And All That Jazz

19 Jan

Whenever someone asks me what’s missing downtown (conversations with downtown movers and shakers Steve Gibson and risk-taker Kade Mislinski, for example), I immediately say “We need a live jazz club.” For awhile, talk was going on that one might open.

Perhaps this month will encourage someone to make it happen.

For me, Dianne Reeves kicked off Tucson’s inaugural jazz festival in a splendid way to an enthusiastic sold out crowd at the Fox Theater last night. She never fails to entertain, in a big way. An amazing talent with a gifted band, she still knocks it out of the park at 58.

In celebration fo the legacy of MLK, concerts are free at two venues on Fifth Avenue downtown today. Here’s the schedule:
11 a.m. Southwest Soul Circuit with Kevin and Tanishia Hamilton
12 p.m. George Howard Band
1 p.m. Crystal Stark with the Pete Swan Trio featuring Max Goldschmid
2 p.m. Manteca
3 p.m. Rafael Moreno y Descarga
4 p.m. Under Toad with special guest, Jimmy Cobb

Ticketed concerts continue through the month. Check out the website @ Tucsonjazzfestival.org.

Five Points

7 Jan

IMG_4452While I was house hunting (and dreaming!) with a friend last week, we happened upon Five Points Market & Restaurant. While I was aware of who and where they were, I hadn’t yet found time to stop in. We happened in right around three, and they were closing up the restaurant.

I vowed I would be back real soon. A friend and I had breakfast there on Saturday (did I mention how much I love breakfast?!) amidst the cold dark winter. We opted to sit inside. We quickly ordered a hot beverage – the chai and a cappuccino – to warm our frozen souls. As I surveyed the menu, I realized that I wanted to try everything! I decided on the Bandito Blanco, a mustard potato pancake, with thinly sliced ham, poached eggs, a house mornay sauce, pico de gallo and fresh herbs. Every morsel was a delight. The cilantro tasted like it was just picked this morning. My friend chose the Huevos Rancheros – a gluten free and vegetarian offering – over medium eggs with a house ranchero sauce, pico, pesto and white cheddar, served with pinto beans and fresh corn tortillas.

The restaurant was quite busy, with newbies and regulars alike, and the staff was attentive and friendly.

I’m not gonna lie. This restaurant has shot nearly to the top in my book as far as breakfast is concerned and will give my fave a run for its money!  My mouth is watering as I write!

The chef and owners are committed to good, locally and regionally sourced foods, and its evident in the bold, fresh flavor of every bite.

I’ll be back. Real soon. Check out their story in January’s issue of Zocalo.  See you at the corners of Stone, Sixth and 18th!

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Get Your Sci-Fi Geek On!

31 Dec

IMG_4435For fans of time travel, head to Maker House tonight for their New Year’s Eve celebration, from 10 PM to 2 AM.  Tickets are $20 and now available only at the door.

Three celebrations will take place on the property, and homage paid to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Back to the Future, Blade Runner (the best sci-fi film of all time!) and Dr. Who (my current fave).

Live theater, bands, the Tardis and Delorean will be there!  Check it out at makerhouse.org.  Costumes encouraged!

If that’s not enough for you, head to Hotel Congress for the great Taco Drop at midnight.  The streetcar extends its hours until 2 AM for tonight’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Food in Roots

31 Dec

 

In Michigan, I was introduced to some incredible food experiences as a young adult. Rattlesnake Club, Les Auters, and most especially Pontiac’s Chimayo invoke vivid memories of flavor-filled meals with friends and family. The owner/chef of Chimayo was great at including numerous nuanced flavors in one inviting dish.

In November, those memories flooded back as I sat amongst gleeful guests at the community table surrounding a fire pit at the soft opening of Barrio Bistro downtown. Suddenly, conversation begins and strangers become friends. A genuine sense of community is felt on this night.

Gregarious owner Kelly Gomez had invited me days earlier. Joy filled the air. Guests dressed UP, not casually, for this special event. Brother Joe reminded us that food is what brings us together. The building received a traditional native cleansing and blessing with sage and feathers. Prayer and singing filled the air, including two songs of the mountains – here and in Mexico.

The spacious restaurant includes a bar area, private dining room and lounge seating. Native art graces the walls. The quickest opening I have witnessed – ten weeks – from start to her grand opening!

The restaurant shares “contemporary Native American cuisine grounded in traditional roots.” Chef Eduardo Leon uses foods from our native desert and modernizes recipes of the Yaqui and T’Ohono people.

The excitement of the evening was that you didn’t know what main entree you would receive. Whatever came out of the kitchen next was yours! Diners feasted on a three course meal.

Each of us fed on a salad where nopalitos were front and center. My entree was a tender (off the bone) prickly pear beef spare rib, with calabacitas, tepary beans and pico. At first taste, my memories of Chimayo came back! So many different flavors and textures in one dish. It was divine. Dessert was a roasted corn and poblano creme brulee. Again – absolutely divine – not overly sweet, with just the right bite. It was incredibly delicious. Neighbors on either side of me were equally raving about their dishes.

In the plethora of burgers and pizza, Barrio Bistro is a welcome addition to downtown dining. This is a place the Gomez family, and Tucsonans, can be proud of. Thanks, Kelly, for bringing your dream to life!

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Check them out on Facebook!

 

 

 

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This Just In

29 Oct

For those who cannot await the next downtown opening, Barrio Cuisine, at Broadway and Fifth, plans a soft opening Thursday with a Native Blessing at 6 PM.  They officially open on Friday, Halloween, at 4.

Housed in the Julian Drew Building in former digs of O2 Fitness and non-profit space, they have worked feverishly for the last ten weeks to prep for opening.  Owner Kelly promises contemporary Native American cuisine grounded in the roots of Yaqui and Tohono O’Odham tradition.

She gave me a sneak peek tonight.  Art and craft are evident throughout.  I continue to highly appreciate restauranteurs’ support of local work to add to the aesthetic and specialness of where we are and who we are.  Welders were working on new windows tonight.  Kelly has created lots of places for community gathering for food, drink and conversation.

Check out their Facebook page to see some of head chef Eduardo Leon’s creations.

And It’s Ours

29 Oct

IMG_4299I finally found some time to head down to R Bar.  With my visiting sister in tow, we headed to Herbert Alley to find this uniquely Tucson two-story gem.  If you love the copper penny floor at the Cup or marvel at the thousands of faces that are Tucson (mine included!) at the Fourth Avenue underpass, you will love this place.

The work of local designer Gary Patch and my faves Repp Design is evident in every inch of this space.  From the ultra cool mural to the trippy video wall to the prickly pair cactus lamps – these designers’ hands create a loving homage to this place we call home – Tucson.

We were greeted at the door (opened for us), given a menu and invited into this glowing red room.  We found ourselves a spot and poured over the drink menu.  Rory O’Rear has lovingly created some craft cocktails, and smartly includes a cocktail chart for those less aware (like me).  Moments after we sat, we were warmly greeted by staff and given two ice waters.  Now, that’s service!

My sister ordered the Rhum With a View while I partook of Flamingo Cocktail.  We were both quite pleased, taking in the flavors of the drink and the room.  They serve a nice selection of beer and wine, too.  While several patrons were clearly awaiting their show at The Rialto, it was evident that we were most welcome guests, too.

It is truly special.  You need to check it out.  This will be on the short list of places I must take visitors.  And, I can’t wait to go back myself.

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Taking the Ride

29 Jul

IMG_4104Well, I’ve ridden the streetcar four times now. Twice on Friday, once Sunday, then again yesterday. The weekend rides were packed – like sardines. News reports anywhere from 60-70K riders through Sunday!

On Friday, I parked on Fourth Avenue, where I lunched @ Delectables. Then I boarded the streetcar and rode to Mercado San Agustin, where I stopped by La Estrella Bakery for some cochitos and sugar cookies (using my Connect in the City card for a 10% discount). I can see myself taking the car to get to the Thursday afternoon Farmer’s Markets in the very near future.

On my later trip, I met up with my friend who was volunteering at a stop that evening. This car was so packed, I had to get off! Upon conclusion of her stint, we strolled over to Congress Street. We were both giddy at the sight of hundreds of people walking the streets. Each restaurant and bar filled (including the just opened Bianco) with patrons. We sauntered over to the pop-up beach park on Fifth to find a live band, kids playing volleyball, hula hoops, badminton and making sand castles. Food trucks lined the edge – foods you might find at a beach park – hot dog trucks, sno cones and more.

We decided we wanted to dine outside to watch the hubbub at Hub. While we sat, we met a lovely couple visiting from California. Janet grew up here. She was thrilled with the streets teeming with life and let us know that, as a child, she saw The Wizard of Oz in 1939 @ the Rialto!  Then we caught the Car to the University District, opting for a leisurely drink on the patio at Pasco, where the waitress was very sweet and attentive.

On Sunday, I started the route @ UMC to travel to Maker House for Sacred Space. The ride took about thirty minutes. Then I walked a couple of blocks to the House. I didn’t have to find a place to park, I didn’t have to use gas, I was green.

What I’ve found on these rides is the enthusiasm & friendliness of people – a sense of community that the Car has brought to Tucsonans. Each time, I’ve had opportunity to educate and inform people about the Streetcar, and all things downtown.  There’s already talk of where it might go next.

How would you used the streetcar? Hope to see you on a future ride!

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