In the ’Hood
I travel all over Baja Arizona. And I eat. But just a few blocks from the Edible Baja Arizona office in Barrio Viejo, Tucson, at the Five Points intersection, a pair of businesses are making a lasting impression on our dining culture.
5 Points Market & Restaurant serves up delicious food and works hard to source from local farms. They also have a handy market for people living in the neighborhood. I’d been wanting to hit up their weekly Taco Tuesday for awhile—I can never get enough tacos. Finally, one sunny Tuesday afternoon, my girlfriend and I found ourselves there: Katy got the calabacitas tacos and I got the blackened bird (chicken) tacos. Served with local greens, beans, rice, and guacamole, this is a perfect lunch. The Taco Tuesday menu changes from week to week, depending on what produce is available. 5 Points is already a staple for those in the area; call it “The Time Market of Barrio Viejo and Armory Park.” 756 S. Stone Ave. 520.623.3888. 5PointsTucson.com.
Next door to 5 Points Market, you might catch wafts of a more exotic sort—the Ethiopian piquancy of Café Desta. Ethiopian cuisine has the alluring, pungent spiciness of Indian food, but is heartier. This is not a meal you eat alone. Food is ordered and consumed communally. Each item ordered is piled onto a communal plate, on top of a sourdough-fermented, spongy flatbread called injera, which is usually about the size of a large pizza. The injera bread is made from a grain called teff, which is an annual lovegrass (Eragrostis tef) native to Ethiopia. Use extra injera to swipe up bites—no utensils are used. This is a great meal for a couple or large group. There are many vegan options available, too. 758 S. Stone Ave. 520.370.7000. CafeDesta.com.
Working with Edible Baja Arizona, I spend a lot of time at farmers’ markets. If you haven’t yet been to the Heirloom Farmers’ Market at Rillito Park on Sunday, you should check out their new pavilion. This market is becoming more than just a place to get groceries—it’s a pleasant way to spend a Sunday. Music, entertainment, food trucks, chef demos, and more totally alter the shopping experience. And all this while supporting local, small businesses and getting quality ingredients made or grown with care. 4502 N. First Ave. HeirloomFM.com.
Recently while at the farmers’ market, I visited one of my favorite food trucks in Baja Arizona. Twisted Tandoor uses incredibly fresh ingredients. The flavor of their dishes, and accompanying chutneys and sauces, brings eating into a higher, more artistic plane. Most of us grew up eating grilled cheese sandwiches. But Twisted Tandoor takes this staple kids’ meal and makes it adult and gourmet. They start with the bread: grilled Texas toast, making sure to scorch the cuts, so every bite has the wonderful tongue feel a grilled cheese should have. Piled inside is cheese, tandoori chicken, cilantro, caramelized onions, tomato, and serrano chili. Finally, they flavor the sandwich with garam masala and chaat masala and serve it up with a house-made chutney (mint, ginger, garlic, and cilantro) and masala ketchup. Absolute heaven. Facebook.com/TheTwistedTandoor
All Things Sacred
I go to Bisbee at least once a month. Two great eateries have reopened, making life more delicious in this old mining town. Poco, which closed back in August of 2013, has reopened and started once again serving their vegetarian/vegan fare. Honestly, as a nonvegetarian and meat-enthusiast, I forgot that I was eating vegetarian recently when I had their blackened Brussels sprouts burrito (chimichanga style). This was after a long bike ride—so I was hungry. And after I finished the burrito, I was sufficiently stuffed. I’m usually skeptical about hybridizing something as sacred as the chimichanga. This chimichanga makes the case for experimentation—the result shows that it can sometimes be worth it to mess with sacred objects. 15 Main St. Facebook.com/PocoBzb.
Speaking of sacred things: chocolate. You might not care about chocolate. But those of you who worship this substance will share the enthusiasm I have for the reopening of Chocoláte. They usually close in summer, but were closed for a bit longer this year, evoking the consternation of those of us who rely on good, local chocolatiers. On the same cold day I stuffed myself at Poco, it started to rain. We pulled up to the tiny storefront, just a bit farther up Tombstone Canyon Road, and scrambled across the street; for a moment, all I could do was let my eyes ramble from one truffle to the next. Chiltepin truffles, pepper truffles, and my favorite, añejo tequila truffles, topped with rock salt and lime. I washed them down with a cup of fresh, rich hot chocolate. A sacrament for any epicurean. 134 Tombstone Canyon. SpiritedChocolate.com.
Of all things sacred, the chimichanga has had much discussion within these pages. It is the honest result of borderland exchange. Some say the chimichanga is just a Mexican egg roll, implying that Chinese immigrants in our region contributed to the invention of this perfect food. In Tubac, Soto’s PK Outpost has a wonderful chimichanga, rolled to a proportion similar to an eggroll. I should mention that it would be a sacrilege to consume this chimi without a margarita, or three. 14 Camino Otero. Facebook.com/SotosPKOutpost
The Most Important Meal of the Day
Because I travel a lot for work, I stay at a lot of hotels, motels, B&Bs, and ranches. The term “continental breakfast,” to any well-travelled person, usually implies something underwhelming and unsavory: breakfast cereal, granola, bread (croissant if you are lucky), yogurt, and fruit washed down with coffee and orange juice.
Triangle T Guest Ranch has forever ruined me for continental breakfast. After a wine-tasting event in the area, I booked an overnight stay. I did not anticipate much when I was made aware that “continental breakfast” would be made available after 9 a.m. Arriving at the communal tables in the dining hall, I poured my coffee, grabbed some watermelon, and took a seat. Next thing I know, a hot dish was set in front of me, full of eggs Benedict on an English muffin and ham with a side of bacon and home fries. Needless to say, this is the perfect way to start a day of horseback riding or exploring—the landscape of the Dragoon Mountains is amazing, and just a short walk away is the Amerind Museum and the Fulton-Hayden Memorial Art Gallery. Only an hour away from Tucson, the Triangle T Guest Ranch is a very easy getaway and comes highly recommended. 4190 Dragoon Road. 520.586.7533. AzRetreatCenter.com.
I spend a lot of time and energy sharing my enthusiasm for the amazing eateries of our region. But I want to emphasize that I do not do this at the cost of making wonderful food at home. Armed with a great array of cookbooks and the Internet, one of my favorite ventures is taking the various ingredients I have gathered from farmers’ markets, CSAs, grocers, and food purveyors and making food in my own kitchen. I also cull ingredients from my own garden. One of my favorite breakfasts is loosely poached eggs (from my chickens), set atop blanched or lightly sautéed greens, seasonable vegetables, goat cheese, and slices of artisanal sourdough bread. This breakfast fuels my days wandering about, hunting for the gastronomical offerings of these wonderful borderlands. Along with a hearty breakfast, my mornings are best spent waking up with loved ones, in the kitchen with the smell of food and brewing coffee. ✜
Jared McKinley is the associate publisher of Edible Baja Arizona.