Beer and Sausage – A Match Made in Heaven or at least Tucson

Several years back we were considering investing in a local business and one that came to our attention was Ten 55 Brewing.

The team, J.P. Vyborny and Chris Squires were looking to expand and make a move downtown from their original site on the far southside. They were young, articulate and serious about their beer.

Well, things didn’t quite work out on our end but Vyborny and Squires persisted and last week opened Ten 55 Brewing and Sausage House on Congress Street just east of Stone Avenue. The beer includes many Ten 55 brews and a handful of Old World options; the sausage comes from a partnership with Ben Forbes, the go-to guy for meats these days in town. Forbes shop is in Rincon Market and he works with restaurants all over Tucson.

I got invited to the soft opening and went with a few fellow food writers. The place was abuzz with activity. Everyone got to choose either an Italian sausage sandwich with peppers and onions or a brat with kraut. We could have two beers. Little cones of ‘pickled things’ were brought to the table.

The sausages were fat, juicy and fresh. The beer cold. What more could one ask from a place with beer and sausage in its name?IMG_0919

The high ceilings allowed for a loft toward the back of the building just over the kitchen. Walls are exposed brick with simple tables and chairs. It is meant to be fancy; this is beer and brats after all.IMG_0918

The regular menu has a long list of sausages. All the usual suspects are there but then Forbes offers other intriguing items such as chicken parmesan, lamb merguez and duck lemongrass and ginger. They are all made to pair with the beer menu.IMG_0922

Other foods include pimento cheese with bread, chicharrones, Belgian fries (which are rumored to be fantastic), a few salads and a grilled cheese sandwich or two.

There is also brunch on Sundays with a dish called Pig and Chick (fried chicken, sausage gravy and a fried egg over fries) and a Hawaiian breakfast sandwich which features Hawaiian linguiza, fried egg, mayo and tomato.

If the Ten 55 puts in as much energy into this new project that they have with their original brewery than Ten 55 Brewing and Sausage House will be a hit and a great addition to the happenings downtown.

Cherries, Fish and a Wedding

Although I grew up in Wisconsin, surrounded by greenery and water in every direction, whenever I travel back to the Midwest I am amazed at the lushness of it all.

Trees that tower overhead providing shade and cool breezes. Lakes and rivers all sparkly and bright. Truly beautiful in the summer. Totally different come November through April.

I marveled all this at my niece’s wedding a couple of weekends back. The wedding was in Traverse City, which is surrounded by both Lake Michigan and what seems like hundreds of tiny inland bodies of water.

The surrounding farmland is rich with farms that grow vegetables of all sorts and acres and acres of fruit trees, most notably cherries. In fact, Traverse City is the largest producer of tart cherries in the United States. The queen of tart cherries is the United States with the prize cherries being Montmorency cherries that have been grown in the area since the mid-1800’s.

And with all that water, fresh fish, and plenty of it is bountiful. Whitefish was even part of the entrée at the wedding,

The wedding was gorgeous. So many beautiful, young, smart people. Family who I never get to see. Happiness everywhere. And my niece was one of the prettiest brides ever.

Our dining stops were few as the wedding took up a day but we did sneak in a few bites. I didn’t take any pictures because it didn’t seem the thing to do so any photos here from the restaurants web sites.

For the rehearsal dinner we enjoyed BBQ at Blue Tractor BBQ and Brewery in Traverse City. The buffet offered a choice of pulled pork, chicken, brisket and ribs as well as mac and cheese, slaw and fresh fruit. Tasty and satisfying especially with a tumbler of bourbon. 34160921_10155903790633052_6439590933867528192_n

Dinner one night was on the rooftop of a place called The Franklin. With a menu that has the proverbial something for everyone we started with clams & calamari and smoked rainbow trout for apps. There was schnitzel ordered and I believe a prime rib sandwich but I had to have the lake perch dinner.

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We stopped at Milk & Honey, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor that mixed fresh fruit and other flavorings on a marble slab.

If you’ve never had lake perch please before you leave the planet try some. The Franklin’s version was sweet and light and made me wish there was more of it.

Cherry Republic, a company dedicated to all things cherry, was a must visit. The rustic looking shop is in downtown Traverse City, but there are other stores in the area. So many choices – there are samples every which way – but I only brought home a small jar of the cherry preserves.cherry-jam.png

The next day we opted for more fish, specifically walleye, a fish that is truly only appreciated in the Mid-West. Walleye is full of flavor, meaty but still tender and can be made any number of ways. We found a casual spot called Scalawag’s Whitefish & Chips that featured not just walleye but whitefish, perch, cod (not local) and shrimp in baskets or in sandwiches.fish_basket

We all had the same item, a walleye sandwich, that was delish. Again, I wished for more. The fish was crispy and piping hot. There was no need for any seasoning and to put tartar sauce on the sandwich would’ve been criminal.

We took a ride out to a brewery where the kids picked up a couple of bottles to take home and then headed back into town where we ate at Slabtown Burgers.

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The place, a converted house, was packed with a long line out the door. Here burgers reign and my double cheeseburger was a huge stack of savory beef, melty cheese and other toppings. The shakes were almost too thick but they were the perfect ‘Pairing.’

Thank you to my sister Nancy and family, Riene, Sam and Charlie and to brother Stan and clan.

Hope to see you soon.

We only experienced a small portion of what Northern Michigan has to offer (wineries, cideries, breweries, outdoor activities, shopping) but to everybody else out there, if you ever get the chance visit Northern Michigan….GO!

Jonathan Gold and Me

When I first met Jonathan Gold years back I was a fledgling food writer who had been invited to Los Angeles to participate in a very cool event.

Jon Rowley had read one of my early articles in the Weekly about oysters and contacted me to tell me how much he liked it. After several email exchanges he invited me to his annual, Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition. Rowley, a highly respected writer and food expert, created the event to help find the best wines that paired with wines. The oysters were provided by Taylor Shellfish Farms. The wines were mainly whites from wineries along the West Coast.

Without going into much detail, the event involved thirty or so culinary experts, about a dozen wineries and an unbelievable number of oyster slurping in three cities – Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

Rowley flew me into LA. Needless to say I was in deep water but he trusted me so I soon felt comfortable.

Jonathan Gold was one of the other judges as was Russ Parsons and Mary Sue Milliken.

The tasting went well but it wasn’t until afterword that I got to meet Gold (meet is a relative term here, it was more like sitting down with all the judges and listening to Gold and others chat about food and wine.)

Gold stood out, as he always seemed to, with his flowing hair, large frame and rumpled clothes. I can’t remember a word he said but I still see him sitting at the head of the table the center of everyone’s attention.

The lunch didn’t last long and everyone went their separate ways but that day is etched indelibly in my mind as an opportunity to dine with the stars. I had fun and I learned much about my craft.

Years later when I watched the movie, ‘City of Gold’, I thought about that day. I wished I’d been less intimidated, a little chattier. By then I was more firmly established in my career, so I had a greater appreciation for food, food writing and food writers.

The contest is no longer held as Rowley died a couple years back, but I will always treasure that day as one of my ‘Gold’en days of my career.

I raise a glass of wine and a couple of oysters to you, Jonathan Gold, for all you did for food writing. You helped expand the creative process. You taught us that humble foods have great worth. You changed food writing forever.

Hail and farewell Jonathan Gold!

Road Trippin’

As promised last week, I will be writing about fun foodie things to do in Tucson this summer.

This is a little late, since Kingfisher is on the third leg of their annual tour of the United States and will soon take off to other parts of the country both literally and figuratively.

But you still have time to pack your bags and head on over to the Best Seafood Restaurant in Tucson.

Murph, Jeff, Marianne and crew are stirring up the pots, sizzling up griddle and turning out fab food (ad of course, a fun time.)

 June 19 – June 30, California-Hawaii

Summer Break, re-open July 19 @ 5pm

July 19 – August 1, Great Plains – Midwest 

August 2 – August 15, Back East 

August 16 – September 2, Down South

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Another Summer Treat

Summer in Tucson is filled with exciting options for great dining.

This is part one of a very short series of foodie things to do in The Old Pueblo Summer 2018.

Maynard’s Market & Kitchen just rolled out a summer menu with a serious nod to eating local. Many of the ingredients come directly from the garden/grove that sits just off the patio. Others come from nearby farms and ranches. Executive Chef Brian Smith has developed an interesting nu full of flavors, colors and fun. I was fortunate to get a sample of the menu at a media dinner.

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Maynard’s also has a great cocktail program and currently is working with Three Wells Distilling to develop an exclusive gin made from herbs growing in the garden combined with Mt. Lemmon juniper.

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The wines too include the Maynard’s Private Label with both reds and whites.

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Chef Smith and the team at Maynard’s have plans to expand their use of local sources. Currently they figure they are at about 60%; plans aim at 90%.

The new starters include:

Wheat Berry Salad

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Strawberry Beet Salad

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Sweet Corn Bisque

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New entrees are:

Seared Duck

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Hanger Steak

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Sweet Pea Risotto

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Roast chicken

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Plus, Chef Smith is going to compete in the Iron Chef Tucson event at Casino del Sol on June 23rd. He’ll compete against reigning champ, Travis Peters of The Parish.

It’s Summer at Sauce

Summer isn’t quite officially here in spite of the 100 degree temperatures and Sauce Pizza & Wine has a summer deal that will keep us all cool.

Now through the end of August, Sauce’s Summer Sampler offers one 12-inch pizza, one salad and two glasses of wine for a mere $22. At that price you’ve got yourself a nice inexpensive date or a pleasant solo dinner.

Pizza choices are limited to those at $11 or under but that includes the savory Portobello and artichoke pie or the chicken pesto pie. Salads  (under $9) have several tasty options as well; the turkey feta salad is almost a meal in itself.

Pop on on over to your neatest Sauce and enjoy one of the many treats that make summer in Tucson ‘hot!’Sauce Summer Sampler 2018-5-X2

ZinBurger Celebrates America’s Favorite Food

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May is National Hamburger Month so ZinBurger invited me to sample their new updated menu.

I must be honest here, we are semi-regulars at ZinBurger and have long enjoyed the place. The burgers are spot on, the wine list is varied and reasonable and the vibe is upbeat and fun.

When we arrived, the place was packed with families and large groups of people, small groups of people and couples of assorted ages and genders.

Like most regulars at places we tend to order the same items over and over but in the spirit of the new menu our burgers consisted of the Waygu Burger, an enormous patty of juicy beef topped any way you want.

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We also had the Double All-American Diner Cheeseburger, a messy but most tasty version of the classic.

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We also ordered the Double-Truffle Fries and the Onion Rings, both have been on the Zin’s menu from Day One.

Our dessert was the Chocolate Cream Pie. The photo is of after we packed the pie up to take home.

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Other new items on the menu include the Seared Salmon Salad, which is tossed with roasted zucchini, shaved vegetables, avocado, romaine, sunflower seeds, and lemon mustard vinaigrette and the California Burger Bowl, made with avocado, griddled sweet potato, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onion, zucchini and tamari.

We also sipped on one of the new cocktails the Long Tall Lemonade with vodka, lemon, smashed blackberries and elderflower. This could become my drink of the summer. It’s tart and refreshing and went down way too easy.

Another point worth mentioning is Happy Hour at Zinburger. Every day from 3pm-6pm, they serve Ziniburgers for a mere $5.00. Sides are $3. (not all burgers and sides are available, but the choices do include a sloppy joy which is not available on the regular menu.) Add the perk that all wines and draught beers are half-price and well-drinks $4 and a list of $6 cocktails and you can eat, drink and be merry for mere pocket change.

Check the new menu out at your neighborhood ZinBurger.