Friday, April 19, 2013

Tucson Foodies: Have You Heard About Alfonso?

I’m not truly comfortable with the term “foodie;” however, since I’ve been one for the past 15 months or so, I suppose I should embrace it. Regardless, before I bury the lead and go off on a tangent, I will stress that today’s blog is about Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oil & Balsamics, located at St. Philips Plaza off River and Campbell in Tucson.

Alfonso is a one-of-a-kind shopping (and tasting) experience. And whether or not you're familiar with the term “foodie,” IF YOU COOK and you live in Tucson, pay attention: Do yourself a favor and visit this shop.

Tom Alfonso, owner, Alfonso Gourmet Olive Oil & Balsamics
I’ve been meaning to go to Alfonso for months, ever since my childhood friend, Cindy Ridings, recommended it. And today was the day. This olive oil and balsamic vinegar boutique is located across town—on a route I normally take for my weekend trips out of town to Phoenix. But generally speaking, it’s in the fertile, gourmet heart of Tucson. It’s not that far from the Tanque Verde Valley nor from anywhere in the beloved cowtown we call Tucson.

Today was the day because A: I made the time and couldn’t take the distressing news out of Boston another minute; and B: The owner, Tom Alfonso, at the prompting of Mrs. Ridings, generously offered to help support the Sabino Volleyball program with purchases made at his shop.

Give me a cause to support and I WILL make the trip.

In this case, however, I intend to become a regular customer of this special destination. Alfonso is one of those places that appeals to a multitude of senses—aka, MY, and I’ll bet YOUR foodie senses.

From the outside, St. Philips Plaza is classy and exclusive. Step into the Plaza and you’ll find the shop immediately, which is located next to the popular restaurant, Vivace

Enter Alfonso, and the subtle aromas of the oils and balsamics are immediately tempting. The backdrop colors—olive green, deep purple—reflect the bottled products and the sophisticated tasting apparatuses lining the walls. The shop is neither overcrowded nor stuffed with product, and I was immediately greeted and made to feel comfortable.

I told Mr. Alfonso I was a balsamics novice and therefore hoped to learn more about them. Within moments, he handed me a small cup of his traditional style balsamic, and upon tasting, I’m not kidding, my taste buds ZINGGED out of control. This is touted as his “finest grade,” aged 18 years and it pairs well with any of the oils in his collection. It made me want to taste samples of everything on the walls! And trust, there are PLENTY of varietals from which to choose, on both the balsamic side and the oil side of the display.

Ultimately I chose the  “TRADITIONAL Balsamic Vinegar” and the “Organic Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil.” I felt that was a good place to start. And I suspect I won’t wait long before I’m back for the “Tangerine Balsamic Vinegar.”

If you cook with olive oil (honestly, WHO DOESN’T?) and have any interest in balsamic vinegars for marinades, salad dressings, or as I learned today, so much more, Alfonso is a gift. And the staff will help you realize this.

4320 N. Campbell Avenue, Suite 40, Tucson, AZ   85718. 520-441-9081.

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