Tucson Local Media: Foothills News

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  • Creole Comforts

    Tiffany Eldridge actually prefers the title of bartender over mixologist. She does not ignite drinks on fire, there isn’t a lot of tossing shakers and bottles and above all she just wants you to take the time and enjoy one of her signature creations or a classic libation. In this age of flash and flair with new posh spots popping up and competing for your attention, it is nice to come across a warm spot that resonates with a wink from the past but keeping its eye on the future of the way we dine, or, at least, how we should.Luckily for us here in the Old Pueblo, SAZ Creole Kitchen & Cocktails has quietly opened up in Saint Phillips Plaza and is already beginning to make a lot of noise. But it is a joyful cacophony of flavors, ideas and heritage inspired by a New Orleans of a bygone era with Eldridge at the helm along with executive chef Robert Kimball, who has years of NOLA culinary experience, manning the back of the house.  Between the two of them what they want you to walk away with once you have stepped foot in their modern take on a Bourbon Street speakeasy is what a well to do southerner might have called their home away from home a generation ago. The look of SAZ exudes New Orleans but it is the food and drinks that will send you into a time when we moved a little slower and enjoyed life with a while-away ease and aplomb. One thing that Tiffany and Robert want to be clear on is the difference between Cajun cuisine and Creole. SAZ likens itself to the Creole factor, meaning elevated food for the more well to do folk hailing influences from the Caribbean, Ireland, West Africa, Spain, Portugal and, of course, France. Creole food has a refinement for it where Cajun has a more down home appeal coming from setters with limited means and having to use what the land and rivers provided. Without pretention, but rather with a calm confidence, SAZ radiates genteel Louisiana charm. Eldridge, who originally hails from Salt Lake City, cut her bartending teeth by learning from her older sister who has helped open wildly successful bars and high-end speakeasies in New York and Philadelphia. After opening a popular cocktail lounge here in Tucson, she eventually paired up with JAM Culinary Concepts with a vision to create a bit of a time warp for the senses. With the help and skills of chef Iaccarino, they transport you to an era when it was okay, if not necessary, to savor the better things a quaint neighborhood establishment can provide. SAZ opens at 8 a.m. daily and serves breakfast till 11. If you have ever been to New Orleans, then you must have had a beignet. No, of course you did. Those puffy fritters made from deep fried dough are a staple and they are done to perfection here. Dusted lightly with sugar, they are the one item that has the Arcadian background served but you can’t call yourself a Louisianainfluenced spot without serving beignets. You also need to try their selection of benedicts and pancakes, in particular the pecan option that is served with a vanilla bean glaze and cream cheese which is an early morning decadence after possibly imbibing in too many of the restaurant’s namesakes. 

  • Traditional band Goitse kicks off month of Hibernian happenings

    The What’s the weather like in Dublin at the start of St. Patrick’s season? “Rain, rain, rain,” laments Tadhg O Meachair by phone from his hometown. “There’s a bit of a storm coming tonight.”This week, though, O Meachair and his mates in the Irish traditional band Goitse will trade in the gray and wet of Ireland—what the Irish call “broken” weather—for the sun and blue skies of the American Southwest. The award-winning band, five musicians strong, will hit Tucson next Wednesday, March 8, performing a concert of Irish songs that will kick off the Old Pueblo’s annual celebration of all things Irish. Tucson’s Celtic Steps Irish Dancers (formerly Tir Conaill Irish Dancers) will provide a little soft-shoe and step dancing. “We’ll do trad tunes and trad tunes that are newly composed,” says O Meachair, Goitse’s accordionist and pianist. The band’s repertory includes songs composed by the band’s fiddler and vocalist Aine McGreeney.“She’s a wonderful singer and a strong Irish speaker,” says O Meachair, who himself grew up speaking Irish in a bilingual family in Dublin. McGreeney, named Best Female Vocalist of 2016 by the Irish American News, will give Tucsonans a taste of the old language: she sings in both Irish and English. (The band’s name is an Irish word for “come here.”) And McGreeney’s way with the fiddle has taken her on tour in Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance. 

  • On the road to equity, the Homestretch Foundation supports female athletes and looks to create a better world for all

    Whether along the Rillito River Trail, up the 26-mile climb to Mt. Lemmon or at various other popular locales across the metro area, thousands of people in Tucson take to the road on a bicycle every day. Long known as a region friendly to the cycling community, the thousands of locals out on the road are joined in the winter by those looking to take advantage of Tucson’s favorable climate to keep to a consistent training schedule.Lauren Hall, Emma Grant and Brad Huff have spent time in the Old Pueblo with several other professional or elite-level cyclists at the Homestretch Foundation, a home away from home. A vision several years in the making in the mind of founder and former professional cyclist Kathryn Bertine, the foundation is a spiritual extension and a continuation of the work Bertine has carried out on and off of her bike. During her career as a cyclist, one thing became apparent to Bertine: women have not been given an equal chance at success in the sport. Suffering through her own monetary struggles as a professional, Bertine said she looked to help as many fellow female athletes as possible. The concept which would eventually become the foundation was then born: hosting women in her home. “Inequity was rampant, and not improving in any way,” Bertine said. “So that’s when it really took hold that we need to make some changes, and how can I be part of changing that broken system? I admired these athletes and what they were willing to do in order to pursue their goals and their dreams of being professionals. At that time I just had a spare room available, so of course, I’ll help a sister out.”While Bertine knew that salary issues was a widespread problem throughout women’s cycling – the sport’s governing body, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), does not require women to be paid a base salary like male athletes – she said she came to realize that the financial hardship was nearly universal.Years later Bertine would retire from her own professional career, hanging up her jersey at the end of the 2016 season, though her desire to help other women in the sport was not sated. After years of thinking about the foundation and formulating business plans, Bertine put the wheels in motion alongside co-founder Tom Bailey, and the Homestretch Foundation became a reality last November.

  • Support youth in tobacco prevention

    Pima County is fortunate to have parents, youth, and community organizations working together to prevent tobacco use in Pima County. Recently, in part to their effort, as well as state and national partners, cigarette usage has been on the decline, and is particularly evident among America’s youth. There has been a dramatic national push among tobacco prevention advocates to create a generation of nonsmokers which has seen gradual success and is championed by a younger generation.In 2010, roughly 16 percent of Pima County youth had smoked cigarettes. In 2014, that number dropped to 12 percent.  Although the recent decrease in cigarette use among Pima County’s youth has been a powerfully positive trend, the timing of the decline coincides with a rise in the promotion and availability of electronic devices that act like a cigarette called e-cigarettes with a majority of the marketing targeting youth. The e-cigarette orally gives the user a similar habitual comfort of cigarettes, but instead of burning tobacco, the devices vaporize nicotine, water and other solvents inhaled by the user. Let’s support our youth as they fight this new challenge. I know I am talking to my boys, Diego, age 10, and Marco, age 7, about the dangers inherent to tobacco and e-cigarette use. As you reflect on the coming year and contemplate resolutions that positively impact you and your family, I hope you will carefully consider how you can be an example to not smoke or use e-cigarettes. In doing so, you will take an important step for your health as well as inspire youth in our community to stand strong against tobacco use. There are a variety of ways the Health Department team might be able to help you, why not give us a call and let’s talk about how to stop smoking today 724-7904.

  • Women of Influence honors achievements of area women

    When Kelly Fryer sat around a table of 12 men wearing overalls and seed-corn caps 25 years ago in rural Illinois, she was essentially performing to be chosen as their church’s pastor.  The meeting went well, she recalled, until the end when one man made a remark that in today’s society would be classified as sexist, but definitely not unheard of. The old German farmer who hadn’t spoken the entire meeting stood up. “I just have one thing to say,” he announced. “If this church calls a lady pastor, me and my whole family are leaving.” On the evening of March 1, Fryer as keynote speaker at Tucson Local Media’s 2017 Women of Influence Awards, told her story to hundreds of folks who’d shown up to the 14th annual event sponsored by Quarles & Brady LLP and Casino Del Sol Resort. The event brought together more than 500 people. “I kind of wish an event like this would not be necessary,” Fryer said. “I long for a world where my daughters would be taken just as seriously in school and at work as my son.” Fryer, who became the pastor of that church in rural Illinois, became CEO of YWCA Southern Arizona in 2013. YWCA is an organization charged with the mission of eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace. Jeanette Maré, executive director of Ben’s Bells Project and a previous Women of Influence winner, was the event’s emcee for the second year in a row. 

  • Hundreds flocked to the Gaslight Music Hall last month to laugh, cry and relate during “Menopause: The Musical”

    Bring your waterproof mascara, because you will end up laughing so hard that you will cry. That was the warning critics gave to anyone purchasing tickets to Jeanie Linders’ internationally touring theatrical sensation, “Menopause: The Musical.” After more than 10 shows last month at the Gaslight Music Hall, it’s safe to say that hundreds Oro Valley residents, and more than a few Tucsonans, better understand the sincerity of that makeup advice. Responsible for those tears were Elenore S. Thomas (Iowa Housewife), Sarah Hayes (Soap Star), Donnalynn Waller (Earth Mother) and Chanel Bragg (Professional Woman), the four women who wander into a Bloomingdale’s sale—and take off on a hilarious, hormonal adventure through hot flashes, memory loss and more. While they ventured through the realities of life after 40, the women also lent some of the greatest vocal performances thus far at the Oro Valley venue, all while keeping the crowd in stitches. “It’s funny, because there is almost a formula to it,” said music hall producer and artistic director Robert Shaw. “For the first 15 or 20 minutes of the show the audience is sort of getting their footing, figuring out what sort of show this is, but right around 20 minutes in it’s like it clicks—and then it’s raucous. They’re laughing at everything.”Moments of hilarity were in abundance throughout the show: each of the female archetypes—the business executive, the dramatic prima donna, the hippie and the stay-at-home wife—never felt restrictive in the hands of the talented actresses, but rather a foundation from which the four women execute more than an hour of prime musical entertainment. While the theatrics of the performance draws little from highbrow Shakespearean drama, the tongue remains readily in the cheek throughout the show, though the acting often takes a backseat to the musical performance. Classics like the Bee Gees’ “Staying Alive” have become “Staying Awake”; Aretha Franklin’s “Chains of Fools” is all about the physical “Change Change Change,” and so forth.

  • Dinnerware Revisited

    Once upon a time, before there was an Elliot’s on Congress, before there was a Hub, before there was a modern streetcar, there was Dinnerware. Way back in 1979, a gang of young artists who would go on to become some of the best-known and most-respected painters, photographers and sculptors in Tucson and beyond joined forces to create an artist-run co-op gallery. Legend has it that the plot was hatched over a pitcher of beer at The Shanty, the still-existing hangout over on Fourth Avenue, by painters Jim Waid, Judith D’Agostino, Tom Cosgrove and others. They wanted a location downtown, somewhere among the boarded-up storefronts and dive bars. A lawyer offered to share her Congress Street digs with the wandering artists, and they set up shop across from her files.Borrowing their name from the space’s previous retail outlet—a vendor of ceramic plates and cups—they opened up the new Dinnerware Artists’ Cooperative Gallery. It would last 24 years.An exhibition now on view at the Temple Gallery celebrates the first 12 of those years. (After just a time on the Hub block, Dinnerware landed permanently at 135 E. Congress, now occupied by Elliot’s.)

  • Fourth annual Chinese Spring Festival a smashing success at Sunrise Drive

    Earlier this month, Sunrise Drive Elementary School played host to hundreds of students, families, friends and teachers to celebrate Chinese culture and a sense of community at the fourth annual Chinese Spring Festival. Dancing to traditional music, performing choir pieces, playing games and making cultural connections, attendees spent an evening abroad at the inclusive, student-centered learning center.The idea for the festival came from Anita McGuire, Family Faculty Organization co-chair, Chinese immersion liaison and parent to first and fourth grade age students at Sunrise.“Every year, I have wanted the children to continue to better understand different cultures and learn about diversity” McGuire said. “Part of that in the case of China are the celebrations. The kids may learn about it or see things about it on TV or in the classroom, but they never get to understand it until they’re in it.”After countless hours of planning and assembling all of the craft goods, booths and displays needed to pull of the festival, everything came together in a night of memorable, family-friendly entertainment. Sunrise Drive families and volunteers were not alone in the effort, help was provided by both the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona as well as Chinese club members from Catalina Foothills High School, among other groups.For Sunrise Drive Principal Andrea Davidson, the festival helps to foster a better understanding of other cultures and life experiences, but also creates a sense of community through shared experiences in a fun, festive setting. Davidson said her students are taught to become global citizens and develop deep understandings of academic concepts and the effect on various aspects of life.Whether that interest was piqued by watercolor painting workshops, calligraphy demonstrations, ribbon dancing or the student-crafted dragon parade, Davidson said that events like the spring festival help by driving home various teaching and aspects of the school’s mission.

  • Catalina State Park concert series brings music to nature

    For residents of Oro Valley, Catalina State Park has long stood as one of the area’s greatest focal points. With management for the park incorporated in 1974—the same year as Oro Valley’s founding—it has acted as a pillar for family entertainment in the north Tucson area going on over 40 years as a place for recreation of all sorts: biking, camping, horseback riding and beyond.For its over four decades in operation, the park has done an upstanding job in embracing traditions common of national parks throughout the world, from preserving nature to hosting outdoor hiking trails and encouraging campouts under starry Arizona skies. What recent years have proven for the parks, though, is that even old dogs truly are capable of new tricks.With a little help from their associates at the non-profit organization Friends of Catalina State Park, the park has decided on bringing an innovative twist to stand amongst its more traditional proceedings. It is now hosting Saturday concert series, with the events specifically being hosted not too far into the park, all amidst a gorgeous setting of the trees, cacti, flowers and medley of desert wildlife for which the establishment has become renowned.Iterating his thoughts on the series and assisting the Catalina State Park rangers in organizing their Saturday Concerts-in-the-Park, FCSP president and secretary Richard Boyer said, “Friends of Catalina State Park has been involved with notices to our 300 contacts about the Concerts-in-the-Park, and the concerts have been a great hit with visitors and locals alike. The outdoor setting at the trail head stage in the park is beautiful and the Catalina Mountains provide a stunning backdrop.” When asked about the attraction to the series for performers and attendees alike, Boyer said, “It appears to me—and I have attended almost every concert since they started a few years ago—that the concerts enhance the park experience by providing a different experience for those attending, rather than the usual hiking, biking, or running. It is a relaxing event for those attending, providing a variety of musicians at each concert.  Musicians love coming to the park and many artists are already scheduled through 2017.”“Folks attend, often bringing friends and pets and food to enjoy the free entertainment,” he says with a smile. “Obviously, the park benefits through increased visitation, and through funds brought in at the entrance station. Mostly, though, I believe that the park benefits by having those attending experience a relaxing evening and a variety of music in a different kind of outdoor setting than they might be used to with other concerts around Tucson.”

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