Monday, November 30, 2009

Mini-Review: Monkey Burger

Readers of this blog may remember my mini-review of Burger City a few months back. Today, Burger City remains closed for renovations, and its future seems uncertain. But the executive chef and co-founder of Burger City has moved on to Monkey Burger, over at Broadway and Craycroft right next to the Cactus Moon. At one time, Monkey Burger was slated to open as Burger City II, but the two restaurants have decided to part company for undisclosed reasons. The complimentary pickle bar may be gone, but Monkey Burger brings back the delicious gourmet burgers with a righteous vengeance.

The walls of Monkey Burger are lined with monkey murals. The interior has a sparse, industrial look. The menu recalls Burger City's early selection, before its selections became progressively more uninteresting. I chose the Madness burger, with jalapeno slices, shredded lettuce, fajita peppers, pepper jack cheese, and a Tabasco scallion aioli, and opted for Monkey Burger's signature side dish: the fried pickle slices. The burger was spicy, yet not overpoweringly so, and maintained a light and tangy sweetness. The bun was large and moist, yet not so large as to make it impossible to eat by hand. The fried pickles were...interesting. I love pickles, and I love fried foods, but I'm not a fan of carnival-style novelty fried dishes, so I approached this dish with skepticism. At first blush the slices struck me as soggy. But I gradually acquired a taste for them as I made my way through the basket. I liked the interplay of saltiness and fried crispiness, but I'm not sure I'll eschew the traditional comfort of fries on my next visit.

I hope Burger City returns. But if if doesn't, or if it never returns to its former glory, I'm glad that Monkey Burger has arrived to fill the burger void.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Great Moments in Sandwiches vol. IV

Bacon spam on rustic sourdough with mustard greens, sea salt, cracked pepper, egg over easy, onions, and jalapenos.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bacon-wrapped Matzoh Balls

A friend tipped me off to this sacril-icious culinary fad. Former Top Chef Ilan Hall is an advocate:

“The bacon-wrapped matzah ball thing was a little bit of a joke — a tongue-in-cheek thing I did for a friend’s birthday party in New York,” said the loquacious chef, sporting his signature dark-rimmed glasses as he sat at the restaurant’s wooden communal table, his design. “He was a fellow Jew and not kosher at all, and I thought it would be kind of funny to do. I tried it and loved it. It came out really nice. Pork fat does something magical to matzah meal.”

I am no stranger to mixing the sacred and the profane. At this year's seder, an intrepid guest proposed the open-faced bacon matzoh sandwich which turned out quite well:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Winter Green Season Is Fast Approaching!

...and the best thing I can say about it is that many delicious sandwiches shall be made.

Pictures of said sandwiches shall follow.

But otherwise, I will struggle once again with the difficult task of preparing the bushels of greens I will receive from my CSA share. Ideas, tips, throw 'em my way.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mini-Review Daily Double: Bisbee Breakfast Club and Savory Spot

This is the Chorizos Rancheros plate at the Bisbee Breakfast Club, and it is the most beautiful scramble plate I've ever seen. Look at the collections of scrambled egg and salsa that grow forth through the mass of cheese like moss on some heavenly terrain where breakfast foods grow from the ground. (Don't laugh, I have dreamed of such a place.) Gasp at the island of chopped avocado perched lovingly at the top. Sigh with delight as you discover the bits of chorizo lodged inside, like little nuggets of deliciousness. Yeah, it was really good. The BBC decor is bright in the morning hours, with a storefront that faces the direction of the old mine. Inside, it's like a honkytonk bar designed by reforming young urbanites. The place has wonky hours, open from 7-12 on weekdays and closed Tuesdays. But if you're waking up from a stay at the Shady Dell or on your way back from an early morning visit at the Cochise County Jail, it's the perfect breakfast stop.

The Savory Spot is hip and humble, run by a pleasant group of hippies with ample reading material (stacks upon stacks of GQs, Vanity Fairs, and Spin!). The true test of a good breakfast place is the quality of its home fries, and the Spot's don't disappoint: they're a tad peppery and crusty, and just soft enough on the inside. The over easy eggs were prepared perfectly. The sausage was decent, not spectacular, but I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to pork. The Spot also has a complete dinner menu, which I expect I'll be checking out soon; it's just down the road from the court house.

Memo to the Grill

You suck. Seriously.

No more pussy footing around it. You're just not really all that great. Yeah, I know, I eat your food frequently because you're the only restaurant open in downtown Tucson at ungodly hours, but I'm through pretending that I like it. Really, the only reason most people eat at the Grill is for the tater tots, something I can handle quite ably myself with a bag of Ore-Ida and an oven.

Ohh, but then I would miss out on the vaunted atmosphere, a.k.a. the deafening noise from the Red Room next door (technically part of the Grill itself) and the snooty tattooed waiters who are more interested in talking to their friends than checking on my damn order.

Let me further note that of all the times I've had beers at the Red Room, they've all been shit. Maybe I just suck at picking good beers, because I tend to go by novelty names and oddball countries, but I'm inclined to blame you. Word to the wise, dear reader: Croatian brewery workers secretly pee in their beer.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mini-Review: Harvest Restaurant

Here's an aphorism that will serve you well, and that sums up my thoughts on Harvest succintly: don't ever go to a well-regarded restaurant and order the beef stew, especially at lunch, and especially on a weekend.

Harvest is located a block from the Oro Valley Town Hall complex on La Canada, and sits in a shopping mall with an awe-inspiring view of the mountains. Harvest's schtick is that it uses all locally-grown ingredients, with a menu that shifts every season (having opened just this past November, it's about to undergo its first such shift). In cases where there are no locally-grown or raised items available -- fish, for example -- they are obtained through economically sustainable means. (See the whitefish BLT, for example.)

We had two appetizers: the brie plate, with seasoned fruit chutneys, roasted garlic, and Arizona grapes, and the Harvest empanadas filled with beef, figs, olives, egg, and served with a side of chimmichuri sauce. Both were fantastic. The empanadas were delicate, light, and yielded with the sweetest pillowy softness. The whitefish BLT was stellar as well, with perfectly cooked fish and some of the tastiest bacon I've ever sampled.

But the beef stew, pictured above, was a disaster. Made with butternut squash and green chiles, I had trouble discerning the flavor of either, and found myself reaching for the salt and pepper with each bite. The tortillas served as accompaniment were dry and unexciting. The beef was turgid, rough, and not at all appetizing. I imagine this dish was probably cobbled together from a previous night's leftovers. And the portion was surprisingly small for $13, given that Feast regularly serves a similar stew with much larger portions at a similar price (not that I was clamoring for more when I had my plate taken away).

I'd like to try Harvest again for dinner. But as for the stew? Never again. Unless I'm at Feast.

Great Moments in Sandwiches, Vol. III

Open-faced whitefish BLT with Lake Superior whitefish, toasted baguette, sweet potato chips, and homemade tartar sauce. From the lunch menu at Harvest Restaurant in Oro Valley. Mini-review to follow.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Great Moments in Sandwiches Vol. II

Jalapeno bacon, lettuce, and tomato with ancho chili sauce on foccacia. Found at the Bisbee Coffee Company, which also makes excellent soup.

BMW Designs a PC Case

Oddly asymmetrical, yet compelling. Most high-end cases look like they're built to reach Mach 3, but this one looks like a bento box you'd find at a Hot Topic.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Great Moments in Sandwiches

Ham, arugula, tomato, fried egg, salt, and pepper on sourdough. It's the simple additions that enhance a sandwich, I think, like good greens and pepper. No need for heavy condiments.

Monday, February 23, 2009

experiments in facial hair

The sideburns are growing and forming a bridge across my face, and will soon make their bid to take over the world.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

missed connections

I have many admirers all around the world. But I still get excited when I discover new ones, especially secret ones. So I was thrilled several days ago when a friend told me I had made the missed connections page on craigslist.

How do I know it was me? Suffice it to say it was pretty damn obvious. Then there was a copycat admirer a couple days later. And then there was...this misguided fellow.

So the last one was obviously fake. But I welcome the attentions of the other two with a mixture of flattery, curiousity, and wariness. Just who are these people, and why have they taken such a sudden interest in me?

Guess I'll be updating the blog more often.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Anti-Love Drug

If scientists can isolate the hormones that initiate "mammalian pair bonding," as Larry Young has done in his research at Emory University, could a true love potion be on the horizon? Or perhaps more usefully to midlife-crisis-afflicted married men, might there be an love suppression vaccine available in the future?

From the New York Times:

“If we give an oxytocin blocker to female voles, they become like 95 percent of other mammal species,” Dr. Young said. “They will not bond no matter how many times they mate with a male or hard how he tries to bond. They mate, it feels really good and they move on if another male comes along. If love is similarly biochemically based, you should in theory be able to suppress it in a similar way.”

Friday, January 23, 2009

Word of the Day

Picquerism: (from the French piquer - "to prick") "a paraphilia and form of sadomasochism in which one finds sexual gratification through penetration of another person, most commonly by stabbing or cutting the body with sharp objects. The most frequently targeted areas of the body are the breasts, buttocks, or groin."

Apparently, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals thinks it's bullshit.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup

I put this together from some odds and ends in the refrigerator, including the red peppers I acquired in Bisbee.

1 red pepper, chopped
1-2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled and roasted
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. paprika
salt and pepper
chopped parsley or cilantro

Roast the butternut squash at 375 degrees, peel, and chop into cubes. Set aside. Pour the oil into a large saucepan and turn heat to medium. Throw in the onions, carrots, and celery and sweat them for a few minutes. Add the butternut squash and the paprika and cook for another few minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the red pepper, milk, and butter, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Scoop the vegetables into a blender and puree. Return to the saucepan and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately and garnish with parsley or cilantro.

Bionic Woman

I guess I'm one of the last people to join the Battlestar Galactica bandwagon, but join it I did, and I'm now a fervent disciple of the show. So fervent, in fact, that I actually Netflixed the Bionic Woman reboot led by BSG co-producer David Eick. It lasted only eight episodes and was essentially killed off by the 2007 writer's strike. After watching it, I figure it wouldn't have lasted more than a single season anyway.

The show's biggest problem? Katee Sackhoff. Not that she isn't excellent in the show. But she's meant to be the antagonist and she's ten times as interesting as the rest of the characters. On top of that, she only appears in four episodes! The producers put together a nice story arc at the beginning, only to abandon it for a series of dull one-shot episodes. I want to watch Jamie Sommers kicking ass; I don't really care about her love life or how she balances her home life with her crazy secret government job. The supporting cast is decent, especially Miguel Ferrer and Isaiah Washington (who gets written out of the show in the seventh episode, which probably coincides with his untimely departure from Grey's Anatomy for being a secret racist). But Katee Sackhoff as the lead would have made for a much better show, no doubt.

Secret Aardvark

My sister surprised me with this hot sauce. It's fucking awesome.

I love habanero sauces. But one of the problems with habanero is that, as good as it is, it's hard to shovel down large quantities without suffering extreme consequences to one's immediate well-being. But Secret Aardvark isn't like that. It's got a mean kick, but it's light enough so you can apply it liberally to your food without fear of, say, negative bowel implications. Check it out.

Friday, January 16, 2009

You Don't Mess with the Zohan

This might be surprising to some people, but I don't entirely loathe Adam Sandler nor his movies. Sure, most of them are pretty stupid, but I loved Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, and Big Daddy wasn't half bad either. So I watched You Don't Mess with the Zohan with an open mind. After all, it was co-written by Robert Smigel, ex-Saturday Night Live and Conan O'Brien writer, creator of TV Funhouse, and member of the Chicago Superfans.

Few comedies have the chutzpah to make light of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Zohan manages to score some genuine laughs at the expense of both Israelis and Palestinians. I enjoyed the scene at the beginning of the movie, where Adam Sandler (the eponymous main character, an expert Mossad agent who longs to become a hairdresser) sits down for dinner with his mother and father (played by Shelley Berman). Zohan is expressing his dissatisfaction with his job, and his father, a veteran of the Six-Day War, lays the classic Jewish guilt trip on him. ("You complain? We won our war in six days!) This is such a classic expression of the reverence Israelis have for the Six-Day War and for the people who served in it. And the scene where Rob Schneider, a Lebanese cab driver ignorant in the ways of jihad, calls the Hezbollah hotline is hilarious. There's even an extended reference to one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits, the "Sabra Shopping Network", in which Smigel plays an Israeli electronics shop owner hawking worthless stereos with "Sony guts".

Despite the movie's good intentions, it comes off as facile and borderline irresponsible in light of Israel's current Gaza Strip campaign. The movie's central, somewhat cutesy message is that Israelis and Palestinians are more alike than they are different. In the end, Zohan and arch-terrorist Phantom (John Turturro), set aside their rivalry and jointly open a hair salon/shoe store in a revitalized lower Manhattan shopping district. A cute ending, but it places a false equivalency between the agression of Palestinian terrorists and Israeli response to that terrorism. In the current Gaza Strip war, for example, more than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air raids and other military actions; Palestinian rockets, by contrast, have injured or killed only a handful of Israelis.

It's probably too much to ask of an Adam Sandler comedy to make an intelligent commentary on the state of Israeli agression in the occupied territories. But the perpetuation of this "equivalency myth" is still dangerous in whatever form it takes.

A Love Letter to Sean Hannity

...from Steve Almond. (h/t: Nerve)

Money quote:

I don't mean "lewd." On the contrary, Sean, you're sexual in the way the Catholic Church is sexual. It's morally prohibitive and instinctual. It uses aggression as a proxy for repressed impulses. You're like a priest who relishes the chance to whack naughty altar boys with a ruler. When you get really worked up, you're like an inquisitor who lays his victims out on a rack and lingers over which tool to use.

Reading the article, I also learned that Mr. Hannity has spawned his own dating website called Hannidate.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Yakov Smirnoff: Funny or Not Funny

Um, that's an easy question. Not funny. Certainly not since the Iron Curtain fell, and he was never funny before that.

But look at the comment thread attached to Ben Stiller's excellent Smirnoff parody.

Some samples:

Yakov is very funny, so what was up with this? This shouldnt even be considered a parody. It's more like making a complete douche of yourself.
Don't get me wrong, I like Ben Stiller, but this is just awful.

this video sucked! yakov is awesome and an amazing person and this video is retarded and a complete waste of time to watch

Smirnoff's Russian Reversal & What a Country jokes are far funnier than anything Stiller has done or will ever do. This clip has the same amount of laughs as any Ben Stiller movie: none.

What do Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr. ALL HAVE IN COMMON?

Hint: Blood Brothers with Adam Sandler & Jon Stewart

Smirnoff lives in Branson, Missouri and has a show there. Perhaps this explains why he has become an emblem of anti-Semites, Republicans, and other unfunny people.


Heeb is my favorite print publication. Unlike most other magazines, Heeb has a powerful reason to justify its own existence in today's print-unfriendly world: it continuously produces funny, original content with a Judaic spin. What's more, they have some of the best layout designers in the business. Their article layouts are consistently creative, attractive, and witty.

But the latest issue on newsstands takes an unfortunate step back. The features have a plain, antiseptic look, and the Courtney Love interview columns are laid out diagonally (!). There's still some great articles, though, such as a list of clever "Kyketails":

“The Horny Rabbi”

3 parts Iceberg vodka

1/4 part pickle juice

1 Katz’s kosher pickle

1. Shake vodka and juice until hands are frostbitten.
2. Strain into martini glass.
3. Garnish with that fat, phallic fucker.

Monday, January 12, 2009

starting a band

I'm feeling creative these days. I posted a call for musicians on craigslist last night, after writing up some song lyrics. Here's the ad:

"I'm looking to start a low-key, creative, motivated group of musicians and musical dabblers. Influences include Joy Division, New Order, Roxy Music, the Killers, Tortoise, Stereolab, the Who, the NES, Yoshitaka Amano, steampunk, and 8-bit NES RPG cliches.

I want to keep this group small, no more than 3 people. Ideally, you are curious, creative, collaborative, and some musical experience (singing, guitar, keyboards, accordion, whatever). You don't have to be a rock god, but some basic skills would be helpful. I just want to get a group of creative people together to see where this goes.

Let's have fun with this."

I hope to find some fun people to bounce around ideas with. I'm excited.

Squash Discoveries in Bisbee

Here's the Bisbee Food Co-Op, a wonderful grocery just south of the Old Town. If you're passing through Bisbee, you can find it by following the Route 80 South sign (to Douglas), on your right past the old mine. If you hit the roundabout, you went too far.

There you'll find some excellent, cheap produce, much of it locally grown in nearby Willcox. I picked up some great red bell peppers for $1.79/lb, as well as this little gem:

That's a roasted delicata squash stuffed with wild rice, scallions, roasted red bell peppers, garlic, onions, mushrooms, and more. It tasted as good as it looks: fresh and sweet, with just a hint of savoriness for balance. It's given me a great idea for the massive cushaw squash sitting on my kitchen table.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mini-Review: Lindy's on 4th Avenue

For decades, mankind has strived to create the perfect burger. In modern times there are two schools of thought. There's the upscale approach, popularized by places like Zinburger, that insists on Kobe beef, fancy oils, and only the best ingredients. And then there's places like Lindy's, which take a simpler approach. They don't beat an eye at using potato rolls from Safeway or even, shudder, frozen patties. And yet they still manage to turn out sublimely tasty burgers, as good if not better than their hoity-toity competition.

Lindy's is parked just south of 6th St. on 4th Ave., smack in the middle of the bar scene. Inside are various objets d'art created by local artisans. There's beer on tap and a sports game on the flat-screen most nights. The menu is filled with lavishly-topped, cheekily-named dishes. The Mac n' Cheese Burger is a favorite: it comes slathered with tiny macaronis, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion. The Dirty Sanchez is the perfect hamburger for spicy lovers: it's loaded for bear with jalapenos, pepper jack, guacamole, and chopped green chiles. It's one of those burgers where every bite is laden with juicy, spicy goodness. Its main disadvantage is that it tends to be quite messy. A side effect of all that guacamole is that it tends to expel quickly onto the plate. All the better for the fries, one might counter. Lindy's fries are decent, but unexceptional, and probably pre-frozen. The main attraction here are the burgers.

Not in the mood for a sloppy burger? Stumbling back from the bars and craving a quick bite? Lindy's has you covered: their corn dogs are excellent and cheap. For under $2 they sell Coney Island-style dogs crisped to perfection. They're the perfect impulse buy.

Lindy's claims to have the best burger on 4th Avenue: a modest claim, yet well-founded. They might even have the best burger in Tucson.

I Only Play Kind Code

(h/t Teachnologist, via Kotaku)

Nintendo has patented something they call "kind code." With the ascent of the Nintendo Wii, there's been a lot of ink spilled on how games are too complicated for the average consumer. The reason for the Wii's popularity, so the reasoning goes, is that it simplifies games to the point were anyone can enjoy them. People who've played games since childhood have an innate facility with video game mechanics that makes it easy for them to meet a game's challenges: gauge the jumping distance between point A and point B, for example, or combine button presses to perform special moves. As the video game playing consumer base increases, the skilled consumer base becomes outnumbered by newer players. And yet most games are designed with these skilled players in mind. Most games assume that the player comes to the table with a certain base set of skills, and for those who lack them, the games can be quite frustrating to play.

Kind code is Nintendo's attempt to make games easier to play for the masses, to bridge this skill gap. It would work as a sort of developer's commentary, where the player watches a developer play through a section, uncover secrets, and explain the physics rules of a particular gameplay stretch. Instead of guessing whether it is possible to jump from point A to point B, the developer simply tells you.

This isn't a new idea. Tutorial modes are fairly common, and Valve is known for its excellent developer commentaries in games such as Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, and Left 4 Dead. But it's a new way for developers to introduce new players into standby gameplay genres without necessarily dumbing down the entire game in the process, which is something that recent Wii development has been frequently accused of doing.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Tale of Two Salads

"I think this is a canal," she said. "After all, this place is called Canal, isn't it?"

"No, I think it's a runway." We were looking at the peculiar glowing blue glass elevated platform that ran next to our table and divided the dining room in half. On the wall, a series of mounted flatscreen televisions ran endless fashion shows.

Turns out it was a runway, a very small one. Canal is a painfully hip bar, restaurant, and part-time fashion runway in downtown Scottsdale. The waiter tersely informed us that the happy hour specials were for bar patrons only, so we decided to order a few salads and save the $5 Tanquerays for another day. I ordered a Caesar salad and my companion chose the Nicoise tuna salad.

The Caesar was serviceable, certainly picturesque, but the chicken was too dry. The Nicoise, however, was divine, with lightly seared ahi (which I would have preferred to eat raw) and crumbly, moist fingerling potatoes.

Oh, and at the rear there was a staircase leading to this peculiar candy store and fashion emporium. Weird.

Friday, January 9, 2009

virtual terror

My hairstylist and I were discussing whether I should grow some facial hair. I was unsure, but I thought about it. Somehow along the way I ran into this horrifying device, which I used to create this:

Not for small children.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Green Fairy and Stuffed Squid

A friend recently told me she was going to Phoenix for a few days and wanted to know where to go. I was slightly embarrassed to say I had no idea. I don't know what's cool in Phoenix anymore. Or Scottsdale, or Tempe, or in the dark part of the city west of 7th Avenue I like to call Mordor.

But tonight I was dragged to Digestif, in Scottsdale, and found some cool things, notably absinthe:

and chorizo-stuffed squid bruschetta:

More later.

Mini-Review: True Food Kitchen

Speaking of clockwork, every Sam Fox enterprise I've ever been to operates with the lash-induced precision of a Korean animation studio. True Food, Sam Fox's latest restaurant and partnership with holistic healer/professional beard/popular bear fan fiction subject Andrew Weil, is no different. Even though the place has the decor of a laid back San Francisco juice bar, from its warm green and yellow paint scheme to the plain tunics worn by the wait staff, True Food is all business. It's tucked away in the Biltmore mall in Phoenix, where the Coffee Plantation used to be. When we arrived, we were immediately seated, and a friendly server explained True Food's mission and the menu. Interested parties can read the website for more info on Weil's eating philosophy; in short, True Food stresses local-grown produce, sustainably raised cattle and fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and other good stuff.

We began with smoothies freshly prepared by our server. I chose the T-Eight, a cocktail of tomato, celery, ginger, cucumber, golden beet, apple, carrot, and parsley ($6), and added a shot of organic vodka for $3. My companion ordered the Ginger Nojito: mint, ginger, lime, honey lemonade, and soda water for $4. I preferred the T-Eight slightly more, but both tasted light and went down easy. We ordered the herb hummus with pita bread and Greek salad ($8) as an appetizer; I selected the salmon sandwich ($14) as my main course, and my companion selected the steak tacos with anasazi beans ($14, $5).

The hummus was zippy and fresh. Made several times daily, along with the pita bread, it is a house favorite -- and with good reason. The cucumbers and tomatoes in the salad were equally tangy and delightful. Our server pointed out that the dish would be vegan if the feta cheese were removed, and that it is a favorite of "raw" diners. To that point, the entire menu is very friendly to vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free eaters, and people with allergies. Each menu item is marked according to its suitability for various eaters, and the kitchen is happy to make substitutions.

With little pause, our main courses arrived. The salmon sandwich was served open-faced with shiso, lime, avocado, and cilantro aioli, and a side of sweet potato hash. Cooked to perfection, the salmon yielded gently under my fork, and was perfectly moist and juicy. The sweet potato hash was a Platonic side dish: perfectly prepared, not too sweet, not too memorable, and above all else it did not distract me from the main course. My companion reported (and I confirmed) that the steak tacos were similarly juicy, although I found them a touch too salty. Although she enjoyed the tacos, she felt they were "a little too Chipotle" (which I take to mean they were too conventional for her tastes). The beans were quite well-done, if perhaps a touch soggy. Up to this point, I was surprised that so-called health food could be this tasty.

For dessert, we tried the orange olivello sorbet. Olivello juice, derived from sea buckthorn berries, is a powerful anti-oxidant. True Food claims to be the only restaurant in the country that provides this juice and features it prominently in several dishes. We found the dish powerfully sweet, more than I typically enjoy. This dish, like all the others, was excellently prepared and served promptly.

I greatly enjoyed my meal at True Food Kitchen, and I'm happy to know there's another restaurant I can take my vegan friends to without reservation.

Shrimp Toast

This was Christmas Eve dinner at Cafe Pacific, my favorite Chinese place in Tucson. Near as I can tell, Cafe Pacific is run by two people, and they run it like clockwork. This is one of their unique concoctions, a delightful appetizer that combines two of my favorite things into one delicious, tasty morsel. It is a fusion of fish and bread that looks both adorable on the place and yet slightly unnatural, like a specially bred fish you might find in Willy Wonka's artificial sea.

om nom nom nom