste Fogo de Chao’s new springtime menu, and was able to take a guest. All opinions are my own (or my guest’s if I didn’t try something and he did).
A few weeks ago, I was invited to sample Fogo de Chao’s new spring offerings at their Baltimore location, and the experience reminded me of why my husband’s work bestie loves the chain so much.
The two of them, both named Michael, paint quite the adorable odd couple: my Michael is short and swarthy to the elder Michael’s tall frame, and the latter has a good 25-plus years on either of us both in life and in work. The pair of them have been in cahoots for years now, and their partnership was initially sparked by M casually mentioning during a work dinner that we had made bone marrow pizza the weekend before, which was enough to intrigue Mikey the Elder.
Since then, he’s since introduced M to his preferences when he’s on the road, which often is either awesome local sushi and/or a trip to Fogo de Chao. He’s taken M to sushi places in very unexpected cities, while Fogo is one of his go-to restaurants to entertain their clients. I was able to accompany them both on such a dinner last year at a location in the Chicagoland suburbs, and I immediately understood the appeal: the churrasco dinner allows everyone to eat what they want and as much as they want, and between the meats on the swords and the bountiful offerings at the Market Table in the middle of the restaurant, it’s pretty easy to please everyone. Service is plentiful and attentive, and if you’re looking for a serving of a specific meat they will send it your way as quickly as possible. Whether you’re trying to please one client or a whole table of them, great food and great service are of the utmost importance.
The tasting we had at the Baltimore location had everything we had come to expect of an evening at Fogo with a few welcome additions to the Market Table, churrasco menu, and cocktail list. We also had the opportunity to try their new branded wine that came complete with a really cool back story.
The Market Table’s new offerings include a Brazilian Kale and Citrus salad that Michael found to be a great combination, and we both found the Roasted Cauliflower to have a pleasant texture (even though I’m not the biggest cauliflower eater, to begin with). My personal favorite, however, was the Carrot & Ginger Soup because it was light and flavorful while also being gentle on the stomach. Everyone advises a Fago newbie to not fill up too much from the Market Table buffet, but this is one option you can enjoy and not run into that issue.
We also got to try a blood orange Manhattan which serves as their seasonal cocktail. It felt and looked a little more like an Old-Fashioned rather than a Manhattan, but given that I’m a fan of both drinks, I certainly had no cause for complaint.
My favorite part of the tasting, however, was getting to try the new pork options as part of the churrasco. Personally, I don’t love eating lots of beef all at once, and so you’ll see me looking for the gaucho chefs brandishing chicken legs and sausages after having a few slices of beef whenever I go to a Fogo, so having more non-beef options is always welcome to me. And the new pork dishes did not disappoint: the Linguiça sausage, coiled around a sword, was flavorful and paired perfectly with their new house red. The Pork Picanha–a new spin on their signature Picanha steak–had a very flavorful crust that was accomplished by them only using sea salt. The piece I had was a touch on the salty side, but it was still very tender. Because they wanted to give us the full meat experience, we also were sent a 42-day dry-aged New York strip steak, which was served with additional sea salt and a simple chimichurri sauce. The meat was done to a perfect medium rare, and we were able to take our leftovers home with us (which Michael promptly polished off the next day).
And then there was the wine. Long Phu, GM of the Baltimore location, came over and after pouring us each a glass, proceeded to tell us about the wine and its namesake. The wine itself is a blend of Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes from Chile, and it’s named after Eulila “Selma” Oliveira, who currently serves as Chief Culture Officer but was instrumental in helping get Fogo off the ground. Working in a Marriott after coming to America in the mid-80s, she helped the chain’s founders facilitate a crucial meeting, eventually becoming the first female manager and later the Chief Operating Officer before taking her current role. Phu spoke of her with such genuine respect and reverence, noting that she sends out handwritten notes for birthdays and key holidays to the managers and assistant managers across the chain, that it’s clear she wants her employees to feel as well taken care of as their dining guests. It’s refreshing to see a company be so mindful about maintaining that integrity despite changes in their status as a privately-held and publicly-traded company over the years.
Given her role as the heart of the brand, it’s unsurprising that the wine named after her is absolutely delicious. The blend is definitely on the lighter side (making it perfect for this time of year) even though it has Cabernet, and goes exceptionally well with the pork items on the menu. A glass of this will run you about $16, so take the time to savor it while you tuck into your various meat choices.
Last but certainly not least, we saved just enough room for dessert. Michael went classic, going for the papaya cream topped with currant liqueur, while I enjoyed the new Crème de Coconut, served with ice cream and finished with lots of lime zest. The portions are a bit on the larger side given all the food that has come before, but that didn’t stop me from eating as much as I could. Even Michael, coconut disliker he is, agreed that the way it was prepared here was pretty fantastic.
We’ll be likely going back to that Chicagoland Fogo de Chao in a couple of weeks for another work dinner, and I’m looking forward to encouraging my fellow guests to enjoy all of the new offerings I had at this dinner in addition to their tried-and-true favorites. I’m also anticipating enjoying the Linguiça sausage and a glass of Eulia wine once again.