Sam Alboy is the owner of Mama's Hawaiian Bar-b-cue. In 2010 he opened his first location on the edge of the bustling UA campus. He has since opened two additional locations, one south of Tucson in Rancho Sahuarita, and one in northwest Tucson at Thornydale. An additional Mama's Hawaiian Bar-b-cue is scheduled to open on Tucson's eastside in late 2014. In his role as President of Tucson Originals, he is doing more than his fair share of educating the public on the importance of supporting locally owned businesses. I asked the local restaurateur to give us an insight to what food means to him.
What was the first dish you had that changed your perspective on food?
Home made strawberry shortcake ... Up in Northern Maine, Dutch oven cooked biscuits, fresh strawberries we picked earlier in the day and fresh cream from the dairy up the road ... It made me realize that food was all around us.
What are you eating these days?
Besides a lot of plate lunches .... I am digging the fresh produce from my garden and local farmer's markets especially the heirloom tomatoes, eggplant (smoked or sautéed), fresh goat cheese and the breads and treats from Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery. Also lots of breakfast ... its great in the Arizona heat to enjoy a simple breakfast for dinner on the back patio.
What was the first dish you remember cooking?
The first dish I remember cooking was called an "inside eggie," basically I grew up overseas so it is a pita bread slit open at the top and filled with a scrambled egg. Pan-fried with copious amounts of butter it finishes with a classic French toast quality on the outside and creamy soft inside. Delicious for any five year old and easy to make.
What concept, ingredient or food trend does everyone seem to love, but you just can't stomach?
Kale, fried, sautéed, or as a salad green ... I know it is nutritious but besides cooked to death in a soup I prefer it as a garnish.
What chef, with us or passed on, would you most like to cook or eat dinner with?
Jamie Oliver—hands down. His push for quality and non-processed foods and in balancing what we serve children in our schools is really the best efforts in fighting obesity. He believes that any one can cook and is a great teacher ... I would love to pick his brain because as chefs we are always teachers first.
What city, other than Tucson, is your favorite place to eat?
Boston. I am biased living there for seven years, but where else can you get fresh seafood, gnocchi rolled by an Italian grandmother, amazing dim sum in Chinatown and great Celtic food? There is also an amazing pool of talent from the culinary meccas in Mount Pellier, Providence and New York.
Speaking in junk food terms, what is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Tres leches from Le Cave's or any of the bakeries in the Mercado ... delicious.
Top three Tucson restaurants?
Mother Hubbard's: The hidden gem on Grant and Stone. Oh my God, awesome breakfasts with homemade sausage and locally sourced.
Jonathan's Cork: The prime rib is the best in town, sautéed mushrooms to die for and the bar special is always spectacular and doesn't break the wallet.
Lotus Garden: The Wong family doesn't disappoint. Been going here since the early Nineties. Great beef wonton soup, friendly staff and always willing to tweak something to my taste.
With a figurative electric chair in your immediate future, what is your last meal?
Well, just the usual fare, I guess. Bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeños with a prickly pear reduction, homemade cheddar biscuits with honey butter, grilled asparagus, sweet potato or butternut squash and a 20-ounce Delmonico steak, medium rare. For dessert, I would have to have two: a slice of dulce de leche cake and some Hawaiian Haupia pudding.