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Behind the bar with Caleb Whitmore of Fogo de Chao

Cowboys are my weakness. I recently went on a six-hour trail ride in southeastern Colorado with some local ranchers. When one of those ranchers spotted a rattlesnake, he jumped off his horse, grabbed his rope, killed the snake with the rope and cut off the rattle – which he then handed to me, blood and all. I went weak in the knees — and the blood wasn't the reason why. With that cowboy in mind, I decided to check out Fogo de Chão, the new Brazilian restaurant that has gauchos roaming the dining room serving meats that have been cooked over open-flame pits. Yes, I know they aren't real gauchos, but it's the thought that counts. Besides, since the bar at Fogo de Chão is separate from the dining room, we didn't get to look at the fake cowboys — but we could certainly smell the broiled meat. That made us hungry, but since Fogo is an all-inclusive meat-fest, no appetizers were available. Fortunately, bartender Caleb Whitmore took pity on us and brought basket after basket of delicious pão de queijo (warm cheese bread made with tapioca flour). Fortified, I ordered a top-shelf caipirinha ($10) made with Ypióca Ouro cachaca, sugar and macerated limes. Although I like cachaca, which is sugar-cane rum, it often seems a little lacking in flavor and character — so I was pleasantly surprised by the Ypióca Ouro, which is aged for at least two years in balsam wood casks, giving the liquor a woodsy, smoky depth reminiscent of reposado tequila. Fogo may not be the place to get my cowboy fix, but when one of the bartenders makes a caipirinha, you can tell it's not his first rodeo. Nancy Levine

 
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