Cheers to Sam Fox

While writing ‘Historic Restaurants of Tucson’ I came across studies that show that 60% of restaurants that open close within one year, 80% shutter after five years, so any restaurant that thrives twenty years is remarkable. To have a stable full of restaurants that remain in business for decades is beyond that and then some.

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Wildflower in Tucson is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.  This charming place was the first in what would become the small empire known as Fox Restaurant Concepts and is owned by Sam Fox, who grew up in Tucson. Today FRC has over 50 restaurants all over the Unit4de States with eleven different concepts that range from craft burgers to Italian to Mexican to All American. Wine is central to any Fox restaurant as is quality service and, of course, good food.cropped-cropped-dscn1299.jpg

FRC is celebrating the BIG 2-0 with special events at all the Tucson restaurants. Tucson Made fun includes weekly promotions at the various Tucson locations.

We missed the Blanco specials but this you can enjoy live music at Culinary Dropout and ½ of all local beer with $7.00 pretzels and fondue.


Starting October 15th through the 20th a three-course dinner can be had at North. Tomato and mozzarella salad, chicken lasagna and Nutella & banana parfait are a mere $20.

From the 22nd through the 28th, Zin Burger has the famous Sam Burger with onion rings and a root beer float for $12.IMG_0422

Things wrap up on October 30th with a 20th Anniversary three-course dinner at Wildflower ($55, $30 wine pairing). Hosted by Regan Jasper, FRC’s wine guru whose been with Sam from early days, the evening should be truly special.

Reservations are needed for the Wildflower Dinner. For all other events just walk in the door.

And while you’re at whatever Fox Restaurant samfox2you choose raise a glass of your favorite beverage the local boy who made it good, Sam Fox.

A Sense of Place / Tucson on a Plate

Autumn is here at last and with along with all the wonders we desert folk love about this time of year, comes the City of Gastronomy “Sense of Place” Fall menu at Downtown Kitchen & Cocktails. This is only the latest in a series of “Sense of Place” events at the restaurant.

These eclectic menus, the creation of the legendary Janos Wilder and his illustrious team, are the bones of what Janos has been doing for decades. From his early days in Tucson, Janos has celebrated and used local ingredients to make some of the best food in the city.

The Fall Menu features food that is of Tucson and our desert with influences from the globe. The press release calls the menu, “playful, delicious and iconic”, much like Janos himself.

Both global and local, modern and traditional the Fall Sense of Place menu truly tells Tucson’s story on a plate.

Take a look at the menu and then make reservations. The menu is available at dinner only, seven days a week.

A Sampling from the fall Menu:



pickled beef tongue (optional), apples, dates, raisins, carrots, broccoli, toasted sunflower seeds, cider vinaigrette, goat cheese



stuffed with caramelized apples, Magdalena Big Cheese squash sauce, pomegranate arils, mild green chile vinaigrette




lightly minted meatballs in rich chicken and tomato broth finished with lime; garnished with radishes, queso fresco + cilantro



spicy peruana beans, radishes, red onion, cilantro, roasted garlic cloves, roasted Anaheim chiles, lemon citronette, corn emulsion




citrus braised duck quarter on chipotle molasses sweet potatoes with Aravaipa Asian pears, Briggs and Eggers apples, roasted grapes, spiced wine reduction,

membrillo vinaigrette with watercress/watermelon radish salad

Call 520 623-7700 for more information and to make reservations.

The Colors are Changing at Sauce


Everyone is thrilled about the cooler temperatures that have rolled in to Arizona in recent days and with them come changes in the menu at Sauce Pizza and Wine.

The choices are many and start with the Roasted Portobello and Artichoke Bruschetta ($6) topped with goat cheese and roasted bell peppers.


Both pizza and pasta have changed their fall colors as well. The Winter Roasted Vegetable pizza ($10.50) starts with a white sauce and then is covered with a plethora of roasted veggies like cauliflower, butternut squash, brussels sprouts, sautéed spinach and dried cranberries.

The Fall pasta is mac n’ cheese turned up a notch with those same savory roasted vegetables found on the pizza.

And not to be outdone, the seasonal cannoli is Pumpkin and Candied Pecan filled with house-made pumpkin ricotta.

All you’ll need is a glass – or even a bottle – of one of the many great wines (red for autumn?) that you’ll find on the Sauce menu.

Plenty of Good Eats

With the exception of the first event there is enough time to get a reservation for any one of these fabulous events.

September 11. 2018

North Italia Community Dinner


Chef Omar Huerta will prepare a four course/wine paired dinner at North Italia in Tucson.



Buffalo mozzarella, ‘nduja, crusty barrio bread, potato fritter, olive oil


Hayden flour mills hand cut pasta, Mediterranean mussels, heirloom cherry tomato, chick pea and pepperncino


Swordfish, tomato, olive, caper, asparagus chicory salad


Chef’s whim

Cost $60 call 299 1600 for rezzies.


Not to be outdone by its fancier sister restaurant, Zin Burger (also part of the Fox Restaurant Concepts) has the final Beer Pairing Dinner at the River Road site.

The beers are all from Sierra Nevada and the three courses start with a salad of heirloom roasted carrots and avocado with feta and toasted pumpkin seeds in a lemon vinaigrette.

Second course us a Brat Burger topped with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and a honey Dijon pickle.

Apple Strudel with cinnamon, crème anglaise and caramel finishes off the dinner.

$35 per person

Call 299 7799 to reserve your spot.


Maynards in the historic rail depot has a great Arizona dinner planned on September 21 at 7:00pm

First Course
AZ beef tartare, jalapeño aioli, pomegranate, cured duck egg, puffed sweet potato
Pairing: Callaghan Buena Suerta 2015

Second Course
Ancho glazed quail, apple-chorizo stuffing, ayocote morado beans, celery root
Pairing: Dos Cabezas Red 2014

Third Course
Desert campfire, Ibarra chocolate, mezcal marshmallow, mesquite crumble, prickly pear, horchata sorbet
Pairing: Sand Reckoner R 2015

Iron Chef 2018 winner Chef Brian Smith and sommelier Will Olendorf are a creative duo and if the dinner I went to a month or so ago is any indication, this should be a grand evening.


Reservations can be made online.


Finally, The Gastronomic Union of Tucson is having their final summer.

While I haven’t found a menu yet, the food at the last dinner was great. This time the focus is on The Future of Tucson Cuisine.

What makes this event memorable is the fact that dinner is prepared (and served) by a list of clever young chefs in town.

$75 for tickets.


Don’t ever say there’s nothing happening in Tucson.

A Night at the Theatre & a Tasty Meal

Just when you think Janos Wilder has done it all, he pulls another trick from his magic bag.

Starting in September with the Arizona Theater Company’s season-opener – Native Gardens – Wilder will create a special menu to be served at the Temple of Music and Art.

For every production, Janos at the Temple will serve a buffet that reflect various aspects of the production. Native Gardens, a comedy that pits the generational differences between two couples, will feature A Garden BBQ with dishes from an English garden contrasting with plates from a border fiesta. For example: An English garden salad vs. a Southwest Caesar or Grilled chicken vs cochinita pibil.

Meals start 90 minutes before the production at both matinees and evening performances. Cost for lunch is $14.50 and dinner $24.50. Quite a bargain considering you’re getting a meal from a James Beard Award winning chef and a local icon.

ATC has a full and varied slate planned for the 2018/2019 season and Janos has plans to create dishes that will reflect his love for Tucson and the creativity of ATC.

Theater tickets are available at and offer a wide range of prices.

Janos at The Temple is certainly going to be a fine way to start an evening at the theater.

PS: Janos continues his Around the Globe Summer Culinary Tour with a special meal featuring food from Jeonju, Korea, a sister UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Korean Fried Chicken (it puts other fried chicken to shame), Bo Saam (a heavenly slow-roasted pork) and Asian Pear an Ginger sorbet are just a few items to choose from in the three course meal served at Downtown Kitchen & Cocktails.

Just a few words and pics from last night’s GUT dinner

Last night’s Gastronomic Union of Tucson‘s dinner was a fab time. Good food, good drinks and good company. What more could one ask out of a night on the town.IMG_0416


I missed some picks of the Passed Hors D’oeuvres but other wise I did by best.

The camaraderie among the chefs was a big part of the evening. I knew quite a few and was able to put faces to names for others.


The Wild West vibe was there from beginning to end, even in the music. The group had done their research.


Here are some pics of two starters: the chicken roulade and the Chinese chorizo steam buns.




IMG_0406These were followed by three entrees:

Trout with hominy and corn consumme and fava beans, cabra (goat three ways) and beef plates with a colorful assortment of colors and flavors. Dessert – see featured photo was a white velvet cake with mesquite bacon.




GUT Does It Again!

Tucson chefs are an unusual bunch. Not because they are offbeat and kooky (okay, some are but that’s why we love them), but because they support one another and love to collaborate as a group. Professional jealousy is not in their make-up.
This quality has resulted in plenty of great cooperative meals but also in the creation of The Gastronomic Union of Tucson, aka GUT.
Since its inception a few years back, GUT has out on numerous food and drink events that attract local foodies all eager to get an opportunity to sample the best from multiple kitchens in one sitting.
This Sunday,August 26th, GUT will be serving up a tribute to Tucson’s past at the GUT Wild West! Dinner. We were invited and are looking forward to dining at Carriage House.
Below is the menu and the roster of chefs who will be there. One of the neat parts takes place behind the kitchen doors when the chefs team up to help prep and serve.
I am so looking forward to the dinner. I love the creativity but I also love the cooperative efforts. Plus, I’ll get to talk to some of my fave chefs.
Tickets are still available for $75.
Kickoff is at 6pm


Corn and Cactus Fruit Gazpacho

Old Pueblo Chicken Roulade

Cowboy Cornbread Chili

Chinese Chorizo Steam Buns


Citrus-brined Apache trout, hominy, corn consommé, fava beans, almond chile foam


Chuck wagon stew: goat 3 preparations, braised turnips, goat fat hoe cake, squash chips, bone broth


Saloon beef & coffee, smoked marrow, chiles, onions, corn, pickles, foie gras


Mesquite bacon velvet cake, pecan dacqouise, barrel cactus fruit jam, goat milk tarragon Bavarian cream and chiltepin tuile


Ken Foy, Dante’s Fire

Gary Hickey, Charro Steak

Obadiah Hindman, Mountain Oyster Club

Izaak Morhaim, Harvest Oro Valley

Bruce Yim, Hacienda Del Sol

Travis Peters, The Parish

Wendy Gauthier, Chef Chic

Daniel Thomas, Bird Bar & Chicken

Roderick Ledesma, Casino Del Sol

Stacy Vernooy, Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails

Mat Cable, Fresco

Devon Sanner, The Carriage House

Rica Rances, The Parish

Juan Jose Almanza, El Taco Rustico

Matt Kraiss, Thunder Canyon Brewstillery

Vanessa Moon, Phoenix Salt and Spice

Jerome Camacho, Charro Steak

Nohemi Montoya, Eurest

Michael Estelle, Mountain Oyster Club

Buddy Hopkins, Thunder Canyon Brewstillery

Janet Jones, Tanque Verde Guest Ranch

Max Provost, Gastronomic Soldier of Fortune

David Hargis, Charro Steak