Friday, March 25, 2016

Yogi's Indian Cafe & Market Is Going To Be Your New Favorite Spot For Food And Goods!

When I first discovered Yogi's the sign outside on the wall was a mere stencil. I was on my way downtown for whatever reason, driving on Stone Ave, when I just happened to look to my right and see that a new market and cafe was opening up next to a TV repair shop.

Then I thought: Do they still fix TV's? I mean, long gone are the old tubes and curved glass screens so...I don't get it. Maybe they repair BetaMax machines and can fix up my old Atari joystick too. Who knows?

Point is, I made a mental note to return to this little nook at 2537 N. Stone because the market and cafe wasn't just any ol' cafe and market, it promised to be that of my longtime culinary obsession.

It was an Indian Cafe and Market.

Hot diggety!

A few weeks later a 'Now Open' sign donned the exterior and I just had to go in. Still dusty from recently opening boxes, unpacking goods and stocking the small yet vibrant vegetable patch, I looked around and was pleased to find so many hard to find spices and foods. Sure there are other Indian owned shops with similar items for purchase here in Tucson but Yogi's seemed a bit more ambitious about what they keep and sell on the shelves.

Intrigued, I grabbed a basket and filled it up with the intention of attempting to cook as authentic Indian as I can one night for dinner. Honestly, in all the years that I have done this, trying to cook real Indian food, I have never come even close to the deep character and richness of flavor that true Indian cuisine offers. And, believe me...I gave it my all each and every time. So perhaps this time around, with the help of Yogi's, I can do it.

That's when I happened to meet the owner of Yogi's, Satye Bhati, a man who smiled wide under his bushy mustache as he inquired about my purchases and welcomed me to his shop. Busy with trying to juggle the lunch crowd for his cozy cafe area and the business at hand of operating a brand new store, he took some time to chat with me about how Yogi's came about.

Delicious food is just part of what Yogi's does

"When I first moved to Tucson in 2003, the first thing I noticed was the lack of Indian groceries and restaurants," notes Satye. "This always bothered me because Tucsonans were missing out on a major cultural and cuisine experience of the world.

"But when the opportunity presented itself, I just had to accept the challenge! And, let me tell has been quite a daunting task so far!"

Fresh vegetables ripe for the picking

Owning a small business is one thing, especially in Tucson, but Yogi's is a two-in-one concept so the addition of a full scale Indian restaurant on top of a retail shop selling "exotic" goods has to be, as he said, daunting.

"Indian cuisine," continued Satye, "when done properly, is a very involved process. We take pride in not cutting any corners when it comes to preparing the food!"

That right there grabbed me and I knew I needed to try the cuisine. So after purchasing my items, I walked into the back cafe area and ordered me a plate or two just to see what he was talking about.

Perfect fluffy naan fresh from the tandoor oven

The restaurant, just like the rest of the establishment, was brand spanking new, but instead of boxes and dust, the cafe was so clean and crisp you could almost smell the recently applied white paint among the shiny surfaces barely touched by plates or hands. Unlike most Indian restaurants that I have been to and thoroughly trust, the cafe was near sterile and for some reason that threw me off. For a second I didn't trust that such a spotless Indian eatery could live up to Satye's hype, but when the food arrived I was quickly proven wrong.

Exotic tastes can be found here

The naan bread was some of the fluffiest and tastiest I have had almost anywhere. That paired with the brightness of their mint sauce quickly switched my preconceived sentiment that all good Asian restaurants need to be chock full of variant smells, random stuff on the walls and cramped seating to be legit with their food. I mean, c'mon!, Yogi's just opened up and I knew it wouldn't take long before the patina of constant good cooking will quickly give the cafe area the look and feel of a well oiled kitchen.

The rice was perfect, the spice on the mixed vegetables were excellent, which is a task because so many Indian restaurants skimp on the attention that side items need. The produce was so fresh and lively and it only made the main dishes come alive as all good "side items" should do. Love the painting but admire the frame that it sits to speak.

Melt in your mouth Tandoor Chicken

My Tandoor Chicken fell off the bone and was so vibrant with color and expert seasoning that I couldn't hold back my usual and often vocal "yummy" sounds as I pillaged on with enjoying the succulent texture and flavors. This went with the Choley, which is a relatively simple dish of white chick peas cooked with ginger in a smooth simmering sauce, was delectable and packed with quaint savory goodness. It's real easy to get Indian food wrong, such as my attempt at being a home cook of the variety, but it is also incredibly difficult to get Indian food right.

I am here to say, even in their infancy, Yogi's does it right. The best part is that their cuisine has a certain lightness to it, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The sometimes over sauced and weighty stature that some Indian restaurants pride themselves on is pretty much done away with at Yogi's. Perhaps its the region from which the family derives from or most likely its just a conscious choice, but you wont leave Yogi's feeling bogged down by too much of too much. Oh, you'll leave feeling like you got your fill but the care in the way they cook and what they are cooking with comes forth in a conscientious formula of proper portions and just the right amount of spice and sauce coupled with the main component.

To sum up: Yogi's food just makes you want to come back for more because you weren't overstuffed in the first place.

There's always room for more visits here.

Which I have done and plan on doing.

For all of your Indian cooking needs

"Unfortunately, for the grocery side," Satye continued as I drooled over my Gulab Jamun, which are small doughnut like balls of sweet awesome drizzled in a rose water syrup, "there are no local suppliers here in Tucson so we have to source all of our products from the importers in Los Angeles, and, that too proves a challenge.

"However! All of the efforts become worth it when we see the good people of Tucson rejoice in our food and experience here at Yogi's."

And that, dear readers, was exactly what I was doing.

Get here early because the buffet goes quick

With an extremely satisfied belly filled with incredible cuisine and a sack beaming with potential cooking mastery, I headed out and thanked everyone, including Satye, who had just one more thing to say before I left.

"We just want to present honest and authentic Indian products and cuisine to Tucson while also trying to educate about the health benefits of these foods. This is cuisine that has been studied and evolving over the last 3000 years or so. And I hope that you take that with you until the next time we see you."

Oh, I did and, oh, they will see me and have seen me again.

PS: Sure the products and spices I bought were great but, I just didn't nail my Indian inspired dinner like they did at Yogi's. So I'll just leave the real Indian food cooking to the experts and I 'll stick to eating it.

That's what I'm good at anyway.


This might explain the heat in that last dish you ate

Camera and Typing
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Early Spring, 2016

Metal Influence:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Erin Go BLARG!

I was probably around 7 or 8 years old the first time I had one.

There was a McDonald's across the street from the arcade I hung out in back in Glendale, CA where I grew up. This is the same McDonald's that my dad would take me to after a week at summer camp eating nothing but, well, summer camp food and the taste of a Quarter Pounder was like heaven to my greasy food deprived face. It was just central, fast and cheap so, yeah, I was there a good portion of my off school hours that is when I wasn't at the arcade or busting my head open skateboarding down Verdugo Avenue trying to get to the arcade.

In the 1970s, McDonald's offered up a green milkshake to commemorate St. Patrick's Day calling it, yes...the Shamrock Shake. At the time I really didn't care about a green milkshake. I mean, who does really? The shakes at McDonald's were so thick you nearly popped a vessel in your forehead just trying to get a taste by sucking way too hard on the straw. But when the sludge did finally make its way to the top, it wasn't all that great anyway, so the effort wasn't really worth it. I much preferred the shakes at Dairy Queen or even down at Thrifty Drug Store, so adding green food coloring into the mix didn't excite me.

That is until I saw a commercial introducing Grimace's "Irish" family member:

Uncle O'Grimacey.

Uncle O'Grimacey was just like Grimace except he was green, talked in a funny accent and seemed to be mad high by wanting to paint everything like the color of the Shamrock Shake. Being a fan of all things ridiculously stupid, Uncle O'Grimacey, for that reason alone, made me want to have a Shamrock Shake.

So when March rolled around and the McDonald's started selling the shakes again, I took some time off mastering Donkey Kong Junior to run across the street and try one. And, you know what? It was gross.

It tasted as if all they did was pour minty toothpaste into their vat of regular vanilla shakes and said, "Here! Drink this! Happy St. Patrick's Day sucker!" It was chalky, had a funky aftertaste and turned into a slurping diarrhea when it melted. Luckily it came with a fresh Uncle O'Grimacey hand puppet made out of crinkly clear plastic, so that at least made up for the disappointment of the pointless frosty drink. So I vowed to never again buy and drink the vile beverage again. No way. Never!

That is until recently...

The return of the cold green beast

For some reason this blog here makes me do stupid crap, so when St. Patrick's Day was on it's way, I knew I had to do one thing:

I had to get me a Shamrock Shake!

McMinty O' Leprechaun Shart

McDonald's through all the years has gone through so many changes and have introduced and executed endless concepts and dishes (I still miss the McDLT) but the past few years, riding on the mega success of Starbucks, McDonald's has instituted a similar twist on the trade stupidly called McCafe. You know, coffee drinks, smoothies, all that late '90s coffeehouse noise. And because of dorks like me getting old and turning to childhood establishments such as fast food chains going "Hey...why don't you bring back that failed garbage from the past and see if it works again? I like old school swill,"  McDoogal's have reintroduced the Shamrock Shake exclusively through their McWhoGivesACrap for the McPublic in Mc2016 to be McSuckedDown through a McStraw on McDay in McTucson which is located on McPlanetEarth.

So with that in mind I headed down to my local McCrefflins to get a McGreenPoopSwirly and share it with my good friend Chili, owner of our favorite bar, Danny's Baboquivari. You might remember Chili as my wing man when we ate free burgers at a strip club. Always up for a Homeskillet challenge, I know this one would be an easy one for him.

 Mainly because we plan to add McBooze to it.

Uncle O'Grimacey would be McProud

Here's the thing: McDonald's stepped up their Shamrock Shake game. The thing wasn't bad. In fact, it was actually pretty tasty. Not too thick with a distinct mint element and a welcome refreshment on a warm pre-spring day.

But enough of that. Let's get down to real Homeskillet business here.

You ready? Because here it is...

Our Top Three Booze and Shamrock Shake pairings!

Let's do this

First one was a whiskey, an obvious choice for a St. Patrick's Day taste test. Our idea was to do a shot of the hooch then suck down a good draw of the shake. We tried combining the two in a tumbler didn't work. The odd pre-made concoction that makes up the Shamrock Shake only enveloped the alcohol turning it into a coagulated mush, so we opted for plan B:

A shot and shake back.

Let the great experiment begin!

Right, now, we may get some flack for this but...we defied and forgo'd the Jameson. Why you may ask? Well, honestly, because it was a too easy and an obvious choice. Plus Jameson is kind of a basic beyotch when it comes to St. Patty's Day and we wanted something a bit more, oh, shall we say...smoky and austere? We shall!

But we're not busting on Jameson...we love Jameson! It's just, well, you know...

The shot of choice for this challenge ended up being a good barrel aged Dewars, mainly because the peaty-ness and effervescence of the bottle could offset the bullpucky "smooth" of the shake, which ended up being a kind of 'fire and ice' capade of flavors and textures.

"It's like I first swallowed gas and then a minty extinguisher came to my rescue," noted Chili. And I was in agreement. The raspy harsh of a good scotch compared to the McBlerfens of the shake was incorrigible on the palate. Think of eating a bunch of red hots and suffering for a spell then a magic whipped cream siren swooped by and kissed a herbaceous respite onto your tingling tongue.

It was sort of like that but...not really. It tasted like we did a shot of warm scotch then horked down a good pull of icy green spew to calm the unfortunate wake. Like I said, through trial and error, this was the least offensive. The contrast was fun but there were two others that reigned slightly supreme over this combo.

"Is it like I'm small and the shake is really huge?" Um, maybe're just out of focus

Some culinary snots have "reinvented" the Shamrock Shake adding all sorts of upscale non-sense and unnecessary infusions and deconstructions. One though actually added a splash of tequila. That...seemed reasonable. But, for us, at the time, I dunno, tequila just didn't make the cut. Maybe it was the grade of tequila we had on hand, El Enfermedad del Higado, that wasn't such a pleasant coupling. But, regardless, we pressed on!

We were thinking mint so we paired the shake with Rumple Minze, which has a very distinct peppermint shock along with the click of clear alcohol. This match was one made in a near frozen bliss temple.

"It feels like I am shushing, yes...shushing down the slopes of the snowy alps," beamed Chili, "and then landed straight into a bar filled with Swiss misses wearing only boots and hockey masks."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

So if you want a wintry swath to lead you down a lurid McShameHole then I highly advocate the drinking of these two in tandem.

So many options but only three made the cut

The last one and probably the most accessible combination was the use of whipped vanilla vodka. Honestly these two together was a deadly duo. It went down way too effortless and we could see ourselves drinking ten. Easily.

"If only we could harness the mystery and magic of the Shamrock Shake," Chili said while rubbing his scruffy chin, "and get it going with the whipped vodka here...we could make a fortune!"

That, right then and there, gave me a brilliant idea. Taking notes from the shake I drank and despised as a kid, along with the upgrade of the ones we were drinking at present, I plotted a recipe that could easily put the McCorporate World onto its greedy and trembling ears and tongues.

So I left the bar, grabbed some ingredients at the store and headed home.

Then...the magic began!

After a few McShots it was time for some well needed McFoghat
Lil Poundcake wasn't impressed until I put fish nibblets in it

Inspiration! That's the only word I can collect at this frame of genius. Wanting to recreate the powdery and anemic flavor of the 1970s Shamrock Shake with the improved flavor of it's 2016 successor along with my own "take" on the whole recipe, I gathered a few simple ingredients and this is what I came up with:

Girl Scout's Thin Mints, Minty Toothpaste and Rinse, Ice Cream, Whipped Cream and Jagermeister

If you want to try this at home it's really easy. Here...follow me!

Combine two scoops of vanilla ice cream with a few Thin Mint cookies in a blender and spin 'em until relatively smooth.

Set the blender on low and slowly add the toothpaste and mouthwash. Once you get it to a good green whirlpool, turn the blender off and do a shot of Jager.

Can you smell that? That's talent!

Pour the mixture into an old beer stein, top with whipped cream and a methaqualone horse pill and you're all set.

Then sit back, enjoy a plate of corned beef and cabbage and sip away at the drink that only dreams and memories are made of. This delight shines bright of not only the past, but definitely the present and, could it be?, yes!, the future.

The effects of this Darby O'Gill and the Little Trip to the Hospital will delight and make for a most memorable St. Patrick's Day. It's like sliding down a rainbow into a pot of gold filled with stomach pumps and eternal regret.


So good you'll never want to make it again

Happy St. Patrick's Day from all of us at the Tucson Homeskilet!

PS: Don't try any of this at home or...anywhere. Duh!

Camera and Typing
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
St. Patrick's Day, 2016

Metal Influence:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Trident II : Eclectic Food n Booze!

We were first hipped to the Trident Grill not long after moving here to Tucson in 2006. It was at the very edge of football season, perhaps even in pre-season, and my Redskins fan friend had only one destination in mind for the game. Yep, you guessed it, the Trident Grill.

"You're going to love this place," he said rather enthusiastically as we exited the car and approached the front door. "Food is off the chain. And if your a 'Skins fan like I am this is the best place to catch a game."

We walked in and, boy, he wasn't kidding. Redskins jerseys and hats were adorned by at least 80% of the customers in the tightly packed open space. It was so busy that we almost bounced but a friendly server assured us there was space so we stuck with the original plan and stayed. Somehow we found a bit of standing room only close to the bar, ordered a couple of pints and then moved our attention to one of the various big screens showing the game. Not too sure who the Redskins were playing (the Vikings maybe?, dude, this was like almost ten years ago!) but the dedicated crowd were in a fervor with almost every play and pass.

Now, at the time, I wasn't much of a football fan, so after the first quarter I became not that interested in the game and decided that I was a bit hungry. I asked a server for a menu and when it arrived it was pretty impressive if not intimidating. 

A road sign for sore eyes

Back then the menu was really big, like food option big. Mainly focused on seafood items, the list of dishes ranged from small bites, bar food to beefy sandwiches and, of course, really massive offerings from the sea, but, like, a lot. This was the kind of menu you'd see in a space twice if not more so larger. When I glanced up towards the kitchen area I saw that it was a cramped space in the back of the restaurant with three to four guys moving, like running to get orders out on time. With a menu this packed in a space this tight I was hesitant to order anything at all. Looking closer, the dupes up on the line were at least twenty in so I made a mental note to come back later when it wasn't game time and order some food.

So I drank more beer and watched the game with my friend.

Then the Redskins lost. My friend was sad as were most of the patrons. Some got mad.

It happens.

Always a smiling face at the Trident II bar

When I finally got a chance to go back to the Trident to actually eat their food, I was a bit shocked to find out their menu had changed. It was scaled down, it was on a one sheet laminate and the prices matched the options much easier than the first time I was there. It became pretty clear that after a few Redskins games with a rather "ambitious" menu for such a mid sized area they had to meet the reality that a cramped line with a few guys on top of each other can't really bash out a Cheesecake Factory sized menu.

Okay, maybe it wasn't that big was pretty imposing.

We got some crab cakes and calamari. Delicious. Very tasty, fresh and cooked to perfection. Then I think I got the Wildcat Burger, which came equipped with bacon, cheddar cheese, onion rings and the house hot bar-be-que sauce. Amazing. She-Ra got the clam chowder which was some of the best she or I have had in quite some time. It was actually nice to say the food was well worth the wait.

Oh and don't forget about the beers. Those are good too.

Trident II bartenders workin' it

It was settled then. We became regulars. Great happy hour specials, good food, awesome service, interesting beers on tap...who wouldn't be?

Then sometime in late 2015 word got out in the Tucson culinary underbelly, that owner Nelson Miller and his staff were considering opening up a new Trident Grill, possibly in the Plaza Palomino where the old Jackson Tavern used to be. Pretty soon those rumors became true as construction began right across the way from Vero Amore. In fact, if you read my haphazard escapade during the Super Bowl, that was the first time I laid eyes on the facade, which was to be called, cleverly enough: Trident II.

Trident II...I like that. I mean, some of my favorite movies are sequels, so why not just put a "Part 2" next to the original money making name? "The Empire Strikes Back"? Better than the original. "Hellboy 2"? Far superior to the first. And let's not forget, the only reason they made "Grease" is that they could make "Grease 2". No, really, I swear.

And then, after all the rumors slowly became reality and then seeing it come to life, Trident II finally opened in early 2016. Immediately I knew I had to write about it for the Homeskillet. It just seemed like too much awesome to pass up.

Nothing like good company on a beautiful day on their open patio

So on a lovely early spring afternoon I made my way to the now open Trident II only to find it just as bumpin' and packed as the original down by the U of A. Luckily I had a chance to hang out with manager Danny Gallego, who was very busy juggling issues between the bar and kitchen, and even in the really early stages of the new restaurant being open, he explained to me the reasons for expansion and the challenges that come with it.

"Well if you ever tried to dine at the original Trident Grill on any U of A game, be it home or away, you find it hard to get a seat," Danny explains with a shrug and smile. "As staff we do what we can to accommodate everyone but that is a mid-sized restaurant at best and can only hold so much. So we felt as a team that this location on Swan would be well received by all the surrounding neighborhoods and the traffic here, which there is plenty of, could create the volume of customers that is needed."

I'm always a sucker for a perfectly poured IPA

Sure the original Trident is a success and by the head count in it's sister/brother store, they are well on their way to even more progress. Yet in the early trials of a new venture there are always obstacles and hurdles that out even seasoned restaurant workers to the test.

"Everything is a challenge," notes Danny trying to maintain the crowd during a busy happy hour, "some are lessons learned and some not so much. Every restaurant owner has a plan in their head how everything will fall into place once the dust settles and the construction is done. Things out of your control pop up out of nowhere! Such as kitchen equipment working fine then suddenly shutting down right before service. Luckily you have the tools and knowledge to troubleshoot the problem if your tech guy is off skiing in Colorado when the POS (point of sale, the tickets you see streaming out of little black machines at the bar or on the line) system just decides to stop operating."

Trident II culinary team doing work
Okay, so we get that running a busy restaurant is tough work, but now for the fun stuff: The food!

Me personally am a fan of most of the items on the menu. No really, I haven't had a bad meal once, be it just a snack or a full on rager of an eat-fest. Now, I have my favorites but I just had to ask what Danny's favorite menu item was.

"Oh man," he says clapping his hands and leaning his head back as if dreaming. "Hands down the Maryland crab cakes. Unbelievable. One of our kitchen guys, Jason, is so creative. He comes up with the most outrageous food. We are so lucky to have a really talented kitchen staff like we do. Those guys earn their stripes!"

Delicious food waiting to be delivered to lucky patrons

"I wouldn't say what we are doing here 'separates' us from the original that owner Nelson (Miller) started almost fifteen years ago, but more of a 'continuation'", states Danny when I asked about the concept of Trident II and whats contrastive from the original. "Right now I'd have to say the location would have to be the obvious answer.

"We as a company consider all of our patrons family and that, right there, is what really separates us from most other restaurants. I mean, look at this," extending his hands to the throng of people seated or waiting to be. "This...this is a lot of family!"

Happy Hour in full effect

Seeing the amount of flurry on the floor and in the kitchen, servers constantly coming up and asking questions and an unexpected 12 top just showing up with no notice, I knew Danny had to get back to work so I just had to know one thing:

What is he looking forward to in the near future.

It didn't take him long to answer as he beamed saying, "Oh man, I am really looking forward to the warmer months coming up. Our patio is completely shaded after 10am and with these big ol' fans we got installed and going on here, it just might create the perfect environment to sit back, enjoy the day with a tall icy beer without getting scorched by the sun.

"We just want to create the same experience as the original and just feed off of our successes. It's funny, you'd be surprised at how many people here at the new location have never even heard about the original down on Speedway. But, hey...big shout to all Team Trident. Because of the success of the original that's why we've had the fortune to open Trident II!"

With that, Danny was whisked away by his team in need as the happy hour was winding down and the dinner rush was about to commence. Success indeed...

Just start from the left and keep moving

Feeling like Frogger in the middle of a busy highway trying to take pictures, I assessed that I had gotten what I needed, finished my beer and took off. Just like the first time at the original Trident, just as busy and lively as that initial visit, I told myself that I would be back to, yes, eat the food. Have you had their charcuterie boards, dubbed "Nelson's Love Plate"? Oh yeah, I'm gonna need some of that soon.

For now I felt the love of everyone at Trident II and know that even further prosperity is headed their way.

Just don't go back to those huge silly menus. You're doing fine now. Just...fine.

Thanks Team Trident II. Like I said before, sometimes sequels are better than the original. Not that...the's just

You know what I'm trying to say, right? Okay.


The staff was having just as much fun as we were

Camera and Typing
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Early/Mid March, 2016

Metal Influence:

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Food Blog About, Uh, Food Blogs...Apparently

OK, food websites are a really big thing, have been for quite some time. Heck, you're basically reading one right now. Sure the Tucson Homeskillet skips about here and there but at its very essence we are a blog dedicated to all things gastro, cooking, eating, drinking and matters that make you go "Yum!"

Luckily we of the southern Arizona fold have it pretty good with food options on the internet, as far as eating and drinking local is concerned. You can always follow Andi Berlin and her food columns at the Arizona Daily Star, read Heather Hoch's reviews on the Tucson Weekly, find out all the sustainability and future of southern Arizona gastronomy with Edible Baja Arizona or subscribe to Tucson Foodie, a website I briefly wrote for before revamping the Homeskillet, which covers all things food and trending here in the Old Pueblo.

Then there's this site: Goofy, capricious, vaguely unfocused, slightly inebriated but hopefully fun with a more conversational approach to food writing. We like to talk about all things food and drink that's going around town, and sometimes it doesn't come from a locally sourced or owned organization, even though I'd say 99% of it is local. Sure we're small and a bit kooky, but those that do follow us and read the Homeskillet on a regular basis (that is when I do post which is like, what?, once a week?) seem to appreciate what we do here.

And, you know what? We appreciate you!

Thing is those sites and writers I mentioned above, including us, is a crazy insanely finite collection of websites dedicated to cooking, eating and drinking. The web is now bloated with blogs and pages focused on just cooking and eating. Heck, I love me some Damn Delicious now and then and get great ideas from Closet Cooking (because that's what the wife and I do in our cozy lil' desert bungalow) but there are some big sites with real budgets that I refer to on a daily basis for ideas and inspiration, such as what they are doing over at Thrillist with food and drink. Sure they may not cover what is happening in Tucson, although sometimes they do, but there is no denying the attention and proficiency some of these writers, chefs, travelers and eaters accomplish on a regular roster. Maybe someday the Tucson Homeskillet can get to these levels but...well, I doubt it. Unless we get some major sponsorship and Anthony Bourdain mentioning us saying: "All I know is that a rotund Metalhead out in Arizona is doing the food writing world a favor, and for that you need to seek out the Tucson Homeskillet and never go back."

That....may not happen anytime soon. Or at any time. Or... Yeah.

So recently I was asked by a co-worker what food sites I follow outside of my own and, for the fun of it, I listed just a few, the ones that get the most Metal Mark foot traffic, reposts and the most abuse from our kitchen. Hopefully you will discover a new favorite food site or at least rediscover one that you might have forgotten about from our article here. Either or, these are the ones we like to click on when we're not working or writing on our own.

You ready?

Here we go:

What we like about Oola! is how fun and clean this site is. Its one of those food pages where they invite you to play along with their concept and design, to sort of hop down this trail or that one, always finding something entertaining about what and how we eat. Ever wonder why Whole Foods charges like $200 for some mushrooms or what the grossest things McDonald's employees find in their Playplace kids area? Oola! lays it down, but in a most decent and pleasant way.

Plus their cooking tips and recipes are always interesting and fairly easy to follow and fabricate. Now it's rare to find a Tucson restaurant to admire and ponder on Oola! but, really, we have so many local publications and websites here that we don't really need a major website to tell the world where to get a Sonoran hot dog (don't get me started!) or which downtown eatery has the best brunch (again, Tucson Foodie can help you with that. Us? Well, we don't do brunch much, cuts into that late sleeping and not standing in line for flapjacks thing...).

Still, Oola! is great and very user friendly. You know's just darn friendly. Dare I say, it's kinda cute. But not so much to make you throw up a bit in your mouth. Just enough to be all "You know what? That looks pretty cool. Let's eat that. In fact, let's cook that instead."

Oola! is just encouraging like that. And for all those reasons, it's bookmarked and well used by us on a fairly routine basis.

Check it out.

Oola! makes being a food fan that much more enjoyable

Yeah, Google Oola and you get the slave chick from Jabba's palace, pretty funny actually

If you can't get to your world traveling chef shows or afford to fly to Indonesia and eat the anus of a komodo dragon on a stick cooked by a twelfth generation komodo dragon anus cooker, then you need to seriously get into the food page on National Geographic.

Outside of the exotic eats from all points on the planet, they also have a very astute and caring approach to how we as humans eat and how we get that food we eat. It's a world tour of all things we crave, be it extremely upscale, such as rare cheeses in Paris, or the completely, shall we say "curious", such as why we should be eating Lionfish or what the diet is of the bush folk of the Sumerian outback consists of.

But I wouldn't go to National Geographic Food for recipes though. There is a cooking section but really the focus here is on the global appeal of eating and drinking as a species and they get really in depth about it making it wholly fascinating as a lover of everything food and drink. OK, consider this site as more educational than entertainment, when, if you really look at it, most food sites are educational. But this is a new level though.

Like, think of the Food Network as the junior high of food sites which only makes National Geographic Food the masters program at an accredited university. In a sense.

Regardless, for all of those out there even remotely inquisitive about the feeding habits of the Appalachian inbred as compared to the dirt people of Ghana, then you need to click on the link and start exploring. It's extremely fascinating.

And sometimes a bit gross. Which is awesome.

Squid toes and cockroach faces? Sure, I saw it on the web!

Eater is great. Eater makes us feel a bit inferior. But we like Eater.

The hip and the whipsmart that run Eater know exactly what they are doing and they can make you feel a bit dumb if you don't know how to catch up. Sure, it's just a website and, yeah, it's easy to navigate but the overall know-it-all about Eater is both enticing and a little daunting.

There's a lot going on here and that's what we love about it. There are updates and new articles popping up all the time which means you need to try and keep up. Eater sure is neat but with a full time job, wife, cat, garden and the Homeskillet to update here and there, it's a challenge to reap the entire benefit of the website regularly. I mean, these kids are in the current, if not a bit ahead of the food game. Before you even hear about a new chef or food show or trending drink, the folks at Eater are already bored with it and have moved on. In the same vein of the popular kid at school; you want to look away but you just can't.

Oh why are they so good looking? How do they predict what others will be wearing this year? And the band they are listening to now will become the next hit long after they grew tired of them.

But...with food.

Eater is great. Eater is a constant in my pantheon of food and beverage on the internet. But I can never write for Eater. Because I am old. Because I like 80s thrash metal. Because I live in Tucson. Just...because.

Love me Eater. And if you can't love me, just look at me once and smile.


Let's see, I'll take....yes please!

Tasting Table is just an extension of Eater and Epicurious (which is coming up next), sort of sandwiched between the two which is why, yes, I sandwiched it between the two.

First rate recipes, not too challenging, concise guides to restaurants and chefs and brand new with their lovely #TTNow, you can get the latest food news piping hot right off the panini press in an easy to access stream. Very handy for those wanting instant access to the world wide news of culinary happenings. Did you know there is a vending machine in Paris where you can buy fresh raw meat and eggs? Did you know that? Well I sure did. Thanks to Tasting Table and the handy #TTNow I can be jealous of Parisians much quicker and from the safety of my bathroom.

Bright photos, easy to follow directions, lively articles and I just love their guest chef space where renown cooks do what they do in the Tasting Table kitchen and dazzle you with their skill and style. There's really not much more to say. We use Tasting Table a lot and for that reason alone you should give it a whirl.

Still no Tucson on their city guide though. Oh well...

Tasting table makes it look easy...because it is!

Now we're talking.

The wife is an gal. Me? I've always leaned toward Epicurious. Why? Well, it may sound a bit pretentious of me, but...the website is slightly, if not a lot more, progressive and ambitious than most. Sure it's nice to cook with canned peas and dried potatoes now and then but I kinda need more than that. Allrecipes, and I'm not calling it a crap site!, is great for simple and easy dishes you can make pronto. But when you want to diversify your cooking and what you got handy in the pantry, Epicurious has never let me down.

Outside of the obvious recipe index, Epicurious has a dandy community forum where you can get to know all of the contributors and even follow them in the manner of Pinterest (we'll get to that soon) and the ominous The Future link where they can deftly predict what will be the trends in the culinary trade in the next few years. This site is a no brainer for real cooks and real food fans. It covers all the basic bases and then some.

Best thing is Epicurious does not have a city guide so Tucson is safe here! Otherwise this is our favorite recipe tome on the web and hopefully it'll become yours as well.

Easy, breezy, beautiful...Epicurious

We've been reading Vice Magazine for quite some time now. When I lived in San Francisco, I used to pick it up for free at local record stores. The magazine was always filled with content you would expect from a title like Vice; boundary pushing, deep rooted in the underground, pervasive, salacious and the best part is that it is downright hilarious. So when I heard that they put together a site dedicated to just food and eating, I knew it would be amazing.

And it is.

Munchies is mainly a video streaming site where you can watch all sorts of chefs, musicians, idiots, hipsters and weirdos jaunt around their fair city and explore the culinary underbelly. I mean, it's always fun to watch rap beardo Action Bronson get stoned as all living heck then make guacamole. His series "Fxxk That's Delicious" is a hoot and I had no idea he used to be a professional cook before dropping rhymes and dimebags into the crowd. He's funny and strangely charismatic just like the website and if you get where Vice is going with everything that they produce, you'll immediately get the gist of what Munchies is all about.

But don't go into Munchies expecting a trove of recipes and user friendly cooking advice. This is a dope regime on a new level and they are taking the notion of a food site and flipping it on its back much like a turtle on the side of the road expecting it to learn how to get back on its feet. This is pure entertainment but for the hungry and culinary conversant. With a little luck you'll get offended at times which only means the J is for Genius heads over at Vice have done their job.

Just go to their "Watch" option on the upper left hand corner and click on the various shows and episodes they have to offer. Then lean back and be prepared to seriously get the munchies. And I don't even smoke weed. I mean, I have, but...


When you this high, I'm sure poke tastes like the sunbeams of heaven

Seriously, how can you have a blog about food blogs without mentioning the be all end all of websites dedicated to organizing your already hectic hedonistic fooder existence? Pinterest baby...Pinterest.

Look, thousands upon thousands of "Pinners" use the site to coordinate their favorite things, ranging from gardening to fashion to movies to girls with very large butts and everything in-between. I myself do not use Pinterest to show pictures or feature links of girls with very large butts but (uh...) now that you mention it...

Anyway, we love Pinterest because when we find a recipe on Tasting Table, Epicurious or any of the ba-jillion other sites we use and love, all we do it copy and paste it into our page and the recipe will be saved forever. Or until we delete it after trying it and realize that durian fois gras was a bad idea. It's just way too handy dandy for those who come across aspects of inspiration but just don't have the space to keep all of those clippings. Pinterest is the clipping and for that we would like to start clapping in your general direction. 

Most websites that have recipes or gardening hints already have a link to "Pin" your current intention to get to some day or food to try once you buy that other ingredient you pinned last week. It's organization for the unorganized and even the most scattered of manner will be able to find some symmetry here as the site does all the hard work for you. 

Oh...what's that? Is the Tucson Homeskillet on Pinterest? Well, sort of. 

You can follow Metal Mark on Pinterest HERE.

Apologies to the numerous and nameless food and cooking sites that did not make the list. I think you know who you are. Do you? Probably not.


Typing, Research and Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Early March, 2016

Metal Influence: