Catch that bossa nova beat. If the recent wave of Brazilian-themed restaurants, recordings and assorted other products is any indication, South America's biggest country is hotter than ever here in the United States. Brazilian cuisine, in particular, is gaining in both profile and popularity.
Which isn't news to Ivan Utrera, co-founder and president of Rodizio Restaurants International Inc., a Littleton, Colorado-based chain of Brazilian eateries. "For many years, there was a total lack of knowledge of what Brazilian cuisine is," explains the 37-year-old entrepreneur, who launched the first of six Rodizio Grills in 1996. "Brazil has never done a good job of marketing its cuisine."
Enter restaurants such as Rodizio Grill, which specializes in cooking a wide variety of meats over wood fires. "The way the meat is prepared in Brazil, the spices are very light, so they highlight different flavors of the [meat itself]," says Utrera, who projects 1999 sales in excess of $10 million. "It's a familiar--but refined--flavor to the American palate."
As for America's cultural palate, it's embracing the strains of the bossa nova, as well as movies like "Central Station." For soft-drink aficionados, there's Bawls Guarana--a beverage produced from a popular Brazilian berry. Perhaps the most unique item in our America-goes-to-Rio files, however, is a new Brazilian restaurant in Atlanta whose waiters dress in drag. We just thought you'd like to know.