Old World Awesomeness in Tucson: Frogs Organic Bakery, Frost Gelato, Chef Alisah
Tucsonians be proud, you have some formidable deliciousness hailing from the old world, hiding in plain sight on Oracle Road. Visiting on vacation from NM, as much as we enjoyed our Sonoran hot dogs at El Guero Canelo and upscale slow-cooked meats at Cafe Poca Cosa, this European trio stood out well above the rest:
Frogs Organic Bakery - call it reverse chow snobbery or what have you, I initially assumed that nothing tasty could possibly live in an upscale strip mall at Oracle and Ina (what was it previously, a Paradise Bakery?), but I was clearly (twice!) wrong. Frogs is a KILLER boulangerie. Absolutely excellent croissant dough, sporting a nicely crunchy exterior, a moist and tender interior, and all the butter flavor I could have hoped for. This worked well on its own in a plain croissant, and equally well with the pain au chocolat, surrounding some wonderfully dark, not-too-sweet chocolate filling. Also excellent was the pecan roll, again sporting a great yeasted dough, this time with gooey, buttery caramel and an ample serving of pecans. And all three flavors of macaron (chocolate, raspberry, caramel) were terrific; I'll quibble that with this bakery's deft level of culinary skill, I would have loved some more subtle flavors, maybe pistachio or lavender, but these bolder choices were excellent for what they were. Didn't get to try lunch options, but the sandwiches, quiches, and tartines looked great as well.
Frost Gelato - my wife lived in Bologna for a while, and declared Frost to have the best gelato she's found in the States. Impossibly smooth texture (they must reprocess each night?!), and wonderfully subtle, natural flavors. We tried four flavors: both the chocolate and the baci (chocolate hazelnut) were delicious, but the salted caramel and pistachio were each something extra-special. Only complaint is the gargantuan portions; a small is already a little too big for a single serving, and a medium (required if you want two flavors) is just absurdly huge. Once again, I almost couldn't believe that something this good could be hiding out in an upscale strip mall in the Foothills, but I'm not asking any questions.
Chef Alisah - this place has gotten a little limelight on the SW board of late, and as far as I'm concerned, the attention is entirely well-deserved. Nothing fancy, but tons of love put into every last Bosnian morsel here. This is the kind of authentic, exotic eatery that I wish existed in vastly greater numbers out here in the Southwest. We focused our attention on the mixed grill for two, an absurdly large pile of mixed meats; standouts were the two types of homemade sausages (one cased, one not), and the shaved gyro steak, but everything was damn near perfect. Also a treat was the house-made flatbread, essentially gigantic English muffins, perfect for soaking up the various sauces and balancing all the meat. Can't wait to get back to try the more veggie-centric options. Super-friendly staff top to bottom. Absurdly reasonably priced with disturbingly formidable portions, they really need to reduce their portions, raise their prices, or both, because I don't see how they can turn a profit as things currently are. Pro tip: this place is apparently BYOB.
El Guero Canelo
5201 S 12th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85706
Cafe Poca Cosa
110 E Pennington St, Tucson, AZ 85701
7301 E Tanque Verde Rd Ste 191, Tucson, AZ 85715
5931 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704