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Looking for interesting food-related things to do in Tucson

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Benjamin68 Dec 17, 2007 07:47 AM

I live in NYC and will be visiting Tucson for a week shortly and would love to hear about the must-visit food stores and producers, everything from gourmet shops to a visit to an artisanal cheese maker. I've taken down the addresses of the two major greenmarkets in town, and I'd be curious to hear what, if anything, is available this time of year.

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    Claudette RE: Benjamin68 Dec 17, 2007 11:59 AM

    I'm not an expert, since I live in Tucson only 3 wks/year, but I love the produce department at AJ's Fine Foods, and the wine and condiment sections at Feast Tasteful Takeout.

    AJ's
    http://local.yahoo.com/details?fr=dd-...

    Feast
    http://www.tucsonweekly.com/gbase/cho...

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      Alice Letseat RE: Benjamin68 Dec 17, 2007 01:55 PM

      If you get down to Tubac, there's a dandy kitchen/gourmet store...

      1. geg5150 RE: Benjamin68 Dec 17, 2007 04:58 PM

        Hi Benjamin, if you live in NYC you can probably pass on AJ's and Taste, there are much better speciality shops in NYC.

        Not a shop, producer or cheese maker, but do not miss Cafe Poca Cosa for a truly amazing Mexican food experience. Lunch or dinner, you won't go wrong. Get the Poca Cosa Plate (Chef's choice of 4 assorted dishes from the daily chalkboard menu). http://www.cafepocacosainc.com/index....

        1. firecooked RE: Benjamin68 Dec 17, 2007 05:58 PM

          I would highly recommend visiting the Native Seeds/Search store, 526 N. Fourth Avenue, Tucson, Arizona 85705. They have really great chile powder and dried chile, as well as other local foods (honey, mesquite flour, prickly pear juice, etc). For more information: http://www.nativeseeds.org/v2/default... (and they do great mail order if you can't get there).

          1 Reply
          1. re: firecooked
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            Benjamin68 RE: firecooked Dec 18, 2007 06:10 AM

            I am definitely going to Cafe Poca Cosa. A couple of questions: Is it suitable for young children, too? Is lunch a lot less expensive than dinner?

            Excited to visit the Native Seeds/Search store. Keep the ideas coming.

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            bluedevil33 RE: Benjamin68 Dec 18, 2007 08:41 AM

            So I would also say pass on AJ's, it is more of a hoity toity supermarket than the specialty store you have in mind. Rumrunner, a cheese/wine shop has a bunch of really good cheeses and a good wine selection, but all of the cheeses are imported and I am sure that you can find many, if not all, of them in NYC. Although the bistro The Dish which is attached to Rumrunner is very good, not necessarily child friendly.

            Cafe Poca Cosa is a must!!!! You will never experience anything like it. Her menu changes daily, and I recommend to you that you get the Plato Poca Cosa. It is a generous sampling of three of the menu items. So if two of you get the Plato you get to try a good portion of the menu, because usually they make sure not to repeat an item at the same table. If you have never had mole before, hers is spectacular and her tamales are to die for. I have never been for lunch but I would assume lunch time is a better time for bringing children, although I don't see a problem with them going to dinner either. Make sure you make a reservation because they are always busy.

            A great place that nobody has mentioned is St. Mary's Tortilla Factory or the name may have changed to St. Mary's Mexican Food. Best Tortillas in Tucson!!! Here is a link to a fellow chowhounder post: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/93454, their assement pretty much says it all. I think that this place is more in line of what you are looking for.

            As for the markets, I frequent the St. Phillips Plaza market. There is a guy selling goat cheese that is ok, although there is a producer out of the Phoenix area, called Black Mesa Ranch, that I think is much better, unfortunately he only sells to the Tucson CSA program: www.tucsoncsa.org. There is a tortilla/salsa lady at this market but St. Mary's Tortillas are way better. There is one purveyor here that has a very good chipotle salsa, which is not the salsa lady. Also there is a baker that sells some pretty good pastries, and bread. Atlhough I think Beyond Bread, http://www.beyondbread.com/, is the best bread bakery in Tucson, and they have very good lunch items as well, perfect place to take children.

            I hope this helps.

            5 Replies
            1. re: bluedevil33
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              Benjamin68 RE: bluedevil33 Dec 18, 2007 09:35 AM

              Yes, Beyond Bread was also on my list. If my wife and I were to take one must-try meal (while her parents babysit our child) where should we go? J Bar? Feast? The Ventana Room's menu looked fine, but it's something like $100 for four course, which is expensive even by NYC standards. In NYC, many of the top restaurants offer $27-$35 three-course prix fixe lunches, so the idea of dropping $80-something at dinner doesn't sound that appealilng. Are there any high-end places that offer steep discounts at lunch? Also are there enough interesting things on the Ventanta Room's breakfast to justify the $38 price?

              1. re: Benjamin68
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                bluedevil33 RE: Benjamin68 Dec 18, 2007 11:38 AM

                Well unfortunately I think with NYC you have a bunch of competition to keep prices lower. Out here, I wouldn't say you can't find good food for cheap because you can, but the great places for a night away you are going to pay a little more. I would recommend The Grill at Hacienda Del Sol (http://www.haciendadelsol.com/grill/i...) over Janos. I have never been to the Ventana Room so I can't really comment.

                There are a few other places that are going to be a bit cheaper like Vivace (Italian), Tavolino my favorite Italian and can get a decent meal for $12-18 per plate, Wildflower (American w/European and Asian influence), and Acacia which may be on the high side again.

                But for Tucson you really can't beat Hacienda. It is set in this beutiful desert environment. Great views and good food. I recommend the buffalo, if you are into meat. It is just great.

                As for lunch specials I don't know of any off of the top of my head. I know that Hacienda had a Sunday brunch but I am not sure if they are still doing it.

                1. re: bluedevil33
                  1wino RE: bluedevil33 Dec 19, 2007 03:30 PM

                  I haven't been to J-Bar or Janos in a while, but as I recall, they were both terrific and I always recommend them. I liked J-Bar even a little better -- more casual, not as stuffy. Is it going downhill? I hope not!

                  1. re: 1wino
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                    Benjamin68 RE: 1wino Dec 20, 2007 04:07 AM

                    We had a bit of a pizza planning setback shocker when I discovered that Pizzeria Bianco would be closed for the entire period of time I would be in the Tucson/Phoenix area. So I was wondering if there were any other worth-a-trip places in either place. Obviously, we have a lot of great pizza in NYC, but I can't think of any that make their own cheese as Pizzeria Bianco's reportedly owner does. I vaugely recall seeing a write-up in a national food magazine about another great pizza spot in Phoenix, but can't remember the name. Does anything come to mind?

                    1. re: Benjamin68
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                      bluedevil33 RE: Benjamin68 Dec 21, 2007 11:37 AM

                      So I don't know of any pizza places in phoenix that is worth the drive up, this is not to say there aren't any. I do know of one place in Tucson that is worth checking out. It is called Vero Amore. They adhere to the strict guidelines of the Verace Pizza Napoletana, which according to the following article is a very distinct set of guidelines that needs to be followed to be able to officially call your pizza neopolitan: http://www.tucsonweekly.com/gbase/Cho.... I love their caprese salad and the cappriciosa(SP?) pizza. This place has some good stuff. I am not a big fan of chianti but I have a friend who is an distributor of Italian wine in town and he recommended a chianti they carry at Vero called Straccali. For the price, a very, very good wine.

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              italianscallion RE: Benjamin68 Dec 21, 2007 02:11 PM

              Two things to suggest:

              1) I like the Di Luca's Italian Market on Ina and Oracle. It's owned by the owner of Tavolino's next door(pretty good in itself). It the the food that in their display case, both cold and hot, that I like.(like the balsamic mushrooms)

              2) The local Gray Line Tour Co. has a "Best of the Barrio" cuisine tour of the South Tucson area. It's a combo of back of the house tours and lots of food. I took it in August and it was a blast. The La Estrella bakery on the tour was a true highlight of the tour. Check the link,

              http://graylinearizona.com/sightseein...

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                desertsun RE: Benjamin68 Dec 23, 2007 06:49 AM

                I really like the 17th Street Market. Big old warehouse, with a little bit of everything. They have their own line of pickles and preserves and I'm completely addicted to their spicy pineapple bread & butter pickles (sounds weird, I know, but trust me, they're great!). They also have a lot of "Arizona" items like mesquite honey, agave juice, etc. Also, we have a local coffee roaster, Arbuckle's. I know you can pick up at their office, but don't know if they have a regular storefront or offer tours. If they're not open over the holidays, you can get their coffee at Rincon Market.

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