Bollywood, Cocktails and a Way to Help the Children of Tucson

This sounds like a fun and tasty event.

Angel Charity for Children has been a key player in helping raise monies for improving the lives of children in Tucson for decades. To date, they have helped over one million children have better lives.

Their upcoming event should prove to be another great evening of food and drink all in the name of making Tucson a better place for kids.

Longtime Angel Charity member Neelam Sethi and her husband Dr. Gulshan Sethi have offered to underwrite an Indian themed cocktail party at the Tucson Children’s Museum on Monday April 17th. The cocktail party will take place before the showing of Taj Express, a Bollywood dance romance film at the Fox Theater.

*Saffron Indian Bistro will provide several traditional Indian dishes.

*The Owl’s Club will serve a cocktail specially created for the evening.

*Hub Restaurant will serve a new signature ice cream “Queen Bee” created specifically in honor of the late Kelsey Luria (when sold at the restaurant a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Bald Beauty Foundation in her memory).

*There will also be a traditional Chaat cart (a popular type of Indian street food).

*Beer, wine and soda will also be available.

*Dessert will be offered following the show at the theatre, with Casino del Sol providing dessert, and New Delhi Palace providing hot Indian Chai.

The cocktail party will begin at 5:30pm, with guests being shuttled from the Fox Theatre and back by downtown Tucson’s latest transport entity WildCarts.   The show at the Fox begins at 7:30pm.

Organizers hope to raise $50,000 from this party.  An anonymous donor has already pledged matching funds up to $25,000, and a group of supporters from the Indian community has pledged $10,000.  Cost to attend the pre-show party is a minimum donation of $100 per person – made payable directly to Angel Charity.


Glorious Beef

Last night I had the pleasure of partaking in Dinner with Chefs at Casino del Sol. The setting was PY Steakhouse at the casino.

Executive Chef Ryan Clark of the Casino and Executive Chef of The Parish, Travis G. Peters prepared a four-course dinner for a packed house of diners.

This is the third in a year-long monthly dinners where guest chefs pair with Chef Clark. The focus is on beef. Each monthly dinner will serve two different cuts of beef so over a year’s time so 12 months add up to 23 cuts of beef. Each course is paired with a potent potable.

Here is last night’s menu.

PY Steakhouse Bread Service
Our Interpretation of Chef’s Beverage of Choice

Dry Aged Eye Round Carpaccio 
Red Coal Charred, Red Bull Vinaigrette, Beet Pickled Egg + Cauliflower, Baby Arugula, Barrio Crostini
2014 Pinot Noir, Sea Smoke “Southing”, Central Coast 


Marinated + Smoked Beef Belly
Dr. Pepper Marinate, Warm Kimchi Brussels, Crispy Taro Root, Broth
2013 Cabernet Franc, Consentino “The Franc”, Lodi


Peanut Butter Mousse
Dark Chocolate, Corn Flakes, Caramelized Banana + Gelato
Williams and Humbert , Dry Sack Solera 15 year Oloroso


Each course was cleverly presented and truly delectable. The smoked beef belly was utterly tender and savory.

The chefs explained how they came up with the dish and how they prepared them.

The evening was fun and relaxing, We had a great time and it seemed everyone else did.

Upcoming guest chefs include Maria Mazon of Boca Tacos yTequila, Brandon Dillon & Tyler Fenton of Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink, Devon Sanner of Carriage House and Jonathan Landeen of Jonathan’s Cork. For a complete list check out the Casino’s website.

The Best Laid Plans

Due to technical difficulties yesterday’s On The Menu…..Live with Matt Russell did not air.

Anyway, here is what was going to be on the menu:

We were going to discuss the passing of Pat Connors and all that he did for Tucson at his many years at Pastiche. The Tucson community misses him and will always have great memories of a truly, nice guy,

Three Canyon Beer and Wine Garden was the setting. Located on Sabino Canyon Road near Snyder opened only one week ago. We were going to talk about the enormous number of libations that can be found at Three Canyon and about their future plans. They have a real cool “garden” area in the back and food trucks are on site daily.

Then the folks from Sentinel Peak Brewing Company were going to call in to talk about The Third Annual North Tucson Firefighters Association (NTFFA) BBQ Challenge that will be held on Saturday April 8, 2017 at Steam Pump Ranch in Oro Valley. Firefighter and police teams will compete in a friendly cook-off featuring BBQ, smoked meats and side dishes. Tickets are $10 (5 tickets for food and drink). Sentinel Peak beers will be part of the event and the money raised will support Foster and Adoptive Council of Tucson (FACT), a local entity that assists agencies that work with adoptive and foster care.

Then I was going to talk about my new book, ‘Historic Restaurants of Tucson’ and about the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation’s Tastes of the Tack Room dinner that will be held at Maynard’s on 4/7/17, where I will be signing and selling ‘Lost Restaurants of Tucson’.

It was a shame that we couldn’t air yesterday, but I had fun anyway and look forward to being on the show in the near future.

Pi Day Pizza

In preparation for Pi Day we opted for pizza pie last night for dinner.

We opted for Fiamme Pizza, the newest pie in town. Well, not really new. Fiamme has been tossing pies with its mobile oven at Heirloom Farmers Market for over a year.

The brick and mortar store is located on the Southeast corner of Swan and Sunrise (in the Safeway Plaza). The space is small and you can’t help but notice the red, hot oven located just inside.

Our dinner was fab!

We started with the meat and cheese board. While it could’ve used one or two more pieces of bread the mix of meats and cheeses were ideal: salami, prosciutto, sopressatta, Gorgonzola, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, pear slices and grapefruit.IMG_0142[1]

We ordered the Margherita (which was at half-price) and the Diavola, the house pepperoni pie. We didn’t know that they haven’t gotten their liquor license yet but we were informed that you can bring your own wine or beer and they have glasses.

I was able to watch the pies being made and all the people coming through the doors. Both impressive.

And the pies were delish!. Perfect crust that thanks to the hot oven was slightly charred and perfectly chewy. The salami was spicy but that was just fine by us. And the sauce just the way I like it; not overly seasoned, rich but not thick, popping with tomato flavor.

Service was a little spacey but I think they’re working out the kinks.

We’ll be back, bottle of wine in hand.










Craft for a Cause

The craft beer scene in Tucson has grown at a rapid pace in recent years with breweries popping up all over town. Beer lovers have lots to love these days thanks to the passionate work of local brewers.

Recently though one long-time brewery along with the statewide collective of women brewers showed that they have heart when it comes to giving back to their community.

Barrio Brewing Company recently announced that sales of their commemorative State Bird Double IPA have raised $10,000 for women’s shelters statewide. Most remarkable is the fact that this goal was raised a mere five days after distribution began with the help of Hensley Beverage Company. State Bird was distributed to over 130 bats and breweries statewide.

Tucson shelter, Wings for Women, will receive $3,500 from Barrio Brewing Company with the rest of the funds going to shelters in Phoenix, Flagstaff and Prescott.

Dennis Arnold of Barrio Brewing Company calls the collaboration “craft for a cause.”

What a wonderful way to celebrate Arizona Beer Weekcopperhead.

Saguaro Corners is Making a Name for Itself – Again

Saguaro Corners isn’t the first place I think of when I’m pondering where to go for dinner; it’s not even second or third or tenth.img_01021

After all, the drive from my house is nearly an hour when traffic is moderate.

But with the crew that is steering this iconic restaurant these days, the trip is worth it, especially on the second Monday of the month when Saguaro Corners is home to Beer Dinners.

Each dinner features one brewery. Chef C.J. Hamm (full disclosure, he’s a good buddy of mine) creates plates using a paired beer. Flavor Dave (sorry Dave, that’s the only way I know you) is co-owner with Kade Mislinski, works the dining room with warmth and humor.

Last night we went to the Four Peaks Brewery Dinner and had a splendid time. The dinner was sold out with good reason.

C.J. and his team prepared four courses:

Soup – Odelay Mexican Chocolate Ale duck confit & blue crab gumbo – the spice was nicely tempered by the dark sweetness of the ale.


Fish Course – Pitchfork Pale Ale Fried Florida Snapper with black-eyed pea salad, compressed sweet tea melon, arugula and sweet chile – totally crispy, crunchy and delectable; my fave of the evening.


Meat Course Hop Knot IPA Pork Chop w/pimento cheese corncake, Southern greens, pickled rainbow chard and ham hock au jus – a nice combo of flavors.


Dessert Course – Arizona Peach Ale Peach Cobbler Trifle w/ maple cream and pecan bourbon ice cream (from The Screamery) – the only dish we took home because there was soooooo much great food.


The portions were big. The beer was cold. The company was great. What more could one ask for an evening out?

There’s a beer dinner planned for the second Monday of the month through December. I recommend you give one, or two, a try.

Do You Know What It Means to be in Orleans?

Sazerac is the latest addition to St. Philip’s Plaza and last night I had the pleasure of dining there for the first time.

Edie Jarolim made all the arrangements; all I had to do was sit back and enjoy. I arrived early and waited at the bar for Edie to arrive. Everyone from the manager to the bartender to the hostess was friendly and upbeat. And my Sazerac (they have several versions) was outstanding – a perfectly built cocktail. A sign of good things to come.

Sazerac is located in the site of the recently departed Amalour and previous to that, Bodega (and several other restaurants over the years.) The food is New Orleans influenced. The owners, Aric and Josh Mussman, very wisely, retained the lush décor from Bodega. The lighting, the padded booths, the wooden tables reflect the feel of NOLA, to a tee.


Unfortunately, the lighting, as romantic as it is, was not good for photos, so don’t go by what you see. All the food was beautiful.


We began with Fried Green Tomatoes. There were two fat juicy, breaded tomatoes which on their own were tasty but what made the dish standout was the “signature bronzed baby shrimp sauce magnolia”.dscn2604 The sauce was  dark red almost brown, and buttery with a spicy finish and a passel of tender baby shrimp, I was wowed and woke up this morning thinking about this little dish.

As expected, oysters play an important role on the menu and are presented in a number of ways. Fresh, of course, but we opted for the oysters sazerac, which consisted of six, big, fat oysters baked in a herbsaint fennel infused creamy cheese sauce. Herbsaint is a anise infused liquor and here played a subtle role with the oysters. Again, a dish that is a must order.dscn2605

While all this was going on, Aric stopped by. We chatted about food and the business and his brother. He told us all about the chef they hired, Robert Iaccarino, whose has worked in several prime restaurants in NOLA. He insisted we try the French Onion soup; the recipe is from Brennan’s. If you don’t know Brennan’s please Google it, I don’t have enough space to tell all there is to say about this beloved, storied New Orleans classic.

I grew up eating the world’s best French onion soup from The Corner House in Racine, Wisconsin and I adore this soup but have found very few that match The Corner House version. Well, now I know where I’m going when I’m jonesing for French onion soup. The broth was dark and savory with a thick slice of bread and tons of gooey cheese on top. Definitely different than the Corner House bur seriously, delish!

Rather than go with just one Creole dish we ordered the Taste of New Orleans, a trio of quintessential Creole dishes. In this case, jambalaya, shrimp creole and crawfish etouffee. Each contains rice and all were fab, but my fav was the etouffee.

Even after all that goodness, we had the crab cakes that are made with jumbo lump crab and super jumbo lump crab. These were probably the biggest crab cakes I’ve ever had. The crab flavor sang, nor a hint of filler and the remoulade  sauce on the side was perfect. We barely touched the green beans and brabent potatoes. Brabent potatoes are cubed then sautéed in olive oil, garlic and parsley.  Ideal, but there was no room.

There WAS room for bread pudding. We opted for the praline sauce and weren’t disappointed in this darkly not-too-sweet take on the simple dish.

I cannot wait to go back to Sazerac. I know there are so many other great sounding dishes on the menu, but I will have to have those fried green tomatoes and the oysters.