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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Fine wine,fine times at Acacia”

    When my high school English teacher coerced me into reading “”A River Runs Through It,”” that stock inspirational novel which led to a movie with Brad Pitt as a fly-fisher, I came out of it with the naive belief that everything is art.

    The novel says that having a passion for something, such as picking your nose with your middle finger or yelling at strangers for leaving their purses on the table at Sauce, can become your art. It’s an interesting concept, especially for hominoids like myself who would even fail at making an abstract painting, because it says that anyone can be special and happy. Anyone can be the Andy Warhol of string-tying or silent farting or whatever.

    It’s hard to disagree with that philosophy, mostly because it makes you feel like an asshole. Who would deny the livelihood of the poor window painter at Dairy Queen who works eight hours a day filling in a Kit Kat Blizzard stencil? It’s hot out there! But if you decide that the line needs to be drawn somewhere, it definitely gets blurry when you talk about food.

    It’s quite obvious that food is an art – you don’t need a novel to tell you that. It’s probably in the same category as the trade arts of fashion design, graphics and journalism. It’s not traditional painting or music or theater, but it’s still important and takes skill and sometimes creativity. But food, like all the others, has a primary purpose, and sometimes that becomes shrouded when you feel like you’re more at a gallery than a restaurant.

    Has anyone ever tried a tasting menu? It’s not such a familiar term on these college campuses where the words conjure up images of the Golden China buffet and not Anthony’s in the Foothills. I’ve had two tasting menus in my life, one during my food critic internship in London at some gourmet Thai/Pacific Rim restaurant that apparently was a favorite of Chris Martin (Coldplay’s over but he’s still sexy), and one Sunday.

    My dad was in town from Phoenix, which finally gave me a chance to reap the benefits of my parents becoming more affluent in their middle age. Is it just me, or is it happening to everyone?

    He took me to Acacia, 4340 N. Campbell Ave., close to Level in St. Phillip’s Plaza. I had heard of the restaurant before, mainly because head chef Albert Hall has won that drunk-old-woman extravaganza Iron Chef Tucson two years in a row.

    At the risk of judging the walls of this food gallery like an actual gallery, the décor was largely forgettable. The colors were bland and the prints on the walls looked like the more expensive selections at the Sears Home Center, but they were probably meant to signify a classy, not flashy, ambience.

    And classy it be; most of the descriptions on the menu were typical of fancy fare, so specialized and doctored that you had no idea what any of it actually was. Should I order the “”sweet corn and green chile custard with black quinoa-polenta, braised spinach, butternut squash puree, grilled asparagus, portabella

    mushroom, eggplant, baby broccoli, zucchini and fire roasted sweet pepper,”” or the “”red and gold beet salad with haricot vert, toasted walnuts and cambazola triple crÇùme bleu?”” What is crÇùme bleu anyway?

    My dad suggested we get the tasting menu for $65 apiece paired with assorted wines, so that way we wouldn’t have to choose. There were three courses and a total of nine dishes, so it seemed like a lot. But when the waitress brought out our appetizers, I was duly surprised.

    A miniature Greek philo dough pastry, a single scallop with jicama, kiwi and something called “”the spirit of cactus”” underneath, and a tiny little cracker thing with red spheres on top. Not sure what they were. The scallop was the best part, but they have scallops at Mimi’s Café. I finished the dish feeling very cultured for eating something with red spheres, and thankful that I had three glasses of wine in front of me but wasn’t at home alone in my room.

    The rest of the meal went in a similar fashion: a miniature cheese relleno with little shrimplets on top, a bite-sized piece of really good steak (the most frustrating part), a piece of salmon and three desserts that somehow weren’t sweet, if that even makes sense. It seriously was the most bitter chunk of apple sorbet I’ve ever tasted, and I obviously eat it twice daily.

    I have to admit I was kind of drunk toward the end, with all those wines and so forth, but I felt stuffed and mildly dissatisfied. Like when you eat the biggest salad of your life and the person next to you just had a buttload of fried chicken. The waiter came over to us to brag about Albert Hall winning the Chicago Bulls game once again, and I felt a little gypped.

    It was like I spent three hours walking through rooms of photographs of paintings at the Pompidou. I’d rather see just one Picasso, as long as it were in the flesh. But I want to stop short of saying I’d rather have McDonald’s. Most of the food really was delicious, and commendable for attempting to be original and distinct as well. But at times it seemed like the desire to be critically lauded and revolutionary overshadowed the taste and texture of the selections. In short, keep picking your nose with your middle finger if you like doing it, but once you set your sights on winning an award, the art will suffer.

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