For the Love of Garlic

Wild Garlic Grill moves to the Foothills

It's been said that The average American consumes 302 cloves of garlic every year. That's on the low end if you're a regular guest at the Schultz family table.

Vampires don't stand a chance at the Wild Garlic Grill, and the new Foothills location more than doubles Dracula's risk.

The story started four years ago when Chef Steven Schultz and his wife Maudi opened Wild Garlic Grill on North First Avenue. Their California-French cuisine concept was a manifestation of Steven's professional journey that took him from the kitchens of Paris to the wine country of California. Ultimately, he returned to his Tucson home to tell his story at the center of the plate.

Needless to say, the centerpiece is what's known in gardening circles as the "stinking rose."

"When we first opened, we were a little worried that too much garlic would mean that people wouldn't want to come," said Steven, executive chef and owner of the Wild Garlic Grill, which moved to 2870 E. Skyline Drive in Plaza Colonial earlier this month. "But it turned out to be the opposite," he said. "The garlic ended up drawing more people in."

Schultz told me that he was going through nearly 15 pounds of peeled garlic a day at his original location (which, mind you, only had the capacity to seat 67 guests at a time). His new location can accommodate 155 diners, and I'd imagine that his garlic orders are seeing a corresponding spike as well.

I'll wait while you do the math. That's almost a comical cornucopia of garlic.

"We use an amazing amount of garlic here," Maudi said. "We have a sheer passion for it, and it's a beautiful ingredient to work with."

Among the signature dishes that rotate regularly on Schultz's menu include the crispy soft-shell crabs with seaweed salad and a ginger-soy beurre blanc; the New Zealand rack of lamb with a pistachio-Dijon crust and truffle-Cabernet reduction; and the Mexican sea bass with an avocado and hearts of palm tapenade, artichoke risotto and a basil beurre blanc.

Garlic even plays a role behind the bar in the form of the Garlic-tini—a twist on the classic cocktail that brings a little extra spice to the experience.

"We start with a blend of minced and roasted garlic, and add one or two pinches depending on how garlicky you want to get," said barman Dallas Seeliger. "If you're looking for that kiss at the end of the night, I wouldn't go with too many pinches."

He added a generous pour of vodka and shook the mixture until it renders a frothy foam that he said is produced by the natural oils from the garlic itself.

It's beyond me why this cocktail isn't served with an Altoids garnish, but suffice it to say, the Garlic-tini has earned a large and loyal following.

"This is a cornerstone here," Seeliger said. "It just wouldn't be right to have a martini at the Wild Garlic Grill without garlic."

When asked if she plans to raise her prices to support the move to the Foothills and her larger space, Maudi said "no way."

"Everybody should have beautiful food, and that shouldn't be a socio-economic luxury," she said. "Food is passion. It's love. It's family."

So let love rule. Just don't forget to BYOB...bring your own Binaca. ■

Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at Russell is also the host of "On the Menu Live" that airs 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KQTH 104.1 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the "Buckmaster Show" on KVOI 1030 AM.

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