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Featured Chef: Cory Lattuca

Executive Chef Cory Lattuca of Grimaldi’s Pizzeria.

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Arizona Black Label® Bacon Fest Returns Bigger and Better than Ever

by David A. Bowers

The Second Annual Bacon Fest returns to Tucson on Saturday, June 7, 2014 with new title sponsor Hormel and Black Label® Bacon. The event quickly outgrew its inaugural event space and will be held at the Kino Sports Complex from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. under the lights of the ballpark. General admission starts at 6pm.

Joining title sponsor Hormel will be local sponsors Harley Davidson of Tucson, RideNow Power Sports, Rock 102.1, KLPX 96.1, NBC affiliate, KVOA 4 and KNST.

Bacon Cotton Candy

“We learned our lessons from last year,” festival creator Rob Betanourt told me. “We are cutting off ticket sales and requiring participating restaurants to guarantee samples.”

Last year’s inaugural festival met with several issues including long lines, excessive heat with no area of retreat from the beating sun. Once entrants braved the long lines and the heat, they were met with several empty booths that had already ran out of food.

“We had only sold 50 pre-sale tickets prior to the event last year and had no idea what to expect,” Betancourt said. “We are better prepared this year and look to redeem ourselves from last year.”

This year’s festival will be held in a much larger venue to combat the long lines, it will be held at night to answer the heat problem and the eateries are bringing a guaranteed number of samples to fix the issue of running out of food early. 

Festival goers will be treated with bacon-centric samplings from 30+ local restaurants and 20 breweries from Tucson, across Arizona and even Canada’s Parallel 49 Brewing Company. Chefs will compete with their bacon-filled creations submitted to a panel of celebrity judges from television and radio for the title of “ABF Best in Show.”

Attendees will also receive a 4-oz. tasting glass to taste the latest craft beer offerings and to learn about proper pairing of styles of beer with different types of food. Live music from Love Boat delivering “Yacht Rock” and Evolution bringing “Arena Anthem Rock” will provide the entertainment with DJs Super Mario and Michael “DJ Bignut” Lopez spinning party music in between sets.

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This 21 and over event will also provide interactive games such as horseshoe toss, steer roping and much more.

Tickets start at $40 in advance from local Tucson merchants Brushfire BBQ, Plaza Liquors and Lindy’s on 4th Avenue. Online tickets can be purchased at www.arizonabaconfest.net for $45 with VIP packages at $100. The VIP package will allow you an hour early entrance, a separate gated entrance, t-shirt and a tented “trough” with a waitress to deliver the beer and bacon.

Free parking will be available onsite as well as hotel accommodations at Fairfield Inn and Suites offering free shuttle service to and from the festival and a promo code for that Bacon Discount.

A portion of the proceeds will go to La Frontera of Arizona’s Rally Point. Rally Point is a service of military veterans helping veterans. Whether it be substance abuse, family violence, housing crises or medical issues, Rally Point is at the front line to fight the war at home.

Event Details:

  • When: Saturday, June 7, 6-10 pm
  • Where: Kino Sports Complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way, Tucson, Ariz.
  • Cost: General Admission - $40 pre-sale at local merchants, $45 pre-sale online, $50 day of event. VIP - $100, online only.
  • AZ BaconFest
 

How to Eat Like a Vegan King

Veganism is the new trending cuisine. Whether you have chosen to go au natural for health reasons or animal rights, you don’t have to skimp on the “good stuff.” Eating vegan foods can be just as tasty, satisfying, and delectable. With help from Executive Chef Michael Stebner of True Food Kitchen, Certified Holistic Nutritionist Kirstin Carey of Nourish, and Certified Personal Trainer Anthony DiNobile of All In Fitness & Wellness, you and your family can eat like vegan royalty.

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AFM: What are two of your favorite vegan dishes?

MS: I love the Kale Crunch salad from True Food Kitchen. It’s a combination of kale, cabbage and watercress tossed with grapefruit, avocado and radishes in a chili garlic dressing. I also love the Tofu Scramble Wrap from the brunch menu. We add nutritional yeast flakes to very firm tofu, which really gives it a nice egg flavor. Then we season a mixture of soy chorizo, peppers, onions with chili and cumin to give it a little kick and some great flavor. This is a dish that mimics a traditional breakfast burrito, but without the meat or cheese. I feel great after eating it – unlike the way I feel after eating a traditional breakfast burrito.

KC: Sweet Potato and Avocado Salad – roasted sweet potatoes, avocados, tossed in an Asian dressing. Raw Veggie Pasta with Pesto – spiralized butternut squash, beets, sweet potato, zucchini, and carrots tossed in pesto.

AD: Tofu Salsa – organic/sprouted tofu, organic tempeh, organic crushed tomatoes, organic red bell pepper, organic sweet onion, chili powder.  I love how the tofu and tempeh absorb the flavors of these ingredients. Being a bodybuilder, the high, complete protein content is appealing to me. Smoothie – raw protein powder, chia, sprulina, cinnamon, organic spinach, organic banana, vanilla, stevia.  This is so refreshing and sprulina not only has the highest protein content by weight on the planet, it’s very high in chlorophyll which filters the blood. 

AFM: Why is eating vegan better for you?

MS: Vegan food is generally lower in saturated fat and if you do it right, you can easily get your recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables.

KC: Simply eating foods without animal proteins isn’t necessarily better for you. French fries and tomato pie are vegan – but they’re not clean foods. Eating clean vegan can be an incredibly healthy way to eat, as it relies so heavily on plant-based, whole foods – which support the immune system, increases alkalinity, and decreases the opportunity for illness.

AD: In my opinion, and most people agree, when you eat animal products, the body has to work harder to process and digest them than when eating plants. So now the body can take that extra energy and focus it on repair, recovery and replenishment.

AFM: How can people slowly transition from a meat-eating or vegetarian lifestyle to a vegan one?

MS: Try starting off with “meatless Mondays,” or eat at vegan-friendly restaurants. You can also eat seasonally inspired produce from your local farm or farmers’ market – when you start with great ingredients you may find that you don't need to add meat or cheese.

KC: Adding in one meal a day that is clean vegan is an easy way to transition. Smoothies are a great way to start, then adding in more plant-based meals over time.

AC: Experiment and find out what ‘meat’ alternatives you might like. Tofu, tempeh, seitan (if gluten is not an issue), chicken-free strips are good starters and begin working them in and animal proteins out.

AFM: Where are some of the best produce markets in the Valley?

MS: Town & Country Farmers Market in Phoenix on Wednesdays, Scottsdale Old Town Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, and Singh Farms in Scottsdale on Saturdays.

KC: Farm Box by Sunizona Farms is a fabulous resource as all of their produce is veganically grown (totally organic and no animal products used in the growing process).

AC: Sprouts and Whole Foods.

AFM: What about vegan foods/products do you like the most?

MS: What I love the most is how good I feel when I leave out the meat and cheese for a few meals. You have to remember that just because its vegan, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Try to eat whole soy foods with a lot of fruits and vegetables and stay away from highly processed vegan foods with soy isolate and other vegan fillers.

KC: I’m not a fan of “vegan products” as they usually contain a lot of “nonsense” like preservatives or processed foods. So I generally lean into raw vegan products such as Go Raw or Hail Merry products.

AC: How little I have to cook now. Before, I used to cook literally 10 pounds  of chicken, three dozen eggs, two pound of fish and several sweet potatoes for the week.  Now I cook a batch of tofu salsa.

AFM: How can home cooks transform typical foods like pasta, burgers, and seafood into a vegan delight?

MS: I like to look at it like I look at eating in general; start with high-quality ingredients, prepare them simply, leave out the meat and cheese and let the other ingredients stand out. Great quality dry pasta tossed with fresh peas, asparagus, green garlic, lemon zest and organic EVOO is a great dish. I also love falafel burgers and quinoa tacos.

KC: Since pasta is a processed food, I don’t recommend it to anyone even if it’s vegan. I would recommend shifting to veggie pasta – literally made from the whole vegetable such as zucchini and spiralized into pastalike string. We also make a vegan protein burger at Nourish that isn’t processed and includes no soy. It is made up of nuts, beans, quinoa, spaghetti squash, seeds, and spices. It’s amazing!

AC:  Substitute some of those foods for things like quinoa, portabella mushroom, and vegan seafood.

AFM: What are some of your favorite restaurants that cater to vegans?

MS: True Food Kitchen, of course. I also love Chef Sara's Raw Vegan Cafe in Carefree and Fox Restaurant Concepts’ latest fast-casual restaurant, Flower Child, on 44th and Camelback in Phoenix.

KC: Nourish, Desert Roots in Tempe, and 24 Carrots in Tempe

AC: Desert Roots Kitchen, Herb N’ Flavors, Pomegranate Café  and Nourish.

For more information on healthy eating, visit www.nourish123.com, www.allinfitnessandwellness.com, and www.truefoodkitchen.com

 

Featured Chef: Taylor Domet

Executive Chef Taylor Domet of North Italia.

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At-Home Brunch Tips

 

Easter is the first holiday after Christmas when family and friends sit around the table enjoying one another’s company. Make your Easter get-together one that everyone will remember by hosting an at-home brunch. Executive Chefs, Robert Nixon of Wrigley Mansion, Paul McCabe of T. Cook’s, and Eugenio Alvarez of Rita’s Kitchen share their expertise on creating an elegant brunch in the comfort of your home.

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Five Main Components of a Successful Brunch

RN: Variety is the key to an irresistible brunch spread. Of course you’ll want to serve all the brunch basics, including bacon, sausage (turkey meat substitute works as well), eggs, prime rib and other carved meats. But don’t forget delicious sides like fresh fruit salad, and a couple of your favorite bite-sized desserts or pastries.

PM: Variety, seasonality, creativity, and great brunch cocktails.

EA: A selection of fun seasonal foods, unique display of the foods, outdoor location with great views, great music, and an eclectic group of people.

Appetizing Easter Brunch Menus

RN: Like most holiday dinners, it’s all about the main plate. While ham is a staple for Easter brunch, you can mix things up by substituting a roasted prime rib. Or if you have a big family, serve it alongside a traditional ham for a true feast.

PM: A signature egg dish. Whether a tasty eggs benedict, a simple French omelet or a hearty quiche, start with a great egg dish and create your menu from there.

EA: Carved lamb or ham, a unique frittata with fresh seasonal ingredients, and maybe even an ice cream sundae bar

Add Your Own Special Twist to an At-Home Brunch

RN: Like I mentioned earlier, you’ll want to have all the brunch basics covered. But dessert is a perfect way to add a personal touch and give guests something sweet and special to look forward to, like fresh-baked pastries, homemade pie or a unique family recipe.

PM: Seasonality is big. Know what’s in season, and check out your local farmers’ markets. Your guests will taste the difference.

EA: By mixing together unusual ingredients that you may not use on a daily basis in your kitchen.

Have Fun with Breakfast and Lunch

RN: The beauty of brunch is that it includes both breakfast and lunch items. So why not give classic breakfast items more of a lunch twist? For example, bacon can work as a side to an omelet or offer it as part of a “DIY BLT” station. Have fun with your offerings and play with how you present them to guests.

PM: Brunch is great because it gives you an opportunity to be more creative. Really anything is game for brunch.

EA: You can be creative by adding blintz with strawberry compote. Sausage can be something other than your everyday pork sausage, such as chicken apple sausage. Unique toppings for French toast.

Three Drink Pairings That Are Perfect For Any Brunch

RN: You can’t go wrong with Champagne or sparkling wine, especially when you enhance it with an array of fresh juice offerings such as orange, pineapple, cranberry, guava or kiwi. These juices also add a unique twist to the standard mimosa. That said, one sparkling wine you won’t want to mix is a crisp rosé. Its perfect served slightly chilled. Another fun idea is to pick a theme, like a Mexican fiesta brunch, and serve margaritas, or create a build-your-own Bloody Mary bar with tons of toppings and garnishes.

PM: I like to mix things up. Do creative takes on the usual Bloody Mary or mimosa, incorporating interesting garnishes or different juices. I also love making a pitcher of fruity sangria – or anything with Pimm’s, like a great punch with fresh herbs and spices.

EA: Champagne and mimosas, spicy Bloody Mary—garnished with brown sugar-coated bacon and fresh shrimp—and prickly pear margarita.

 
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