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.

So Many Choices….

Faithful readers may have noticed a pattern to my latest posts, all were about new restaurants (or at least new to me.)

Well, that pattern will continue in the coming weeks. I made a list of the places I want to eat at soon and for the most part they are all new restaurants. There are two that are older: New Delhi Palace and Boca Tacos. I’ve wanted to return to New Delhi Palace ever since I was on Matt Russell’s show (On the Menu….Live) I’ve been dreaming about the lamb chops we sampled. IMG_0234I will get there soon, I hope.

Boca Taco moved to new digs on 4th Avenue and has expanded its menu. Maria Mazon is one of the best chefs in town and the new place will allow her to spread her culinary wings.DSCN1609

I also want to return to Culinary Dropout, the new Fox Concept Restaurant in the old Grant Road Lumber lot. The soft opening was fabulous, but I want to see the place as it really is and the list of menu items I want to try is long, so maybe it will have to be more than one visit.IMG_0038

Then there is the Twisted Tandoor, which was one of the best food trucks in town. Several major setbacks delayed the original opening, but it sounds like the place is up and running.DSCN1783

My buddy C. J. Hamm12993621_1169525489725729_2052699665378504468_nand his team have opened Classic Spaghetti Western Steakhouse, with the intriguing concept of serving Italian and steaks. Prices look great so does the food. I think it would be a fun place to meet friends.

Bird is on the list as is Angry Crab and BBQ. The first serves Southern comfort food; the other features seafood and lots of it.

J’s Chicken and Waffles sounds great, as does Villa Peru.

Finally, there’s Geronimo’s Revenge, which might be a little harder to find as it is a food truck. The owner’s name is Jeronimo, so no need to worry about co-opting a name.

Looking forward to lots of good food.

And Now for Something Completely Different

El Berraco has been open for about a year and a half but I must confess I’ve never been there.

So. when my foodie/writer friend, Edie Jarolim, asked me and our third partner in crime, Karyn Zoldan to accompany her to do some research for an upcoming article, I jumped at the chance.

El Berraco is owned and operated by Benjamin L. Galaz, of BK Tacos and Sonoran Tacos, which is located up the street and on South 12th Avenue.

The exterior is a replica of a submarine with portholes for windows. The interior is also nautical, but in a funky, hip way. Galaz did most of the work himself. On two large screens, you can check out rotating pictures of various dishes. There’s a reason for these displays but that will be our secret.

The menu is packed with seafood dishes from the Pacific Coast with Latin influences or maybe its Latin with Pacific influences. The website calls it a “new authentic and innovative concept” and that it is. Either way the dishes are clever and tasty.

There are familiar dishes and then there are unique dishes and that begins with the chips. IMG_0041Instead of the normal salsa of tomatoes and such, El Berraco pulverizes chiles adds spices and other secret ingredients resulting in a thick, creamy dip.

These were accompanied by huge michaladas, trimmed out with a spicy sprinkle of tajine.IMG_0042

Benjamin suggested the trio of ceviche. The Peruvian had a mix of fish, the spicy consisted of scallops and shrimp and the tropical shrimp bas mango and other fruit and is both hot and sweet.IMG_0047

We also ordered the El Octopus, a gorgeous and perfectly seasoned whole octopus that had been grilled to perfection. Tender and spicy it came with cilantro rice, all fluffy and green.IMG_0049

Benjamin also served us a dish call Shish! a kabob of grilled shrimp, tuna, pineapple and red and green peppers. which came with cilantro rice.IMG_0051

We had to have tacos but there are so many to choose from we let Benjamin decide. He served us the El Pastor shrimp. He explained the shrimp was marinated then grilled and served with pina salsa, a guacamole cream and pickled onions.IMG_0052

Somehow, we found room for desserts, two desserts. A coconut flan and churros with ice cream chocolate sauce and pecans.IMG_0054IMG_0053

Thank you, Edie for invite. Thank you, Benjamin for all the wonderful food.

I’m going back to El Berraco soon and I bringing friends.

Happy Anniversary

Things to do today:

Go to any one of the El Charro1008411_10151518850727599_2123068391_o restaurants and get 95 cent specials in celebration of El Charro’s 95th Anniversary.

El Charro is the oldest family run Mexican restaurant in America.

Chimichangas were first served there.

It used to be located on 4th Avenue where Caruso’s is.

Carlottta and family carry on the tradition of their Tia Monica with love and good food.

 

Tucson’s 23 – Miles and Miles of the Best Mexican Fare on the Planet

Those of us in Tucson know that we are blessed with the best Mexican restaurants north of the border. Tex-Mex can’t hold a candle to what we have and So-Cal offerings are just so So-Cal.

In celebration of the many restaurants that can be found in Tucson, the second annual Tucson 23 Mexican Food Festival will be held on Saturday 17th at JW Marriott Star Pass Resort. The event is sponsored by VisitTucson, SAACA (Southern Arizona Arts and Culture Alliance) and the resort. Cost is $49 and there are stay and play packages available at the resort.chile-en-nogada

The Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food was officially proclaimed by the city to celebrate all the wonderful Mexican food options found in the 23-mile area that “is Tucson.” From South Tucson through Downtown to Mid-Town, you can find a full assortment of Mexican fare. Many of those restaurants will have food and drink at the event. Music is a part of the mix.DSCN1025

I went last year and had a truly great time. There was so much food to choose from that I doubt I got it all.

Other events that weekend include a Celebrity Chef Dinner on Friday night and an Authentic Father’s Day Mexican Buffet on Father’s Day (Sunday the 18th).

Welcome to the Neighborhood

For weeks we watched the former home of Yoshimatsu restaurant on Campbell Avenue undergo a massive transformation. The tiled roof disappeared. The outer walls were converted into sleek block. Even the plants in front were pulled up and replaced.

And then somewhere in all the construction a sign went up – “Casa Valencia – Coming in September”. A little research resulted in discovering that this would be a second site for Casa Valencia which seemed to be a very popular Mexican seafood restaurant on the far Southside.casavalencia

 

I’m not sure when the doors actually opened but all of a sudden there were blue umbrellas out front and cars in the parking lot.

Time to check it out.

The inside changes were as startling as the outside ones were. All the tired old wood had been replaced with sleek grey walls. The creaky wooden tables and booths were gone as was the funky little shop that sold little Asian oddities. Cleaner, newer, sleeker, the space borders on sophistication.

Service was pleasant although a little unpolished but the food arrived in a timely manner.

Shrimp can be found in numerous iterations. We ordered the shrimp tacos and shrimp culichi.

The first time I had shrimp culichi was when I moderated a session at the Tucson Festival of Books where Janos Wilder presented the dish. One taste and I was hooked. Culichi is a creamy, green chile sauce. Shrimp is baked in the sauce. The result is heaven. Janos let me take the remainders home. It was gone in no time.

Casa Valencia’s shrimp culichi wasn’t as intense as Janos’ version, but nonetheless it was tasty. I used the three flour tortillas to sop up as much of the sauce as I could.  I most certainly would order this again.

Please note this photo was

The shrimp tacos were also very good. Packed with plump, tender, tempura-battered shrimp, three tacos were more than enough to satisfy.

The menu is large at Casa Valencia so there is much to explore on future visits.

PS – Yoshimatsu is in the process of moving up the street next to Brushfire BBQ and should be open soon.

Get Thee to Poco & Mom’s

My notes say that it has been 11 days since my last post. No apologies, I’ve just been very busy with an assignment. And since I have another upcoming assignment with a looming deadline, I thought I’d best post today.

I finally ate at Poco & Mom’s. People rave about this New Mexican style Mexican restaurant and after a lunch there with Circle of Food‘s Karyn Zoldan, I can see why.

While Sonoran Mexican (the food found in restaurants in Tucson) is still the best Mexican food in the US, the food of our neighboring state comes a close second. The dishes are basically the same, but the flavors are more subtle. Green chiles play a predominant role due to the deliciously famous Hatch chiles. They are pretty spectacular; deep and dark in flavor with heat taking a backseat.

I ordered my go-to dish, chile rellenos that came with a choice of red, green or sour cream green chile sauce on top and rice, refried beans and a flour tortilla. Karyn had her standby, the green chile pork stew.

We waited awhile but the place was packed. There are two Poco & Mom’s locations: the one we ate at on Tanque Verde Road, which is almost fancy in decor and the ‘original’ on Kolb which from what I hear is down home and funky. We caught up on gossip, um I mean news, and munched on chips and salsa. If you judge a Mexican restaurant by its salsa, P&M’s is a winner. Fresh and smoky with just the right amount of heat, the salsa was practically perfect.

Our entree portions were huge. Karyn’s stew sloshed over the lip of the large bowl. DSCN2408Fiery red from roasted tomatoes and filled with chunks of tender pork, green chiles, potatoes, onions all that was needed was the a dip of the flour tortilla.

My rellenos were superb with just enough cheese. DSCN2407The chiles themselves were tender and smoky and  the batter was actually crispy and  still light. But what made this dish was the sour cream – green chile sauce that covered the chiles. I wanted to lick the plate. Green chile was the forward flavor; the texture rich and smooth. I could become addicted to the sauce. The plate came with rice (so-s0) and beans that could hole their own against any in town.

I only wish  there was a Poco & Mom’s location closer to home. so I could eat there more often.