Taking Dessert to a Whole New Level (Part 3 of 5)
"I was nervous my first time, too."
Nick bit his lip, instinctually looking towards the bar.
“How long since you guys were together?”
“It’s been more than a year. Long enough for me to be completely over it. But, when Diego is drunk, he is obnoxious. It’s why we’re not together or even friends anymore.”
“It’s sad actually. He was my best friend. I’ve know him since preschool. Our families are close, which can make things tough. But, he hasn’t figured out who he is yet. He certainly acts gay, if he’s drunk! Sober, he’s emphatically straight. Always blamed me for confusing him. Perhaps, he’s bisexual? Who knows. He was never really comfortable with others knowing about us. We basically kept it on down low. Only a few friends knew. I grew tired of navigating his two worlds. So, I broke it off.”
“It was. But, I’m over it. I’ve moved on to infinitely better things.”
Mateus squeezed Nick’s hand tight. Nick sighed happily.
“This is an amazing first date. I’m having so much of fun with you, tonight.”
“I’m glad. Me too. Let’s go get salads and veggies before starting the barbecue.”
Standing up, Nick irrationally felt exposed. He imagined Mateus’ ex angrily confronting them. However, no such thing happened. Their foray to the buffet proved to be uneventful. Safely ensconced back at their table, Nick relaxed. There was an unceasing hustle and bustle as waiters and servers attended to the crowd. Some of the staff carried about long skewers of grilled meats. Instead of the customary black pants, white shirt and apron worn by the waiters, their festive attire was enticingly exotic.
“What’s the deal with the outfits those guys are wearing? The ones with the skewers of meat.” Nick asked.
“They’re dressed as gauchos.”
“Gauchos? They look like Mexican cowboys.” Nick mused and then quickly added, “I’m not trying to make fun or anything.”
“No. You’re right. Gauchos are the Brazilian equivalent to an American cowboy.”
“This is a steakhouse after all, so the traditional costume fits. Brazil is known for massive cattle ranches. Did you know that?”
“No. I don’t know too much about Brazil. Farthest south I’ve been is the Bahamas and a few ports of call on a Caribbean cruise.”
“Well, maybe, I’ll take you with me when I go again.”
“You still have family there?”
“Lots of cousins, several aunts and uncles and my grandparents on one side. We used to visit more. Now, my parents can only commit to visiting once a year.”
“I can’t even imagine. Must be so different from here.”
Nick studied the closest gaucho. He wore dark, baggy pants tucked into knee-high, black leather boots and wore a wide leather belt. His blue peasant shirt was open wide and a red scarf hung down from around his neck. His thick, dark, wavy hair was neatly swept back.
“Why haven’t they come to our table?”
“Because of these.”
Mateus held up his coaster. Nick had forgotten about them.
“Oh, yeah. The red side is facing up. Duh!”
“Uh huh. I was pacing us. Ready for carnivore’s delight?”
Turning the coasters over made Nick feel as if they had suddenly discharged a brilliant, emerald-green distress flare high into the sky above a sinking ship. A mere sip of wine later, the first gaucho approached their table.
“Steak and cheese?” he said with an extremely thick accent.
“Yes, please.” Mateus replied.
Mateus held a small pair of tongs, ready in his hand. He studied the server thoughtfully.
“Are you new to the restaurant?”
“Yes, working here for just three days.”
Mateus put his tongs down and put out his hand to shake the surprised gaucho’s hand.
“Felipe. My name is Felipe.”
“And this is my friend, Nick. Welcome.”
Nick waved to Felipe.
“I see they threw you right into the fire, so to speak, working with the grill.”
“Paulo, my cousin, is watching me. He don’t want me to embarrass him. I got the job with his help.”
“Ah, Paulo. Good guy.”
“But, at my home in Mato Grosso, I worked grill and waited tables. My English is just ok. The grill is easier now. So, steak and cheese?”
“I’d love some.”
Nick watched Felipe expertly carve a tender slice of steak dripping with cheese. Mateus snagged the end of the steak with his tongs as it fell away. With the cut finished, he dropped the steak onto his small side plate.
“Steak and cheese?” Felipe asked Nick.
“Yes.” Nick said with hesitation.
Mateus turned to Nick smirking.
“I was nervous my first time too.”
“Ha! You going to help break me in?”
“Gladly! Use your tongs to grab the top of the steak as it peels away. When he finishes the cut, put it on your side plate. Keeps things clean and hygienic.”
Holding the tongs awkwardly, Nick glanced up and nodded ready.
“Be gentle.” he teased.
Mateus and Nick burst out laughing wickedly.
“Sorry, Felipe. Yes, I would like some steak and cheese.” Nick said.
“Ok, watch. He’s cutting. See how the slice is falling away at the top? Grab that end. Now, it won’t fall on the floor or tablecloth. Now…on your side plate.”
As if they had just scored a goal, they shouted triumphantly as the steak touched Nick’s plate.
“Thank you very much, Felipe. Nick has never been to this restaurant. You’ve been very patient with us.”
“My pleasure.” said the gaucho departing for other tables.
The men took their time stuffing themselves with barbecued delicacies, never returning to the buffet. The steady stream of gauchos offered filet mignon, leg of lamb, rib-eye, sausages, New York strip steak, ribs, wings and pork loin. One skewer was dotted with a neat row of chicken hearts. Nick bravely tried one.
“Hmm, it’s quite chewy. Not going to lie, not loving the flavor. It reminds me of liver.”
“I’m proud of you for trying it.”
“Frankly, everything else is so good, how could chicken hearts compete?”
Mateus knew each server by name and took a moment to greet or exchange a bit of news with all of them. Nick increasingly suspected his date ate here every day! After some time, Mateus’ eyes grew exceedingly wide with excitement as he recognized what was on the skewer the next gaucho presented.
“Ooh, my favorite!” Mateus proclaimed. “This, my friend, is filet wrapped in bacon. Simply delicious.”
“Can’t wait to sink my teeth in that.” Nick said with polite burp.
“Wish I could keep eating. Everything is delicious!”
“We may want to finally concede defeat to the churrasco.”
Mateus turned both coasters over. However, several polite refusals and overt gestures towards their red coasters were required to completely stave off the continuing onslaught of food from the grill. Initially frowning with disappointment, the gauchos eventually ignored their table. The endless parade continued though amongst the other tables filled with customers eager for attention.
"I’m quite sated.”
“Me too, but I always take the time to rest and make room for dessert.”
The two men leaned back, easing the pressure off of their full stomaches and enjoyed the remaining wine. Nick appreciated the clattering, bustling atmosphere. Ironically, it afforded a welcome sense of privacy, since the dull roar in the room precluded any attempt to understand nearby conversations. They sat, enjoying the uninterrupted time to talk and learn more about each other. Eduardo began clearing the table.
“Coffee?” the waiter asked.
“Yes. Let’s show Nick the dessert cart too.”
“Mateus? I thought we were going to wait a bit. I confess. I’m disgustingly full.”
Mateus laughed seeing the alarm on Nick’s face.
“Don’t worry. We can share something, if you want.”
Nick frowned doubtfully. Mateus smiled up at the waiter.
“Eduardo, let’s just start with coffee. No rush. We’ll hold off the dessert cart, until my poor friend has time to digest.”
Nick turned to Mateus, hands clasped together, as if in prayer, and dramatically bowed.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“Stop. It’s cool. I’m in no rush to end our time together.”
They silently finished the wine, gazing at each other, ignoring everyone else. Nick broke the silence.
“So what are you studying? I know a bit about your heritage and that you’re a damn good athlete, but tell me more about yourself.”
“Well, I earned my art degree at Bridgewater State. But, as you can guess, it’s difficult to live solely from selling my work. So, naturally, I’m an artist who waits tables for a living.”
“What kind of art? I mean what medium do you work in?”
“Visual art. I draw and paint. Although, my focus has shifted to constructing collages and sculpting. Love the play of texture and color. Never really know how it’s going to turn out. Kind of just happens. It all started with legos when I was a kid.”
“Aww, that’s adorable. Can I see your work? I admire artists and their ability to create. Don’t have any artistic skill myself. Wish I did. Are you pursing another degree in art at Boston University?”
“Ah…no.” Mateus laughed. “A few friends, who have started their own businesses, convinced me I could do the same thing. I’m studying what my grandmother says is more practical. I’m working towards my MBA.”
“Grandma wants you making more money, huh?”
“She means well. It’ll certainly provide me more options. I could run a gallery or an art supply store.”
“Oh, I know! You could own one of those places were people go to drink and paint. Have you heard of that? My friend hosted a group for his birthday. Even with the step-by-step directions, my painting looked horrible.”
“You mean drink by numbers or paint crawling? Yes, I’ve heard of that. Maybe, you drank too much.” Mateus teased.
“Although, some artists do their best work under the influence.”
“Hey! You know what you are? You’re a renaissance man!”
“Renaissance Man. Let me explain. During the Renaissance, an Italian philosopher, Leon Battista Alberti, concluded an ideal human was one well versed in all aspects of life. Alberti, himself, was reported to be an accomplished athlete, aspiring artistic, a scholar, an articulate orator and an enterprising merchant. He coined the term, Uomo Universale which translates to Universal Man or Renaissance Man.”
Eduardo returned with coffee and removed their empty wine glasses. Mateus raised his cup of coffee.
“To the Renaissance Man.”
Nick clinked his cup against Mateus’ cup.
“Hail, the Uomo Universale.”
“What about you? What are you studying at B.U.?”
“Similar story. Meaning my undergraduate degree, also fails to provide many opportunities to earn a sufficient living. I love history and different cultures. As a kid, I played at exploring ancient ruins and shipwrecks.”
“Ha! I’m visualizing younger Nick digging holes in the backyard looking for treasure.” Mateus mused.
“I probably did. Don’t recall.” Nick laughed. “But, at the beach I snorkeled searching for pirate treasure. I found lots of shells and sea glass.”
“So, what’s your degree in?”
“History with a minor in anthropology. I went to URI. Now, I’m enrolled in the museum studies program. I want to be involved in exhibition development and curating.”
“Sounds, like you’re a renaissance man too.”
“Not sure I’ve any business sense. I’m accruing a ridiculous amount of debt continuing school. It will take a while to pay back. However, I don’t worry too much about it. I’m more concerned with doing something I enjoy.”
“Agreed. But, as Nonna says ‘Having money never hurts.’”
Nick abruptly pushed his chair back and glanced about.
“Where’s the restroom?”
“Straight across, up that ramp and beyond. To the right of the bar. See the blue sign?”
“Yeah. Be right back. Too much water!”
Nick weaved his way through the crowded restaurant. Yelling and cheers rose suddenly louder from the bar. He was looking forward to streaming the game. He decided to invite Mateus over after dinner, so they could watch it together. Usually, he enjoyed watching a recorded game as if it was a live broadcast. But, the exuberant noisiness reeled him in. Nick ventured a peek. He stood just outside the packed bar, craning his neck to catch a glimpse of the televisions.
“What’s the score?” he shouted out to no one in particular.
A man standing next to Nick replied without taking his eyes off of the game.
“Tied at 3.”
“Yes! Both teams are playing extremely well. Nothing better than an even matchup. Brazil will have to work hard to win.”
“Can’t wait to watch it when I’m home. I’m recording it.”
The man’s head pivoted to glance incredulously at Nick.
“Why not watch it now, man?”
“I’m here on a date. Figured I’d peak at the score on the way to the bathroom. Don’t want to be glued to my phone during dinner.” Nick laughed.
“Date, huh? Don’t keep her waiting. Girls get impatient.”
Nick wasn’t about to explain to a complete stranger, surrounded by rowdy, sports fans, his date was a dude.
“Yep. Well, I better get back.”
Read "Taking Dessert to a Whole New Level" (Part 4). Click here!
About the Creator
Star Wars Fan! Dungeons & Dragons Geek! Love history! Probably born a hundred years too late, I relish anything from 19th and early 20th century. View world through lens of Tolkein's mythology. Pretty simple, I write about what I love.
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