Gallery of Food = Goodies Galore

Gallery of Food has been on my radar for some time now and with the closing of their restaurant at Tucson Botanical Gardens, the shift shopping due to the pandemic and my curious nature when it comes to food, I finally got around to checking out this foodie find.

Gallery of Food is located at 2522 E Ft Lowell Road so I could have easily taken advantage of ordering and then picking up my food, but I opted for delivery. There’s a small charge and you can add a tip, if you so choose. Deliveries are on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and every effort is made on their part to make sure the delivery is made in a timely, efficient and no-contact manner.

A brick-and-mortar store is days away from opening, although it will have limited hours (check out the website for updates). The website also features the other happenings at Gallery of Food, such as their catering and something called The Unseasoned Chef. The website has all the info on those features.

Owner Kristine Jensen has gone above and beyond when it comes to sourcing locally sourced food.

Options include local produce (from farmers and ranchers), meats from Double Check Ranch, Sky Island Farms, Top Knot Farms and other nearby growers), bread from Barrio Bread, seafood from Blessing Foods (a new-to-me locally run source of Gulf seafood), hard-to- find cheeses, various items from Ramona Farms and so much more.

You’ll also find some prepared items – prepared by Jensen and her super friendly and knowledgeable team – like their ‘Mac n’ Cheese for Grown-ups’ and ‘Meatballs with Oyster Mushroom Marinara’. Not everything is available every day, but that’s fine. Gallery of Food is, after all, a provider of fresh, quality foods, and I would rather go without rather than receive mediocre products.

I made a pest of myself to ensure my delivery would coordinate with my being at home and the staff was most accommodating.

We ordered tomatoes, zucchini (green and yellow), Double Gloucester and Bamboozle cheeses, a baguette from Barrio Bread, mixed berries, hummus and a mixed berry cobbler. They were out of the Mac n’ cheese, which was disappointing but I was assured it will be available soon.

Everything we’ve tasted has been outstanding. The mix of tomatoes were jewel-like and oh so sweet. The blue cheese added a nice kick to the burgers we had for dinner. We’ve been nibbling on the mixed berries, which on looks alone deserve high praise.

I’m planning on putting together a cheese/fruit/bread board for lunch. Tonight, for dinner, I’m going to make zucchini fritters and dig into that cobbler.

I highly recommend Gallery of Food, a great source for fresh, local and tasty foods.

Pasta Love

True confession – During this time of stay-at-home-to-be-safe many people have been posting pics pf all the marvelous meals they’ve made. Savory roast chicken, pans of baked goods, pastas in every shape tossed with a myriad of sauces, healthful salads that are stand alone meal. Impressive!

I, on the other hand, have gone in the other direction. Simple sandwiches, breakfast for dinner – and by breakfast, I mean scrambled eggs or French toast – marinara sauce from a jar, mix and match leftovers and dinner ordered in from a variety of restaurants.

Part of the reason for my lazy behavior comes from the fact that there is just the two of us. Why go through all that work? Another is because my husband has been recovering from some health issues and his appetite has waned a bit. Plus, who wants to bother with all that cleaning up?

We do eat lots of pasta though. Roma Imports, a local Italian deli, sells about twenty different kinds of frozen pasta dishes including ravioli stuffed with an assortment of fillings, frozen lasagna, stuffed manicotti or shells. Their marinara sauce is actually quite good but the only one I’ve tried. We do plenty of grocery shipping there always buying in quantity. I’ll write about in a later post.

They have a tiny restaurant in the back with excellent sandwiches and Italian specialties.

I’ve also discovered a delicious jarred marina, (Michael’s of Brooklyn) that goes well with any of the above dishes.

As far as dried pasta goes, I discovered a brand at a Sprouts, Montebello. Imported from Italy by Stonewall Kitchens, the pasta is made from wheat grown by a cooperative of farmers in the Isola del Piano region in Marche region in northwest Italy. With a variety of shapes, the recipe is based on one made by monks at the Monestero di Montebello and is purported to be centuries old.

Anyway, this is good pasta. It cooks up tender and toothsome, doesn’t fall apart during cooking (which I have found happens a lot with imported pastas) and is most flavorful. Plus, it’s ‘organic’.

I love this brand so much, I decided to stock up directly through Stonewall Kitchen. Stonewall Kitchen is a Specialty Food business out of Maine that started with homemade jams and jellies sold at farmers’ markets. Today they still make all the original items as well as sauces, baking mixes, pickles and other food stuffs. They also work with larger makers like Montebello, Legal Seafood and even Village Candles.

I had to restrain myself when I shopped on their website. I only ordered fourteen bags of pasta and two boxes of orange cranberry scone mix.

The packaging appeals with a brown bag, stylized fonts and a clever blurb about how the grain is grown in the rolling hills by farmers. There is mention of how the semolina is milled and turned into pasta using bronze dies and natural spring water. Some may think it’s all hype, but I believe the information because the results are outstanding.

I also love the cooking directions – see photo – which suggest that the only real way to know if your pasta is cooked is by tasting rather than give me a ten-minute time period which in my opinion is never enough time. I feel like they trust me.

I doubt I’ll ever use any other brand of dried pasta, or at least until they stop importing the stuff.

And as my Nana used to say, “Mangia, mangia!”

A Feast from Feast

Hangar steak is one of my favorite cuts of beef. Also known as the ‘butcher’s cut’ because butchers often keep this most tender piece of meat for themselves, hangar steak is hard to find on menus or butcher shops.

So, with a birthday celebration (John’s, not mine) coming up when we say that Feast’s July menu featured hangar steak, the choice was simple.

Feast is doing a cracker jack job of delivering dinners during this time of stay-at-home. Like Kingfisher, they’ve opted out of reopening the dining room to concentrate od meals to go. The decision seemed to be an easy one for Doug Levy, executive chef and owner of Feast. After all, take out was the way Feast got its start over twenty years ago. He called it ‘tasteful takeout’ and he was probably the first in Tucson to focus his food with takeout in mind.

The July menu version of hangar steak was ‘grilled, coffee-rubbed hangar steak served with Fernet (an Amaro) aioli, mixed berry garlic preserves, and a zucchini-potato terrine with Parmesan cheese and fresh tarragon’. A fine preparation, indeed – although these  pics are nit my best.IMG_0122 (2)

We also ordered Romano and yellow wax beans with mint and arugula pesto, white anchovies and chopped Marcona almondsIMG_0124 (2)

and the grilled New Bedford sea scallop with lemon spoonbread, micro celery and aromatic cream.IMG_0123 (2)

Desserts were the dark chocolate tart and one of my fave Feast desserts, roasted strawberry shortcake.

Two bottles of wine, Sende Verde Albarino and Poggio Scaliente Chianti were had at most reasonable prices.

Dinner was heavenly. The beef was so tender and full of flavor. There was just a hint of the rub. The terrine would have worked as a stand-alone meal, all cheesy, savory and a perfect complement to the meat. The sauces – one sweet, one savory – were dabbed on bites of beef.

The beans were claimed to be “the best side I’ve had in a long time” and again, like the terrine the scallop could’ve satisfied as a light dinner. The beans were perfectly crisp and the pesto kicked up their freshness instead of drowning them out. The scallops were cooked perfectly – a little char but buttery tender.

I can’t say which dessert I liked best but note that both were gone by time we left the table.

Anyway, these pics don’t do justice to the meal we had sitting at our dining table. I only regret there were no real leftovers.

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PS Earlier in the week we took part in Feast’s meals to go for first responders.

Since the beginning of the shutdown, Feast has delivered meals to hospital workers around town. Last week it was the VA Hospital and as the VA has been good to us over the years, we donated 4 dinners and a dozen cookies.

Feast has a heart as big as gold and these generations donations to all the hard working first responders shows how much they care for our community.

Thank you, Doug Levy and the Feast team, for all your hard work, generosity and fabulous food.

Kingfisher Still Rocks

We celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary last week and since neither one of us ready to eat at a restaurant just yet we decided to have a nice dinner from Kingfisher.

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Always one our favorites, Kingfisher is doing take-out only. We opted for a late lunch and went all out: appetizers of their fabulous grill and chill shrimp; a lobster roll; the steelhead salmon special; Bluefin Heath Bar Cheesecake and a chocolate cherry flourless torte.

Not ordering oysters from Kingfisher is almost a sin, the timing wasn’t quite right; but it’s nice to know there are still several choices.oystersstoryville

We took advantage of the 20% off wine sale and ordered two bottles of the Niner Albarino. The wine list here is short but well-balanced in options and price range. It leans heavily toward American wines, which I greatly admire.

We also opted for a quart of their famous clam chowder.

I ordered when they opened at 11:30 for a pick-up at 2:00. There was a slight glitch in that when I asked if the ‘steelhead’ was trout the person at the restaurant said yes and although the fish was in reality steelhead salmon, the result was delightful.

When we got to the restaurant we parked in a numbered pick-up spot and called to let them know we arrived. Within minutes Murph himself brought three bags to the car and put them in the backseat. A quick happy hello, thanks from both ends and we were on our way home.

As things rolled out, I had the salmon but John decided to only eat his shrimp. Who knows why? We should have ordered a few more.

The salmon was flake-apart fabulous. The parmesan risotto that came with it would’ve easily been a stand-alone meal. A scoopful of a strawberry ginger chutney was an interesting accompaniment all dark and sweet and spicy, I would never have guessed strawberry anything.

There was no room for dessert (okay, I had a few bites of the swoonable chocolate torte) and only one glass of wine (okay, I had two), so that left us with a bunch of not touched leftovers.

I had the rest of the torte with coffee for breakfast and the lobster roll was shared the next day for lunch. I love a good lobster roll and Kingfisher’s roll is one of the best.

The clam chowder became our dinner.

The second I opened the container I smiled. I felt as though I was sitting at the bar. This was the essence of Kingfisher, the aroma that hits you when you walk through the door. The perfume that lingers as you dine.

The chowder was rich with big bites of clams and just the right amount of potatoes. All too often clam chowder is really cream of potato soup with a mere handful of clams. Not so here. Kingfisher has won plenty of “Best of” awards since the opened more than twenty years ago and if there was a Best Clam Chowder category, this is an easy winner.

Murph and Jeff and the team at Kingfisher know what they’re doing. You don’t win Best Seafood Restaurant titles year after year on your looks. There’s an East Coast sensibility here with a splash of West Coast creativity. Marianne’s desserts are rich and creative and practically addicting. And the hospitality is easy going but well-polished, even if the food is delivered to your car.

I look forward to another pick up dinner from KingfisherIMStools. This time we’ll do a dozen or two oysters.

Blood, Bones and Butter is NOT a Vampire Cookbook.

Anthony Bourdain called it “Magnificent, Simply the best memoir by a chef. Ever.”

High praise indeed and truly well-deserved, “Blood, Bones and Butter” by chef Gabrielle Hamilton is a fabulous read.

That she led an interesting life helps move the story (her childhood seems almost mythical) and the fact that she earned an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Michigan surely helped nurse an innate talent for writing well. Add the haphazard path she walked in becoming a chef and you’ve got yourself quite a story.

Hamilton is a fantastic writer. There are times when the story lags a bit, but the majority of the book flows from her offbeat childhood to her solo bumming around Europe to a serendipitous start-up of her Manhattan restaurant, Prune.

Her love life is mush like the rest of the story. She’s a lesbian who married an Italian male doctor so he could obtain a green card. Not so offbeat but they do have two kids together who are now being raised by Hamilton and her wife, a fellow chef.

I had hoped to eat at Prune on one of our visits to NYC when the kids lived there, but it never happened. Now, the place is closed due to the pandemic (it’s reopening is shaky, at best) and that the kids are no longer in the city means that will never happen. Bu such is the life we live in this time of the pandemic.

I highly recommend this book especially if you are a foodie. Hamilton writes for the NYT on a semi-regular basis so it’s easy to catch her work. Her recipes always sound great, but I just don’t cook like that anymore.

Tsk! Tsk!

Somehow, in spite of the fact that I have tons of time on my hands, I haven’t posted anything here for weeks. I’ve been reading my foodie books as promised but just don’t have the inspiration to write anything. I know I’m not alone so there is some comfort in that. But still…

I just finished ‘Chopping Spree’ in the Goldy Series and need to find copies of the next six or seven. No issue there. I’m enjoying the books for the most part but have read  other books to break up the monotony.

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Not all are food related – Can you count ‘The Bean Trees”?

I did reread one of my faves,”Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquival.

Magical realism at its finest.

The writing is lyrical; the recipes mouth-watering. I haven’t cooked any of them, of course, but nevertheless they add a richness to the read.

This book is highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little mystery with your food

In my continuing stay-at-home rereading of my foodie books, I have begun the Goldy Bear Series.

For some reason, I don’t have the first one but am now on book 5 of the series. They are fun light reads with some interesting recipes (although I argue that you do not use flour or onions in fettucini Alfredo._

I have about four more to go until I have to buy the next six or seven.

Diana Mott Davidson stopped writing the series in 2012. I can’t find why; I guess that will remain a mystery.

Rock Star Chef

Another reread but this time a bittersweet one since Anthony Bourdain hung himself in 2018. His book, Kitchen Confidential,  is a culinary classic.

This book resonated with chefs world-wide and established Bourdain as the King of the Kitchen, a legend in his own time, an icon of living the ‘kitchen life.’ Young chefs idolize him because he’s lived their life and was able to put it down on paper in a most readable form. There’s a part of me that thinks Bourdain would dismiss the his fans as inane idiots, but then there’s a part of me that thinks he gloried in the adulation. His ego was large but at he knew it. I sometimes think that young chefs go a bit overboard about how they feel about Bourdain but I understand why they do – he lived the life and elevated the trade (or craft.)

The book chronicles Bourdain’s rise to the top from a dishwasher in Provinetown, RI to becoming the Executive Chef at Les Halles. A serious drug addict, a wild man with few boundaries,  talented, creative chef and  a tortured soul, Bourdain tells all.  In the last few chapters his career in TV, traveling the world and eating along the way is just getting off the ground. At that time, he felt a little foolish in becoming a celebrity chef, but those early years blossomed into the kind of carrer he was made for.

Anyway, for an up-close look a what goes on behind those swinging doors (and after hours), Kitchen Confidential will open your eyes and your palate.

Truly entertaining, funny and sad, well-written and still relevant, Kitchen Confidential is a ‘good read’.

 

Bollywood on a Plate

Lately, I’ve found that the blurbs on book covers don’t really tell the prospective readers the general gist of the books and are a bit misleading. The book I just read is a prime example.

“Recipe for Persuasion” by Sonali Dev comes off as a rom-com, chick lit novel and while it is all that, there is a deeper, darker story that is revealed about the main character, Ashna Raje. The book is a supposedly a Bollywood take on Jane Austin’s ‘Persuasion’. which I haven’t read. This is not a light hearted romance novel.

Ashna is a chef who runs her now dead father’s Indian restaurant in Palo Alto. As a way to earn money to save the place, she signs on to participate in the Food Network’s latest cooking competition show. The show pairs well-known chefs with a celebrity and it just happens that Ashi’s celebrity is the former love of her life, Rico Silva, the best soccer player in the world (now retired due to a career ending injury.) And that, along with a mention of her “over achieving mother”  is the spin that the blurb takes.

But the story is really about Ashi’s hurtful past: her relationship with her absolutely horrible father, her mother’s story, fleeting mentions of food, a cursory telling of the competition and bits and pieces of other characters stories. Ashi’s mother carries a heavy story as well.

I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Sonali Dev is a great writer. Her characters are well-developed and relatable. Her prose is smooth and rich. The story line moves at a perfect pace, although I wish food had been more prominent.

But the blurb makes the book seem a typical modern romance instead of a deeply layered story. It doesn’t do justice to the story or to Dev.

Sadly, that seems to be a trend and I don’t understand why. It’s almost as if, the blurb writer didn’t read the book.

Anyway, I will read more of her books (I already ‘A Bollywood Bride’) and I recommend you try her novels.

 

 

The Book is Way Better Than the Movie

Here’s another light, quick and fun read for foodies – ‘Julie & Julia’ by Julie Powell. It was also turned into a movie starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.

The Julie is JuliePowell. a nearly 30 year old woman living in NYC with her husband, Eric. Stuck in a rut of temp jobs (she eventually scores a government job that deals with post 9/11 recovery), Powell is angst filled with issues of fertility, not really having a job and living a getting no where fast life in a Queens barely there apartment.

She embarks on a year-long project where she plans on making every recipe in the original Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the classic cookbook by Julia Child. She then chronicles her journey on a blog.

We follow her ups and downs at home, at work and in the kitchen. Most of it is delightful and funny. Then there are parts that make you want to slap her and say, ‘Get over it. Your life isn’t that hard.’  She admits to being overly emotional and has screaming breakdowns with all her real and imagined frustrations.

In between are imagined days in the life of Julia Child taken from the book ‘My Life in France’ written by Child after she achieved fame. I wish there had been a few more.

But all in all, this is a great read. The movie was superficial and didn’t come close to the Ms Powell’s energy and humor.

Highly recommended.