Friday, September 23, 2011


Next week Cinema La Placita will be showing the movie, Footloose http://// at 7:30 p.m. La Placita is located at the corner of Broadway and Church and the movies are shown in the plaza area. Chairs are provided, or bring your own. There is a grassy knoll and Gazebo where families with young children are encouraged to picnic. The cost for the movie, including popcorn, is $3.00 per person and all proceeds go to rentals for the movies and the refreshment. There is a Cafe open where you can purchase burgers and sandwiches, ice cream and sodas.

I will be posting an interview of the founder of this fun community event in a couple of weeks. Erika O'Dowd started the Cinema 11 years ago as an adaptation of Monday night movies held in Bryant Park in New York City where she lived for five years. In addition to the pleasure of watching a classic movie, patrons experience two intermissions during the movie where conversations with each other--particularly to meet the person sitting next to you or standing near you as you wait for popcorn--help create a friendly Tucson culture.

My husband and I have seen two movies this summer and felt that taking time off on a Thursday night--grabbing a bite to eat downtown (there are now many more choices downtown, depending on your budget and menu interests) and enjoying a movie under the stars--is a terrific way to begin the weekend a bit early.

The movies are shown every Thursday, beginning the first week of May and ending the last week of October and even when rain threatens (as it did when we saw, ironically, "Singin' in the Rain" in July), the movie isn't canceled until significant raindrops begin to fall. Even then, if the crowd is willing, they rearrange the chairs so that the screen is protected and the show really does "go on"!

So join us next week at Cinema La Placita and dance Footloose with the movie and music.

Monday, September 5, 2011

sparkroot lunch

This is a shot of my recent lunch at Sparkroot Coffee Bar + Fare ( As I mentioned in earlier posts, the first two times I went to Sparkroot, I was almost overwhelmed by all the "eye candy" in the two-story space that overlooks Congress and Fifth. From the view East, I see the Rialto Theatre and cars pass by with regularity in the a.m. and early afternoon. That location and view give Sparkroot a sense of being in energetic movement and the decor of Sparkroot enhances the feeling.

A bicycle hangs by the South facing door; a mural of a motorcylist is on the East wall. Retro touches include a "jukebox", a waste can with a vintage sign that says "THINK", a bamboo tree growing from the first floor with natural rocks encircling its base, 1950s circa college chairs (I think my College of Education at the UA still has some scattered around in Research Assistants' offices) set by narrow wooden name just a few of the objects du jour that pop open my eyes as much as the Blue Bottle coffee may do. Even the unisex restrooms have photos or 33 rpm records as eyespots while you take a break from the luscious teas (I had both lemon souffle and mint, served in mason jars) or coffee. Sparkroot is a name the owner, Ari, made up and by the counter, in the floor, are roasted and unroasted coffee beans under glass along with an "aerial shot" of coffee bubbling in an oversized coffee cup. I felt like I wanted to tap dance on the glass just to see if the coffee beans moved, but I didn't give it a try.

The menu is still a work in progress and it's fun to watch the cook at the counter prepare meals which I would describe as artisan and artful. My breakfast trip was light with granola with walnuts and pecans. The lunch pressed sandwich which you see in the photo is of fresh bread (from The Bake House), spinach, chevre cheese and artichokes. The bread was crunchy but smooth in texture and the overall taste of the elements were light to taste but filling. My husband, who took the photo, also had a pressed sandwich with welsh chedder and English cucumber. He described it to me as "chewy and full-bodied." A pickle comes as garnish with the sandwiches.

The eating atmosphere is pleasant and not rushed. Having sat both upstairs and downstairs, I would recommend either for conversation and/or people watching--but upstairs I definitely got more of the sense of the urban traffic outside. At night, with the lights from cars and the streets, I would expect the scene to be urban cool--but I haven't tried it yet at night so I will let you know when I do. My husband, who works in the safety field, answered my question about the exposed beams: "they have foam sprayed fire proofing", he told me. A good thing to know if you are worried about safety but to a person such as I am who is more interested in visual design than safety, the gray foam made an interesting textural contrast with the airplane propeller-like fan that shines as it spins from the high ceiling.

Each time I go in (and I will again, as they expand their menu to include, I hope, a morning frittata), I find something new to both eat, drink and/or look at--so Sparkroot works for me as a place to both "spark" my day (or night, for the evening guests) and "root" myself in the downtown Tucson scene.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Audubon Room casual dinner at Arizona Inn

As I noted in my earlier, brief posting, my son is sous chef at the Arizona Inn (, so I have a bias inherent in my review. Nevertheless, when I go to eat, particularly at the end of a hot and emotionally intense day as we had on August 21, I want these elements in my my eating experience:

1. Quiet enough ambiance that I can talk with my husband and not raise my voice
2. Comfortable seating and lighting
3. Servers that are pleasant to talk to and who know the menu
4. Wide enough selection on the menu so I feel like I can make choices between what I really want to eat, can afford and maybe should eat for healthy-eating reasons
5. Related to #4, ability of the restaurant to split a meal without a $2.00 charge (I never understand what that $2.00 is to cover--an extra plate?)
6. Last, but not least, good quality food.

When I go to the Arizona Inn, I know all of those elements are "covered." When I choose to go to the Audubon Room, I have two other benefits:

7. Causal dress/attire
8. Live music that matches #1.

So, on to the details for #4, #5, #6. My husband I have had a pretty good arrangement with sharing a meal and still having stomach space to enjoy a shared dessert. That's the plan we use when we eat at "the Inn." We shared (and the sharing was ample for each of us), a seasonal green salad with blood orange vinegarette, slivered almonds, mandarin orange slices and smoked fennel. I am a late bloomer when it comes to enjoying salads, and not just eating the greens because I am supposed to, yet this salad is one that I could have made an entire meal of--with the crunchiness of several sea salt brushed rolls and butter. But we had ordered a shared entree to also enjoy so I limited myself to savoring one roll and butter with the salad.

The entree was a roast beef sandwich with brie and creamed horseradish on homemade garlic bread,served with a side of white truffle oil potatoe salad which was dotted with scallions and red peppers. Each element complemented the other in my mouth. I was surprised that I did like the addition of the creamed horseradish which, correctly, my son said would not be bitter and overpowering as I have tasted it from the jar at home. Instead, somehow, the horseradish, brie, beef and wonderful (thick, crusty yet easy to chew) garlic bread created a harmony of sweet tastes to my tongue.

As we ate, we enjoyed the gentle conversations around us and the the heart-lifting piano music that echoed through the green, gold and cream accented room. I enjoy sitting at a table close to the bar and like to watch the ballet-like movements of the bartender as he (or she) pours colored fluids into different shaped glasses for the enjoyment of the customers. We rarely go beyond a selection of lemonade (always fresh and tangy at the Inn) or the mix of it with an iced tea, a la Arnold Palmer. It may seem like a small detail, but at the Inn, the Arnold Palmer's are so perfectly mixed the drink comes to the table with the two beverage colors blended like a Rothko painting.

We take our time at the Inn and so, after the entree has settled and a few more songs are played, our dessert of mango raspberry sorbet arrives in three scoops shaped like light orange tennis balls, garnished with strawberries and two hazelnut rolled cookies. Sometimes sorbet can be icey and crunchy but not at the Arizona Inn. Consistently, the texture is smooth and almost creamy although no cream is used in the recipe. "It's the equipment and knowing how to use it," our server, Tom, tells us when we inquire about the texture.

When we left the Inn, the sunset outside was beginning to dim, but our spirits were much higher than when we entered two hours earlier. We felt not only fed, but cared for--nourished by the food, the service, the song-filled music and the historic feeling of being a part of Tucson that has endured for decades with classic style and contemporary hospitality.