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Have Dinner and Celebrate World Cultures with Chef Ghini

November 6, 2010

Now you can join Chef Ghini of Ghini’s French Caffe at her new World Cultures Table for dinner, drinks & great conversation.

The Premier of this event is next Tuesday, Nov 9th from 5pm-7pm. It’s going to be every 2nd Tuesday during their Tapas night, and will feature an additional $5 discount on bottles of wine for this special table.

The goal is to gather people of all nations, enjoy one anothers’ company and experience the vast cultural diversity that Tucson has to offer.

I tried Chef Ghini’s offerings at the Tucson Culinary Festival last week, and was impressed.  Very fresh, with really nicely balanced flavors.  I’ll be trying to get to one of these events very soon!

Sound like fun to you? Please R.S.V.P with to Chef Ghini at

Ghini’s French Caffe is located at 1803 E Prince Rd, on the northwest corner of Prince & Campbell. They’re reporting that the construction is clear, and their patio is back up and running for the lovely Tucson fall weather!

Dry River Company

October 28, 2010
A slice of Dry River Company pesto pizza

One of the slices that made it home. It's hard to take covert pictures.

Every so often, I hear that I don’t give enough love to the east side of town.  And there’s truth to that – my stomping grounds are really central up to the northwest.  But here I was with the day off (from the job that actually pays the bills) wondering what the heck I was going to do with myself.  “Head east, young man”, said the slightly deluded voice in my head.

I’ve been told a lot of eastside places to try out, but I settled on Dry River Company.  I’ve heard good things, their menu looked enticing, and they’ve got an active Twitter presence.  With those things pulling me, I set out on my long crosstown journey.

Dry River Company shares a parking lot with the new Kolb Guadalajara Grill location and an oh-so-creepy abandoned movie theater.  Their part of the lot didn’t have a lot of cars, but it was only 11:20am.  Too early for pizza, you say? Never!

And now, a caveat: this starts off a little rough but it gets better.

My first impression on walking in was, well, disarray.  It looked like they were doing some minor tweaks on the interior of the dining room, some of the fixtures looked sort of out-of-place, their outdoor seating wasn’t set up, and there were a lot of cords coming down from the ceiling.  I was a little concerned.

I was also a little concerned about the concept.  Their building and windows proclaim “Pizza and Coffee” – two things that just don’t go together.  But, it looks like they’re focusing on coffee in the morning and pizza/pasta/beer in the afternoon and evening.  I totally understand wanting to make the most of the space for as many hours of the day as possible, but it’s a little jarring to have those very different things going on at the same time.  And to add to my confusion, they’re selling small flask-sized bottles of Jim Beam at the counter.  I’m now more concerned, but it’ll take more than clashing concepts to scare me off!

Brie and roasted garlic appetizer at Dry River Company

Brie and roasted garlic appetizer at Dry River Company

I head up to the counter and order the roasted garlic appetizer, pesto pizza, and an iced tea.  Their lunch menu online shows the appetizer to be a whole roasted garlic bulb, brie, roasted peppers, and ciabatta.  It was a little different in the restaurant in that it also came with a cranberry-apple relish and Parmesan crostini instead of ciabatta.  I was not unhappy with those changes.  The presentation was great – and it was a super deal for $5.  Everything tasted good, but a couple of minor changes would have made a big difference.  The garlic could have roasted a few more minutes to develop better carmelization – the cloves were still a little hard.  And the relish could have been cooked down to more of a chutney-like consistency so that it would stay on the bread or cheese instead of rolling off.  It was really tasty, but hard to eat that way.

The pesto pizza was the lunch special for $7.50 – normally $10 on the menu (though the online version shows $9 for lunch).  It’s described as having sliced peppadews, pecorino, mozzarella, and basil pesto.  Their pizzas are Neapolitan-style and cooked in a wood-fired oven (which you can watch from the dining room).

This pizza was spot on.  The crust was light and crispy on the bottom but slightly soft around the edges.  The toppings were light and nicely balanced, with the mild heat and tang of the peppadews being countered by the cheeses.  This was a pizza that I had to fight myself to only eat half of.  What I really wanted to do was polish it off in one sitting.  I refrained – what a good boy am I.

So here’s the nutshell version: I felt like Dry River Company is still trying to figure out what it wants to be, and right now it’s trying to be a lot of things.  I can’t tell you if they’re a great coffee house, or a great bar, or even a great package liquor store (I’m still confused by the Jim Beam), but I can tell you they make a fabulous pizza.  Go try a pie and let me know if you agree.

Dry River Company on Urbanspoon

Halloween Happy Hour at The Abbey

October 28, 2010

Hi All!

Are you looking for some Halloween fun that doesn’t (necessarily) involve costumes, candy, or doorbells?  Do you prefer your treats a little more upscale?  Do you like to do good things for the Community Food Bank?  If so, then you might want to find yourself at The Abbey Eat + Drink on Sunday, 10/31.

Abbey Owners Brian & Sandy Metzger (who are also the talented team behind Jax Kitchen on North Oracle) are throwing a little happy hour party to  introduce their new house brew – New Belgium Brewing company’s Abbey Belgian Style Ale.  Guests can enjoy complimentary Abbey snacks and fun giveaways from the friendly folks at New Belgium during happy hour from 4:00pm – 7:00pm, or stay for dinner and sample The Abbey’s pre-opening limited menu.

If that’s not enough for you, guests who bring two cans of food for the Community Food bank will be entered to win one of these fun and exciting prizes:

  • Dinner for two at The Abbey Eat + Drink
  • One night stay at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort (good until 10/31/2011)
  • A Gadabout gift certificate for the Kolb/Sunrise location

The Abbey Eat + Drink will open with a full menu on November 2, 2010, offering distinctive American comfort food in a warm, neighborhood setting.  Jax was named for the Metzgers’ youngest child, Jackson, whose older sister, Abbey, has been waiting patiently (most of the time) for a namesake of her own.  The Abbey is located at 6960 E. Sunrise Drive, on the southeast corner of Sunrise & Kolb.  For more information, visit

Guilty Pleasures

October 13, 2010

We all have them.  The things that we love to eat that we probably shouldn’t.  Things maybe we don’t even want people to know about.  I know I have mine, and now that we’re friends I think I can come clean about some of them.  I’m being vulnerable here, so try not to judge me!

1) Movie-theater buttered popcorn


Popcorn in bowl

Mmmmm, popcorn.

I love popcorn.  I have a special pan (the green monster) that I pop popcorn in a few times a week.  Popcorn popped on the stove in a small amount of oil really isn’t that bad for you – it’s low in calories and high in fiber.  But, when you get it in a giant sack at the movies and it’s drenched in ‘butter-flavored oil’ (whatever that is – and no, I’m not asking) it goes to a whole new level.   Kristine doesn’t like the faux-buttery goodness on her movie-theater popcorn, so this is one that I don’t get to have very often.  Probably a good thing.


White cheddar popcorn topping and popcorn salt

The best popcorn seasonings

Bonus!  You know what I’m really loving as a popcorn topping right now?  White Cheddar Popcorn Seasoning from Kernel Season’s.  Blockbuster carries has it in a display as you go through the checkout line.  It’s $.99 for a little shaker that seems to last for a very long time.

Extra Bonus!  Popcorn salt makes a huge, huge difference in the enjoyment level of stove popped popcorn.

2) Frozen pizza.


Frozen Hawaiian Pizza

An example of a frozen pizza. Photo credit: israelavila

There.  I said it.  I like a frozen pizza.  I mean, I cook it and everything, but there’s just something about hot, greasy, salty, preservative-filled, ‘fresh’-out-of-the-oven pizza that I sometimes cannot resist the siren song of.  Please don’t take my foodie card.

3) Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger from Carl’s Jr.

Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger & Fries

Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger

I’m not a big fan of traditional hamburger condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, or mustard, so when my mom told me there was a fast food hamburger without any of those things I was sold.  That was probably 25 years ago.  To this day, that’s my go-to quick burger.  The barbecue sauce, bacon, and onion rings together are a beautiful thing.  Now there are many imitators, but that’s the one that’s near and dear to my (clogged) heart.

4)  Carrot sticks

Not!  But it sure seems like I eat a lot of them.

5)  Fresh bread – right out of the oven.

Plate of pirozhki

Warm bready pirozhki

It’s a carbohydrate explosion of love.  This wouldn’t necessarily constitute a guilty pleasure if I didn’t eat half a loaf as soon as it cooled down enough.

So those are some of my fat- and carb-heavy faves.  They’re not things that I eat all the time – in fact most of them are very special treats for myself (especially now that my metabolism has taken a nose dive).

Now that I’ve bared my soul to you, what are your guilty pleasures and why?  I’ve shown you mine, now you show me yours!


Wilhelm Family Vineyards – Oct Wine & Cheese Socials

October 12, 2010
Wilhelm Family Vineyard Rendezvous

Wilhelm Family Vineyard Rendezvous

I got an email today from Wilhelm Family Vineyards about two events that they have coming up on Saturday, October 23rd and 30th from 6-8pm.

They’re going to be doing pre-release tastings of three wines: Kristian’s Kianti II, Unwind, and Karyl’s Kreation II.  Yes, they do indeed have a penchant for the letter K!

There was also the mention of the possibility of Glühwein around a campfire…

They’ll also have a variety of fresh goat cheeses, a harvest-to-barrel tour of the winery, and maybe some barrel tastings.

Reservations are limited, and run $20 per person.  Sounds like a pretty good deal to me, considering that they’re one of my fave Sonoita/Elgin producers.  To register and get direction/more info, go here.


Fox Concept Restaurants Donates $30,000 in Food to Support Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson

October 12, 2010

Fox Restaurant Concepts has stepped up big-time in support of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson by donating over $30,000 worth of food for ‘The Party’ fundraiser.  This represents all of the food for the 3000+ attendees of the event.

Tickets for The Party are $100, with proceeds going to the Club activities and programs.  You can see the whole press release here, and you can find out more about The Party by visiting


Ok, that was my first attempt at a teaser with a link to the full press release.  What do you think?

Also, I feel obliged to tell you that The Party has a major-name musical act for the headline entertainment.  Want a hint?  Do the letters BNL mean anything to you?  If so, then you’re probably excited.  If not, then I’ll just come out and tell you that it’s the Barenaked Ladies!  Woo!

What should I do with press releases?

October 11, 2010

Hi friends!

I occasionally get press releases that I think you might be interested in.  Right now, they’re snug in their own “Press Releases” section in that tab up at the top.  Once they’re up there I tweet about them and include a link.

What I want to know, though, is if that’s the best way to get the word out about those kinds of things.  The other alternative is for me to post them like I would a regular blog post, and clearly identify them as press releases.  That’s something that I’ve kept away from that because they’re not things that I’ve written myself.  Looking at my traffic stats, though, it doesn’t look like the press release section gets a lot of traffic beyond clicks on those tweets.

So if you would be so kind, I’d appreciate your input.  Let me know what you think using the poll below and I’ll post the results in a week or so.  Thanks for your help!


St. Mary’s Mexican Food

October 7, 2010
Outside St. Mary's Mexican Food

The eye-catching exterior.

It took an article in the LA Times to get me into St. Mary’s Mexican Food.   I live less that two miles from them.  I drive directly past them at least twice per week.  I drive within 1/2 mile of them twice a day.   I’ve lived in Tucson for nearly 19 years – why’d it take so long?  I’ve eaten at many small Mexican restaurants down that stretch of St. Mary’s, but never there.  Whatever the reason, I’ve been missing out.  The good news is that I don’t have to any more.

I stopped there almost on a whim.  It was a long day at work and I’d been running around some after work, too.  I was tired.  I was driving past.  I remembered that article…

I almost missed the turn into the parking lot, then almost hit the motorcycle parked in a place that wasn’t really a parking spot.  I began to wonder if those were signs that I shouldn’t go in.  After deciding it had more to do with my less-than-cat-like reflexes, I went in.

The menu board

The menu board. Click the pic and you can kind of read it...

The setup is simple.  There’s a menu hanging above the counter.  Read it, step to the counter, say what you want, and you’re done.  I went with the combination #1 – I mean, it’s #1 for a reason, right?  That combo came with your choice of red chile, green chile, or birria, beans, a taco, and a tortilla.  I’m wild about birria, but was feeling more like red chile tonight.  My sytrofoam box came out within a couple of minutes and I was out the door.  Oh, and had I ordered my dinner to eat there, it still would have come in the styrofoam box.

I got to the car, dropped the box on the seat next to me and started to back out.  Then I stopped.  I was overtaken by the smell of the red chile.  I popped open the box and dipped my finger into the sauce.  It was thick and smoky, with a light back-of-the-throat heat.  I knew right then that I’d be writing about this dinner.

I raced home and went straight to the table.  I pulled out the tortilla and it was utterly amazing – so huge, so thin, so delicate.  I was afraid that it wouldn’t be able to stand up to the food

The food - red chile, refried beans, taco, & tortilla.

The food - red chile, refried beans, taco, & tortilla. The taco is hiding under the cheese and lettuce.

and just fall apart, but it was firm and slightly elastic.  Those things are hand-stretched, and there’s not anything to compare them to.

The refried beans were great: thick and dense, with – again – sort of a smoky flavor to them.  The beef in the chile was lean but meltingly tender.  A little scoop of beans with a little scoop of the red chile in a little piece of tortilla was incredible.  Go get some.  Get some now.

But wait, there was still a taco in that box!  I’d almost forgotten about it in my rapt attention to the other parts of my dinner.  It had a hard corn shell, but not the kind that would either a) disintegrate with the slightest amount of liquid or b) shatter into 1000 pieces at the first bite.  The texture was a perfect compliment to the moist shredded beef inside.

Holy cow.  This was a good meal.  Strike that – a great meal.

So, my friends, don’t make my mistake.  Don’t wait 19 years to visit St. Mary’s Mexican Food.  Go soon and go often.  I may just see you there.

And did I mention that my total for dinner – including tax – was $5?  Yeah, $5.00.

St. Mary’s Mexican Food is located at 1030 W. St. Mary’s Road, just a couple of blocks west of I-10.

St Mary's Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

What are your favorite places to eat in Tucson?

September 20, 2010

This isn’t as much a post as reconnaissance.  I want to know your secrets – what do you, dear readers, think are some of Tucson’s hidden culinary gems?  They don’t even have to be all that hidden – I’m just looking for new places to scope out, and I don’t want to just start working my way through the phonebook.  What is the first restaurant listed in my actual paper phone book, you ask?  A Great Location at 20 N. Sarnoff.

So what do you think?  Where should I go?  What should I try?  Tucson is a really spread out place, so I’m sure my horizons are ripe for expansion!

Just leave me a comment down below and let me know.

Thanks, Tucson!  You’re the collective bomb.

Added about 1 hour after original post: Wow!  Thanks to everyone for the great response!  I totally stand by my collective bomb comment above.  If you don’t see the comments, click the post title up there.  That’ll take you to the page with the good stuff.


It’s the Most Wonderful Time… of the Year!

September 16, 2010

Has he really mistaken the still-blazing hot September for Christmas?  Will he next break out into a rousing chorus of ‘Joy to the World’?  What’s wrong with this guy?

Well this guy is a big freakin’ fan of food festivals, and this is the most magic month.  Additionally, alliteration is always awesome.

What do we have on tap?  Check it:

I know – it’s more than a magic month, but ‘magic month and a half’ or ‘magic coupla months’ don’t have the same ring.  So before I digress any more, let’s take a little look at each of these…

Arizona Restaurant Week:

Yummy looking offering from NoRTH

Yummy looking offering from NoRTH (Photo: Fox Restaurant Concepts)

Are there restaurants in Tucson that you’ve been thinking about trying but haven’t for whatever reason?  Maybe something a little pricier than you might normally do?  Well this is your chance to spread your wings and try something new!

How does it work?  Some of Tucson’s top restaurants offer a multi-course menu for $19, $29, or $39 per person.  Some of them even include a beverage.  Some of the ones I think are particularly smokin’ include:

$19: Harvest, Zona 78, Mama Louisa’s (Includes a glass of house wine!)

$29: Acacia, Azul (includes a glass of selected wines), Fleming’s, Gold (may include a glass of wine?), Jonathan’s Cork, Kingfisher, Sullivan’s, Tavolino (includes a glass of selected wines)

$39: Well, Bob’s Steak and Chop House at the Omni Tucson National is the only restaurant currently showing a $39 deal, so I guess they get the honor for this price point!

There are a few (quite a few, actually) that don’t have details posted and things are subject to change so check back here for the latest info on the 45 or so participating restaurants.  Many of the restaurants are members of the Tucson Originals, so they’re locally owned and operated.

St. Demetrios Greek Festival:

There’s more to this festival than just food, but oh, the food.  If you like your cheese on fire (and who doesn’t?), you’d best find yourself here at least one 0f the four days of the festival.  The choices are great, the food freshly-prepared, and the aromas alone are enough to get you to shout ‘Opa!’.

In addition to the food, you get Greek cooking demos, art, dancing, community, games, lectures, and movies.  The schedule varies by day, but make some time and go.  If you don’t, Cat Cora is going to hunt you down and hurt you.

Tucson Meet Yourself:

Yeah, I know it’s not strictly a food festival, but most people I know refer to this venerable event as Tucson Eat Yourself – so deal.  The stated mission of the three day event is “To research, document, interpret and present the living traditional arts and expressions of everyday life of the folk and ethnic communities of the multi-national Arizona-Sonora region.”  So think, music, dancing, art…. and food.

Food from Ghana, Russia, Denmark (mmm….aebelskivers), Thailand, Poland…. the list goes on and on.  Bring your appetite and bring a lot of small bills – change is sometimes in short supply!

New this year: an Iron Chef competition for high school and college culinary students featuring healthy ethnic ingredients.  Sounds like my kind of good time!

I’m hoping to hear back from the TMY folks before too long about some of the other food vendors for this year, so I’ll update things when I do!

The Great Tucson Beer Festival:

Great Tucson Beer Fest Birds-eye view

Great Tucson Beer Fest Birds-eye view

Beer + Festival.  I don’t think I need to say anything else, but I probably will.  You’ve only got one night to get to this one, so hop to it and put it on your calendar now.  Get it?  Hop?  Like as in hops?  Ok, moving on…

Things kick off at Hi Corbett Field at 5:00pm for VIP ticket holders and 6:00pm for general admission.  You get to sample a whole lot of beers and snack on tasty treats from a variety of food purveyors for your ticket price of $40 general or $75 VIP.  In addition to the extra hour of admission, the VIP tix also include a souvenir mug, catered dinner from Agave Restaurant, and – just in case there’s not enough for you to drink – a wine garden.

There’s also live music, games of skill (which probably get a lot harder as the evening wears on), and giveaways. So far, the list of breweries includes some great ones from Arizona (Grand Canyon Brewing Company, Mogollon Brewing Company, and Arizona High Spirits), and around the world.  You can check out this page for the up-to-date list.

All proceeds from this event benefit Sun Sounds of Arizona, a  great organization that provides audio-format information to people with visual impairment.  How cool is that?

Tucson Culinary Festival

Feast's Chef Doug Levy's Flying Food

Feast's Chef Doug Levy's Flying Food (Photo by Alex Landeen)

There’s a lot going on for the Tucson Culinary Festival.

It’s four days of separate events at two different locations – each one with a different feel and flavor (although the feel & flav revolve around fine food & beverages, so it all sounds good to me!).

Day 1: The World Margarita Championship on the patio at Maynard’s.  Will Brian Metzger of Jax Kitchen (and the soon-to-be-open The Abbey) be able to repeat his winning margarita performance from last year?  I don’t know, but I’d be happy to try one and see!  Attendees get to vote right along with the celebrity judges, so if you’re a fan of distilled agave products head on over to Maynards to try some of the best margaritas in town!  Tickets are $35 p/p

Day 2: Reserve Tasting at Canyon Cafe at Loews Ventana Canyon.  Love wine?  Then this event is made for you.  Here you get to taste boutique wines from small vineyards, paired with small dishes prepared by chefs from the Tucson Originals specifically to compliment the wines.  Tickets for this one are $100 p/p

Day 3: Grand Tasting in the Grand Ballroom (fitting enough) of Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.  Over 100 wines and spirits – tastings of signature dishes of Tucson Originals chefs – cookbook signings – Master Mixologist Tony Abou Ganim sharing his vast expertise about cocktails – silent auction.  That’s a lot of foodie fun for one night, so get there early!  Tix are $65 p/p

Want to know what wine will be at the Reserve and Grand tastings?  You’ll find all of them right here, and it’s a heck of a list…

Day 4: Copper Chef Challenge and Barbeque on the patio of the Kiva Ballroom at Loews Ventana Canyon.  It’s barbecue, it’s a competition, and it’s gonna be tasty.  Last year’s champions Jim Murphy and Jeff Aretzsky will defend their titles against yet-to-be-named competitors, so it’s bound to be a fun and casual good time.  Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for the kiddos.

Tucson Jewish Food Festival and Family Fun Fest

Tucson Jewish Food Festival Food

Tasty-looking food at the TJFFFFF

Have you ever seen a 500 lb matzoh ball?  The answer to that question should be a resounding ‘no’, because there’s never been one made before!  But this year’s Jewish Food Festival and Family Fun Fest is going for broke and going for the Guinness Book World Record by doing just that.

In addition, there are going to be 15 Tucson restaurants represented, each dishing up dishes with a Jewish twist to them, children’s activities, music, dance, arts & crafts, and a silent auction.

Also very exciting is the Ethnic Israeli Womens’ Cooking Group coming all the way from Israel!  I’m not entirely sure what they’re going to be doing, but I’m excited to find out!

Proceeds from the Jewish Food Festival and Family Fun Fest will benefit the Community Food Bank, the Primavera Foundation, and Congregation Or Chadash, so it’s all for good causes.  And it’s thrifty fun: admission is only $4 and food tickets run $1 – $5 depending on the serving.

The Wrap:

No, it’s not a new food festival involving tortillas.  It’s just me concluding my long-winded preview of all the yum.  What I’m really looking forward to, though, is writing about all of these after I’ve grazed my way through them!

But to get serious for a moment, PLEASE do not drive to ANY event where alcohol plays a central role and expect to drive home.  You won’t be able to.  Bring a DD, have a friend on-call to pick you up, have cab numbers in your pocket – whatever it takes, be responsible.

Tucson has amazing chefs, amazing restaurants, an amazing culinary heritage, and an amazing culinary scene.  With that in mind, I encourage you to get out and support these local businesses and festivals.  You’re bound to find something new and exciting!  It may not be Christmas, but it’s a super savory season nonetheless.  Season’s Eatings!


PS: Oh, and if I left out a festival that you’re in the know about, shoot me an email at tucsonfooddude (at) gmail (dot) com.  I’ll update this post to include new stuff as I hear about it.

Speaking of which – I left out the many Oktoberfest celebrations in the area.  That may be another post entirely, but in the meantime the Arizona Daily Star did a nifty roundup of options that you can find right here.