Those of us who expect to find Tucson's best restaurants up in the Catalina Foothills and their environs will be pleasantly surprised to discover a relatively-new restaurant that offers very fine dining indeed--right downtown at Tucson's historic railroad station. Maynard's Market and Kitchen will eventually include both a restaurant and a market, which appeals to those who are passing through looking for something to take on the next leg of their journey westward (or eastward, why not?) right in the station.
My first impression of Maynard's was the long, low-lit salon with the bar to the right and the dining area on the left, near a long series of windows that overlooks the trains as they come and go. The dining room itself resembles the dining car of a train, with tables on either side and the typical aisle down the center between them.
I was pleasantly surprised when I got an enthusiastic welcome from several of Maynard's personnel, including the owner, because I was celebrating my birthday the other night there. In fact, there was so much mention of it that one of the patrons, whom I did not actually know, stopped by our table to wish me a happy birthday on his way out. This established a pleasant atmosphere of intimacy that was followed very soon by some outstanding food.
Our party was ordering things to share, and I did my part with Charcuterie, a selection of several items including a chicken-liver mousse, pork terrine, toast and several garnishes such as Cornichons.. The mustard was very good, and there was also a beef marrow bone with a grapefruit confiture, or what we call marmalade in the U. S. Interesting--I used to make grapefruit marmalade to give as gifts back in the Sixties, when I was in the habit of making all my jams and jellies.
As we shared our bread and toast and sampled the appetizers, I was making my mind up between two menu items: the seafood of the day, scallops, or a vegetable plate that I am sure was wonderful. I did decide on the scallops, though, and they were so good that I would order anything there with confidence. The dish came with a vegetable mix, mushrooms and a very nice sauce that seemed to be without cream. I had read the menu rather closely, looking for dairy items to avoid, and after narrowing it down the the scallops or the vegetables, I could have gone either way and avoided a milk attack later.
Our table also ordered the Duck Confit, which my son-in-law found wonderful. He and my daughter ordered carefully from Maynard's extensive wine menu, but I stopped with a glass of sparkling white French wine. It was not a champagne, and I found it less bubbly than that, more like an Italian spumante. It went very well with the scallops, although there were so many wines on the list that I could have found several good matches with seafood.
We finished dinner off with coffee and two desserts: the Lemon Tart and their Coconut Rice Pudding. The latter came with a berry sauce and a side of caramel, so that you could put one sauce on each side of the pudding and taste them both. I don't know for sure if the rice pudding was made entirely with coconut milk, but it did taste very much of sweet coconut. The Lemon Tart was as intense as Lemon Bar cookies, and stronger in flavor than Lemon Meringue Pie. That suggests to me that if you care to, you could prepare the Lemon Bars recipe, press the dough into a tart pan, and then put the lemon filling into it and create this kind of tart yourself. Just to help you along, I am repeating here the Lemon Bars recipe as a tart.
LEMON TART A LA CAFE MARGOT
For the crust:
1-1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cup sugar or Splenda Bake
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs at room temperature
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Combine the butter, sugar and flour for the crust with a pastry blender or food processor until the mixture resembles sand. Press the crust into a pastry tin or ceramic pastry dish. Bake the crust for 20 minutes; it does not need to brown.
While the crust is baking, break the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat in the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in all the other ingredients and continue beating continually, until the crust is ready to come out of the oven. This is when you love your stand mixer, by the way.
Remove the crust from the oven (carefully), set it on a safe working surface and pour the filling into it immediately. Return the tart to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the center of the filling is firm.
Remove the tart from the oven again and allow it to cool on a wire rack. Just before serving, sprinkle it with a bit more powdered sugar, which covers up bubble marks and dresses the tart up.
Maynard's serves this tart with berries, and you could do that or make a coulis of fresh raspberries, for instance, and serve it in a small pitcher on the side for those who would like the sauce with their tarts.
We found by experience that both these Maynard's desserts go well with coffee.
Everything I bake is reduced in sugar, but in this recipe I would not substitute for the powdered sugar in the crust; it is necessary for the texture. The taste of the filling with Splenda Bake or other sugar baking substitutes is indistinguishable from a filling made with sugar, and I see no reason not to reduce the sugar every time I make it.
If you do not have a tart pan, a regular round 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan will substitute for it. Use a wedge-shaped spatula that is designed for cake and pie slices to get your tart out of the pan without damaging its appearance.
For more info: The Maynard's market is going to re-open soon and I can't wait to see what they will feature. For now, though, it is not available. Check the links with this article to view Maynard's and its menu.
Search on Maynard's Restaurant Tucson and you will find their web page where you can view their menu and several shots of the interior.