Gluten Free Living in Tucson

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You may have heard of a Gluten Free diet but never understood what it actually meant. This diet is used to treat Celiac disease and it presents a challenge for those who follow this diet to find foods they can eat. For example anything with wheat such as bread, cupcakes, cakes, and tortillas are all off limits. Buying gluten free products at the grocery store or eating out at restaurants can be a challenge, but there are some companies taking the challenge out of finding gluten free foods to eat. Locally that company is the Gourmet Girls Gluten Free, which is the only Gluten free bakery and bistro in town.

Mary Gibson and Susan Fulton are the founders of The Gourmet Girls Gluten Free. They discovered the need for gluten free products while catering parties and listening to guest’s requests for food due to food allergies. Although neither of them required a gluten free diet they began eating gluten free when they began creating gluten free products of their own. Mary let us know that after only four days of eating gluten free she noticed a difference in her overall health and the way she felt.

In May 2010 they began selling their products (about 10 items at the time) at the Oro Valley farmers market. Farmers market’s allowed them to gain a following and really helped to spread the word about their business. Within 6 months of starting at the farmers markets they started working with a realtor to find the perfect space to open their Bakery & Bistro. They knew from the beginning they wanted to expand to a retail space because their goal was to create a community for gluten free people and have a place for them to go to eat without worrying about what they can and cannot eat. Both Mary and Susan mentioned in our interview how at their Bakery & Bistro it is very common to see strangers pushing tables together to talk about their gluten free challenges and quickly becoming friends.

Gourmet Girls Gluten Free is giving people back the foods they have been missing. Foods such as cupcakes, bread and tortillas are no longer off limits to those living a gluten free life. Mary & Susan make everything from French bread, which is a customer favorite and is some of the best French bread we have ever had, to specialty cakes for weddings or birthdays.  We also found out they are currently trying to get on the Food Network television show, Cupcake Wars, and are experimenting with recipes right now. Some of the favorites have been peanut butter bacon, s’mores and lemon ginger. And if you are looking for a great breakfast or lunch spot look no further. The morning of the interview I personally tried the breakfast quesadilla and breakfast sandwich and both were outstanding.

Future plans for Gourmet Girls Gluten Free include shipping on select products so people across the country can enjoy their products. Also they are working on getting in more restaurants to give people on a gluten free diet more dining out options in Tucson. Currently Anthony’s in the Catalinas and Renee’s Organic Oven are carrying some gluten free girls products, including a selection of their delicious deserts. For more information about the Gourmet Girls Gluten Free visit their Website or Facebook Page.

A BodyZen Boot Camp Experience

It took a few years for the idea of exercise to grow on me, but these days really enjoy working out. I do so on a regular basis, and I do a variety of activities. So, I thought I’d branch out a little more and challenge myself with an unfamiliar class style and unfamiliar trainers. Also, the Groupon deal was a steal—a month of unlimited boot camp classes.

I enjoyed the classes because I learned a new exercise move every day that I went to a BodyZen boot camp class. It brought a new excitement and challenge to my exercise routine, and I enjoyed going home and showing off what I had learned to my roommates or to my boyfriend. Sometimes, I was showing them off because I felt silly doing the move (anyone ever done traveling cross-jacks or star jumps? Silly feeling, right?), but there was no doubt in my mind that it was good to teach my muscles a new way to move. I attended two BodyZen classes a week for four weeks, and now I’m a little bit hooked.

Group classes also work because of the trainer’s encouragement and the other people in the class. If you’re like me, you want to keep up with everyone else. It also helps on days when you try to be lazy and pick the 9 lb. kettlebell, and the trainer looks at it and asked if it was heavy enough. (True story. She had me swap between two 9 lbs. Kettlebells and a 15 lb. kettlebell that day.) Sometimes, you need someone else to look at you and go, “It’s time to pick a heavier weight.”

It was also refreshing to get outside of the gym and work out in the open space of Fort Lowell Park. (Boot camps are also offered at Jesse Owens Park and Purple Heart Park in the Vail area.) The park is beautiful, with lots of big trees, and grassy areas, as well as plenty of other activity spots, including baseball diamonds, children’s playground, and a swimming pool. It was rejuvenating to stretch on the grass at the end of class while the sun was setting.

BodyZen Boot Camps is owned and managed by personal trainer Courtnie Robenolt. She was working as a personal trainer out of her home when she started catching a bit of cabin fever. She purchased a coupon for three months of an outdoor boot camp, and didn’t let them know she was a personal trainer. Eventually, the owner learned about Robenolt’s background, and had her covering classes. When circumstances had the previous BodyZen owner looking at selling his business, he approached Robenolt and asked her to buy him out. She’s been running the show ever since, and expanded BodyZen from one park to three.

I find it really rewarding to see people doing things they thought they couldn’t do. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback—people saying how strong they feel,” says Robenolt.

Robenolt is responsible for designing the day’s workout. She takes a personal training approach to the design of the class, and makes sure that every day of the week emphasizes a different part of the body. This allows members to attend classes more often without straining the same muscles every day, and giving the muscles time to recover. The workouts are posted each day on the BodyZen Facebook Group. The Facebook Group is a closed group for BodyZen members, and it’s an active community of people talking to the trainers, talking about the day’s workout, and encouraging one another. For non-BodyZen members, there’s also a BodyZen Facebook fan page that you can like.

Another great little feature about this boot camp class is the welcome packet that every new member receives. The downloadable PDFs are full of information about exercising, the classes, nutritional recommendations, and the BodyZen meal plan. Robenolt redesigned the welcome packet so that the information inside it is based on her philosophy of training and exercise.

Don’t expect change overnight. Robenolt says women routinely expect pounds to just drop off right after they start working out and dieting, but she says for women, it typically takes at least 90 days. She encourages all members to maintain a cardio routine in addition to boot camp class. She recommends making it something you enjoy, even something as simple as a walk each day.

Classes are available in the mornings and evenings. Classes range in price depending on the location or you can opt for the premium membership, $75 a month for unlimited classes at all locations.

Tea and More Tucson

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Entrance to Tea and More

Tucked away just south of the busy intersection of Ft. Lowell and 1st Avenue is the Many Hands Courtyard, home to various shops and a fantastic art fair. We were fortunate enough to meet with Petra, owner of Tea & More who opened her shop in the courtyard in February. The idea to open a tea shop came from her home in Germany; according to Petra, in every small town in Germany there is a great tea shop. Having lived in Tucson for 10 years and missing all-natural tea options like in Germany, Petra decided to open a shop of her own. All of her tea is imported from Germany and has no artificial flavoring and is made with real fruits. She has teas ranging from a Hawaiian Pineapple to herbals, spices and one of her best sellers, the Sleepy Tea.  If you are unsure which tea is best for you, Petra is happy to answer your questions. .

Tea stored by type

Not only does Petra have a vast selection of teas, but she also has everything you need to steep your newly purchased loose-leaf tea. Her shop is a lovely combination of tea and great items such as candles and tea accessories (she also has great gift arrangements). All of the items you will find in her store are fair trade or recycled, and the candles are 100% soy. The space is also shared with an antique store, so all of the furniture you see are one of a kind antique pieces that are also for sale. Local businesses working together is just one thing that makes the Many Hands courtyard so special, it truly has a community feel to it.

An assortment of accessories available at Tea and More

 Tea & More is located at 3054 N. First Avenue and is open Tuesday – Saturday from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. For more information please visit their website or Facebook page.

Also, don’t miss the Arts Fair every third Saturday of the month at the courtyard. All the shops will be open during this time and it is no charge for local artists to come display their work.

Finding Your Personal Style with the Rockin’ Queen

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Lizette Trujillo’s style statement the day Krissy and I met with her was a black sporty-looking men’s watch. It was a sharp contrast to the long, flowing, bright blue-green skirt she was wearing, paired with a crisp white, button-down (a closet staple, according to Lizette), and a fun locally made necklace.

Some of you might already know who Lizette Trujillo is—the owner of the former Rockin’ Queen boutique on Broadway and 6th. She closed her boutique in February, and now she’s reinventing herself as a personal style consultant. The new title comes naturally to Lizette, who often offered style advice to customers in her store.

Her first personal consultation client happened accidentally, she said, and now it’s become her new post-boutique business venture. “Everyone has their own personal sense of style without realizing it,” she explained. Lizette’s goal as a style consultant is to help people find their style—the one that gives them a positive attitude and makes them feel good.

If you’re going to meet with Lizette for a closet consultation, she prefers to start with an e-mail exchange or a phone conversation to prepare for your meeting. Her first question will be, “What is your goal?” Then, for closet consultations, Lizette will visit the client’s home and walk through their closet with them. She will probably ask you to pull out your “problem” pieces, and will look at what your closet needs and assist you with pairing pieces. “People usually haven’t visually worked it out,” she explained.

Lizette seeks to help women (and men, too!) define their personal style. She also provides advice in regards to fit and encourages clients to reach beyond their comfort zones. “I get really excited when people go out and purchase the things I’ve suggested,” Lizette said. “We all have a look we want to convey to the world.”

For Lizette, helping individuals achieve that look gives her a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. She describes it as “helping them feel good” and believes that your appearance can change your attitude toward your day.

Closet consultations with Lizette are $75 per hour, and the average consultation takes 2-3 hours. You can follow her on Facebook for style tips, updates about her business, and fashion news. To schedule a consultation, you can call her at 520-488-9262 or e-mail her at rockinqueen@gmail.com.

Lizette’s Closet Staples

  1. Denim jacket
  2. Blazer
  3. Go-to cardigan
  4. Pair of funky motorcycle/combat/chunky boots
  5. Nice black pumps
  6. Ballet flats
  7. Crisp, white collared button-down

My Closet Boutique

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Every city is full of hidden gems, whether it is a great restaurant or an amazing salon.  Nestled in the Foothills is a great boutique that is truly one of a kind. My Closet Boutique is located at the southwest corner of Skyline & Campbell, in Plaza Colonial. Here you will find great fashion combined with fantastic jewelry & accessories. The whole store is ultra-feminine, with splashes of pink and glitz; also with dressing rooms that any girl would love to see in their own home.

From the moment you walk in the doors you realize you are about to have a great shopping experience. Here you will not have to deal with the crowds and noise of the mall, while finding outfits that will make your friends jealous.  The friendly staff are happy to help, and are very knowledgeable about everything they carry.  They can inform you about new Nannette Lepore or Tracy Reese that just arrived, or let you know the latest trends for the season.  One thing that really stood out was their dress selection! This is your one stop shop for events, whether it is a wedding, graduation or a cute outfit for a night out.

Owner Liz Morales opened the store after moving here with her family. Upon moving to Tucson she found “Tucson (was) lacking a boutique that had better lines, styles (and) with a focus on a little older demographic.”  The name My Closet came to Liz while chatting with a girlfriend; she wanted the boutique to have the items she would want in her own closet. Liz personally picks out everything you see in the store; it is a mix of designers and lines that she personally has loved for years, while fitting into the lifestyle and needs of Tucson. When we asked Liz what she loves about Tucson her response was “ next to my children and great friends, my favorite thing is seeing the sun all year long. Nothing beats Tucson Winters.”

For more information on My Closet make sure to check out their Facebook page, or stop by and visit them at 2840 E Skyline Drive, Suite 150.

520.299.0547

Talking to a Tucson Restauranteur: Brian Metzger

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Brian Metzger of JaxKitchen and The Abbey is passionate about family. His restaurants are named after his son, Jack and daughter, Abby, and he strives to achieve an intimate, family atmosphere within both restaurants.

His career in food started years ago when he was part of the team that opened Wildflower, a Fox Restaurant Concepts restaurant in Casas Adobes Plaza. He credits Sam Fox as being a mentor to him, and the experience he was able to gain at Fox, assisting in the openings of the now-closed Bistro Zin and Bloom in the Phoenix area. After Fox Restaurant Concepts, Metzger spent time in Chicago and Boston, “building the perfect restaurant in my head,” he describes.

He took those ideas and returned to his native Tucson, where he spent time at North and Tavolino before opening his first restaurant with his now ex-wife, Sandy. “The next step was to take the bull by the horns. Jax became all of the things we loved about restaurants.” JaxKitchen opened in August 2008 on the border of Tucson and Oro Valley, just north of the Oracle and Ina Roads intersection.

And the things they didn’t love about restaurants? They decided to heck with some of the old rules. Jax was built upon dropping rules, like uniforms, describes Metzger. They went with a small and seasonal menu, a move that’s a key element of the JaxKitchen experience. The restaurant strived instead for a family-oriented atmosphere, and continues to meet that goal through a top-notch staff. Guests of JaxKitchen should find knowledgable servers who can “be a tour guide, showing people the true experience of Jax,” Metzger says.

The Snack Slate is an ever changing array of fresh bites.

Training is key for this team, and they keep their service streamlined and focused through a weekly class or meeting at the restaurant. Here, the servers will learn about new products, food sources, discuss any issues, and celebrate achievements. “We strive to be the most knowledgable team in Tucson,” Metzger says. And to that end, he believes that the knowledge they give breeds confidence in the staff.

Then, a little over a year and a half ago, Metzger took the same fundamentals—fresh food, knowledgable service, family atmosphere—and opened his second restaurant, The Abbey, in northeast Tucson at Sunrise and Kolb. The Abbey was designed “to be different yet on the same backbone” as JaxKitchen, explains Metzger.

There were skeptics, Metzger says, people who thought the success of JaxKitchen couldn’t be repeated at The Abbey. That only stoked the fire to build another incredible team of people, to craft a fresh, ever changing menu, to offer Tucson another awesome dining experience.

When it comes to food at both restaurants, the same drive for impeccable service and the refusal to abide by standard rules, makes dining fun and fresh, figuratively and literally. “Why can’t we have breakfast for dinner,” asks Metzger, in reference to The Abbey’s “Breakfast for Dinner” dish. “Many nights, my dad would make French toast. It’s a throw back to childhood.”

And the ingredients for the delicious, sometimes rule-breaking plates come from as close to home as possible, says Metzger, including produce from their garden behind the Tucson Convention Center. They also do as much in-house prep and cooking as possible, from smoking their own salmon to curing their own duck confit.

Today, both restaurants are enjoying success, and Metzger has spent recent months expanding the options at Jax and The Abbey. He introduced lunch and happy hour to Jax a couple months ago, and started serving brunch at The Abbey. And, don’t be surprised if you see more great things from Metzger and his team. “I think five restaurants is a number you can manage as a group. To me, that number makes a lot of sense.”

Oregano’s Preps Second Tucson Location

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*** Oreganos Northwest Tucson Location is now open ***

A few weeks ago we heard whispers that one of our favorite restaurants, Oregano’s Pizza Bistro, would be opening a second location on the northwest side of Tucson.  If you have driven by the old El Charro building at Orange Grove & Oracle Roads you will notice the transformation taking place to make this Tucson’s second Oreganos location! Tucsonans have been asking for another location for years, and with the success of their Speedway location we too wondered, why the wait? Gary Tarr, Oregano’s “advertising guy,” let us in on the answer. The plans for an additional Tucson location have actually been in the works for years.  While that may seem like a long time to open a restaurant, the detail and planning put into each restaurant is worth the wait. Gary explained that Oregano’s does not come in to a location and build a shiny new building, rather they take an older building and refurbish it. Take their Flagstaff location; it is in a 100-year-old building that previously was a German restaurant.  Also, their founder, Mark S. Russell, handpicks all the antiques you see throughout the restaurants from antique stores in his hometown of Chicago (where the family behind Oregano’s is from, you can read more about their family history on the restaurant’s website.)  Mark is passionate about making Oregano’s unique, from the lights made out of tomato cans to the southwest flair you can taste in their dishes. One difference about this new location…plenty of parking!! For those of you who have been to the Oregano’s off Speedway Boulevard, you know what I’m talking about!

While Oregano’s does have locations all throughout Arizona, each location feels like your local neighborhood restaurant from the minute you walk through the doors. Each time I walk into Oregano’s I am greeted with at least three enthusiastic hellos and the familiar smell of garlic. (Gary let me in on a little secret, Oregano’s roasts garlic for their air freshener in all their restaurants).  Something else you may notice when walking in is the witty sayings on the back of the servers’ shirts and around the restaurant. Gary is in charge of coming up with all of these, and he tries to play on current events while brainstorming.  Some of the most recent ads include “Legalize Marinara,” “Second Date Insurance,” and “We’ll Stuff your Stockings.”  You can see more of their infamous ads on their website.

On top of everything else that makes Oregano’s fantastic, the food will keep you coming back for more.  Our advice, check your diet at the door and indulge! When I asked Gary what his favorite menu item was, I wasn’t surprised to hear it is the Big Rig with Chicken (if you remember, this is on my  Tucson Top 10).   He also recommended the Pablo Picasso Mexico Salad, The Big Beefstro Salad & the El Diablo Shrimp Pasta – but keep in mind there is no wrong choice, everything is delicious! No matter what you order, save room for The Original Pizza Cookie at the end.  Other restaurants make pizza cookies, but Oregano’s makes them better (our opinion of course).

I put Gary on the spot and asked him about whether or not Oregano’s had plans for a third location in Tucson in the future.  Oregano’s has received requests from all over Tucson (and Phoenix for that matter) for an Oregano’s in their area, and he assured me they are always thinking ahead to new locations.  For now Oregano’s is focused on making their new location the best it can be, down to every last detail. Look for doors to open by the end of the month; we will keep you updated on an exact opening date as it gets closer!

 


Sir Veza’s Taco Garage Pre-Opening Review

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I was excited to see we received an e-mail inviting us to a pre-opening of the new Sir Veza’s Taco Garage at Tucson Mall. It’s the second location for Sir Veza’s, and comes from the same company that owns and manages El Charro Cafe, a Tucson staple. I took my roommates Scout and Kristina (also my sister) along with me for dinner, and we feasted. Because of the soft opening, the entire menu was half-off for all guests that weekend (drinks were full price) so we went all out with appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

Sir Veza’s is a cars and hot rods themed bar and restaurant. They use rags in place of napkins, plenty of auto-themed décor, and strategically placed televisions. The food is Mexican-inspired, but it’s a very loose and modern take on Mexican food. We started our meal with chicken taquitos, and our server brought us chips and salsa. The salsa was kind of meh for me, but Scout and Kristina liked it. I prefer my salsa a little chunkier and a little less smoky. There’s nothing wrong with the salsa–it just wasn’t for me. The taquitos were crisp and drizzled with an avocado crema, and served with a scoop of pico de gallo and a scoop of sour cream on the side. The pico de gallo was delicious, thanks to the happy addition of green chiles. (Note: Adding green chiles makes most things taste better.)

I also decided to go for a beer, mostly because I was swooning over Sir Veza’s (ahem) cerveza list. I’m not a big beer drinker, but I’ve managed to acquire a few favorites. I washed down the taquitos with a Lost Coast Great White (my favorite beer), and then later I had Nimbus’ Dirty Guera (another favorite).

Sir Veza's tacos

Build Your Own Taco Tour

For our entrees, my sister chose the Sonoran-style hot dog with sweet potato fries, Scout opted for The Old West burger with sweet potato fries, and I decided to do the build your own taco tour. The taco tour includes your choice of three tacos with rice and beans. I chose the vegan taco (Sir Veza’s offers two taco options for non-meat eaters), the pork adovado, and the grilled fish taco. I should note here that my roommate appreciated the variety in the menu since she’s not a big fan of Mexican food (blasphemy, I know).

And, I should also mention that we had some serious food envy moments when we spotted the salads that the table behind us received. The portion size was enormous (as was most everything else, we would soon learn), and the salad was gorgeously arranged on the plate. I think you have to commend a restaurant that can make you wish you ordered a salad for dinner.

Despite a bit of a wait on our food (to be expected during a pre-opening weekend), the dishes arrived hot and fresh. My sister’s Sonoran hot dog was actually two dogs in one big bun and Scout’s burger arrived medium, as requested. Their sweet potato fries were fresh cut and lightly battered and fried. All three of us, being enormous sweet potato fry fans, were pleasantly surprised by the freshness of the sweet potato fries. It was a legitimate sweet potato that someone just cut, not the frozen kind you got from a bag and dumped into a fryer. My taco tour was overwhelmingly generous, with two flour tortillas to hold the filling, and it was still overflowing.

I was, again, happily surprised by the addition of green beans and broccoli to my vegan taco, the fish taco tasted pretty standard to me, and the pork taco was a delight. The pork had been well-marinated and was tender and juicy. While I made a valiant attempt at eating all three of my tacos, by the time I hit the pork taco, I only took a bite with the tortillas before I gave up and just ate the filling. And, I have to admit, I was so stuffed by the tacos that I didn’t even touch the side of black beans and barely ate the side of rice.

Sir Veza's fried ice cream

Fried ice cream dessert

If our appetizer and entrees wasn’t enough, my sister and Scout made sure to save room for desserts. Scout chose the apple pie chimichanga and my sister had the fried ice cream. The chimichanga was enormous, definitely a dessert made for sharing. The crispness of the cinnamon-dusted tortilla was a nice contrast against the sweet apple pie filling. My sister’s fried ice cream arrived in an enormous ball of ice cream coated in chewy corn flakes. It’s also a dessert that’s best for sharing.

Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Sir Veza’s. The prices are reasonable, even when you’re not eating for half-off, and the food is pretty good. And, I’m most excited by the addition of a locally owned restaurant to an area that’s overflowing with chain restaurants.

Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oil & Balsamics

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I’m not a connoisseur of olive oils or balsamic vinegars, but when we received a comment from Tom Alfonso on our blog to visit his store for a tasting tour, we said yes. Of course I cook with olive oil, and I love a good balsamic dressing, but what do I really know? Not much, as it turns out. (Before I continue, let me assure you that we did not receive anything in exchange for this entry, and samples are available to all store visitors.)

Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oils & Balsamics recently opened in St. Philips Plaza, the first of its kind in Tucson. The store, owned by Tom Alfonso and his wife specializes in olive oils and balsamic vinegars. They were inspired by a similar store in Northern Arizona. Alfonso is simply decorated with tones of purple and green on the walls and dark wood shelving as well as a couple wood display tables. Silver tanks of olive oils stretch along the main wall across from the cash register. In a spacious corner are the tanks of balsamic vinegars, both dark balsamic and white balsamic.

Olive oil tanks line one wall of Alfonso in St. Philips Plaza

Tom starts Krissy and me off with three olive oil tastings. If you didn’t already know, olive oils vary in intensity. The intensity level is correlated with the level of polyphenols in the oil, Tom explains to us. He starts us with the store’s lightest extra virgin olive oil, the Hojiblanca with a polyphenol level of 120. Plastic tasting cups are available throughout the store for your convenience, and cubes of bread are available, but Tom has us drink a straight sip of the oil. The oil is indeed light, with a hint of a fruity note. We move on to a more mid-range olive oil, the Manzanillo from Chile, and it’s delicious. It’s obvious that the flavor is a little fuller than the previous one. Finally we try the FS17, the most robust olive oil the store carries. Tom warns us that the oil has a stronger, more peppery note than the previous oils we tried, and I’m amazed to discover that I can actually taste the variances between the oils. At the time of our tasting, Alfonso was carrying oils from the Southern Hemisphere, and was preparing to transition to Northern Hemisphere olive oils. They do this in order to stay with the crush season and maintain freshness.

FS17 extra virgin olive oil

Alfonso also offers a wide array of specialty olive oils and infused oils. Krissy and I try a few of the specialty oils, and are again impressed the scent and flavors of the oils. Here’s just a sampling of the flavored oils available at Alfonso: harissa, blood orange, Persian lime, Tuscan herb, walnut, and truffle. Just a tiny sample of any of these olive oils, and immediately you start trying to imagine the various ways you can use it in your cooking. I started to imagine tossing angelhair pasta in the Tuscan herb olive oil, using the walnut olive oil in a vinaigrette for salad, or tossing a little truffle oil over some fresh popcorn. And, we haven’t even tried the balsamic vinegars yet.

Tom offers us a taste of the traditional aged balsamic vinegar, and the sweetness surprises me. I’m used to balsamic that is more tart than sweet. It’s by far the most delicious balsamic vinegar I’ve ever had. Here again, Alfonso carries a variety of infused vinegars, and Krissy and I each taste a different one. She opts for for the dark chocolate while I choose a light Alfoos mango white balsamic. The difference between a dark and a white balsamic vinegar, Tom explains, is that the grapes are caramelized, creating the dark color. White balsamics are not caramelized. All of the store’s balsamic vinegars are imported from Italy, and the grapes are caramelized using the Solera method. I’m still dreaming about the Alfoos mango, by the way.

Once you’ve selected an oil or vinegar to purchase (and trust me, you will), the store will fill one of the empty bottles lining the walls directly from the tanks. The store carries a variety of sizes, and prices start at $10 and go up depending on size and if it’s a specialty or infused flavor. I would recommend a bottle or a gift set as your next hostess gift or as a surprise for the favorite chef in your life. The store’s hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Empty bottles wait to be filled

 

 

Union Public House

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If you haven’t already heard of Tucson’s newest gastropub, Union Public House is a restaurant not to be missed!  Union is a place where you can come have a beer and watch the game or can come dressed up on a date; their dress code is come as you are. Owner Grant Krueger and General Manager Chris Thompson told us how they wanted to keep Union true to the culture of Tucson. To do this, they’re trying to make Union an everyday restaurant with really good food and a great bar! They have even brought a first to Tucson, wine on tap. Currently Union has 16 wines on tap and beers ranging from a basic Bud Light to Lost Coast. Their circular bar invites you to sit and enjoy a glass, and finds a way to draw in the entire restaurant.  Both Grant and Chris recalled a night when they were busy with a line out the door, and nobody wanted to sit in their private dining room, so as not to miss anything going on in the restaurant and bar area. They truly have created a place unique to Tucson, mixing great food and drinks with an incredible atmosphere that almost feels like you are transported out of Tucson.

Burger at Union

Union is doing more than adding another great restaurant to Tucson; it is also filling the gaps that in our opinion Tucson was lacking. One of these gaps is creating a place for the post-college crowd to go. If you are someone in your mid to late 20s looking for a place to go out, the options were limited. Fourth Avenue, for the most part, is often filled with people looking to get drunk while restaurants that try to be lounges at night usually draw an over 40 crowd. Union brings a fun atmosphere mixed with a combination of yummy drinks and delicious food. It is somewhere you want to go, and where everyone fits in.

Seating area inside Union

Another gap Union is filling is late night dining. After 9 p.m it can be hard to find a good restaurant still serving food.  They are committed to serving their made-from-scratch food all night long, and recently announced their kitchen will be open to 1 a.m. How many times have you been out and after a few beers wanted a bite to eat only to find out the kitchen was closed? If you happen to find yourself having late night hunger cravings after a few drinks at Union, we both recommend the pretzels! And for those with a sweet tooth, Thompson would suggest the brownie.

So what do you need to know about Union? Its located in St. Philips Plaza in Acacia’s former space.  Their “social hour” (happy hour) happens seven days a week and goes until 7 p.m. Another great tip–they are the only restaurant open during the St. Philips Farmers Market, and on Sundays offer a build your own Bloody Mary bar. If you can’t decide what to order, we can personally recommend the pretzels and the burger. Union’s burger is topped with Red Dragon English cheddar, pickled onions, arugula, and bacon jam on a house-made bun. Krueger’s favorite item off the menu is the UPH pork chop, served with a Gouda and Nueske’s bacon hash brown and fried parsnips. For even more information on Union check out their website or their Facebook page.