Bella North Italia

Last night I dreamt I was on a tour of Italy…..

No wait, that was the night before and the tour really took place at North Italia, the Fox Restaurant Concept that celebrates the food, wine and passion of Italy.

I was with fellow food writers and good foodie friends. Karyn Zoldan (of Circle of Food blog from where these photos are liberally borrowed) and Edie Jarolim, food maven from Tucson Guide. My pics got lost so I also snagged a couple from Yelp!

Our tour guide was VitoPaolo Prencipe, the Assistant GM at the North in La Encantada.

We were guided through the courses with explanations as to the differences in the different regions of Italy. From a groaning chef’s board to a lovely branzino to delish bombolini this hosted diner was fit for royalty. Potent potables were served with each course.

 

We began with the chef’s board and an insalata that was a combination of caprese and panzanella with burrata, basil, cucumber, red onion, herb croutons and a sherry vinaigrette.IMG_1315

 

The board had prosciutto di parma, , roasted pepper, house made mostarda, provolone piccante, a creamy crescenza cheese from Lomabardy, castelvetrano olives from Sicily, marcona almonds and chunks of that great bread North makes. The wine was a crisp, white Orvieti.

 

Three main courses were from mare é terra.

The grilled branzino, which Vito explained was an Italian sea bass, was buttery and tender with lemony touches, a bit of farro, cipollini onions, broccolini and fennel. This I would order again.

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From the land came a fork tender short rib served atop the creamiest polenta imaginable.

And of course, there was pasta: big, fat tortalloni filled with burrata and served in a mild tomato sauce.

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The wine was a deep red chianti classico.

Three desserts were served with amaro, one of my favorite after dinner drinks.

The hazelnut torta was divine as was the tiramisu but my fave was the bombolini. Lightly fried balls of sweet dough with a lemony crema.

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North is admittedly one of my favorite restaurants in Tucson and these new additions only reinforce how much I love dining there.

Brunch and Sisterhood

After the immensely successful and inspiring Women’s March

in Downtown Tucson last Saturday, Karyn Zoldan and I went to Agustin Kitchen.

I hadn’t been there since the new owner, Sally Kane, took over so I was looking forward to checking in out.

Weirdly, we were told we couldn’t be seated right away in spite of empty tables. The explanation was a little odd in that they seat everyone at once every fifteen minutes because that way is easier on the kitchen. That made no sense to us after all; we figured, if we were seated we would most likely order a cocktail or wine or something.

Oh well, we were seated in due time.

We each ordered a mimosa. Karyn had the breakfast salad and I went with the eggs Benedict with ham (there are two other styles).

Apparently we weren’t the only marchers with the same idea. The place began to fill up with people from the march; their pussy hats were hard to miss.

The mimosas were the perfect celebratory drink and our meals were done well and delicious.

I want to return for lunch or dinner soon.

 

 

On the Town

Earlier this week I met friends Karyn Zoldan of Circle of Food blog and Norma Gentry of ProVentures for dinner and drinks at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drinks.

Reilly is located Downtown and is in the site of a former funeral parlor. But there’s nothing spooky about the place. No, indeed.

The space has been beautifully restored highlighting the beauty of its former iteration while adding sleek modern touches. There is a bar area, a main dining room with a lively open kitchen, a beer garden (in actuality, the renovated carriage house where the hearses were parked) and a very cool speakeasy in the basement (which I’ve been told was the former morgue).

The menu is small but filled with plenty of great options and is divided into Smalls, Toast, Salads, Pasta and Pizza categories. We started with an avocado toast with EVOO, lemon, chile flakes and a snowy layer of grana Padano.

Melt in the mouth creamy with a slight crunch from the thick slab of bread, this was a dish I could’ve easily not shared; one, I would order again.

This was followed by the house Brussels sprouts and a roasted Crimini mushroom, mozzarella cheese and truffle cheese pizza.

Both were fantastic, especially the Brussels sprouts which had been fried and then dressed with the house hot sauce, sherry vin and pecan brittle crumble. Brussels sprouts are one of those veggies I wouldn’t ever eat in my youth, but I’ve learned to love them and Reilly’s version is a real knockout.

The pie was delish as well.dscn2570

We then went downstairs to the Tough Luck Club, Reilly’s speakeasy. The bartender kindly built two cocktails and split them. One was hot and dark; the other was lighter and fruitier. I don’t remember the names, but they are typical of the creativity folks can expect from Reilly.dscn2573

We then moved on to Tucson’s newest cocktail lounge, The Owls Club. This too is the site of a former mortuary but like Reilly, they people behind this place have done a great job balancing the old and the new.

Karyn asked for a “coffee” drink and the mixologist obliged with a potent mix of espresso liquor and whiskey (I believe). It was yummy and went down way too easy.

I can’t wait to go back to both places.

P&P Does It Again

Darn you Karyn Zoldan (she of Circle of Food blog). You kept talking about avocado toast, specifically the avocado toast at Prep & Pastry so I had to try ‘The Trend’ as they call this trendy dish there.

And damn if she wasn’t right! This is a great dish that would work for breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner or even a midnight snack if P&P was open for dinner or midnight snacks.

The sunny-side-up eggs were perfectly cooked. The smashed avocado was creamy and rich. The toast was toasty. And the tiny tomatoes that accompanied the dish were almost sweet.

I think I have a new addiction.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kneaders Comes to Town

We had a fun time the other day at Kneaders Bakery & Café. By we, I mean Karyn Zoldan of Circle of Food blog and Edie Jarolim of Tucson Guide and the soon-to-be-published “Getting Naked for Money – A Travel Memoir”. By fun I mean participating in a pastry class, where we learned to make pate a choux and a basic ganache.

We along with a handful of other bloggers watched as DSCN2381 the head pastry chef created that delicate and most versatile pastry dough, pate a choux. The recipe is pretty simple, just water, flour, sugar, salt and eggs, but you have to pay attention and proceed with a fine hand or else you’ll end up with a big gooey mass.

Pate a choux is used in many French pastries – eclairs and the like – but the origins are from Italy.DSCN2373DSCN2376

She showed us how to use a pastry bag to create the various shapes. That was lots fun and I can honestly say, now I feel confident using that magic tool.DSCN2386

Kate also showed us how to make chocolate ganache. Watching the two ingredients (quality Belgian chocolate and heavy cream) come together all silky and shiny.DSCN2390DSCN2391

We filled the previously cooked pastries with vanilla cream and then dipped them in the ganache. And we got to take them home.DSCN2393

Kneaders is relatively new to Tucson. This is their second store here but the company has 50 other stores in six other states. Originally from Utah, Kneaders takes great pride in supporting the local communities where they are located.

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and serves fresh salads, soups and sandwiches along with a full menu of baked goods (the chunky cinnamon bread looks delish).

There’s a third store in the works. I’ll be back.

 

The Weekend Well-Fed Foodie Report

Oh what foodie weekend……

Saturday we hopped on the Modern Streetcar and took it to the end of the line and then back again to Main Gate Square to eat at Red’s Smokehouse and Tap Room’s Summer Barbeque Bash. This was a celebration of all things local – from the food to the beer and beyond. Whiskey del Bac was flowing and the taps were awash with Dragoon and other local brews. REPTUC was selling event related t-shirts and Matt Russell was broadcasting his show, On The Menu …..Live.

The place was packed and with good reason. Red’s had cooked up a whole hog from E&R Pork – over 240 pounds once they infused it with a secret blend of seasonings.reds summer ash

It was like a church picnic with beer!

And while you could get a plate of that wonderful pork for $15, we went with the all the fixings plate, which included four different salads, beans, a mess of grilled veggies and thick slices of white bread. It was $22 and totally worth the extra price.

CJ Hamm was running the front of the house like an ace and Chef/owner Ramiro Scavo was in keeping tabs on the food.

You know you’re doing something right when chefs eat at your restaurant. Ryan Clark of PY Steakhouse was there as Devon Sanner of The Carriage House and Downtown Kitchen& Cocktails. Brandon Dillon of Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink was there, too and Chris Squires of 10 Fifty-Five Brewing.

We filled our plates twice – John grabbed some andouille that was also available… There was chicken but I think that was after we left.

Then on Sunday in celebration of Circle of Food’s Karyn Zoldan’s, birthday we did Dim Sum and Then Some Sunday at The Carriage House. We being: Karyn, Edie Jarolim, Norma Gentry of ProVentures and myself.

The salads, saladgreenpapayajanosthe dumplings,dumplingd&bananfritterscarriagehouse the peachy lychee mimosasmimosacarriagehouse…what a wonderful meal. The choices are and interesting mix of Asian, Latin and American plates. We all really liked the chilaquiles, crispy layers of tortillas and pork in a spicy sauce and topped with a fried egg. And the dumplings are plump and tender….

People kept coming through the door; the crowd was a great mix of families, couples old and young, large groups of friends. The servers kept bringing more food.

Janos stopped by the tables and treated Karyn to banana bread pudding for her birthday….we also had chocolate truffles.

If you haven’t been I highly recommend making reservations soon. Prices are more than reasonable, portions are all big enough to share and who can argue with mimosas?