Tucson Around the World

One of the highlights of Tucson’s designation as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy is that several local chefs were given the thrill of traveling to other designated cities to prepare dishes that highlight the flavors and local ingredients.

The biggest one was in June, when Janos Wilder and a whole troop of Tucsonans went to Paris and cooked an entire meal for the UNESCO delegation. With the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, Janos and his team created a meal for the dignitaries.DSCN2063

The menu (see below) wowed everyone there. And from what I hear, our reps all had a tres jolie time.

Passed Botanas

  • Chilled Mango Soup –  spicy crab aioli, jalapeño orange vinaigrette
  • Braised Beef Cheek – Anita’s soft tacos, cabbage radish slaw, salsa fresca
  • Mushroom, Queso, & Poblano Flautas – saguaro blossom crema

Made-to-Order Action Stations

  • Shrimp Mojo de Ajo – frijoles maneados, roasted pepper, cabbage slaw, pickled cholla buds, chiltepin salsa
  • Pork Tenderloin Adobado – chipotle black bean sauce, achiote vinaigrette, guacamole
  • Beef Salpicon + Escabeche – green chile sauce, prickly pear crema

Tray Passed Desserts

  • Assorted Mezcal, Bacanora, Tamarindo, & Chile-Scented Chocolate Truffles


  • Ahumado Fresca – Mesquite smoked honey, house made tamarind sauce, Sotol, lime
  • Whiskey Del Bac

About that same time, Chef Brian Smith from Maynards Market was in Parma, Italy for the Gola Gola festival there. His dessert, arroz con leche, was composed of dates grown in Tucson, Sonoran wheat berries and a prickly pear.chef smith

As we speak, Travis Gary Peters, executive chef and owner of The Parish, is in Denia, Spain. I’m not sure what he is preparing, although I did see him making tortillas during a trial run.travis2

Tucsonans should take pride in not just the designation as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy but we should stand up and cheer our many talented chefs and their teams for bringing the flavors of Tucson to the world.


Margarita Time

One of Tucson’s most popular and exciting events is just around the corner.

On Friday, October 6th, The World Margarita Championship will take place at Hilton El Conquistador. Kickoff is a 6pm. Sponsored by Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance, this event is a terrific way to sample some of the most creative cocktails in town. The Tucson Originals will be there and the Town of Oro Valley is also a sponsor.margarita2012 003

Having been a judge for this event in the past, I know how much fun the evening can be. Currently, twenty plus restaurants will be competing and that means plenty of tasty and creative margaritas will be there for the sipping. More are being added as we speak.

Food is a big part of the evening and gives folks the opportunity to taste samples from their favorite restaurants and those they have been meaning to visit.

You can see by the list below that the mix runs the gamut.margarita2012 011.jpg

Abuela’s Cocina Mexicana

Bisbee Breakfast Club

Brother John’s Beer, Bourbon & BBQ


Dante’s Fire

The Dutch Eatery & Refuge

Epazote Kitchen and Cocktails

Fresco Pizzeria & Pastaria

Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery & Bistro

Lotus Garden Restaurant

Mama’s Hawaiian Bar-B-Cue

Monkey Burger

Monsoons Tap & Grill

The Original Mama Louisa’s

Pastiche Modern Eatery

Le Rendez Vous Bistro and Restaurant

Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria

Tequila Factory

Trident Bar and Grill

Twisted Tandoor


Tickets are $55 before the event, $70 the day of the event and available at www.saaca.org/worlfmargarita.html or call 797-3959

There is also a raffle with over $2,000 in prizes.

The resort has special rates should you decide to stay or Lyft is running a special to get everyone home safe and sound.ShoreLeave

Time for a Good New-Fashioned Block Party

The Gastronomic Union of Tucson is at it again.

After a summer filled with outstanding dinners at the Carriage House where various chef members came together to serve up pork in glorious ways, G.U.T. is throwing a block party.

IMG_0500The big event will take place in the Carriage House parking lot on Sunday October 1st from 3pm-6pm.

Four chefs will be preparing four locally grown pigs in four ways; all sound fab.

Michael Elefante of Mama Louisa’s will serve porchetta, elefantebio-768x554Matt Cable of Fresco Pizza will smoke his pig, Chef Obie of Mountain Oyster Club will serve Caja China – box roasted pig– and Gary Hickey of Charro Steak will cook his pig on a spit over a mesquite fire.TF-Charro-Steak-Gary-Hickey-0837-768x512

Four local breweries – Barrio Brewing, Crooked Tooth, Dillinger and Pueblo Vida – will be there pouring their finest brews.

The event is an all you can eat sort of affair with beer samples included.

Live entertainment from DJ Herm and DJ Alias are also planned.

A portion of the monies raised will go to TEDx Tucson.

Tickets are $40 for adults and $12.50 for kids under 15 and are available at:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-block-party-on-broadway-tickets-37369119041?aff=ehomesaved


G.U.T. is union of local chefs dedicated to promoting the flavors and culture of Tucson using local product and responsible agriculture. Inspired by Tucson’s designation as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, the chefs want to educate the public about Tucson’s rich food scene, exceptional restaurants, seed banks, community gardens, farmers’ markets, brewers, distillers, growers, ranchers and even food writers.

This will be a popular event, I suggest you get your tickets today.

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.

The Fox is Back!

Sam Fox hasn’t opened a restaurant in Tucson for a while but starting Wednesday Tucsonans can enjoy one of Fox’s finest concepts, Culinary Dropout.

We attended the soft opening last night (the second of a two-day party) and were astounded by the whole experience.

Located at the site of the old Grant Road Lumber, the building is divided into three huge areas. There is the patio with a roof, so diners get the best of both worlds – you can eat outside but still be inside, a main dining room, a state-of-the-art kitchen. There is also an area with yard games and a stunningly sexy back room for private parties.

A shared bar separates the patio from the main dining room.IMG_0040

We ate indoors in the massive dining room. The ceilings are high and the walls on three sides are all windows, with the one wall giving diners a full view of the sparking new kitchen. The staff never stopped.

Service was top-notch, but it always is at a Fox Restaurant. Meghan, our server, was enthusiastic, friendly and she knew her stuff.

There’s a nice wine list and a full slate of beers for every taste. The cocktail list was well-built.IMG_0559[1]

We began with the antipasto board. We weren’t given choices – the list had so many options, that I must return just to try them – but what we got was tasty: thinly sliced salami, crusty bread, unique olives, asparagus spears, manchego cheese, a sweet pepper, bread sticks, pimento cheese, mostarda…. was there more? I can’t remember but we ate all of it. Sorry no photo.

Entrees were a bit surf and turf. John had the 36-hour BBQ pork ribs and I went with the rainbow trout. It was tough choosing form all the comfort food options.

The ribs were perfectly cooked with just a slightly spicy dry rub and sauce on the side.IMG_0038

The trout was topped with a beurre blanc, crunchy green beans and toasted slivered almonds, a trout almondine for the 21st-century.IMG_0039

Dessert was a take on s’mores. We were lucky to get it because we were told (by good buddy Matt Russell, whose company Russell Communications handled the PR), that they’d run out of it at lunchtime. I saved a little for breakfast.IMG_0561[1]

Anyway, I really can’t wait to go back when things aren’t so hectic (although, for a soft opening everything ran smoothly.) I have no idea how many people were there but the crowd included other restaurant owners, well-dressed couples, families, hipsters and a couple of other food writers – you know who you are.

I highly recommend Culinary Dropout.


Good Eats and Plenty of Them

This was a weekend of firsts and it’s not over yet.

On Friday, we popped into Seis’ Kitchen for lunch. I didn’t take any photos but did enjoy my meal of three carne adobo tacos with a side of calabacitas.

The room has gone a major makeover now that dining is fast casual. The once sushi bar that sits in the middle of the room is still there but now it is used for liquor. Everything else looks new with an unfussy, modern style.

On Saturday, we went to dinner at Dolce Vita. At first, we were the only people in the place – usually a bad sign – but then literally in a matter of ten minutes the place filled up with couples, families and groups of friends. Many seemed to be old time customers of the original Dolce Vita that was open for nearly forty years on Broadway and Pantano. The owner filled in as busser – a good sign. Service was great – another good sign.

There isn’t a website yet, I recommend they get one up and running soon. And please include a menu.

They don’t have their liquor license yet, victims of the stupidity of the various local regulations required to open a business and get all the proper permits. It’s a lament you hear from many small business owners in town. For some unknown reason, the powers that be make it tough for people to open small businesses. One day, I will write a scathing essay on the inane, archaic ways the city, county and state treat small business owners but until then…

Only days ago, we had been talking about how you just don’t see escargot on menus anymore but there they were, served either stand alone or stuffed in mushroom caps and topped with mozzarella. We opted for the second prep. We loved them and wolfed them down in a flash.


Our entrees were linguini with clams, white sauce (another dish I’d been thinking about lately) and baked manicotti with a side of homemade sausage.

Entrees come with soup or salad. We both chose salad which was a goodly portion of mixed greens, red onions, a tomato and a pepperoncini pepper. IMG_0028 We couldn’t finish them but they were good. You also get a pasta salad with the house vinaigrette. It was tasty, but we left most of it for leftovers.

The portions of the entrees were generous. The manicotti was tender and gooey with baked cheese. IMG_0033The sausage was perfect. Topped with a hearty red sauce, the two pieces were slightly spicy with a soft hint of fennel. They tasted truly homemade. Like the sausage I ate growing up.IMG_0032

The linguini had tons of tender clams redolent with garlic. Looking at the photo, you’ll see mussels adorning the plate, but this dish was a fine example of how this dish should be prepared.IMG_0034

We were fully sated and still had food on our plates, but decided to see the dessert menu. In a very old fashioned, but extremely clever idea, the desserts are brought to the table for you to examine. It’s impossible to say no, so we took tiramisu home and ate half within minutes of walking in the door.

We’ll definitely be back.

Tonight another new place – Culinary Dropout, the newest Fox Restaurant Concept in Tucson. Stay tuned.