Thursday, February 21, 2013

Three Tastes of Tucson

Taste Number One or Can You Find Good Food at an RV Park?

Yes, you can at Lazydays RV Park in Tucson. When we were first RVing, we stayed at this park when it was named Beaudry and it became one of our favorites with its long and wide sites and numerous orange, grapefruit, or lemon trees.

Unfortunately, that company suffered a severe financial meltdown and the park was closed for about a year and a half. So we were excited to learn that the vacant park had been purchased by the Lazydays Corporation that also owns a park in Tampa, FL. Well, if we liked the park as Beaudry, we like it even more as Lazydays.

One of the park’s features is a full-service restaurant named the Florizona Grille (Florida + Arizona = Florizona. Clever.) that is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. So one noon we decided to “eat in” so to speak and went over to check it out.

The space is large and has a Southwest meets Italian d├ęcor. Mexican pottery mixes with checked tablecloths in a scheme that is contradictory, yet complementary.

Along one wall is a bar made of dark wood and in a corner is a small stage that is used on weekends by local entertainers.

The menu offers something for everyone. Salads include a Cobb, a Caesar, and an Asian Chicken Salad. Sandwiches include hamburgers, pulled pork, cheesesteaks, and a sirloin and gruyere melt. And you can order chicken pot pie or fish and chips.

Chuck chose the fish and chips even though we thought, wrongly as it turned out, that the fish would have come into the restaurant frozen. His plate contained three good sized pieces of very moist and flakey fish that had been coated in a light seasoned beer batter. We were amazed that there was none of that mealy texture that you so often find in frozen fish but learned from our server that they fish comes fresh and not frozen into the kitchen. I have to admit that I was really surprised because we have had much worse at what could be considered fine dining establishments.

His fish was accompanied by a truly excellent cold and crisp cole slaw made with green and red cabbage with some shredded carrot. The creamy dressing tasted slightly sweet and seemed to contain little or no vinegar. This is a plus for us. Also on the plate was a serving of large steak cut fries. Being a shoestring fry person, I am no fan of steak fries. But I have to admit that these were very good. My best guess is that the potatoes were baked first and then fried. But that’s just my guess.

I chose the Sirloin Tips and Gruyere Sandwich which came with a mushroom and demi-glace and a side of the same steak fries that graced Chuck’s plate. The sandwich came on a toasted “hoagie” roll and contained a large portion of meat—some pieces of which were a bit chewy. What set this apart was the rich mushroom infused sauce. There is something about mushrooms and beef that make a perfect pair.

Our meal was quite good even though the restaurant sits in the middle of an RV park and earns 4.0 Addies.

Taste Number Two or is This The Best Hog Dog in the World?

No trip to Tucson is complete without a visit to El Guero Canelo for a Sonoran Hot Dog. As John Marshall at says: “It sounds like the sort of thing frat boys would dare each other to eat—a hot dog wrapped in bacon, stuffed in a puffy roll, then smothered in pinto beans, onions, tomatoes, mustard, jalapeno sauce, cheese…. But taste a Sonoran hot dog—a specialty dog of the Southwest—and the peculiarity washes away, the odd swirl of colors and flavors forming a fusion of flavor that somehow works. It becomes clear why people—not just frat kids—will drive across town during rush hour to get one. Or two.

“’The mayonnaise, the beans, the green sauce—if you were to describe it to somebody, they’d be like, I’m not putting that in my mouth,’ said Mike Lowery, web manager for the University of Arizona athletic department and Sonoran dog enthusiast.”

On our last visit, the restaurant—in the broadest connotation of that word—was undergoing renovations.

Gone on this visit were the plastic flaps that doubled as windows. Also gone were the two carts, one of which was founder Daniel Contreras’ original hot dog cart.

We started with an order of chips and salsa—the salsa you serve yourself from the condiment bar in the center of the room. Then Chuck went full bore and ordered the Sammy Dog—two bacon-wrapped hot dogs in one bun.

I settled for a single Sonoran but added a chicken taco in flour tortilla. Just sitting on the plate with a small garnish of cabbage, the taco doesn’t look like much. But after my trip to the condiment bar for pickled onions, radishes, cucumbers, grilled peppers, mushrooms, and pico de gallo, what looked to be naked soon was fully clothed.

This will always be a 5.0 Addie hot dog. I just wish you could find them outside of Arizona,

Taste Number Three or How Many Pizzas Can Two People Eat?

In our case, quite a lot. After our get together with Mitchell and Alex at Rocco’s Little Chicago, we went back twice for what we consider to be one of the best Chicago-style thin crust pizzas anywhere.

Now Rocco’s doesn’t serve only pizza. The menu includes wings (thought by some to be the best in Tucson), calzones, fried ravioli (a Mid-West favorite), something called Spicy Hot Sticks (Rocco's sauce twirled up in dough and served with ranch or bleu cheese dressing), hot Italian roast beef (we like Luke’s [also in Tucson] better), salads, and pasta. And in addition to the regular menu, there are daily specials. But we passed on all of these, especially the eggplant lasagna.

The weather has warmed so we were able to sit on the covered side patio. I suspect that come spring there may be a flower or two adorning the trellis-like sides.

No experimentation here. We stayed with the large cheese (light) and sausage thin crust. Every one that I eat I think may be the best yet. All of the elements work. Thin crust that is crisp but yet simultaneously somewhat chewy like good bread. A sauce that is not overly sweet and carries a bit of peppery bite. And wonderful fennel sausage that is spread over the pie with abandon.

While we both are hungry for a wood oven VPN-style pizza, we consider Rocco’s 5.0 Addie pie to be the best in Tucson.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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