Raskin Around: Brazilian buffet, Instagram deal at CO, Husk honors

Lunch plate at Brazilian Buffet & Bakery

Americans have finally come around to soccer: Since the World Cup last convened in 2010, the number of U.S. adults who have watched, attended or listened to a major soccer match has surged by 32 percent. Or, to keep the math closer to home, just count the number of jersey-clad fans staggering down Charleston streets after a U.S. match.

But the World Cup's return brings with it a few reminders of why Americans were holdouts for so long. Namely, the ties. Such an ambiguous outcome might make sense in a country that's spent thousands of years winning and losing battles, but Americans like their victories clear-cut. We haven't yet matured to the point where we can see the beauty in a final score of nil to nil.

Really, a finish like that just stymies our primary spectating objective, which is to figure out who's best. Who's the best passer? The best defender? The best coach? When the scoreboard reads 0-0, who knows?

I'm often guilty of approaching obscure restaurants the same way: While I know the restaurant's unlikely to excel in every category, I'm keen to find the best pizza crust, or the best chicken gravy, or the best horchata. It doesn't really matter what the restaurant does best, so long as it has more to offer than an OK plate of food.

It was fitting, then, that I was at Brazilian Buffet & Bakery for the Brazil-Mexico match, which ended in a 0-0 draw. Everything about the stripped-down restaurant was fine, but my efforts to unearth a superior dish - the kind that would make me want to send you to Goose Creek right this second - flopped.

Brazilian's yellow-walled dining room is minimally decorated: If patrons notice anything about their surroundings, it's likely to be the fluorescent lighting and faulty air-conditioning. There are a few plastic-wrapped sandwiches and beige pizza slices idling in the cooler, but every customer I saw headed straight for the $10 buffet.

Sliced fruit and pasta salad open the buffet, but the steam table veers off in a meaty direction. Just past the spiky white rice and beans (pinto and black), there are crusted slabs of mild white fish, stewed chuck steak, salty chicken thighs and fried pork nubs. Thickly sliced plantains, shimmering with frying oil, occupy the final spot.

The fish was by far the prettiest item in the lineup, but the black beans benefitted from the most thoughtful seasoning; they were woodsy and garlicky. If I hadn't planned on ending my meal with a major pastry order, I would have had seconds. Only the beef disappointed. It was tough (and, while we're on the topic, a coconut cake was distractingly dry, although I really liked a soft, jam-filled cookie. The dozen or so very quiet fans who gathered for the game seemed to prefer watermelon for dessert.) Everything else tasted pretty much as expected.

While chewing the beef, I had a chance to examine the housemade hot sauce at the center of the table. Stoplight red, the dense, vinegar-based sauce had a fruity flavor, although the cashier assured me it didn't include any fruit, just "Brazilian chiles." I'm guessing she meant malagueta peppers, the popular Brazilian pepper that's twice as hot as cayenne. The sauce was terrific, even if it wasn't the best hot sauce I've ever had.

The World Cup wraps up in Brazil on July 13. Brazilian Buffet & Bakery is at 1258 Red Bank Road.

It usually takes a picture of a president to make a purchase, but CO next week is accepting snapshots of sake and dumplings as payment.

From July 7-11, happy hour diners who shoot pictures of their orders and post them to Instagram will get their first $4 items free. The images must be hashtagged #eatatCO, and tagged with the @eatatco handle.

CO is at 340 King St. Happy hour runs from 4-7 p.m.

Husk is the sole Charleston restaurant on Wine Enthusiast's 2014 list of "America's 100 Best Wine Restaurants."

Last year, Charleston Grill and Circa 1886 were similarly honored.

Of the 20 restaurants selected from the South, more than half - including Husk - are considered "Hall of Fame" members because they've made at least three appearances on the prestigious list. This year's newcomers included Texas' The Pass and Provisions, Underbelly and Barley Swine.

Wine Enthusiast quotes Husk sommelier Matt Tunstall on the compatibility of wines from Europe's porkiest regions with traditional Southern flavors.

"The biggest wine discovery this year being Domaine Weinbach 2009 Cuvee Laurence Gewurztraminer," Tunstall told the magazine. "With its viscosity, power, aromatics and acidity, it does amazing things with slow cooked ribs and pork in general."

The magazine describes the wine program as featuring 50 selections organized by soil type. Half of the wines are listed by the glass, and all of them are available by the glass on request. "The goal of the list is to highlight wines that taste like the soil from which they are born, and showcase wines with minimal intervention in the cellar," Tunstall said.

For the complete list, go to winemag.com/2014-100-Best-Restaurants-in-America.