On the Menu…

Yesterday I had the privilege of appearing on the radio program, On the Menu…. Live hosted by the charming and funny Matt Russell. The show was held at Jonathan’s Cork and co-hosted by  chef Alan Zeman. Both choices were quite appropriate in light of the situation.

This isn’t my first time on the show but sadly it may be my last because the radio station that the show is on was bought out and the format is changing.

Matt is working on finding a new home and I along with the rest of the Tucson culinary community is hoping that happens soon. Not having Matt on the radio leaves a huge gap in Tucson.

For almost a decade, Matt has brought together the chefs, mixologists, food purveyors, food writers and a full menu of people who make a difference in Tucson hospitality.

His passion is clear. He loves food and drink and he loves to talk and write about all the wonders of Tucson’s dining scene. He and the show have promoted the food, restaurants, breweries, wineries, distilleries, events and people in town. He gets excited about a new cocktail. He waxes poetic about a new dish or new restaurant. He’s done wonders for people’s careers, mine included. He’s been the emcee at all sorts of food related events. In a word, he’s a gem.

People love him, not just because he’s so good at promoting Tucson’s dining options, but because he is sincere in his work. Filling an hour on the radio is harder than it looks (believe me I hosted the show once and it was fun but challenging) yet Matt handles each show with ease and enthusiasm.

For my part, he made a difference in people learning about my work. He introduced me to so many great people and we shared so many great meals together on the air and off. I know he’s done the same for others.

Matt will continue his column On the Menu in Inside Tucson Business

and no doubt will be hosting numerous culinary events around the city. He’ll continue his work with his company, Russell Communications.

And if we’re lucky we’ll soon be listening to the charming style of Tucson’s treasure, Mr. Matt Russell.

Proof Proves True

This should have been written last week but somehow things got in the way.

With the kitchen still in a state of chaos we decided to check out Proof Artisanal Pizza and Pasta, the new restaurant from the team at Union Public House/Reforma Modern Mexican. We had high hopes and we were not disappointed.

If you ever ate ate at any one of the other eateries that was in that space you’ll be surprised at the redo. Gone are all the antique white frills. Instead there is a more relaxed look fitting for a casual pizza spot. Off the entryway there is a window where you can see the pizzas being made. The patio was also redone making it more inviting and a great spot to spend an evening.


The wine list is short and smart with wines not found at other places in town.

We started with the polenta fries that came with a pleasant marinara sauce, The thick cut ‘fries’ were light and fluffy with a nice lightly crisp outside. I’d definitely order them again but the other apps look so tempting a reorder will have to wait. Baked ricotta? Yes. Fried asparagus? For sure, Meatballs? Without a doubt.

The artisanal pies looked great but we went with a basic pepperoni. It came to the table hot and bubbly. The crust was impossibly thin and crispy with a slight char, There was the perfect amount of that same tasty marinara on top, The cheese and meat were top-notch, with the spiciness of the  pepperoni balancing out the creamy mozzarella.


We finished our meal with the panna cotta. Cool and light, it was the perfect finish,IMG_0977

We’ll be back. I want to try some of the beautiful looking pastas that walked by that night.



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.


Giftrocker.com 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 arizonatheatre.org 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.