Category Archives: cheese

Build it Right and They Will Find You

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Roma Imports is out in the middle-of-nowhere industrial Tucson

One of the unexpected pleasures of getting to obscure food and drink establishments is driving through interesting neighbourhoods you’d otherwise never discover.

Of course, heading into the boondocks means occasionally getting lost or turned around. And in every new city I explore for great, cheap eats, there’ are at least a couple of times I mutter, “This café can’t possibly be located on this residential/industrial street.” Until suddenly, there it is.

Such thoughts come to mind as we’re trying to find Roma Imports, an Italian deli and grocery southeast of downtown Tucson. We’re driving around an industrial district, with no sign of any place selling food. Just as I’m thinking we’re lost, thar it be, all by its culinary lonesome.

This is definitely the right place, judging by the line of cars out front and the stream of customers emerging with plastic bags of takeout. This impression is confirmed as soon as we enter the front door.

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The deli looks small until you keep walking back and back

The building is narrow but goes on forever. On the right are coolers filled with fresh Italian meats and cheeses and scads of interesting appetizers (roasted garlic, prosciutto-stuffed figs, balls of fresh mozzarella, cauliflower fritters). The long left flank is jammed with frozen takeout items: lasagna, tiramisu, curries, cookies, saag paneer.

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Italian deli sandwiches don’t get better or cheaper than this

Way at the back are tables, where we tuck into hefty Italian sandwiches ($8), featuring plentiful meats and cheeses stuffed into crusty slabs of baguette. There’s enough for two meals here. We then load up on sufficient marinated goodies for a light supper of appetizers.

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Roma has scads of interesting, unusual deli items

As we head out, I ask our server how long Roma has been in this out-of-the-way location. “About 18 years,” she says. So, if you build the best Italian deli in Tucson, people will find you, even if, like me, they’re not sure where they’re going.

Roma Imports 
627 South Vine Avenue, Tucson, Arizona
Monday to Thursday 9 am-6 pm, Friday-Saturday 9 am-8 pm. Closed Sunday


Artisan Beer and Cheese Worthy of an Okanagan, B.C. Road Trip

Crannog Ales makes delightful Irish-style beer at its organic microbrewery in Sorrento, B.C.

Crannog Ales makes delightful Irish-style beer at its organic microbrewery in Sorrento, B.C.

How can I resist a beer with the name Back Hand of God? Though, technically speaking, this stout from Crannóg Ales is far more pleasure than punishment. It certainly is the nectar of the gods—a smooth, dry beer with lingering coffee and chocolate notes.

Located near the little community of Sorrento, on the south shore of Shuswap Lake in B.C.’s interior, Crannog is Canada’s first organic farmhouse microbrewery. Its 10-acre farm provides organic hops and spring-fed water to help co-owner Brian MacIsaac brew small batches of unfiltered, unpasteurized Irish-style beers including a potato ale and a seasonal cherry ale.

Crannóg is a draught-only brewery, which keeps the product ultra fresh. But it also means it’s a bit tricky to purchase, i.e. you won’t find bottles at your local beer outlet. You can pick up growlers and 8.5-litre “party pigs” at the brewery, where you can also sample the ales during booked, summer weekend tours.

The good news is you can order pints of Crannog ales at a growing list of B.C. pubs, extending all the way west to Vancouver Island (I sipped a Back Hand of God at Riverfront Pub & Grill in the north Okanagan hamlet of Grindrod.) The pigs are also available at a few regional liquor stores.

Back hand or not, these organic Irish ales are well worth seeking out.

Crannog Ales
706 Elson bella Road, Sorrento, B.C.
Beer pickups Thursday to Saturday 8:30 am-4:30 pm spring to fall (Friday and Saturday in winter), summer tours/tastings Friday and Saturday 1 pm-3:30 pm, by appointment only

Speaking of niche organic products in the region, Bella Stella Cheese crafts some wonderful, organic cheeses in Lumby, a small town in the northeast Okanagan, near Vernon. Here, Igor and Irma Ruffa use their Swiss-Italian background to produce Alps’ cheeses like a brie-style Formaggella with a rich, complex flavour.

Bella Stella Cheese please, in Lumby, B.C.

Bella Stella Cheese, please, in Lumby, B.C.

Bella Stella cheeses are currently only available in regional stores and farmers’ markets, which is where I stumbled upon them. Guess I’ll have to plan another Okanagan road trip.

This Cougar Definitely Well Aged

They may not be so good at football, but Washington State University produces champion cheese

It may not be so good at football, but Washington State University produces champion cheese

When I was growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, a big part of any visit from our Pullman, Washington relatives was the tin of Cougar Gold cheese they’d bring as a gift. It was old and crumbly and came in a nearly two-pound tin. Yes, a tin. In my opinion, it’s the finest sharp white cheddar in North America, developed in the 1930s and still produced by students at Washington State University, with the individual maker’s name stamped on each tin.

So when I hear South Fork Public House in Pullman has a mac and cheese with Cougar Gold sauce ($11.50), I have to head right over. I don’t need a menu, steering right past the burgers, sandwiches, sliders and other pub food straight to the mac and cheese. The bacon bits and scallion topping are nice but don’t get in the way of the thick, rich Cougar Gold sauce sticking to the penne like a warm blanket. Now, that’s my kind of childhood comfort food.

After licking the bowl clean, I go in search of Dissmore’s IGA, so I can take a tin or two back to Canada. Note: The cheese is cheaper to buy at Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe, if you can find nearby parking on campus, but it doesn’t have Dissmore’s outstanding selection of beers. It can also be ordered online in the U.S. through the link above.

South Fork Public House makes an excellent mac 'n cheese featuring, of course, Cougar Gold

South Fork Public House makes an excellent mac ‘n cheese featuring, of course, Cougar Gold

South Fork Public House
1680 South Grand Avenue, Pullman
Opens daily at 11:30 am
South Fork Public House on Urbanspoon