Friday, August 26, 2011

another preview comment

The week was loaded with elder care issues, so I have yet to do my posting for the Arizona Inn meal which I will do in the next few days.

Also, I plan to return to Sparkroot within the next two weeks for a meal and then do the place justice with a focus on their food and fantastic, funful interior design. Preview: imagine a food-coffee bar with a bamboo tree growing the in the middle of the floor and that's just one piece of eye candy Sparkroot offers when you walk through the doors.

Monday, August 22, 2011

previews and coming attractions

It's the end of a Monday and I am running out of time and steam, but there will be some upcoming posts for:

Sparkroot Quick preview: a creative interior with tasty granola and mint tea for breakfast last week.

The Arizona Inn Lovely dinner last night with seasonal greens, roast beef sandwich on homemade garlic bread and mango raspberry sorbet for dessert. Full disclosure: my son is sous chef at the Inn.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

affordable and generouse lunch menu at Opa!

My friend had a 2 for 1 social media coupon for Opa!, 2990 N. Campbell, so we met there for lunch yesterday. Since the restaurant also has "Five for Five$" lunch menu selections we ended up not using the coupon and each ordered one of the "five for five".

The one room space with adjacent kitchen was full and tables turned while we were there and kept filling. I think the generous portions at affordable rates draw in the men in pressed pants and ties and tossled haired matrons crowd. While not quite "tossled haired", I guess my friend and I fall into the second category. There is a large patio, facing west, which also had comfortable seating but the hostess told us the misters (light rain spray, not the kind that come is with the "Mrs.") weren't working so that nixed the patio for us in August.

The booth was comfortable inside and there are faux Greek columns, murals and a grotto with a fountain as decor. The noise level was moderately high and service was slow, due to not enough servers, even though the hostess helped out between seating customers. After we were seated, warm and thinly sliced pita with hummus (just right mixture of chickpeas, garlic and olive oil) and tzatziki sauce (yogurt and cucumbers) was so yummy we asked for and promptly were served an extra portion of pita bread which helped with the longish wait for our entrees.

As for the food we ordered: my friend had the grilled turkey burger with roasted red peppers, and feta on a sesame seed bun. The bun held all the burger elements and she said the burger was moist and the feta and peppers made a good taste complement. I ordered the penne pasta with spinach, mushrooms and tomato in a creamy tomato sauce. I had to hunt for the mushrooms and the penne was too soft for me (as an Italian, I like my pasta al dente), but the sauce was smooth and not too heavy. I cut my portion in half to reheat at home--I had eaten too much pita and hummus before the meal arrived.

It's a good place for lunch if you have the flexibility to give over an hour and parking is accessible. The dinner menu is also extensive. If you go for lunch or dinner and want an extra dramatic flair, order either the Flaming saganaki (imported Greek cheese with brandy and lemon) or the Flaming feta chees (in olive oil, roasted peppers and tomatoes). It come to your table, literally "flaming" and the server and guests shout "Opa!" as it arrives. Hence the sense of "fun" in the restaurant's name. And don't worry about the fire: the server puts it out before s/he places it in front of you to eat.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ghini's for breakfast

It's been a tough week with my father-in-law ailing and last weekend we hardly could take a breath for ourselves. But this Sunday, after we diligently cleaned up the house and tended to backyard watering, we went to one of our indulgent spots to eat a late breakfast: Ghini's French Cafe. (See The Cafe is located at 1803 E. Prince and, if it hadn't been 98 degrees outside, it's an easy walk from our house. The Cafe is connected to La Baquette Bakery; both are closed on Mondays and the Bakery is also closed on Sundays. But the breads are fresh on Sunday and just the smell of croissants as I walk inside, takes me back to my Paris visit in 2002.

It was busy at 12:30 and so we decided to sit on the patio and enjoy the misty air and shade. Had we decided to wait for an inside table, we could have treated ourselves to small slices of a variety of breads offered at the complimentary table on the patio, along with lemon-flavored ice water and coffee.

However, we were very comfortable at our table for two on the patio and the service at Ghini's is always attentive and fun. What I mean by "fun" is that the servers are college-age and even though they are all dressed in black shirts and pants, one female server puts a red flower in her hair; another male server wears purple socks underneath his white Converse shoes; a male busser has a green handkerchief in his back pocket. I am guessing that many of the staff have artistic aspirations in their other lives.

As I sit on the patio, I can gaze inside to the sunflower yellow walls and admire the Matisse-like paintings. All of that sets me in the right mood for a late breakfast. My husband ordered and inhaled a breakfast speciality: eggs provencale. He ordered the baquette which was toasted and added hash browns which came lightly browned and crunchy. The tomatoes had been sauteed in herbs de provence and then cooked "around the eggs", according to our waiter, who checked with the cook for the details. I had two scrambled eggs, flavored with fresh herbs of dill, basil and chives. I requested that the herbs be added and they gave a nice zest to the eggs. I ordered sour dough with my eggs and the slices were lightly toasted and thinly sliced. Just perfect with butter and jam. My order came with three slices of sausage which I shared with my husband (and he swapped me some of his hash browns).

As we were finishing up our meal and talking with our waiter, he gave us the menu for Ghini's new "Fabulous Fridays" dinners. We knew about their Tuesday Tapas but they have shifted to a dinner opening on Fridays and we'll have to check it out and write about it in the near future.

They also serve lunch which I have had upon occasion. Most lunch items can be ordered in half portions which I prefer because full portions are very generous. Since Ghini's is close and, as the weather cools, we walk to it, I will be doing more menu postings from Ghini's in the near future. If you want an affordable, relaxed and savory breakfast with French flair, I strongly recommend Ghini's.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

defining my niche

I met with a friend of mine who helped me define my focus for my anitawriteforyou/freelance venture.

Here are some clarifying elements to my potential work for you:

1. I will write with an intention to promote local businesses, civic enterprises, entertainment and points of interest with an insider or outsider point of view, depending on the client.

2. I will charge a flat fee for my work, depending on the desired word length. Word cost for print publications will be $1.00 per word; for blog posts, the rate is more variable and will depend on the length of the posting.

3. In these first three months, I will be doing pro bono projects. My early and entertainment blog postings are part of the soft launch of my business. I will also consider limited blog postings and print products to promote civic enterprises that I can authentically recommend to readers.

4. I am open to other thoughts and suggestions. For example, if someone has a skill, such as web creation, I will consider exchanging an equitable amount of my writing to his/her business in return for an equitable exchange on establishing my anitawritesforyou website.

So please let me know how I/anita can write for you.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I often hang out at Bentley's

Bentley's Coffee and Tea, 1730 E. Speedway, is conveniently located less than 10 minutes from my house. So heading down Mountain Avenue and going east on Speedway before hitting Campbell is a pleasant drive where UA students have a wide bike path and the road has recently been relandscaped.

At Bentley's the parking lot offers shade and inside the ambiance is relaxed and artful. Different local artists use the wall space as a gallery and so I never know if I will be viewing butterflies, flowers or skulls (this week's offering) when I arrive. I am not an expert coffee drinker. In fact, I never drank it all until I started a work project 3 years ago that had a lot of evening meetings where I had to be focused and alert. All my colleagues drank coffee so I started with a light mixture of coffee and milk--sometimes hot, often iced. I say all that to set up the background for my admission that I don't know if Bentley's offers good coffee or not. I know they offer some specialities I like such as Hibiscus or Ginger iced teas.

Their sandwiches can be ordered as a "half" and I like the BLT ("bacon" at Bentley's is only turkey bacon but they make it crunchy and it comes in thick slabs) on four grain bread. If I am in a lighter mood, I order their hummus and pita which comes with side garnish of cucumbers, sprouts, carrots and lettuce. I really favor their breakfast which is offered any time of the day. Scrambled eggs, with toast (four grain or English muffin), fruit or potatoes (I go for the fruit) is filling. I have a wide selection of two "sides" to add to the eggs and I usually go with that turkey bacon and a veggie. If I am meeting someone there at 9 a.m., I can have the breakfast which lasts me until dinner.

One of the other elements of Bentley's I enjoy is that they have set up a place for little kids to play. Some patrons find this annoying but since I love children, I like to watch them--sometimes I sit close to the spot so I can interact a bit with them, at other times, I just fondly gaze from afar. They never push you out the door at Bentley's. Since they, as do most places now, offer free Wi-Fi, students, UA faculty and folks like me can hang out for hours, although the parking lot has a sign that discourages the practice and, depending on the season, the businesses in the areas get a bit more disciplined about making sure their parking spaces aren't used by UA students as an alternative to paying for parking on campus.

So for many reasons, I recommended "hanging out at Bentley's."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

mini review of Milagros Cafe in Tucson

One of the goals of my and this blog (anitawritesforyou) is to feature reviews of local dining, entertainment, recreational spots in the Southwest and Western region--depending on where my travels take me.

So, to start, not far from where I live is Milagros Cafe, 3156 E. Ft. Lowell Road, 881-0048.

My husband and I now eat there for dinner about once a week and we feel like we are being treated to authentic Mexican entrees and desserts. The Cafe is owned by a local family and the menus come from their mother's and other relative's recipes. I hope to be able to interview them and share more of their story. But for right now, I want to encourage Tucsonans to check out Milagros for very affordable and tasty breakfast, lunch and dinner food choices.

Their salsa is bright and fresh and offered generously with chips and free refills if you need it. Their dinner entrees now are garnished with a light frisee salad. A new unsweetened raspberry tea has been added to the beverage options and I can attest to the amazing quality of both their flan and tres leches desserts. Returning back to the dinner entrees (I get easily sidetracked by desserts), I tend to go for what I like over and over again: the chili relleno is lightly breaded and modestly filled with cheese which is what I prefer. I don't like my rellenos heavy to handle both inside and out. I also repeat with tacos dorado--both chicken and beef--and order them a la carte because I prefer smaller portions. I add their rice which comes with peas, carrots and, newly added, lima beans.

The 20 or so tables are modest in size, some tile covered, some covered with plastic and flowerful tablecloths.

It's so important to support local small restaurant. So please, try Milagros Cafe. When Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is in town, she orders take out from them so that's an endorsement I think is worth passing on. They also do catering and sell homemade pastries from the counter.

Go there and let me know what you think.