19 January, 2022, 23:06

Here are the best things the Tucson Foodie team tasted in January 2020

From fresh salads to decadent pastries.

New year, a fresh start, and time to reset.

Whether nibbling on plates at photoshoots or venturing off into the city on our own, we have had some memorable food experiences this month.

Here are the Tucson Foodie staff picks of the best things we tasted in January.

Adam Lehrman, Founder

Molinito Asada Special at El Molinito

Molinito Asada Special at El Molinito (Photo by Adam Lehrman)

Molinito Asada Special at El Molinito (the one on Ina Rd.) – I have to admit that when it comes to this type of classic, regional Mexican food, I’m mostly a creature of habit and order some kind of combo plate with beans and rice. But occasionally, I break from tradition and order the most baller dish on the menu (which, in this case, was just over $15). This dish features bold flavors. The chilaquiles are just right—saucy and cheesy and just crisp enough and there are even little slices of Spanish olives in the sauce which are a nice touch. The steak is cooked through. I assume you could order it rarer, although it might end up tendony, but it wasn’t tough. To top it all off are roasted lemon slices. This is a hearty dish that’s probably best shared unless you have one heck of an appetite and are game for a food coma. (And in case you read my January letter from the editor, remember I said “mostly” eating vegetarian.)

Keto Bonito at Charrovida – This is the kind of food I just love. Mostly healthy, super tasty, no carbs. Just egg scrambled, walnut chorizo, spiced pepitas, Brussels, avocado, vegan queso, and taco cream. For the record, I’m not eating a keto diet, but this dish sounded good and our server recommended it, as well. The charred Brussels are just right—tender but still with enough crunch, charred to perfection, and drizzled in sauce. Overall, the blend of ingredients makes for a great dish both taste-wise and texturally.

Smoked Beet Sandwich at 5 Points Market & Restaurant – Now, this is a damn good sandwich. I can’t imagine someone not liking it, vegetarian, vegan, or meat eater. It’s filling, packed with flavor, features good, organic ingredients—as Five Points is known for—and is just… different. It’s house-smoked organic beets, local pecan ‘cheese,’ and jalapeño cabbage slaw on house-made ciabatta. Every single one of those ingredients has been carefully selected or prepared. The bread is possibly the best ciabatta bun in town. But don’t take my word—head on over and give it a try.

Jenn Teufel, Partner

China Szechwan's Twice Cooked Pork (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

China Szechwan’s Twice Cooked Pork (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

Twice Cooked Pork at China Szechwan – This month, January 25, is Chinese New Year. Welcome to the Year of the Rat (not appetizing, I admit). So we had our huge annual feast at China Szechwan. We had all of our favorites that are specifically prepared for this time of year. We always order off of the Szechwan menu (because it is so YUMS), and our favorite is the Twice Cooked Pork. This flavorful dish is one of my favorites in Tucson; perfectly prepared with crunchy veg and tender, flavorful sliced pork and just the right amount of heat. This dish reminds me why I love the food at this restaurant.

Weekend Specials at Tito & Pep – I know, I know…Tito & Pep keeps popping up on my favorite bites list. Sorry, not sorry. They are doing weekend specials now (both savory and sweet). Also, they have a new dessert chef who is killing it (word to chef Johnny). So, they put out some albondigas in Chile Colorado that slayed and a flan with black sesame, calamansi, and lychee, which I won’t soon forget. Check with the restaurant on Fridays for their specials.

Quince Shrub Syrup from Desert Forager at Rincon Market – I was over at Rincon Market trying to figure out what to do with a bunch of overripe pears I had at home. I bought a bottle of Quince Shrub Syrup (with prickly pear) by Tucson’s very own Desert Forager. I went home and did a quick and easy poach on those pears. Sweet, tangy and citrus. So good and easy.

Melissa Stihl, Content Creator

Piastra Salad at Falora (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Piastra Salad at Falora (Credit: Jackie Tran)

For the month of January, I’ve been doing an eating program called Whole30. For those unfamiliar, it’s 30 days of no grains, no alcohol, no sugar, no dairy, and no legumes. For someone who works at Tucson Foodie, it’s been damn near impossible. I’ve been cooking and eating at home a lot this month, and I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to contribute to this month’s article.

Enter the Piastra Salad from Falora. The delightful salad is a tangle of zucchini noodles and a house-made pesto, tomatoes, and spinach. It’s light, delicious and perfect for anyone who’s trying to hit the reset button on their eating habits in 2020. Thank you, Falora!

Matt Sterner, Events Writer

Ramen Burger (Photo credit: Tucson Fat Noodle)

Ramen Burger (Photo credit: Tucson Fat Noodle)

Green Chile French Toast at Prep & Pastry – I’m a sucker for runny yolks, folks. That held true from atop the Green Chile French Toast at Prep & Pastry. The dish was beautiful, both visually and from a flavor standpoint, and it was only slightly sweet, while stacked on the savory. The tang of the lime crema really tied the layers together and I’d buy a jar of that jalapeño relish on the way out the door if I could.

Ramen Burger at Fat Noodle – I was pumped to stumble across the portable version of Fat Noodle parked outside of Crooked Tooth one weekend. I devoured my burger so fast I couldn’t admire its physical features—the bun is made from ramen noodles. I also had the Seasons Bowl, which was perfectly filling, warming, and packed full of a condensed version of the flavors that usually have me running toward ramen. I also liked the texture added by the bean sprouts and, of course, highly recommend adding an egg to the order.

Kate Severino, Editor

Kouign Amann from 5 Points Market & Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Kouign-Amann from 5 Points Market & Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Saffron Latte at Tumerico – Lover of cozy coffee shops, books, and hot drinks: me. I seek them out and when I clasp a creamy, well-spiced, perfectly balanced cup of golden milk, I’ve arrived. In life, that is. I found it at Tumerico.

Zucchini Noodle Pasta Primavera at Renee’s Organic Oven – Ask anyone at Tucson Foodie and they’ll tell you about my aversion to Alfredo. I just love tomato-based sauces too much to stray. But when presented with a dish of spiralized zucchini, I was willing to take a bite, just to taste. It is their most popular menu item after all. You’re presented with a spray of veg—artichoke, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, and spinach—and sauce of your choice, Alfredo being one of several options. It was light and creamy, each bite a delight, with crisp veg, fragrant basil, and salty olives that I picked out to enjoy as if marshmallow bits in a Lucky Charms cereal bowl.

Kale Salad at Falora – Falora, known for its Neapolitan pizzas with the leopard crust, recently updated its minimalist menu with house-made pasta. Although this was quite a feat, I barely looked up from the curly mound of lightly dressed leaves, embellished with edible Mediterranean jewels, to notice. No need to politely spoon the cashew-dressed kale, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and sundried tomatoes onto your plate, order the dish all to yourself so that you don’t have to share.

The Kale Salad at Falora (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The Kale Salad at Falora (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Walnut Toast with Avocado at Time Market – If you’ve read our team articles before, you’ll know that I’m partial (understatement) to Time Market’s Caprese Sandwich. So much so, that I daren’t adventure beyond this menu favorite. One sunny Sunday, however, I was (heavily) persuaded by a friend to try the simple breakfast staple: avocado toast. I relented, plopped a poached egg on top, and have been planning a return visit ever since. The generous heap of avocado atop their soft and chewy house-baked walnut loaf, scallions cascading, was a sure bet. And that sliver of pickled carrot a tease. Just… go. But not without me, I’m available on Sunday. 🙂

Seasonal Vegetables at Anello – Okay, so I clearly order delightful sides when dining at pizzerias. Without an inkling of what was to come, I ordered the plate of seasonal veg and what arrived at the table seemed quite peculiar. Six thick-cut daikon medallions in sunset purples, pinks, and gold sat tall and glistening. Who knew that roasted daikon could be so expertly prepared and taste like the pizza was an afterthought? Not I.

Short Rib Pappardelle at Alloro D.O.C. – I made reservations at Alloro after reading editing this Tucson Foodie article. Admittedly, I’m unfamiliar with hotel dining and breezed into what seemed a casual spot with a prominent bar at the restaurant entrance. Not what I had expected. Once our party had arrived, we were escorted to the private dining section in the back and I felt my expectations rise with glee. It was intimate with dim lighting and felt like I was partaking in a kept secret. I came for one thing and one thing alone: the Short Rib Pappardelle. I wasn’t disappointed. The house-made pasta ribbons had tooth, the short rib was a tad on the generous side, and I was able to save a few bites—tangled with crimini—for the following day.

Kouign-Amann from 5 Points Market & Restaurant – Buttery, crispy pastry with caramelized edges, a herbed goat cheese custard filling, rosemary lingering on the tongue. Goodbye healthy eating streak, and hello 9 a.m. visits to 5 Points for the ultimate indulgence: freshly baked Kouign-Amann (pronounced ‘queen,’ we decided after many attempts and corrections).

Jackie Tran, Lead Writer & Photographer

Zoodles with alfredo at Renee's Organic Oven (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Zoodles with alfredo at Renee’s Organic Oven (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Zoodles with Alfredo at Renee’s Organic Oven – I’m normally not enthusiastic about zucchini noodles or Alfredo sauce, but I ended up loving Renee’s Zoodles more than any pasta alfredo I’ve had yet. The freshness of the vegetables and slivers of basil ended up brightening the Alfredo sauce to a point where it is no longer too heavy for me, as Americanized Alfredo tends to be. The artichoke hearts and olives were a bonus.

Ceviche Mixto Afrodisiaco at Villa Peru – I’m always a sucker for Peruvian ceviche with its bright lime and aji-infused leche de tigre. At Villa Peru, the Ceviche Mixto Afrodisiaco features a variety of textures and savory flavors with a seasonal fresh fish, octopus, shrimp, calamari, mussels, and clams. Add ají rocoto for heat, red onions for a little bite, and choclo (large starchy Peruvian corn kernels) and tender sweet potato to help soak up whatever leche de tigre is left.

Wild Syrah at Rune Wines – During my visit to Rune, my favorite Arizona wine (their Wild Syrah) was $9 a glass. Lush with notes of blackberry and pomegranate. I brought a selection of curated cheeses from Rincon Market and particularly enjoyed the Wagon Wheel from Cowgirl Creamery. Here is the amusingly sensual description from their website: “Wagon Wheel’s rosy-hued rind surrounds a delightfully supple center. Luxurious in its natural state, the paste becomes irresistible when melted. The flavor has a slight tartness balanced with richer notes of brown butter and cream.” All that with a smidge of membrillo paste made from local quince; lovely day.

Duck Breast at the Coronet (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Duck Breast at the Coronet (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Duck Breast at The Coronet – A simple seared duck breast with a medium-rare interior and crispy skin will always brighten my week. However, complement the richness with nutmeg brown butter and balance it with charred citrus and kiwi, and I’m over the moon. Mint and thin slices of serrano add pop, while crushed almonds, chopped honey-roasted radish, and butternut squash puree add texture and body.

Caputo Raviolo at Falora – As a sucker for cheese ravioli and washed-rind cheeses, I naturally dove right into Falora’s new pasta. The Taleggio-esque creamy, mild Grand Chimay cheese was balanced with aged balsamic vinegar and gained crunch from toasted pine nuts. Simple yet sophisticated and beautiful.

Kouign-Amann from 5 Points Market & Restaurant – Why did it take me this long to try a kouign-amann? Crunchy with custard still warm from the oven with a sophisticated savory-sweet-salty approach, this just might become my new favorite pastry.

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Have a favorite bite this month? Let us know in the comments. 

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