Si Charro Summer Specials

The Si Charro family of restaurants is launching their summer specials..

Each restaurant has a long list of tasty summer dishes,

If you plan carefully you just might get to try all of them,

El Charro Café 99TH SUMMER CELEBRATION!  6/15/21 thru 8/15/21

CHARROS Y CAMARONES   just $9.99 each

ADD charro rice, choice of frijoles, & calabacitas + $4.95

Shrimp Poblano Enchilada Elegante GF Grilled shrimp, peppers & bacon in twice rolled corn tortillas and baked in our Poblano Crema with queso oaxaca, avocado salsa, & marinated pink onion

Grilled Shrimp Fajita Lettuce Cups (2) GF Grilled shrimp & peppers mixta with lettuce leaves, queso cotija, chipotle crema, avocado salsa & margarita lime vinaigrette

Mojo de Ajo Shrimp Tamale GF Grilled garlic chimichurri shrimp over our delicious handmade corn tamal with tomatillo sauce & queso oaxaca (add 2nd tamal for $5.95)

99th CHARRO SUMMER “MARGS & ‘RITAS

“El Grande” size for just $5.99!  All Summer Long (6/15 – 8/15)

Modelo Splash

A delicious margarita made with organic tamarindo nectar, fresh citrus, rocks, and a refreshing splash of ice-cold Negra Modelo

Mangopeño

Mango Margarita with mango nectar, muddled jalapeño, tamarindo dash, citrus & agave. Served with tajín dusted rim

Charro Island

Margarita with fresh coconut, pineapple, and lime nectar and a float of tropical pea flower tea with a toasted coconut rim

Watermelon Fresca

Perfectly cool way to wind down with our watermelon nectar margarita featuring agave, fresh mint & sea salt rim

El Charro Cafes are located at 311 N Court Ave · (520) 622-1922); 7725 N Oracle Rd #101  (520) 229-1922)  and 6910 E Sunrise Dr, (520) 514-1922).  All are open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am to 8:30pm.  For details visit https://www.sicharro.com/safety-guidelines/

CHARRO STEAK & DEL REY

The popular grill kits are back. These take- home selections created during the pandemic to serve a mostly stay at home population have become a must- have option.  This season’s “Teach ‘em to Grill…But only with Grass-Fed Beef” summer promo offers the finest of ingredients, sustainably raised products, house made accompaniments.   Two options are offered along with a terrific in-house “Meat Me” daily Happy Hour special featuring  1/2 priced Burgers and Carne Asada Fries, as well as all aperitivos, house wines, well spirits, drafts and bottled cervezas.

Teach ‘em to Grill Options

The Cala – Charro Burger – Feeds 6

6x ½ lb grass fed beef patties, queso Manchego, pint of charro sauce

6x Barrio Charro Handmade local buns, Chip & Salsa, 49.95

The Terna “Sampler” – Feeds 6-8

10 oz grass fed carne asada, 12 oz new York strip, 14 oz grass fed boneless rib-eye, marinated ½ chicken, 12 oz Duroc pork chop, charro beans (2 pints), local tortillas (2 doz), chips & sals 49.95

Order at 520-495-1922 or meat@charrosteak.com

Charro Steak & Del Rey is located at 188 E Broadway Blvd. and is open daily from 3-9pm. Phone 520-485-1922. For details visit .barriocharro.com

CHARROVIDA PLANT+

Offering Tucson’s finest vegan (plus protein upon request) menu, Charrovida has become a top Tucson destination for eaters of all varieties.  The summer menu features a delectable mix of salads, desserts, cool classic beverages and half off a dazzling array of Mimosas offered by the glass, bottle or flights. Summer specials are offered along with the regular menu.

SUMMER OF VIDA ’21 stay cool with this fresh mix of summer recipes

Summer of Ceviche brightly marinated garden of vegetables 9 add + marinated shrimp* +6

Caesar Tostita Salad  plant-based caesar on avocado tostitas with charred cauli, vegan feta, pink onion, pepitas, cucumber & radish 9 add + chimichurri grilled shrimp* +6

Diablos Tacos charred diablo cauliflower with vegan taco crema, greens, pico salsa & pink onion 9 (2) add + diablo grilled shrimp* +6

Chef’s Brulėe & Berries  plant-based recipe with vanilla & fresh berries 9

CHARRO & CHILL

MOJITO MIST sparkling bubbles rum & mint 9

CABANA CAFÉCITO chilled coffee. coconut rum & nectar 10

THE DEL CHARRO rocks. del bac whiskey. agave. prickly pear. citrus 13

LA PLAYA ROSA pink lemon, Titos. prickly pear. citrus. mint. agave. 1

½ OFF MIMOSAS ALL SUMMER LONG!

Legend has it they were first made in Paris in 1925, and another story says famed movie director Alfred Hitchcock mixed ‘em up in San Fran in the 1940’s. Either way, mimosas are iconic, and we hope you enjoy ours in a single glass or as a bottle flight with your choice of nectar & bubbles: classic with fresh orange juice superfruit high antioxidant berry mix watermelon agua fresca nectar prickly pear natural cactus nectar grapefruit fresh grapefruit juice mango tropical fruit nectar cranberry not just for vodka anymore

SINGLE GLASS 9 BOTTLE FLIGHT  39* pick 3 flavors 2-4 persons

VEGAN MIMOSA FLIGHT add for vegan bubbles +15* *half off price shown. n/a half off for vegan bottle & n/a as single flute

Promotion valid 6/1 thru 8/1 No combining of offers or delivery

Charrovida Plant+ is located at 7109 North Oracle Road in the Casas Adobes center and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am -8pm. For reservations visit charrovida.com . Phone 520-779-1922

BARRIO CHARRO

Barrio Charro continues to delight Tucsonans with its innovative menu of offerings created by one of Tucson’s most acclaimed Chefs Carlotta Flores and James Beard Nominated Don Guerra of the multi award-winning Barrio Bakery.  Summer additions to the lineup like Wilshire’s Watermelon salad, join the group of other iconic Tucson neighborhood named dishes on the menu.  Made with juicy fresh watermelon, spiced pepitas, queso fresco, served over balsamic kale with sweet chile vinaigrette, this dish is a delight.  Other dishes like Street Roasted Corn, Barrio Burritos and Enchilada El Cortez are destined to be keepers.

Wilshire’s Watermelon fresh watermelon, spiced pepitas, queso fresco, pink onion & sweet chile vinaigrette over balsamic kale 11.95

Enchanted Elote roasted street corn, queso cotija, avocado, iceberg, lime, cilantro, crema, tajín spiced pepitas & pink onion 11.95

add: grilled chicken +3.95

Barrio Burritos choice of recipe with grilled calabacitas, peppers & queso oaxaca

wrapped in a barrio grains flour tortilla with salsa rojo, lettuce, cilantro & pink onion papa & egg*8.95 veggie or vegan*9.95 pollo asado 11.95 carne asada 12.95  frijoles & queso*7.95 charro birria 12.95 pork carnitas 11.95 chicken tinga 11.95 add: avocado +2.95 chorizo +2.95 enchi-style melted queso, red & green sauce +3.95

Enchiladas el Cortez

layered enchilada recipes with calabacitas, red & green sauce, queso, crema, fresh greens & frijoles  veggie or vegan*12.95 pollo asado 14.95 carne asada 16.95 pork carnitas 14.95  add: avocado +2.95*vegan recipes +1.25

Barrio Charro is located at 3699 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ 85719   Phone: (520) 372-1922. For additional information visit  barriocharro.com

CHARRO STEAK & DEL REY

Meanwhile, downtown at Charro Steak & Del Rey a whole lotta grillin’ is going on with the very popular summer take home grill kits.

The Cala (feeds 6)

The Charro Burger 6 -1/2 lb grass-fed beef patties, queso Manchego, pint of charro sauce, 6x Barrio Charro handmade local buns, chips and salsa   $49.95

The Terna “Sampler” (feeds 6-8)

10 oz grass-fed Carne Asada, 12 oz New York Strip, 14 oz grass-fed boneless ribeye, marinated half chicken, 12 oz Duroc pork chop, Charro Beans (2 pints), local tortillas (2 doz), chips and salsa $149

Charro Steak & Del Rey are located in downtown Tucson at 188 E Broadway and are open Tuesday through Sunday from 12pm to 7pm.  Thanksgiving hours 11am- 6pm.  As at all Flores Concepts restaurants, their comprehensive 100 Point Plan for Safety is in full effect.  For details visit https://www.sicharro.com/safety-guidelines/

XMAS IN JULY  – Coming Soon!

Buy a $100 Charro Card and get a $100 Charro Card!  It is certainly the best deal around and the perfect gift for year- round giving and dining.  Cards can be pre- ordered online at www.sicharro.com/xmasinjuly between July 1st and 22nd and will be on sale online and at all locations (excluding Barrio Charro) on July 24t and 25.   The Charro Card can be used at El Charro Café, Charro Steak & Del Rey, CharroVida Plant+, and Pub 1922 in Sahuarita. Certain limits and processing fees may apply.

ONE LAST NOTE

Recently, popular food vlogger Mark Wiens was in Tucson to visit the original El Charro Café in downtown Tucson and explore the world of authentic Carne Seca and the birthplace of the Chimichanga.  His YouTube channel has over 6.72 million subscribers and over 1 billion views to date. … The full-time travel eater travels around the world to eat delicious food and share his meals and discoveries.  View the video at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTzIkTh580o .

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it’s all about the bun

During this last year and a half, I’ve started eating more bread. I’ve never been a big bread eater but I could be called a bread snob because I will eat the heck out of a quality loaf. Lately though I’ve developed a better appreciation of bread in all shapes and sizes.

The fact that we have one of the best bread bakers in America in Tucson -Don Guerra of Barrio Bread fame-has played a big part. But we’ve also been eating smaller which means a lot of sandwiches. Usually, I save Barrio Bread for toast in the morning or to sop up sauces.

In all this eating, I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter the sandwich is filled with, the success if a sandwich depends on the bread, especially when it comes to certain iconic sandwiches.

The sandwiches featured here are famous in themselves and all are associated with specific cities or regions in the country. One is a hot dog, which I don’t consider to be a sandwich but the bun it is served on is what makes this dog a standout and so in this article, a hot dog is a sandwich.

I’ve included where you can find the best version of each item in Tucson.

Beef on ‘Weck

City/Area of Origin: Buffalo, NY area

Bread: Kummelweck roll

These sandwiches are actually more Buffalo food than Buffalo wings but it’s tough to find this sandwich outside of Western New York.

The beef is slow-cooked, thinly sliced and served with its own juices with a healthy dollop of horseradish. Au jus foe dipping is also a requirement,

The bun is basically a Kaiser roll topped with coarse salt and caraway seeds (kummel is caraway in German.) Sure, you can make something similar at home but they never turn out quite right and sadly the rolls don’t travel well. They tend to dry out virtually overnight.

These buns are one-of-a-kind food and if weren’t for the salty, crispy, caraway flavors and textures this is just another hot beef sandwich.

Beef on ‘weck is one of the first things I used to order when we’d visit my husband’s hometown. Every place had their own sandwich but all were miles beyond anything I’ve had here in Tucson.

Recommendation where to get one: None

Chicago Dog

City of Origin: Chicago

Bread: Poppyseed bun

Although associated with Chicago, these dogs can now be found nationwide thanks to the internet and modern shipping.

The ingredients are mandatory: Vienna All Beef Hot Dogs are the best but a high-quality all-beef dog will work. The dog can be boiled, steamed or grilled.

Toppings, and here there are no real substitutes, are: a slather of yellow mustard, a nearly glowing green sweet pickle relish, chopped white onions, chopped tomato or a few tomato slices, a dill pickle, sport peppers (small, thin long and crunchy) all finished off with celery salt.

And of course, the soft poppy seed bun.

Personal tastes allow for eliminating any of the ingredients, but the poppy seed bun is an absolute must.

The bun is at once soft and sturdy. The poppy seeds add another layer of flavor and texture.

There are several bakeries that claim to be the ‘official’ Chicago hot dog bun, but that’s not surprising. Chicagoans will fight to the finish about which hot dog stand makes the best in the city, even though basically they’re all made the same way with the same ingredients.

Recommendation where to find one: Rocco’s Little Chicago (also the place for Chicago pizzas – deep dish or the real Chicago style thin pizza (see my Pizza post.)

Rocco’s Little Chicago’s Chicago Dog Courtesy Rocco’s Little Chicago

Philly Cheesesteak

City of Origin: Philadelphia

Bread: Amoroso roll

Again, like a Chicago hot dog, Philly cheesesteaks are available all over America but in all honesty, the good ones are far and few between.

And like the Chicago dog, the competition as to the best sandwich in Philly is fierce.

But all agree that the best sandwiches are made using Amaroso rolls. Hearth-baked, the rolls are big and sturdy because they have to stand up to all that meat and juices, and yet they have a light crunch and soft insides which makes for tasty eating,

The sandwiches are served with melted cheese, the preference being Cheez-Whiz.

The thing is you can only get the rolls from Philadelphia and only from the Amoroso Bread ad Rolls. The bakery started in 1904 in a tiny shop; now they are sold in grocery stores and shops in the Philly area or on line.

People will argue about the best cheesesteaks in Tucson, but for the real thing Frankie’s South Philly Cheesesteaks is the place for a true Philly cheesesteak.

Philly Cheesesteak Courtesy Frankie’s Philly Cheesesteak

Lobster roll

City/Area of Origin: New England

Bread: Soft Hot dog bun

Lobster rolls are plentiful across the US. but most are missing that sea air that adds to the flavor.

Nevertheless, Maine is the place to find the best lobster rolls (although people in Connecticut will argue otherwise.)

The buns here resemble hot dog buns but because they have to standup to big hunks of lobster and grilling, they are sturdier and baked in a way so that the sides are nearly flat and don’t get as brown as the top. And how they are cut also plays an important role.

While there are two schools of thought as how to prepare the lobster: lathered in butter or tossed with mayo. Each side has their proponents but all agree that the bun MUST be cut a certain way.

Rather than being sliced along the side and opened for the filling, the bun is sliced across the top being careful to not take the slice to the edges. This prevents the filling from falling all over the place. Very clever and most practical because no matter how the lobster is prepped, you want the meat to stay in the bun.

Kingfisher

Lobster Roll at Kingfisher

Po’ Boy

City of Origin: New Orleans

Bread: ‘French’ bread with a crumbly top and a soft interior

Po’ Boys can be filled with a number of items but traditionally the choices are deep fried shrimp or deep-fried oysters. Hot andouille sausage, duck, crayfish, beef, chicken and even alligator versions are also popular but the condiments used in the sandwiches differ.

Seafood uses melted butter and sweet pickle rounds; Louisiana hot sauce is optional. Creole mustard is used in many of the others. All require lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayonnaise.

Again, the bread needs to be sturdy but soft. Long and narrow it resembles a baguette but the texture is chewier and crumbly. The soft interior sops up all the condiments, The exterior cannot be too crunchy or else because the sandwich is so packed, the sandwich would be impossible to eat. Just as with the kummelweck rolls, some say the authentic bread can only be found in New Orleans,

The Parish

Shrimp Po-Boy courtesy The Parish

I suppose I could’ve included the Reuban sandwich or a French dip because the bread used in them is a specific type (especially with the marble rye in a Reuban) but I’ll save those for another post.

Time for Breakfast

If I had thought about it, I would have ordered the same meal – Eggs Benedict – at both restaurants and then I could’ve written a fantastic compare and contrast piece, highlighting the differences and similarities between a traditional version and a modern version of the iconic dish.

But, I didn’t. I was hungry because I was just coming off a fast that I’d done for some routine lab work I needed to get done and the Huevos Rancheros at Flora’s Market Run sounded like just what I needed.

The next day at The Dutch I ordered Eggs Benedict because, in spite of all those creative bennies out there, when I see a traditional version, I order them. In fact, the Eggs Benedict were the reason why I decided to have breakfast at The Dutch.

Things worked out perfectly.

Flora’s Market Run is the latest venture by the same folks who own and operate the highly popular two  Prep & Pastrys, Commoner & Co. and August Rhodes Bakery. They’ve transformed the former Rincon Market space in to an airy, chic dining room complete with a big bar. The well-stocked market is next door.

Both the Brunch and the Dinner menus at Flora’s offer interesting options that are a mix of tradition and innovation,

The huevos rancheros is a prime example. While all the traditional elements of this Mexican fave were on the plate, there wasn’t anything traditional about these huevos.

Instead of charro or refried beans a crunchy local tortilla was topped with marinated beans. Thanks to the marination, the beans held a darker color, deeper flavor and a sweet tenderness. Usually ranchero sauce is used, hence the name. But here the kitchen uses guajillo sauce, which has peppers as a base. This takes the dish into new territory. The sauce isn’t hot but certainly has a richer more lingering taste and feel. Cojita cheese substitutes for the usual bright orange cheddar and a bit of avocado contrasts the dark rich sauce. My egg, which you can have cooked to your liking, was a perfect over easy.

I’d happily order this dish again.

I’d also order the Eggs Benedict from The Dutch again.

The Dutch is one of the most tasteful dining areas in the city. High ceilings, lots of golden woods, a wall of windows that allow for plenty of light and great people watching and the biggest clock I’ve ever seen hanging above the bar.

There was an English muffin as required in the original dish, followed by thinly sliced Canadian bacon. You never see Canadian bacon anywhere on bennies these days and I don’t know why. Slicing it paper thin was the only diversion, Then came the perfectly cooked poached eggs; not watery, not over cooked, they were just right. Also done just right was the Hollandaise sauce. All too often, kitchens mess up this delicate sauce making it too thick and bland. Not so here. I sopped up every last drop. The potatoes on the side were fabulous,

If you’ve never had traditional Eggs Benedict, I suggest a trip to The Dutch.

As an added bonus, both the service and the coffee at both places were ideal.

Drum Roll, Please!

Mark your calendars!

Sunday June 20th is the Summer Solstice AND the Grand Opening of Gallery of Food, the hip bodega on Ft. Lowell.

Starting at noon and winding down around 6 pm, Gallery of food will be hosting a party complete with food, music, tours of the kitchen and more. You’ll be able to shop as well.

“But,” you say, “I thought Gallery of Food has been open for a while now?”

Well, you’re right. The market, delivery and catering have been open, but due to the pandemic, chef/owner Kristen Jensen wanted to wait until life was safer and the Summer Solstice seemed the perfect time to celebrate the store’s Grand Opening.

Long before eating local was popular, Jensen used purveyors that she knew by name. Produce comes from Pivot Produce, Aravaipa Farms and other nearby farms. Meats are sourced from Top-Knot Farms. Barrio Bread provides their wonderful items. Jams and jellies are from Cheri’s Desert Harvest. Salsas and sauces, cookies and candy, chilled desserts and savory soups are all at the ready.

And of course, there’s all that great food made by Chef Christopher Baldwin.

If you’ve been, you know how wonderful this shop is. If you haven’t Sunday June 20th would be an ideal time. You can meet Kristen, Christopher and the rest of the staff, learn about the various items in the store, listen to music and EAT!

Parking is limited but the neighboring businesses are pitching in. You can park at JT Auto, Dan’s Toy Shop and Zona Foundations.

See you there!

Zio Peppe is here!

Zio Peppe opens tonight for sit down service. After a couple of weeks doing only takeout and delivery, the doors are wide open to this exciting venture of two of my favorite chefs, Mat Cable and Devon Sanner.

Zio Peppe means Uncle Joe in Italian and while the food here is Italian in theory, the chefs have put a decidedly Southwestern spin to the menu.

We were privileged to eat the last night for the Friends and Family soft opening. And I have to say, everything we had, from the first bite of the elote arancini to the pistachio cannoli, was outstanding.

Those arancini were probably the best I’ve ever had. There was no red sauce on top, but that was a good thing. Crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside (with both corn and rice) I could’ve eaten a dozen of them.

We sampled three pies: the Figgy Stardust, the Margarita and the Bandera. These are thin crust pies, The crust was perfect and each of the toppings stood out. The margarita was an ideal balance of cheese and sauce and oh that sauce! Loved the Figgy Stardust. It was both sweet and savory. The Bandera had chiles and smoked turkey and a garlic crema. The flavors all came together nicely.

Bandera
Figgy Stardust

The polenta was made with masa and again was outstanding with the addition of cheese and chiles. Some might call it fusion (I hate that term). This was more like a good, solid, fun marriage.

Polenta

They served four pastas: two Alfredos, a mac and cheese and a rigatoni arabiatta. The pasta was light and tender in the alfredos and the sauces were silky and flavorful. The mac and cheese had bits of smoked salami. During regular service they serve it in a focaccia bowl. The arribiatta was ultra hot! If you like spicy food, this is your dish.

Alfredo and aribiatta

Both risottos were sublime. Cooked the way risotto is supposed to be cooked – creamy but toothsome – I couldn’t tell you which I liked best. Shrimp? Mushroom? Mushroom? Shrimp? Give me more of both!!!!!

I’ll also take a couple more of the pistachio cannoli, please. And the lemon curd was a great way to end the meal.

Cannoli
Lemon curd

Service was great but I’m not surprised by that given the chefs’ years of experience. The vibe and décor are casual and comforting.

I really can’t wait to go back and I suggest you get to Zio Peppe’s as soon as possible.

Just Say ‘No!’

For a large restaurant corporation to open a taco restaurant in Tucson, is a little bit like bringing coals to Newcastle.

Tucson has some of the best tacos in the country and the options are endless.

So, when I heard Phoenix based Barrio Queen was opening a large space in Oro Valley, I was curious.

The Barrio Queen story is interesting, but more about that later. Let’s just say that a lot of their hype needs to be scrutinized for authenticity. And you reads know I seldom use that word.

Even more shocking is that Barrio Queen is not only the soon to be opened, if not already opened, corporate Mexican restaurant in town.

One, El Mesquite is located in the new Doubletree Hotel Downtown, just a stone’s throw away from long-time local favorite, El Minuto and a hop and skip away from El Charro. Their schtick involves bringing a “desire to work these flavors (agave, cactus, pre-Hispanic tomatoes, squash and corn and the smoke of mesquite) into a fresh modern interpretation of desert dining and present Tucson with a new lens to view Mexican cuisine.” Apparently, they haven’t heard about our City of Gastronomy designation.

One has to question our city elders when it comes to their judgement about not insisting on a different kind of restaurant. Rather than promote all the local places within walking distance they condone a ‘modern’ corporate Mexican restaurant.

The other, Ojos Locos, is on the Southside near Irvington and I-19 located among a mass of other chain restaurants. It’s been described as a Mexican Hooters but the website leans a little more redneck than anything Latino (that’s the word they use.) The company is out of Dallas, which explains a lot. The website reads like a gringo trying hard to not sound racist as he talks Spanglish with his Mexican neighbors.

The question is: Do these big shots really think they can serve us anything that comes anywhere close all the wonderful Mexican food we have here?

Simply put, NO!

Tucson Mexican food is some of the best on the planet and these days can be found citywide. From tiny taquerias and food trucks to elegant sit-down dining rooms, Mexican food in Tucson is a treasure.

Casa Molina’s tacos dorado

Our Mexican food comes in many iterations. Too many types of tacos to mention all beautifully presented. Casa Molina’s tacos are almost too pretty to eat- but DO eat them!.

Flat enchiladas at Rollies Mexican Patio
Carne seca heading to the roof at El Charro.
Chimichanga, a Tucson original

Tortillas, both flour and corn, come to the table hot off the grill like at Taqueria Pico de Gallo or the huge flour ones at St. Mary’s. Birria (have you at the birria at Rollies Mexican Patio?) and carne seca (El Charro‘s comes to mind) take beef beyond the limits of flavor.

Making tortillas at St Mary’s

Pollo and mariscos are prepared by with care and skill. El Guero Canelo made the Sonoran hot dog famous. We’re the home of the chimichanga and topopo and almendrado for christ’s sake.

Boca’s tacos with two salsas.

And salsas? Just check out Boca Taco for examples of what’s out there.

The biggest pretender of all is Barrio Queen.

In an article in a Phoenix business magazine, the owners claim they created Barrio Queen to ‘bring to the valley the history and culture of Mexico…using traditional recipes from the barrios of Mexico’.

In reality, Barrio Queen was the brainchild of Silvana Salcido Esparza, a most talented and creative chef in Phoenix. Her Barrio Café has won numerous accolades from food professionals and the national press. She won a James Beard Award. Politicians stop by as part of their campaign tours.

She’s her own woman, no cookie cutter chef is she.

Silvana opened Barrio Queen in 2012 in partnership with Steve Rosenfield and his wife, Linda Nash of Rosenfield Restaurants LLC. They own hundreds of chain fast-food restaurants in a half dozen states.

Before the year was out Silvana was no longer involved. The reason for the change is very murky, but the fact that she is not ‘allowed to comment’ on anything says more than any comment she could ever make.

The landlord of the building where Barrio Queen will be situated was quoted in the Star saying, “We think Barrio Queen will be the perfect addition to Oro Valley.”

Really? Charro Vida is two minutes away. Tucson Tamale and Guadalajara Grill are across the street. Each offers different takes on Mexican food and all are LOCALLY OWNED!

Do you remember in Peter Pan when Peter tells Wendy that every time a child stops believing in fairies, another fairy dies? That’s how I feel when these corporate Mexican restaurants set up shop in town, another bit of Tucson’s soul dies.

I’m not going to tell you what to do…. but if you cherish Tucson flavors, local businesses and the vast talent Tucson restaurants have to offer, you know where to dine.

A word or two to your city councilperson or county administrator probably wouldn’t hurt. In fact, take them to lunch for some real, local Mexican fare. You have plenty of choices.

The Mexican food in Tucson is real food made by real people.

We don’t need out of town pretenders coming in to town thinking they’re going to show us how to do Mexican food right.

We’re Back…..

Last night’s dinner was a long time coming.

After more than a year, my good friends Edie Jarolim, Norma Gentry, Karyn Zoldan and I got together for a celebratory dinner. We celebrated Karyn’s birthday but it was much more than that. We celebrated out friendship which has endured through the pandemic but not face-to-face.

Karyn chose 47 Scott. I was surprised by the choice, I thought she’d pick one of the newer places. But 47 Scott ended up being the perfect place. I’ve always enjoyed the tiny, downtown bistro. The menu is smart and well-balanced. There’s nothing fancy about the food, but it’s always carefully prepared and artfully presented.

Cocktails rule, in part because of Scott & Co, the sister bar next door. I opted for wine, as did Karyn but the drinks Edie and Norma had looked great.

We began with two apps: the salmon carpaccio and the goat cheese croquettes. The carpaccio was a generous portion of brightly colored salmon accompanied by beets, orange segments, capers and a garlicky crème fraiche. Thin toast points made it easy to pile on the fish and a schmear of the crème fraiche. A perfect starter for a Spring evening.

There were only three of the croquettes, but we all managed to have our fair share. Laced with herbs and almonds and a slight crunchy coating all spread nicely on the toast points. We all ignored the sweet and spicy sauce on the side. For me, it was too spicy and unnecessary.

The market fish of the evening was cabrilla and that’s what Karyn ordered. This was a huge portion complete with a head. The fish had been crisped to fork tenderness and topped with a sauce rich with fresh vegetables. I had a bite. This is how fish should be cooked.

I didn’t get to taste Edie’s ahi tuna salad or Norma’s linguini, but they raved about each dish. The salad had a huge amount of lightly seared tuna lain across the top. With the olives, Yukon potatoes, haricot verts, egg and heirloom tomatoes, it was a nice take on a Salade Niçoise.

Norma asked that her linguini and chicken be made without tomatoes and the kitchen was happy to do so. The sauce of pesto cream, parmesan and asparagus didn’t seem to suffer from the omission if her reaction meant anything. There wasn’t a drop left behind.

My grilled scallops and shrimp were just what I wanted. Served on a bed of wild mushroom risotto laced with tomato sauce, pancetta, asparagus and topped with shaved fennel and green apple the dish was a wonderful balance of savory and sweet, creamy and crunchy. I had planned on taking some home, but alas I ate every last bite.

Sadly, I didn’t get a pic of the bread pudding. This was a classic version with hints of apple and cinnamon. The ice cream was icy cold and proved the perfect balance.

We sat on the back patio and they tucked us in the corner away from other tables. This allowed us a feeling of privacy and conversation flowed. But the again, this group of women always has plenty to say. A little culinary gossip, sharing of our last year, lots of laughter…a perfect reunion with some of my most favorite people.

Glad to be back ladies. See you soon.

Welcome, The Webster

This week, finally, The Webster opened in Iowa City, Iowa.

The Webster is the long-delayed restaurant owned and operated by my daughter Riene and her chef, husband Sam Gelman. They named the restaurant after Sam’s paternal grandfather.

The kids moved to Iowa City – Sam’s hometown – after long stints in NYC and in Boston where they met. Sam worked at Momofuku restaurants working his way up to Chief Culinary Officer. He’s a fabulous chef and I can honestly say the meals he’s created for us over the years have been memorable. I still dream about his cassoulet.

Riene started slinging pizzas here in Tucson. Her specialty was the front of the house and by the time she moved to New York she was working as a manager at Tom Colicchio’s Craft. Her knowledge of wine is impressive. She always seems to find exactly what I’m looking for.

Anyway, they moved to Iowa City to open their own place. They had a pretty specific idea of what they wanted: Fresh and local quality ingredients prepared with finesse and passion and a distinctly Midwestern touch.

Things were moving along at a decent pace when covid hit and everything came to a screeching slow down.

Little by little Iowa City reopened and then they were able to put the finishing touches on The Webster.

The first dinner service was  on May 11th. The only thing missing was us.

Iowa is a bountiful place. Green fields spread in every direction growing corn and wheat and other essential crops. Rivers and lakes are filled with all manner of fish. Pork reigns supreme, but quality grown beef is plentiful. In recent years, young artisans have begun growing and producing craft provisions of all kinds.

The menu brings these products to the table all under Sam’s steady hand.

There are handmade breads, cornbread and biscuits, vegetable-focused small plates, seasonally-inspired house made fresh pasta dishes, and larger plates for two to three people. That’s a fun way to eat, adding to a spirited conviviality to the meal.

One of the pasta offerings, duck egg tagliatelle, cultured butter and reserve Midwest cheese, is a take on fettuccini alfredo and the buckwheat chitarra, spring peas, guanciale, egg is Sam’s ode to pasta carbonara.

The shareable large plates include roasted Iowa chicken, crispy leg, miche, jus supreme is available half or whole.

I’m hoping the whole Wisconsin trout with spring pea & radish, buttermilk and smoked roe will still be on the menu when visit later in the year. The fish might be but I’m sure, given the seasonality of the menu, the accompaniments will be different.

Sides have their own section and include warm nugget potato salad, pella bologna, scallion, togarashi (a sweet, spicy condiment that is popping up on modern menus.)

I sure wish we could be there….

Everybody has an Uncle Joe! Now Tucson has Zio Peppe.

Today is the day!

Zio Peppe is open! Granted only for take-out or delivery, but none-the-less we can now enjoy some clever, carefully curated pizzas and pastas from two of Tucson’s best chefs, Devon Sanner and Mat Cable.

Devon worked for years alongside Janos Wilder and Mat owns both Fresco Pizza and First We Eat Catering with a partial ownership in Dante’s Fire, so you’ve probably been enjoying their foods for some time now.

Located at 6502 E Tanque Verde Road, Zio Peppe was inspired by Cable Uncle Joe Sottosante, who brought Sicilian pizza to Tucson at Tesseo’s Pizza almost a half century ago.

Both chefs are Tucson natives and as such kept Tucson flavors in mind when creating their menu.

For example, the pizza dough blends Caputo 00 flour and local mesquite and hard red wheat flour. Ingredients are sourced from a dozen local sources. And they’re all baked in a rotating oven with the flames just inches away.

While you’ll find a fab pizza with mushrooms grown in Marana at BKW Farms and house made sausage, there’s the Prickly Pickle. This flavors-of-Tucson pie has nopales, cholla buds pickled in pepperoncini brine, red onions in escabeche and guajillo and black pepper crema.

The guys call Zio Peppe (it means Uncle Joe because everyone has an uncle Joe) also spin pasta choices with a nod toward Tucson. The lasagna has a kick from chorizo, red chile sauce, chile con queso, ricotta, spinach.

Other choices might not be so fiery, but certainly sound fabulous. Rumor has it the risotto is to die for.

Sanner and Cable call Zio Peppe a ‘love letter to Tucson’ and its designation as UNESCO’s World City of Gastronomy, in fact there is a gorgeous mural on the wall outside.

To view the full menu and to place orders visit https://ziopeppeaz.com/

Phone 520-888-4242 for daily dessert selection.

Knowing the passion that these guys makes me eager to order a pie or two very soon.

Happy Birthday, El Charro

2022 marks a special anniversary in Tucson.

El Charro Café will celebrate 100 years of serving Tucsonans their iconic Mexican food. The restaurant is the oldest Mexican restaurant run by the same family in the country. Tia Monica started the restaurant in 1921. Today A third generation of the Flores family continues to cook up and serve her culinary creations.

The El Charro story is well-known in these parts (creators of both the chimichanga and the toopo are just a part of the legend), but the real story of El Charro is the people who have dined there.

Over the decades, the Flores family has been a part of peoples’ lives. Birthdays, weddings, engagements, anniversaries, births, end of life celebrations. Former employees have gone on to own their own restaurants, become established writers and celebrated educators and contribute to the Tucson community in numerous ways.

Si Charro, the official name of the collection of restaurants they run, has planned a year long celebration with special events, menus and more.

As part of the celebration, Si Charro 100, is calling for  stories of your favorite El Charro memories. Whether it’s a special event, a work-related story or an exceptional meal, El Charro wants to hear them.

Then 100 of the best stories will be featured in publications and media posts. The writers of the chosen stories will receive a $100 gift certificate to be spent at any of the Si Charro locations.

Send your stories to the dedicated webpage www.siCharro100.com

Deadline is December 2021.