Mad for Margaritas? Craving a Tasty taco? Then Blanco is the place to be.

The thing about any restaurant in the Sam Fox stable is that you can always count on change.

Change in a good way, course. Menus at the many venues will have the good old reliable items you love but new items are added on a regular basis just to keep diners taste buds tingling.

I had the opportunity to try some of those changes at Blanco Tacos & Tequila the other night as part of a media dinner. Sadly, we couldn’t try all the new changes, but the ones we did have were great and added special bites to the menu.

We began with two new cocktails: The Margarita of the Month, an autumnal mix of apple, cinnamon and tequila and the Spicy Ginger Paloma with tequila, ginger liquor, grapefruit juice and sparkling grapefruit soda.Nov MOM

For example, for as long as Blanco had been around the tacos served there have been of the street variety, in other words, soft tacos.

But now, Blanco offers a plate of two crispy ground beef tacos. The tortillas are perfectly fried and packed with lightly seasoned beef. Topped with greens and shredded cheddar cheese, these are a nice version of the quintessential taco.Blanco tacos

We also sampled another new taco on the menu, the grilled avocado tacos.Blanco 2 These are tiny tacos, just a bite or two, but they are filled with tastes and textures that are refreshing and savory. We were warned that they would be a little spicy, and they were, but the slaw that topped them was almost Asian in taste and texture.

We opted for one of the new fajitas on the menu and ordered the mahi which comes with flour tortillas.IMG_0624 This dish, I think, was my favorite. The thick slab of mahi was grilled to a nice char. We grabbed one of the soft flour tortillas, piled a big bite of fish, seasoned sautéed veggies and sides (guacamole, sour cream, salsa and lime) on top and chowed down.

Blanco has also added the option to have a burrito in a bowlBlanco and the their quesadillas can be prepped as crisps, both clever ways to please the variety of diners.

Service was top notch with sincere smiles and attention to details. Add the stunning view from the patio and all in all we had a great evening.

Dogs and Beer

How often do you get to enjoy a well-crafted local beer and help your furry friends?

Well, here’s your chance.

On Sunday November 12 from 3pm-5pm you can head over to Sentinel Peak Brewing Company on Grant and Swan, sip a pint or two of their brews and know that for each beer you imbibe, $1.00 will be donates to Senior Dog Adoption at PACC.

There is also a “MEGA RAFFLE PRIZE” and the opportunity to adopt a senior pet.

Check out the link below for further details.sr doga

Tucson: Drink More Beer for a Cause, Sips for Seniors

Brunch in the Foothills

Brunch is by far one of my most favorite meals. A little bit of breakfast, a little bit of lunch, usually a bloody mary or a mimosa, hopefully some strong black coffee all served at a reasonable hour.

So, when we were invited to sample the Sunday Blues, BBQ & Brews brunch at Loews Ventana Canyon a couple weeks back we replied with a resounding yes.IMG_0185

The day was warm and sunny, ideal for dining on the patio with close-up views of the Catalinas. A combo played some old-time blues. Totally relaxing.

Oddly we never made it inside for the omelet bar, cheeses, baked goods (well, we did east several of the many desserts that were displayed.) But that didn’t mean there was any shortage of things to eat.

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Tucson Flavor was the central theme of the brunch and while there were plenty of foods we don’t grow or make nearby, local makers were there serving their wares.  I filled my plate with grilled salmon,IMG_0183 prime rib, roasted veggies many of which were from local farms, cornbread, a tamale with an egg on top from Tucson Tamales,IMG_0179 several slices of a dark, sweet bread from Barrio Bread. IMG_0177

Flavors of Tucson is a part of ‘Flavors of Loews Hotels’ a program that is featured a Loews Hotels across the country.  The program highlights the products of local makers, bakers, brewers, distillers and more. Flavors of Loews Hotels began at Loews Miami Beach Hotel and now can be found at the Ventana Canyon. Chef Ken Harvey is working with Tucson Tamale, Barrio Bread and Dragoon Brewing Company to bring the delectable flavors of the Southwest to guests from near and far.

We skipped the local beer and went for a mimosa.IMG_0188IMG_0166

Other goodies included pots of Mexican dishes like green chile. Sonoran hot dogs, grilled chicken, fruits of all kinds, barbecued ribs and ……the list was so long, I list everything. But, everything we ate was fab. Quality products, prepared with finesse and flair was what this experience is all about.IMG_0171

This would be an ideal spot to take out-of-town guests to get a flavor and a feel for Tucson and the Sonoran Desert.IMG_0186

Sundays from 11-2. $42. Children 6-12 $21 $5.95 for kids 5 and under.

I’d make reservations.

 

 

All Aboard and Then Some

So after not having traveled anywhere for almost a year, I’ve just returned from my second vacation in one month.

I wrote all about my Michigan experiences in my last post.

This one is about my trip to Seattle and the train ride we took from The Emerald City to The City of Angels.

We flew to Seattle on Friday and got there just in time to grab a cab to Elliot’s Oyster House. Located on Pier 56, the restaurant is designed for great views of Puget Sound. IMG_0191Huge ferries moved in and out as the sun set. Warm golden logs and beams, high ceilings and a soft, busy vibe added a touch of romance and glamor.

We went to Elliot’s on the recommendation of my friend Susan, who I’ve known for decades. The restaurant is one of her and her husband, Steve’s favorites when they visit Seattle.

I have to thank them. We had a fine meal.

We kept our dinner simple: a dozen and a half oysters and the alder planked Alaskan sock-eye salmon. We paired it with a Washington State white wine.

We tried three oysters from over a dozen choices on the menu. They were all local and achingly fresh. A bright mignonette, ketchup and the hottest horseradish I’ve had in a while were all that accompanied the bivalves. Some, I think they were the Hama Hamas, were tiny and light while the Wildcats were big and plump and almost two bites worth.IMG_0196 I could’ve eaten a dozen more, but sanity prevailed.IMG_0195

The salmon was outstanding, as well.  The photo doesn’t do the presentation justice.IMG_0197 A light rub added a pop and the tomato beurre blanc glistened with a rich layer of buttery flavor.

The next day we went to Pike Place Market. John had never been and he was totally blown away, as was I even though I’d been there before. We didn’t see any flying fish but we did see beautiful fruits and vegetables, IMG_0199huge, bright bouquets of flowers, candies, baked goods, pastas, IMG_0201oils and much, much more. We popped into Beecher’s and bought cheese.

We sent chocolate covered cherries to the kids in Brooklyn from Chukar cherries. We also sent them two types of smoked salmon from City Fish. We bought some for ourselves (it’s fabulous).

We were able to get a table at Lowell’s, another Pike Place institution. We opted for the line as opposed to the restaurant, but the line has a full selection of fantastic options. We ordered the Dungeness crab cocktail, crab cakes and the clam chowder.IMG_0204

The food was at the table pretty quickly but we had time to enjoy the views. IMG_0202The Sound was as calm as could be and because it was the weekend there were pleasure boats galore.

We had to get up early so we ordered a pizza in from Padrino’s. No photos. Nothing really to say either, but we liked it.

We boarded the Amtrak Coastal Starlight the Sunday morning just prior to departure at 9:30. We had a sleeper but spent a good part of the time in the parlor car.

Like the observation car, the Parlor Car allows for great views but it has more comfortable chairs that allow for almost 360° views. This ride is the only one with the Parlor Car option and due to costs it may be cut. I am writing letters to the powers that be, maybe two.

We ate several meals on the train: a rather ordinary burger in the dining car at lunch; a small but savory lamb shank and fettuccini alfredo in the parlor car; a salad and a hot dog for the next day’s lunch and salmon for our final dinner. Nothing was fantastic, but like airplane dining space and equipment are limited so all in all we enjoyed our food. The only foodie photo I have though is of the wine tasting. We had a fun time even though the wines were not that great. IMG_0215

We arrived in Los Angeles right on time Monday at 9:00 pm.

Maybe, I’ll do a play by play of the ride, but not today. But I can recommend this trip. It was a fabulous way to see our beautiful country.

Dining Downtown – Come Together

As Tucson continues to celebrate our City of Gastronomy designation, the chefs who operated restaurants downtown are coming together again for the 3rd Annual City of Gastronomy Chefs Dinner.

Participating Chefs include:  Brian Smith, Maynards, Carlotta Flores and Gary Hickey, Charro Steak, Patricia Schwabe and Bryan Eichorst, Penca, Brandon Dillon, Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink, Alex O’Neill and Erika Bostick, Agustin Kitchen and The Coronet, Janos Wilder and Devon Sanner, DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails and the Carriage House, and Chris Bianco, Pizzeria Bianco.

The menu is an outstanding example of the talent we have in town and the whole idea of these chefs coming together speaks volumes about the respect they have for one another; no ego trips here.

Tickets are $150 and monies raised will benefit Tu Nidito and the Fox Theatre.

Get your tickets here:

http://carriagehousetucson.com/event/downtown-chefs-table-dinner

Here’s the menu:

DT-ChefsTable-Menu2017onWhite2.eps

Michigan – Delectable Surprises Everywhere You Turn

I’ve been back a week today and still haven’t written about my trip to northern Michigan to help my sister and her husband with the chestnut harvest. I have a great excuse but cannot share the reason at this time. Stay tuned.

At O’Hare I ate at Frontera Tortas, Rick Bayless’ place. I never eat tortas in Tucson, but these are fabulous and I never miss a chance to have one of these.

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I’d flown into Detroit and when I got off the plane my sister asked if I wanted to stop at Zingerman’s, a world-famous deli. Of course, I said yes! Especially since I was reading the book, The Telling Room by Michael Paterniti, which starts at Zingerman’s. A whole posting could be done on this place. These photos don’t do it justice.IMG_0090

My sister lives in East Lansing, but the property is in Lake Leelanau, not far from Traverse City. The view from the front porch is stunning. As a desert dweller, I forget how lush and green the Mid-West can be.IMG_0577

The first morning, after coffee, we headed out to the trees. Chestnut trees are beautiful. These are not American chestnut trees as they were pretty much wiped out by disease decades ago.

I knew I was in for hard work and chestnut picking is hard work; bending, stretching, reaching high and low. And then there are the prickers. Chestnuts encased by a protective shell that is all prickers that somehow find a way through the thick gloves you have to use.IMG_0114

Anyway, we worked every day that we were there (although I didn’t put in the time my sister did) and sadly the results weren’t as great as she had hoped. The summer had been hot and dry which didn’t help. The only comfort was that in talking with other chestnut people, especially the people at the University Co-op where they sell the nuts, everyone else seemed to be coming up short compared to last year.IMG_0112

The area in Michigan is home to many farms and vineyards. Cherries, apples, grapes and more grow in abundance. There was plenty of corn as well.

A strong farm to table sensibility can be found in all the little villages and towns where you can shop at craft shops filled with all sorts of beautiful items.

Cedar Sol Hydrofarm is a hydroponic farm and weirdly they sell tacos at their road stand. Good tacos, too.IMG_0098

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Fishing is big here and at one place we even watched the salmon from Lake Michigan spawn – they weren’t very lucky though. We didn’t see one make it up the spillway.

 

The drink in the photo is called the Chubby Mary at The Cove in Leland and yes that is a smoked chub in the bloody Mary. It’s where we watched the spawning. We also noshed on peas and peanuts at a place called Bluebird also in Leland.IMG_0580

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The other items on the plate were onion petals and clam strips.

We also stopped at Cherry Republic in Glen Arbor. Talk about all things cherry. The retail store has so many items they can’t be listed. I kept it simple and purchased cherry jam and dark chocolate cherry turtles. The company has sites all over Michigan but the one in Glen Arbor has, in addition to the store, a restaurant and a wine tasting room. Yes, they pour cherry wines and a cider (I think all the wineries make some sort of cider.) I can’t say I found these wines to be good wines, but if sweet wines are to your liking, check out Cherry Republic. Somehow, I didn’t get any pics.

Restaurants run the gamut from hip little spots serving tasty dishes created with local ingredients to taverns serving hardy plates of perch and smelt and fresh out of the surrounding lakes.

The best dish was the smelt that we ate at Dick’s Pour House, the quintessential up-north bar. IMG_0130IMG_0133

I love smelt but around these parts they are hard to come by and it’s been ages since I’ve had them. These were utterly fantastic, just as I remember; sizzling hot, perfectly crispy with the savory fish flavor. You eat them whole and they really don’t need any ketchup or tartar sauce.

We had a couple of decent pizzas there, too, so you can see the kind of place it was. IMG_0135By time we left, the place was packed with large groups, families and couples. It was so busy the owners were acting as runners and bussers. A good sign on all accounts.

I also had some fabulous lake perch at Big Cat Brewing, which is one of many breweries in the area.IMG_0110

The only meal that didn’t quite cut is was the baked mac’ at this little place called Fig’s. Everyone else’s meals were delish; mine just had too much mustard in the sauce.IMG_0102

There are also numerous wineries (we visited only two of the dozens on the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail) and cideries, which brew hard cider.

One we stopped at is called Tandem Ciders in Sutton Bay. We split a double flight, 12 altogether. They were interesting and something I’d like to get to know better. They were served with delicious pickled eggs, another fave that I haven’t had in decades.

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On my final night we were back in East Lansing and my sister made her take on an old family favorite, shepard’s pie. She uses both sweet and regular potatoes and both lamb and beef. IMG_0599

All in all, I had a great time.

I ordered some wines from BluStone Vineyards. I brought home 4 pounds of chestnuts, which have to cure in the fridge for three weeks. I will add recipes I use in a future post.

I think I’ll go back next year for harvest.

Oysters, Oysters, Oysters

Celebrating “all things oyster” isn’t new to Kingfisher where on any given night the diners can find an abundance of bivalves on the menu.margarita&more 006

But every October for the past seven years, Tucson’s favorite seafood restaurant holds their Oysterfest. The event happens on UofA Homecoming Saturday (This year October 28th from 10am-2pm.)

Well-trained shuckers will be in the tent that Kingfisher sets up in the parking lot showing off their skills. Oysters are culled from all over. Choices may include Totem Point from Washington, North Shore Gold from Canada or Kumiai from Mexico.

Oyster stew, Oysters Rockefeller, both New England and Manhattan chowders, fried oysters and Murph’s sinfully good Oysters Storyville will be available.oystersstoryville

Kingfisher Oysterfest is not to be missed.