Friday, August 26, 2016

Wait...Italian Food That's Good, Fast AND Affordable? Let's Do This!

Falafel King struggled in that location on Campbell and Ft. Lowell for a time, only to close its doors in early 2016. Falafel King was good, it had its moments, but the fact that the site is situated next to one of the better taquerias in town, a bustling sandwich shop, a Mexican food staple and an Asian restaurant that continues to impress and persist, it became quite apparent that the fare they were dishing out just couldn't manage with the nearby food competition.

We weren't devastated when Falafel King left, there are far greater Mediterranean spots in the immediate vicinity, but for a quick shawarma at a good price it was one of the better options in the neighborhood.

A few months later the marquee came down only to be replaced with a bigger and brighter one. The name was different and the concept seemed to be a complete 180 from the previous occupant.

It read: Orenccio's Ristorante Terrazza...Express!

Paninis comin' up!

Wait. The slightly upscale Italian restaurant on River and Campbell and the o.g. place in Nogales is opening up an "express" spot in midtown Tucson? For realzies?

The restaurant row of Campbell Avenue is wrought with all kinds of badass eateries, most of which feature Italian inspired food. Sauce is right down the street, next to that is Old Chicago and down a ways is Pionic, all of which dish out quick and tasty sandwiches, pizzas and pastas for not a lot of dough. So where will Orenncio's fit in? Or will it?

Either way, we were excited to see what they had to offer and see if the "express" food could hold up to their sit down, $20 a plate (to start) Italian dishes.

Thing is....we would have to wait a bit to get there.

Veggie lasagna in all of its glory

The sign was up, the internet was slightly a-buzz with information and anticipation of the new location and I even sent them a message via social media asking when they are going to open.

"We actually open this Thursday," was the response. "We hope to see you there!"

That was June 9th.

Newspaper still covered the windows, for another two months or so. But, eventually, the windows were clear, the "OPEN" sign was on and the doors were unlocked and ready to welcome customers.

That's when the Tucson Homeskillet crew stepped in and ordered up.

And here is what went down:

It can't be an Italian joint if you don't got Tony up on the wall

It's a relatively small space, reminiscent of the old Falafel King layout; plain but functional.
There were some tables inside and out on the patio, classic Italian music played lightly over the house system and two guys behind the counter greeted us as we entered. A long menu is stretched out over the ordering area with items similar to the other restaurants but at a fraction of the cost.

With an fairly decent yet paired down menu, we decided to start off with a couple of appetizers. 

Orenccio's Express meat and cheese board, the Tabla de Quesos, was only $9 and it had an impressive selection of thinly sliced prosciutto and salami, well thought out cheese varieties to accompany the cured meat, fresh crackers and seasonal fruit to round it off. For nine dollars. And it wasn't skimpy. Oh no. And it was really good.

You kiddin' me? A charcuterie board for less than ten bucks? So far we were beginning to like this place.

Next up we tried out the Insalata Caprese, you know, the caprese salad. Again for $7 we were treated to a hearty line of summer ripe tomatoes, house made mozzarella, a bright chiffonade of basil and then drizzled with a balsamic glaze dressing that was tart and acidic without being overpowering. All of the elements came together nicely and this just made us excited for our other entrees that were coming up.

Two tasty and generous appetizers for less than $ a Italian joint?


The Rat Pack panini with thick steak cut fries

Orenccio's Express has six different styles of panini sandwiches and we ended up, initially, getting two to try out.

The "Rat Pack" sandwich promises both smoked and grilled salmon, with cream cheese and pesto. This panini was good but not the best salmon and cream cheese combo we have had. All the flavors came together but, not too sure, it needs a bit of work. The salmon was a bit fishy and even with the cream cheese and pesto it felt a bit dry. Hopefully they will read this and fix it but overall, for $7, and served with chunky and well seasoned steak fries (which are kind of my favorite), it was a nice lunchtime treat.

The other one we sampled was the D Pollo know, chicken panini. This one was made with grilled onions, basil, mayo and a dash of red pepper flakes. Redemption came with this sandwich because we really enjoyed the flavor fusions here, even if they were a bit elementary. Perfectly cooked and seasoned chicken, the mayo added a nice decadent viscosity and the basil and red pepper made for a slightly spicy and verdant bite each time. This made us hungry and curious for the other paninis which include a "Dean Martin Burger", a fish fillet panini and a veggie option.

All served with fresh and crunchy lettuce, tomato and onions, the paninis, so far, were tasty, and we are sure that with a little time, focus and getting that grill a work out and seasoned, this could be the next midtown hot spot for a quick and delicious lunch or dinner.

Your basic spaghetti with marinara yet better than mom makes

Finally we gave some of their pasta dishes a spin around the block. Orenccio's Express has nine different options here, all of which are under $10. That's, like, totally unheard of in most Italian restaurants. Heck, you can barely escape a mid ranged Italian joint without shelling out 12 bucks for angel hair in red sauce. Here though, you wont go broke getting your succulent carb fix in.

We ordered the "Nona Esther" or the veggie lasagna, which lists cauliflower, zucchini, carrots and spinach as their features all surrounded with a deep marinara sauce and topped with mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. To say the amount and style cuts of the vegetables were ample and rustic is putting it mildly. They don't kid around with the cauliflower and zucchini and the carrots were thick and bold along with a good dose of spinach to round it out. With the sauce and cheese this was one of the better veggie lasagnas we have had for this price and you wont leave hungry after eating it.

One problem though: We got two, two big unremoved bay leaves in some bites and that threw us off a tad. Not only were the leaves full sized but they were pretty stiff so we could have sliced our tongue if we weren't careful. This is all in the learning process though, seeing as this concept just opened its doors, although leaving bay leaves in a dish like that is a bit of an oversight. Still, the veggie lasagna was a delight and we hope in the future they will be a bit more careful with their preparation of this dish.

Finally we tried out the classic spaghetti marinara. Because, think about it, if they screw this item up they should rethink their business plan, quickly. An Italian restaurant getting a basic spaghetti marinara wrong? No way. It's like eating a bad club sandwich in a funky diner or a crappy taco in a Mexican joint. If you can't do the essentials then it's time to pack it up and start selling insurance or something.

Luckily, this dish was great. Simple, slightly perfect and very satisfying. The sauce had a good sweetness to it, which we liked, and the pasta was al dente and was a perfect cling for the robust marinara. Topped with some good parmesan cheese and basil flakes, there really isn't more to say than, yeah, for $7 you are treated to a nice Italian comfort food staple and for that we were thankful that they got it right.

Paired down menu, paired down prices

Orenccio's Express is still new, still developing but we can see them becoming a lunchtime go to and dinner to go hot spot in the near future. Cheaper than most Italian fare in the district and better than at least one, Orenccio's does the other two original locations proper by giving the working folks in the central area with not a lot of time, or cash, on their hands a nice flavorful respite and a refreshing break from the usual greasy drek from nearby fast food establishments.

We will definitely be back for more and are excited to try out all of the other dishes on the menu. I mean, we really want to dig into the Ahi tuna hummus and the beef bisteck panini looks and sounds amazing. Hopefully with a bit of practice and spice along with some wear in the kitchen this concept and location could really take off.

Wait, they have a linguine with sirloin, broccoli and...teriyaki? Serious?

Sorry, gotta go. Just reading that made us hungry.


Thank you Orenncio's!

Camera, Typing and Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Late-ish August, 2016

Metal Influence:

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Garbage Food Chronicles Continues: Meaty Chips and Buttery Burgers Galore

Well's that time again! Yes, the heralded brief era of the eating season when a mass snack conglomerate gets together with some kind of sick wizard cabal, locking themselves in a chemical tower doing nothing but ingesting heavy psychotropics with roiling cauldrons filled with strange oozing ingredients all with the idea that they can get a potato chip to sort of taste like meat.

We've done it before dear readers and, heck, we are here to do it again!

You're welcome.

Two flavors that go, well...we don't know yet

Last year, let's see, what was it that we ate? Gyro? Yeah, I think gyro was one of them. Eh. It was okay. Remember the truffle fries variety? Neither do we. The Reuben sandwich one was...okay. Pretty weird. But if I recall, the biscuits and gravy flavored mixture seemed to appeal to our taste test vict...uh, participants the most. That lot was fairly enjoyable. But why...and how?

It's an annual right of Tucson Homeskillet passage: They, the royal they, put out a few bags of inspired potato chip ludicrousness around this time of year and we of the brave gasto-fold gather together to eat said aberrant glory all for your well being and entertainment.

Or should we say "edu-tainment"?

I mean, we are learning you proper on the pitfalls of consuming crunchy whims dashed to the thin and sometimes wavy rafters brought to you by the spite mafia science community who, we all are assuming, are in that high tower of deviant creation laughing at us as we actually purchase and then actually eat potato chips that recreate essences of Asian fare, Brazilian steak skewers and a creamy cucumber dill sauce you pour over Greek sandwiches.

Huh. Gyro was last year and now we have tzatziki. You see a pattern here? Is this some kind of Greek conspiracy? Is this...???

Wait. Calm down.

Greek conspiracy? Really dude? Well after eating way too much of these new chips I think the assorted alchemical dustings have gotten to your good pal Metal Mark here. I mean, I haven't been able to taste real food in two days. Everything just has this "sheen" to it; a flaccid gulping flavor mire that coated my tongue and brain only to make my breakfast cereal take on the character of a garlicky chimichurri glop.

How is this possible, you might be asking me and yourself.

Here. Let's get you up onto what went down...

Let's see. Uh...okay and I guess so

In true and traditional form, we gathered some of the usual food suspects at our favorite hangout to try out the new issues of potato chip madness.

This year, here are the four horsemen of the chipocalypse we had to contend with:

(which is a popular Brazilian cut of steak, the rump, grilled or skewered and served with a bright chimichurri sauce...sometimes)

Tikka Masala
(tomato based and heartily seasoned Indian sauce)

Chinese Szechuan Chicken
(no explanation needed...right?)

Greek Tzatziki
(cucumber dill yogurt sauce...but you already knew that)

Sure. Whatever. Kind of odd but...fine. So were the biscuits and gravy and truffle fries chips of last year. So we splayed out the bags on the bar and then we all dove in, ate, deliberated, consulted, confirmed, burped, groaned, nodded our heads in approval or disgust and now here are the results of the big taste test.

You ready?

Here we go: 

Alright...lets do this

First up was the Tikka Masala.

Not bad...but in small quantities

The initial whim on the palate from the Tikka Masala chip was fake tomato sauce. It hits like a spilled bucket of the stuff only condensed into powder form. Then comes the turmeric. Oh boy, the turmeric. Wow. Yeah. It overtook the tomato squirt pretty easily and shifted us into a melange of concocted ingredients. Hints of ginger, some kind of coriander, maybe a whiff of cream even.

It took a while to gather up all of the essences, like a few pulls and chews off of the stuff, but once you wrap your taste buds with this chip you can kind of see, sort of, the direction in which they are heading.

"I don't like it," one random participant noted. "Tastes like bad marinara, only not good."

Um, not too sure what that means but...thanks?

"It's interesting," said another. "I can't see myself eating a whole bag but there is something about it that keeps me coming back. I don't normally like Indian food but this is pretty good."

As a huge, huge fan of Indian food all I can say is that, yeah, it wasn't bad. No, it's not like the Tikka Masala you get from Sher-E-Punjab or India Oven, but it did have elements of the dish and for that we set this one aside as a "Possibly Maybe" in the winner for the taste race.

"Is this what Tikka Masala tastes like? No? Oh, okay. Then I'd have to say I like it enough to not hate it. Does that make sense?"


Yeah, eating a whole bag of this stuff would destroy your palate and belly. Plus it was salty. Like really salty. Which is probably what that one guy liked about it. That and he'd been drinking beer since noon.

It was after 5pm when we started this. So...there's that.

Next up was the Chinese Szechuan Chicken.

Some loved this...others not so much

First bite: Whoa. Spice. Yeah. The chili flavor was pretty pronounced and really did its job. Eating more and more just gave it the extra stoke for the mouth fire. Not that we were suffering or anything, no, it's not that hot (and this is a group that can handle the hot) but it did deliver quite a kick.

"I really like this," said my partner in crime She-Ra who adores Chinese food almost as much as I adore Indian cuisine. "It's crazy how it has hints of chicken under the soy and chili flavor."

"This is a weird one," stated another brave eater. "It's almost like eating spicy dirt. I don't get chicken anywhere but I do get a feeling that we shouldn't be eating this."

"Tastes like pure chemicals," said another.

"You know, this is pretty good. I wouldn't buy it, ever, but, yeah...I see where they are going with this."

For me I wasn't really a big fan. I totally agreed with the 'spicy dirt' observation. For some reason I also got a distinct chicken flavor but it was over powered by the sizzling tongue punch and the fact that only after eating two different styles of chips my palate was going bye-bye. Chugging water and a cocktail helped but with this kind of witchcraft going on your sinuses began to give way to a swirling cloud of condensed manufactured flavor profiles.

I mean, how long did it take to get this idea down to chip size and format? Most importantly...why? If you like snackin' chips and enjoy Szechuan cuisine, you might be excited to try this one out. For me though? It was kind of just too much. On so many levels.

Okay...on to the next.

Brazilian Picanha.

How did mean...this tastes like steak

"Holy crap," someone uttered as they bit into this flavored chip. "That tastes just like steak."

"Oh wow," followed another. "It totally does."

Yep, this is where things got interesting. The Picanha chips had a very distinct meat flavor to it and it was a bit off putting for a second. Once the initial shock of grilled rump steak hitting your senses came to pass the after thought of the chimichurri kind of sank in. Kind of.

"If chimichurri has garlic in it, then, yeah...I taste garlic."

Um. It does.

The chimichurri flavor wasn't conquering by any account, quite the opposite, but sparkles of its essence were experienced here and there. Perhaps it was just the parsley flakes that seemed to dabble on the thinly sliced potato product or the fact that several garlic substitutions were used in the makeup of this salty treat. And, yes, there it was again: Salt.

These chips are very salty.

I mean, sure, most potato chips heavily manufactured like this rely on the salt element to hold the texture and flavor and definitely keep you coming back for more, but this new batch of hellish crunch concoctions have gone to a new level of salty. Along with the fabricated dreamspace of ingredients you might find in a lab result following the embalming of a arachnid sub-demon, these chips fall into a new category of odd, faintly tantalizing and seriously alkaline. So be prepared.

Otherwise, I kind of liked the Picanha. Not bad really.

Finally we have the true divider of favorites: Greek Tzatziki.

On the left, the minority of votes, the right was the consensus 

The last to hit the rounds was the one that either they loved or absolutely abhorred: The Tzatziki.

"Good lord! This tastes like old bathwater, one where grandma was found dead in."

"Whoa, this is really yummy. I like the dill."

"If a refrigerator that hasn't been cleaned since the Reagan administration had a flavor, this would be it."

"Not bad. Not great but...the cucumber flavor is nice."

"Are you kidding me? Get this the fxxk out of my mouth. Disgusting!"

Yep and there you have it. Some loved it while others totally hated it. I was one of them that hated it.

Not getting much tzatziki, rather what I experienced was spoiled milk mixed with acrid powdered vegetable substitutes. This one, the last one, was by far my least favorite. The wavy chip style didn't help either. In fact, it just made hate ridges hold on tighter to the sour mash of fake dill and talc reduced cucumber. Imagine biting into a turned yogurt slab that was left in the lawnmower mulch bag for a week and then experienced freezer burn for no apparent reason at all.

Like that.

"You guys are on crack," said Jana who was eating them by the handful with scoops of ranch dressing to ease it down. "This stuff is awesome."

She's also very pregnant. We just gave her the bag of tzaziki chips.

So, with that, here are the final outcome and results of our taste test!

It's a resounding: (insert shrugging here)

Well, we will say that the tzatziki chips, for us anyway, were at the bottom of the voting tablets. Sorry Jana. It seems that the other three were a toss up and go around with everyone else. There were elements and components of each chip that some liked then some totally despised. But there was one distinct conclusion:

This round of crazy flavored potato chips are most likely created for novelty and not much for absolute enjoyment. I'm sure there are folks out there that think the Chicken Szechuan is the greatest thing since the invention of potato chips and others that are currently brandishing pitchforks and torches and attempting to burn the Lay's factory down to the ground because of such blatant atrocities.

But know this gentle Homeskillet reader: We had a lot of fun eating and trying out these various curiosities for the tongue and tummy. They amused, aroused and even started a fight or two, but all in all a good time was had by everyone that participated.

Would we buy these random flavored chips again?

Absolutely not.

Now it's up to you. Try 'em out, or don't, be brave and above all be open minded and keep your palate sharp and tongue relatively protected.

Oh, and have a glass of water nearby at all times. Did we mention the saltiness of them all? Yeah we did.

Good luck...

Metal Mark's choice....uh...these? I guess?


As if eating loads of exotically enhanced potato chips weren't enough, some of us went out on a further limb and attempted these two new menu items from a fast food juggernaut:

The Brewhouse Burger and the Buttery Jack

Why you may ask?'s what we do. Plus we were pretty lit from the amount of booze we consumed from trying all of those chips that we ended up in the drive-thru after seeing commercials for these new burger options.

So a recent trend in fast food burgers is the "buttery" variety. Down home eateries have been using butter on burgs for quite some time and now it's all over the place it seems. Mind you I have had some darn good butter burgers, some even with the compound and herby stuff jammed right into the meat, so trying this style of fast food was an analytical one.

They promise a garlic herb butter on a "gourmet" bun, with bacon and cheese. Since that sounded kind of sad we also added, or at least asked for, lettuce and tomatoes. Well, the late night stoned staff totally forgot the lettuce and tomatoes so what we got was the stripped down style.

Yeah it kind of sucked. Really dry with little to no "butter" flavor. Just meat and reconstituted "bacon" with some kind of drippy white cheese. The idea behind a real butter burger is absolute juiciness and decadent mouth feel viscosity. This burger had none of that. Pretty stale, boring and without any of the promise those stupid commercials were promoting.

Basically that's why we wanted to try these sandwiches, those freakin' commercials. They make crappy fast food burgers look like a meaty slice of heaven. Getting liquored up and eating bizarre potato chips, which somehow fused our cerebellums making us hapless victims to the horrid advertising industry, subliminally got to us and made us order at the drive thru thinking we were going to get some amazing food fare. Blame the booze and the potato chips. That's what I did.

Next we sampled the Brewhouse Burger. Again, the commercials were not only kind of funny but spotlighted the sandwich in a way that tilted the taste buds and brain into thinking you're getting a hand crafted burger oozing with porter ale cheese, "pub sauce", sauteed onions, more bacon on a "artisan" seeded bun. Sounds kind of awesome right?

Yeah it was okay.

Much better than the butter burger, this one actually had some flavor and texture to it and, yes, this time they included the lettuce and tomato. Is it the best burger we have ever had? Oh heeeeeeellz no. But for a fast food late night creff burger it wasn't terrible. Would we get it again? Maybe. Depending on how much alcohol is in our system and if you are buying. But good on the fast food chain into trying to step up their game. Perhaps it was the bong hit night crew that screwed it up but, we highly doubt it. Everything in those stores have specific and detailed "spec" sheets and all they have to do is assemble them and then throw them in a bag. Still though, if we were you we'd totally skip that butter burger and give a whirl on the brewhouse option. That is, if you want.

Honestly there are way too many burger joints in Tucson that absolutely slay corporate chains and for that we advise you to visit them and get a real honest handmade chef inspired burger. Please.

Thing is, most of those places don't have a drive thru or are open that late. So there's that.

Did I mention the drinking and strange potato chip chemicals invading our decision making processes?  Yeah. Sorry about that.


Camera, Typing and a Bit of Suffering
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
The Third Week in August, 2016

Metal Influence:  

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Tucson Homeskillet Celebrates H-E-B, The Greatest Grocery Store In The Known (Western) Universe!

The first time I walked into an HEB supermarket I knew I had discovered something amazing.

Not too sure how to differentiate it from other large grocery stores with aisles of fresh produce, fresh baked goods, fresh deli meats, fresh everything and just being so funky fresh...but HEB has a certain quality to it that immediately grabbed me and made us feel at home.

It's like the first time I heard Black Sabbath, or bit into a real pastrami sandwich; that feeling that the Almighty has reached down, touched your heart and stomach and announced:

"This! This is where you belong!"

Yes. The HEB is where I belong.

It's where we all belong...

Picnic foods ready to go? Oh, this is only the beginning.

It was maybe 7 or 8 years ago, like 2008 or 2009 (?), when I stepped foot into the flagship store in Kerrville Texas. She-Ra and I were in town to visit her grandparents who have lived in Kerrville for many years. In fact, her grandfather's family can be traced back generations in the near sleepy Texas hill country territory as it is a hot bed for German immigrants who have set up shop there and the nearby populace of Fredricksburg making the location a go to for eastern European fare and fun.

Sure Kerrville is in Texas but it kind of doesn't feel like a real "Texas" town. If it didn't have the Texas state flag everywhere to remind us that we are in the lone star state, this quiet municipality could be along the coast of northern California or a tree lined borough skimming the eastern seaboard.

Most Texas cities to me are sprawling metropolitan conglomerates or hipster hubs, all soaked in BBQ sauce and beer (nothing wrong with that though...) and over run with ironic beards, huge hats and folks driving tucks that block out the sun they're so obnoxiously wide and jacked tall.

Kerrville is kind of the opposite of all of that. Sort of.

There are big trucks everywhere...but that's just Texas.

What are you going to do?

Never ending bins of hot wings...YAY!

But Texas is lucky. Why? Because it's mainly the only state where you can shop, admire, love, gawk at and embrace the awesomeness that is the HEB.

And I think they have no idea how lucky they are to have the HEB in their immediate zone. Do they? I sure hope so. But I don't think so.

They probably do.

Anyway, the place has just got...everything. In an unpretentious, welcoming environment, HEB stands alone in the full service, full throttle, full on fully store that entices, inspires and entrances those that walk through their doors and envelops them in a food world of edible bewitchment and flavorful retail divinity.

Or...something like that.

Oh there anything you can't do?

No. No there really isn't...

Yes...more buffet style vittles!

"So what is this HEB you speak of?"

Well, if you're not from Texas or frequent the big ol' state where Ozzy peed on the Alamo, you may not be familiar with what HEB really is.


Let me give you a quick history lesson:

There aint nothing cheesy about fromage.

A lady by the name of Florence Butt (yes...that's the B in HEB) opened a store called the CC Butt Grocery Store, in Kerrville, back in 1905. Pretty unfortunate name right? Well, it wasn't until her youngest son, Howard Edward (yep, that would be the H.E.) took the store over in 1919 that it began to find mild success. Thing is, ol' Howard tried to expand the shop into other locations way too soon after doing so and all of them fell flat and had to close.

But in 1927 when Howie opened a store in Del Rio, Texas, his name and his franchise began to take off. Hence the HEB started to become, well...the HEB.

Now HEB has expanded into other names and trades, yet still sticking with the service and food industry, and is worth several billion dollars in stock.

Now that's just good Texas business know how if you ask me.


Fresh baked bread as far as the nose can smell.

But enough of all that "business" stuff...we don't care about that. What we really love about the HEB is, well...everything else.

First off the deli counter is one of the finest I have ever witnessed and consumed. And the deli is a big thing for me. Like big.

Always staffed with friendly and skilled workers, the selection of meats and cheeses rivals any corporate name store in any town or even some of the smaller names that I pride myself to be a regular patron of.

(Apologies to any and all delis here in Tucson that start with the word 'Sausage')

The bread comes straight from the ovens of the adjacent bakery and the extensive line of product, again, is some of the best and freshest we've had.

(Again, apologies to those local bread companies that begin with Beyond and Barrio)

But check this out: They have a full service sushi counter with a sushi chef that is right there making the rolls that he/she packages up and is ready for you to take home and devour. They have this one roll, the Firecracker Roll, that is topped with, get this, flamin' hot Cheetos. And you know what? It's delicious!

I mean...c'mon. Fantastic right?

Well...we think so.


No, really, there is a sushi chef making these...really.

'So what', you might be telling and shrugging to yourself. So what?

Other stores have services and product like the ones I'm mentioning at the HEB. High end shops always have chefs and sommeliers at the ready to guide you into a blissful food and wine coma.

OK, fine. HEB, at least the ones that I have visited so far, does not have a sommelier nor does it need one. HEB isn't super fancy, by any means, but it is a step, or few steps, beyond the wake of most super markets, local or global.

So why do we love the HEB so much? Hmm...

It's like trying to describe how you feel when you're at a really good concert and they are playing your favorite songs or putting a new engine into some classic car you just bought from some cruster on the side of the road who was just going to junk the darn thing or that feeling of driving that car once it's up and running and cruising along the coast as all eyes enviously watch you and your magic rig glide happily across the surface of a wind swept, ocean kissed highway.

It's like that. Kind of.

But with food and booze.

From the nearby rivers and right to your face.

The best part about the HEB is that there is usually some kind of food demonstration going on. A talented cook can be found in the round kiosk towards the center of the store, grilling up and tossing together a grand heap of featured items and seasonal fare. Not only do you get to witness such badassery, but you get to interact with the cook and then sample what they are putting together all with the idea that if this person in the floppy chef's hat wearing a microphone can do can you.

By the way, this meat product is on sale and you can find the olive oil on aisle 5.

To round it all off, the kiosk is surrounded with recipe cards, all filled with easy and inventive dishes, most of which end up in our never ending and always expanding book of ingredients, techniques and cooking ideas.

Thanks HEB. That Asian inspired salmon dish was just delightful...

Texas loves them some, they love them some meat.

Here's the thing:

We need an HEB here in Tucson. Why you may ask? Because.

Because we just do.

AJ's is fine but way too pricey and a bit out of the way. Basha's is alright but would be better if it had regular food demonstrations and an area dedicated to bacon jam and locally jarred pickles (as does the HEB has). Food City is the absolute favorite of ours but the one in our neighborhood, midtown, corner of 1st Ave. and Ft. Lowell, closed down and is being primed for demolition.

You know what's being built in its stead?

A "Neighborhood" Walmart.

Yeah. You heard right.

Another stinking Walmart.


Local products stocked mile high.

You know what would be amazing at the corner of 1st Ave. and Ft. Lowell? That's right...


Sure a Neighborhood Walmart is going to do well in that spot...heck, anything at this point is a welcome addition to that scrub of a pocked marked parking lot. That old Food City has been shut down and sitting dead for over a year now and is a constant reminder of all the good times we had there from years past. It's going to be nice to see that area come back to life, even if it is at the hands of (blerf) frikkin' Walmart.

But an HEB. Oh, just imagine the possibilities! It would be glorious. Midtown would convert from a brokedown meth toilet to an upscale meth "spa". That questionable vicinity could be the new Foothills...or at least various nooks and crannies of Oro Valley. Okay, maybe some east side condo laden neighborhoods. Kinda. get the idea!

Our recipe book is packed with these things.

It is here that we start the campaign and imploring to the higher ups at the HEB:

Please come to Tucson!

No really. Texas (and certain areas in Mexico) are fine and all but none, NONE!, are a designated city of gastronomy. You know what city is the first to be honored with that distinction?

We are! Tucson!

It's too late to find a home on 1st and Ft. Lowell, but I'm sure you can find a spot, oh....anywhere else! But just be sure that you are sort of close to our neighborhood so we don't have to drive too far to get to you.

It's bad enough driving a half hour for a taco served out of a gas station. And let me tell you, that is one fine taco. But the car travel is getting silly.

So I'm sure you can find a grand location in some bulldozed central or midtown Tucson neighborhood because, believe me, you would do great here in Tucson HEB.

Sprouts? Meh. Whole Foods? So done. Trader Joes? Okay, we do like Trader Joes but...they don't sell soft shell crabs or crawdads still wriggling and pinching in the briny sea water they were caught in.

But the HEB does! Whee!

If they came to Tucson, you'd see me doing this.

So hear us out Tucson and those who make all the decisions at HEB:

Set up shop here in the Old Pueblo.

It's a win-win situation and you could use the expansion territory and we could use a HEB. Everyone could use an HEB. The world would be a better place with more HEBs.

But start here in Tucson.

Think about it HEB. Think about it.

For now you kids reading this will just have to travel to Kerrville to fully experience the majesty that is the HEB. Once you do, you'll want one in your neighborhood too.

Trust me here.

Thank you for reading this and thank you HEB. Thank you for just being you.

Did we mention that we love the HEB?

Because, well...we do.


The Tucson Homeskillet loves HEB!

Camera, Typing, Shopping and Worshiping
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
 Road Trip in Early August, 2016

Metal Influence: